Sunday, December 30, 2007

Three More Weeks...

...till Cloverfield. Wisely, JJ Abrams did not fall into the "Snakes on a Plane" trap. The geeks have been restrained, keeping to speculative artwork and masturbation rather than digging out spoilers. I'm wondering though--will we see people of color Katrina-ized as the monster destroys their homes, or will it be the usual: MTV/the Hills-looking yuppies and buxom chicks terrorized by this creature in the streets of the Big Apple with not a brotha, a Dominican apartment super or even a Hasidic Jew in sight?
Happy New Year

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bush Killed "Binky"

Benazir Bhutto was known as "Binky" to her Harvard chick classmates. She rocked a pair of Jimmy Choo slingbacks as easily as a burka and loved to regale folk with the story of how General Zia (so comically portrayed in the new Tom Hanks flick "Charlie Wilson's War") murdered her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the ex-President of Pakistan. Ali was like Mossadegh in Iran: a populist, beholden to neither the US or Europe, or the Soviet Union, or even Islamic extremists. In short, dangerous because he represented an alternative that neither Cold War ideologue right wingers/oil companies and other fatcats/the CIA etc nor the mullahs nor the KGB could accept. Binky was a bit of the spoiled brat with a bit of the Coretta Scot King complex; yesterday morning she reaped the whirlwind from seeds she tossed. And I think she knew exactly what she was doing. Sadly, our government and its apologists and wingnut advocates online and on TV stood back and dicked around, knowing (and secretly hoping), for her Wagnerian self-immolation... for reasons more cynical than her own subconcious competition with daddy to see who could out-martyr whom. Interesting how we had to beg General Zia's protege, Dubya's great pal Mr. Musharref, to stop trying to stomp her. Such guarded words from Condi yet all along our troops are dying in Iraq of all places supposedly to establish democracy. Yeah, right. Go sell that to the rednecks during halftime of one the innumerable and insipid (and now pointless) BCS bowl games. [I believe I posted on that other perversion of America--the BCS system--a few weeks ago... ]

Yes such is the world right wing dumbasses created. (I include Muslin extremists here, OK Pajamas Media folk?) Yet if it came out by some alien invasion that Bush choreograph this with the fanatics and clowns on the other side, hey it'd be no news to me. Wake the hell up. It was the old Reagan-Bush clan and disciples who helped Zia off Binky's is it the position of the sons of Reagan-Bush that "Islamafacists" killed her to destabilize things...rather than Zia's inheritors--whom we have always courted and protected no matter what (and the Islamafacists they too often ally themselves with)? Wow. Either way, we have an uncanny knack for the same sort of ideological/wallet-related short-sightedness and back the wrong horse time and again. Then the horse turns around and kicks us and we start the whole bloody process over again. And now of course the "danger" will be used to maintain the status quo; right wing bloggers et al will point to an isidious Al Qaida plot, rather than--as we've seen time and time again from the murder of Daniel Pearl to now--a bunch of whacked-out college drop-outs or wannabes, all pathetically huckstering for martyrdom points with yet another bunch of assholes. There's unified no evil empire here. Even al Qaida is just gangs of morons and ass kissers led by the Islamic equivalent of Lumberg from "Office Space." They, like Bush/Cheney/Condi, feed off the chaos. Musharref--that bastard gets to stay in power a bit longer, feeding us a few nuggets the way Jack Nicholson fed the FBI in "The Departed" whilst he plundered and murdered. Yet we're told it would be unPatriotic to hope for a Leo DiCaprio type character to quell the storm. (That's your cue, Barack!).

I'm sure Fox will spin this as "heroine and democracy saint" Benazir Bhutto murdered by Muslims--likely IRAN...or MICHAEL if they gave a crap about Benazir Bhutto or the average NASCAR dad knew what a Bhutto was. ."the President and Secretary rice urge our great ally Musharef to 'hunt down and hang these bastards.'" If it wasn't real life, it'd be opera. And having hillary in charge would just change the libretto a few words when what we need is to sweep all of the cattawalling idiots and fanatics here and over there off the stage. And now the Ringling Brothers clown corps that are the GOP candidates are "sounding off." Cool. I feel better already. So do the oil speculators and the foreigners buying up our country as the fallout from greed and short-sightedness on the home front continues. But let's get to Wal Mart and spend. At least you'll have that new Wii with which to escape reality as the bank takes your home, the stockholders of your boss's company yanks your health plan, and yes, of course...there's Pakistan...

Binky, maybe there will be a groundswell of common sense as they lay you to rest. We can only hope. At least you can drop that burka, slip on them sling-backs and your old Crimson letter sweater, a pair of capris, too and show of them prize gams that drove the preppie fools wild back in the day..."Hey who is that swarthy chick with the limey accent? That's Binky, silly goose." Travel well, sister. But stop by and haunt the booby hatch in Crawford, Texas for a spell. After all, it was his dumb ass who made you the martyr you always yearned to be. In that, you proved to papa that his little girl could out-Ali-Bhutto the great Ali Bhutto...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas!!!

Season's Greetings from the Chambers Tribe. Catch you later...

(see on December 27th!)

Leave your holiday greeting if you'd like, and I'll give you a shout out...

Zero Wolf & the Crew

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What do these two stories have in common?

If you know me, then the answer's easy:

Uno: Jamie Lynn Spears, the 16-year-old "Zoey 101" star and sister of Britney, told OK! magazine that she's pregnant and that the father is her boyfriend, Casey Aldridge.
"It was a shock for both of us, so unexpected," she said. "I was in complete and total shock and so was he."
Spears is 12 weeks along and initially kept the news to herself when she learned of the pregnancy from an at-home test and subsequent doctor visit, she told the celebrity magazine, which hits stands in New York on Wednesday and the rest of the country by Friday.

Dos:As if Florida State coach Bobby Bowden didn't have enough problems with his football program that continues to spiral toward the middle of the ACC pack, the university reportedly will suspend as many as 25 players - including 11 starters - for the Dec. 31 Music City Bowl against Kentucky for their alleged involvement in an academic cheating scandal.
According to a story broken by the Tallahassee Democrat, underclassmen who have admitted guilt could also be suspended for the first three games next season. Federal privacy laws prohibit the school from releasing names, but the defense is expected to be hit the hardest.
Involved players are expected to continue practicing but will not travel with the team to Nashville, according to president T.K. Wetherell and Bowden. If the players fight the suspensions, they risk losing their eligibility. The latest controversy to hit this beleaguered program came as a result of an internal investigation by the university in May after the school received information that a student tutor had directed one athlete to take an on-line quiz for another and then provided the answers. The tutor reportedly told officials he had provided student-athletes with answers for the test since 2006, according to a report on
The university reported its findings in a letter to the NCAA in September after a six-month investigation. Academic adviser Brenda Monk and the student tutor lost their jobs this summer for reportedly offering improper help after 23 FSU athletes were implicated in cheating on on-line exams. At first, the scandal was thought to involve only two Seminole football players. Defensive end Kevin McNeill missed the season and wide receiver Joslin Shaw missed the first four games. But now, following ongoing interviews, the circle has expanded, leaving Bowden and his staff wondering who will be available. "We have some players not traveling for one reason and some for another, including those who are ineligible for the bowl because of academic issues," Bowden said in a statement released by the university Tuesday. Bowden, 78, who has been at FSU for 32years, had been refusing to comment on the scandal. He is in the final days of his career and has been taking heat for his team's fourth straight subpar season.
The school, which announced last week that Bowden had agreed to a one-year extension that will pay him $2 million, designated Jimbo Fisher as his eventual successor. Fisher's new contract calls for him to replace Bowden at the end of the 2010 season.

The little missive in red about this old piece of SHIT Bobby Bowden should give you a hint. Any guesses? Yeah, college football's a sham and these guys--including too many young black men--are students like I can grow wings and fly like a bird, and they perform like seals for these rednecks whilst real students can't catch a break. But that's just the sympton, not the moral disease or hypocrisy. I cut off the Spears story because it would give it away. Zooey 101 will not cease production, by the way...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Celebrities are fools

More from the bread & circus millieu. Oh and by the way, "bread & circus" refers to the Dancing with the Stars, NASCAR and E! of ancient Rome: as long as you kept the average schlub entertained and distracted with "bread & circus," he would wake up and realize the Empire was a sham, the debts and blood were adding up, the silly policies screwing people. Sound familiar? Worked well for a litte while but it didn't really help Rome in the long run(in the west at least, the Eastern/Byzantine Empire lasted until the 1400s--almost to the time of Columbus--and was talen over prophetic...Islam, hence Constantinople becomes Istanbul...ain't history fun?).

Anyways, my point here is that celebs just think differently from we regular folk. Take Marcia Cross of Desperate Housewives. She takes nube photos then dumps them in the trash. Otto the garbageman finds them...boom...on the net and being displayed thusly by Nat Turner. Cross whines and hires shysters but in the end, any PR is good PR in this culture. This is one of the tamer ones. Notice other than Eve and her sex toy act, and Nicole Narain with Colin Farrell and his big real sex toy, you din't see too many black folks doing this. Like facial aging, I guess God gives us some little crumbs of advantage...

Friday, December 14, 2007

No Friday Funnies today...

Dispatches from the Culture War:
1.The Mitchell Report. Lawd. Is it only fatuous NASCAR dads, baseball nerds like Bob Costas and George Will and moronic right wing politicos who are whining about this steroid thing? Last I checked--and this is axiomatic--chicks dig the long ball (and the mean arm). As Colin Cowherd mused on ESPN radio, the sacrifice bunt and the baseball strike, plus greed, corporate consolidation, hedge funds and CEO pay and the new uber-hype culture brought this about, not immoral evil players. Baseball's not called "The Show" for nothing (props to "Bull Durham" for that). Yeah, it's show biz, no less than Dancing with the Stars. Great minds think alike, Colin. Meaning that if you're going to punish these ballplayers then punish MLB, Selig and his gang of douchebag owners, NBC and Fox and even the craven cities, like the District of Columbia, building ballparks and screwing local residents and contractors and neighborhoods and lowering bond ratings. Look, EVERYBODY cashed in on this, and it's telling that the real story here is that ordinary journeyman players and minor leaguers are heavy on the list. How else can a dude with a mortgage and low prospects feed his family in this age of coddled, annointed superstars (hey it's like that in the book biz, too, cuz!)? If somebody came to you and said if you take pill, you'll make 50% more money...and your boss'll be happy with the results, too, wink wink...please kiss my ass if even a Mormon player (as my boy Keith Olberman pointed out) would pop that badboy! Gimme a break. Baseball's more popular than ever and, like so many "culture" wedge issues you see hags like Ann Coulter hiss over on Fox, if you're looking to blame somebody, look in the mirror!

2.Christmas. Guess what, Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck: even my liberal-commie-crunchy granola friends 'round here in the Peoples Republic of Takoma Park, Maryland (but 6 miles from the White House, like the Red Army closing on on der Furherbunker in May, '45) wonder where the f**k has Christmas gone! Seriously, stop your usual red-baiting and lies to keep the redneck and soccer suburb idiots distracted! Again, last I checked, it was BIG everything: Food, Oil, Retail, Pharma just trying to make more bucks who've de-Christmasized Christmas. You can't even quietly blame the liberal Jewish media mogul conspiracy (of course not the "good" Jews in your book, like the neo-cons Ha!). Can't blame the Muslims, either. There aren't enough of them, and frankly they don't care--like the Chinese who keep the carry outs open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (recall the movie A Christmas Story: "Deck the harls rif borrs of horry, far-ra-ra-ra-ra, ra-ra-ra-ra")
Frankly, I'm apalled that the Fox News brigade and fools like Beck and other facists have the balls to attack liberals for this when they know it's bullshit. OK...yeah...they do it all the time, but come on. Replace "Christmas" with the word "Holiday" is a marketing gimmick, plain and simple. You want to blame someone for shitting all over Linus's speech in A Charley Brown Christmas?" Again, look in the mirror. We are overweight consumer zombies to Wal-Mart, Citibank, Macy's, and 1000 calorie burritos at supposedly healthy Chipotle's (so much for immunizing them from suits on the basis of "free will"), etc etc etc and their institutional stockholders and their bloated CEOs. Sound familiar? See my paragraphs above on baseball. An illustration/analogy: whilst in Home Depot I asked a manager (based on an exchange I had with a sales associate who plainly had trouble with the Kings English) why the aisle descriptions were in English and Spanish. Was there an edict from the county human rights commission? A La Raza lawsuit? A boycott? "No," he said nonchalantly. "We just figure it'll bring more of them in, and make us more money." (emphasis added)

So keep your head down and watch the shrapnel. Spring training's four months away...oh and: Happy Holidays!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Andy Young=FOOL?

What did "Sgt. Waters" say about southern negroes in "A Soldiers Story?" Or is this indicia of the rising senility of the old Civil Rights generation? I mean, I've heard stuff like this as long ago as 1987 when "Du" Burns said it of Kurt Schmoke during a mayoral primary, or as recently as Sharp James' attacks on Corey Booker. Should Andy Young have known better? Yes, if only because it draws the curtain back on the self-serving functionaries who haunt groups such as the Congressional Black Caucus, et al. These fatuous folk are disciples of the Clintons the same way a remora sticks to a shark...or a tick digs into a deer, perhaps? Andy Young has long been one of those people living off this largesse. I can't see Jimmy Carter, his long-time friend--countenancing this comment. Yeah there'll be a few ignorant black folks who rant "Yeah, Bill Clinton...he our first black prez-dent" and forget the harm and smoke and mirrors of those years. But there are people who know better. Andy Young's not one of them:

December 10, 2007 -- The silence was deafening in the camps of Democratic presidential candidates yesterday over civil-rights leader Andrew Young's tasteless crack comparing Bill Clinton's and Barak Obama's supposed prowess with black women.
"Bill is every bit as black as Barack. He's probably gone with more black women than Barack," the former UN ambassador quipped on a live TV interview - immediately adding, "I'm clowning."
Clinton's campaign had no immediate comment, nor did Obama's.
Jesse Jackson, who has boasted that Obama "has my vote," wouldn't touch the political hot potato with a 10-foot pole.
"He has no comment," spokeswoman Rashida Restaino said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who hasn't yet declared his choice for Dem presidential nominee, likewise had no immediate comment.
Young, the former mayor of Atlanta, made the remark after being asked what he thought of Obama during the Sept. 5 interview.
Young, who has not made an official endorsement, said, "I want
Barack Obama to be president," pausing for applause before adding, "in 2016."
"It's not a matter of being inexperienced. It's a matter of being young," he said.
Locally, Harlem state Sen. Bill Perkins said Young's comments were way out of line.
"That's an insult to black women of the ugliest kind that I've heard in God knows how long, and he should be ashamed of himself," Perkins said.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lest White People Get Too Smug...

Whilst stories of drive-bys or cocoa-colored foster kids selling crack for so-called welfare mothers saturate the airwaves, stories like this go underreported. Don't believe me? I said it--underreported. What's wrong with these people who behave like this? It's not a civil rights issue--it's a character issue! I swear white people are too much into Fox News and Tobi Keith and new paneling for the double-wide and a chrome gunrack to match the chrome exhaust on the Blazer. It must be a moral breakdown? hehehehe

Authorities say a Springfield woman was booked on attempted murder counts for allegedly shooting two men whose dog damaged Christmas decorations at her home. Ethel Shannon McKinney, 28, was booked on two counts of attempted second-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon, Jason Ard, a spokesman for the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Department, said.
McKinney and her boyfriend got into an argument with the men over the damaged decorations, and McKinney allegedly fired at the men, Ard said.
One man was hit in the upper torso and arm; the other, in an arm. Ard said none of the injuries were life threatening.
The incident happened around 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
McKinney's boyfriend, Audie Ray Criswell, was booked on two counts of aggravated assault and with disturbing the peace, Ard said.

Friday Funnies on a Dreary Monday

OK, I have opined that a combination of Fox News (and attendant pundits), black street lit and church lady porn authors and hip hop, plus MTV/VH-1/BET (thus Sumner Redstone) have turned Americans into fatuous morons, but even I love a little mindless fun. Regard, my favorite NASA brother...Astronaut Jones...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

BCS fiasco. Best Little Whorehouse in America

One of my few sports posts. I recall when I was a kid there were four bowl games, all on New Years Day, except for the really stupid ones--my father would joke about the "Toilet Bowl" held in Elizabeth, NJ (these were the days before the Meadowlands, and NJ always smelled bad right there at exit 13...). There was no such thing as a the American Standard-Charmin Toilet Bowl, either. Just the Toilet Bowl. We never watched the Cotton Bowl from Dallas because it was alwasy two cracker-ass teams with a few token black superstars (fools too dumb to know they were being used and so hopped up on booster cash they'd have stuck a Confederate flag in their asses). I always liked the Rose Bowl (either Michigan or Ohio State) or the Sugar Bowl (usually Notre Dame and some eastern school).
It never occured to me, as a bright-eyed little boy, that there would have to be a "playoff." I mean, this was back during the time the NIT meant something, and March ws yet to be Mad. Playoffs were for pros, or for other college sports like hoops (even my dad's alma mater, NYU, was good back then).
Now, playoffs aren't a good idea, says the honchos that run college football. Foreign corporations stamping their logos at the 50 yard lines of our venerable prefab football cathedrals doesn't seem to bother the average American. That's because we're all retarded sheep, but that's another rant. GREED's the thing, folks. Moral decline, lack of values. Not because of liberals. Nah. Because of moolah. At the heart of this morass is a system in college football that is so corrupt you wonder why Congress, eage to stick it's snoot into all kinds of falsities and diversions, doesn't investigate it. The same people who want to destroy affirmative action love handing out scholarships to brothers who can't even read and who have entourages that yeah, will shoot somebody like Sean Taylor. It's them. And Fox, NBC, ABC-ESPN, CBS and the stockholders therein. And the cities that can whore themselves to get the crowds, students and alums coming in for the game. And the ADs, the coaches, the BCS "officials" themselves. All whores. The way this stuff goes, Princeton might make the Elmers Glue Bluebonnet Bowl or the Lipitor Cholesterol Bowl under some arcane calculation! Might as well have the Illini in the Rose Bowl. Oops...they ARE in the Rose Bowl. So pardon me, Ohio State and LSU fans...the boodussy stink in this whorehouse will make you retch.
Take Jim Litke's piece on MSNBC (home of my idol Keith Olberman). Tell me what you think of it, and the whole BCS hoe stroll...brought to you by Lexus, FedEX, Astro Zenenca and Amgen, McDonalds, Chilis, "I Am Legend," Ford, your local Cadillac dealers, KFC, Travis Tritt and his new CD "We didn't loose in 1865--ask Rudy Giuliani," America's Chemical companies, America's coal mining companies, DuPont, everything Sumner Redstone and Barry Diller owns, Nike sweatshops, Florida Orange Juice, Wal-Mart and the People Republic of China.
Playoffs? Lord, that's in Iraq!!!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Now if only black AUTHORS would have this courage!

Thanks to Karu Daniels for this content. Actress Gabrielle Union was commenting on the Tyler Perry-ization (without mentioning the latest meal ticket of white TV and film producers) of black film...if there is such a thing as "black film" anymore in the new Hollywood. The stuff out now makes Blaxoploitation seem quaint. It has become big budget minstrelism, chitlin circuit cliched tripe set to digital video or celluloid...and we of course have eaten it up. Morris Chestnut's never had much range as an actor. Come on now, folks--he's Rickie from Boyz in the Hood over and over again...even in comedies. Gabby's got the ability to emote as well as the ability to show cheesecake. That's how Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, et al showed how you go from T& A to cinema grand dame.

So g'won Gabby. We'll turn to into a Cosby-ite yet, and let's pray black writers will show some backbone as well (though I'm not holding my breath): "I'm sure I could call Morris Chestnut and we could do eight more movies, and we'd be totally happy, our bills paid. But am I growing as an artist? You can't take just any job ... if you do take any job it becomes painfully obvious once the thing comes out. People are like, 'Whew, she needed money.'"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Saddened...but not shocked...

Many people will hate me for this post. Consider this news byte from almost a year ago: "Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed early Monday when his white stretch Hummer was sprayed by bullets after a nightclub dispute following a New Year's Eve party.
Police have no motive and no indication the 24-year-old player was targeted in the drive-by shooting of the limousine. The burst of violence occurred hours after the
Broncos were eliminated from playoff contention.
'All of us are devastated by this tragedy,' Broncos owner
Pat Bowlen said in a statement. 'To lose a young player, and more important, a great young man such as Darrent Williams, is incomprehensible. To lose him in such a senseless manner as this is beyond words.'"'s happened again. I won't go into the details of Sean Taylor's death, and nor, thanks to the Darrent Williams shooting, do I need to rehash statements on the AP wire from Joe Gibbs, he of a different solar system than Sean's, or from Dan Synder, owner from Hell and the spoiled brat who plays fantasy football with real people. Pat Bowlen voiced the usual heartfelt and quasi-heartfelt PR flack-scribed statments last January. Skins fans are talking, gossiping...a few are weeping. Many in the DC area are shaking their heads as with ay pointless death, and then go about their business. So many pointless deaths, really. Or else they couldn't give a crap, or don't even understand "American fute-bol." I will, however, paraphrase something I heard Mike Wilbon of the Washington Post say this morning as I rolled up US29 in Silver Spring, escorting my wife to our baby-making check-up. goes on. I'm a big fan of Wilbon's--he's one of the few faces of color in a newsroom, period, not to mention in print sportswriting. We run in the same bourgies-coming-of-age in the 80s circles/former "Gold Coast" 16th Street NW kiddies/Jack and Jill prisoners-of-war though he never seems to come to my book signings. Too busy I guess. Wilbon said he was saddened by what happened to Sean. His chest was sinking as he spoke, I could hear it in his voice. But then he said he wasn't "shocked." He was devasted, shocked, when Lenny Bias died. I recall that tragedy vividly, and Jerry Bias, Len's cousin whom Len treated as a little brother, was friends with my own brother. Somehow, to both Wilbon and I, and literally millions of folks, Lenny's death was a shock. As a Terrapin, Lenny gave no indication of drug use or abuse. He grew up in silent pain, but not in an atmosphere of violence. As for Sean, well...

...I'll get to the point, and channel Wilbon. This was no "random burglary." Repeat: this was no random burglary. Every cop or fed I knew from my USDOJ days says something smells wrong. Housebreaking is usually not a crime of violence--even in South Freaking Florida. Either it's a crackhead who runs scared, or a professional who doesn't want a confrontation. Or...someone who knows you, or knows of you through your "boys." Or has a beef with you. Pedro Taylor, Sean's dad was once police chief of Florida City. Settling a beef with Pedro? Unh-unh. Something less cliche, and sadder. Example. I knew a police detective captain in Detroit who's son and nephew ran with the same thugs he was trying to jail. My fellow Princetonian and PG County States Attorney Glenn Ivey has lamented how many criminals and "the game" or"the life" wannabee fools his office prosecutes are from two-parent households where both parents hold down salaries that will ensure at least a roof and a somewhat comfortable life. You see where I'm going? You see where Wilbon was headed? Sean was immature, Sean could be trouble. Sean was in indeed in trouble, many times. He couldn't keep a gun for protection because of the knuckleheaded things he did. He didn't have a home alarm despite having a child sleeping in the house (I guess you could call it a mansion). Sean appeared to like to hang, a la Ray Lewis (pre-stabbing) with the wrong people, past people, feeding off the supposed energy of da fellaz, of their rides, of bravado and money and fathering kids out of wedlock with golddigging girls hardly more mature than little girls, and chasing that false high that comes from indirectly sticking it in Mr. Charlie's eye. The same Mr. Charlie who wants you to play football for his prep school, then his college, but doesn't want you around his daughter, and definitely doesn't a young black man admitted to those schools based on grades and scores and race, rather than running the 40 in lightening speed or featuring a Spider Man-like six foot verticial jump. That kind of affirmative action's cool with the majority, right? And God forbid anyone like Sean or a young black man with the scores and education own a football team. Never mind whiteboy affirmative action, right? I mean, look at at Dan Snyder. Or the President of the United States...
...pardon the digression. I'm saddened. Not shocked. But saddened. I digress when I'm sad. Sean Taylor was just as much a victim of a mindset, an outlook, as he was a bullet. He wasn't a thug or a criminal. But such were the asteroids in his small solar system, and you can't just say it's a Florida thing. A year ago Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker said the same of his murdered teammate. Murdered like so many of our young men and so no, we aren't shocked anymore, let alone outraged. I know the details will come out sooner or later and prove me right. I think men of Joe Gibbs' archaic mindset will utterly misunderstand it. Men of Snyder's ilk will utterly spin and then punt it. That's sad. Deeply, oppressively sad.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hype-o-potamus Rex

My fanboys and girls seem to have my number. Yes, a common thread of Cloverfield, Bumpy Johnson and Flags of Our Fathers is hype. Sort of. Or perhaps it's "monsters:" literally the monster in JJ Abrams' digital/home video style rendering of some monster biting the head off the Statue of Liberty and various super-sized pubic lice falling off the creature's johnson to attack hapless gentrifiers, "bridge and tunnel" folks and cops and soldiers? (note, you never see regular minorities and po' folk torn up when bombs, creatures, earthquakes or meteor impact-induced tsunamis strike a US city). Or a figurative monster, like Bumpy (as reflected with Robin Hood irony in the person of his protege Frank Lucas in "American Gangster?" Or the metaphorical monster of war in Flags of Our Fathers? The carnivorous beast that eats bodies and spirits...and the fact that in order to feed it you have to exploit a simple flag raising and lie about who's in a photo, just to sell war bonds to pay for the green and navy-blue dungaree and camie and khaki-clad cattle before sending them off to the slaughter? Okay, you got me figured out. Or do you?

The Net hype over Cloverfield's rivaled only by the bullcrap over Snakes on a Plane. Imagine if Blair Witch was coming out in 2008...there was no YouTube or Blogsphere back then. Abrams astutely injected this concept of Blair Witch meets Godzilla meets 9/11 mania into the digital grapevine, a milieu unfettered by journalistic rules or art/literary critical analysis. Who needs all that shit? Lemme get the news fast, lemme make shit up or embellish. Lemme get back to Assassin's Creed before Lost comes on. Who needs Lost--we have brain candy like Dancing With the Stars. Assassin's Creed's too thoughtful anyway. Hey, so's Lost. Hey, there better not be any thought in Cloverfield, else I'll spend my mortgage money elsewhere. Well, that's the worst case scenario thought process Abrams is hoping to break. I'm more interested in seeing how the brainless sheep respond to I am Legend. Yes, to appease the marketing monster Will Smith--superstar Safe Negro/clown--has been castas Neville (the role Charleton Heston played in "Omega Man"). To get intelligent folks and thoughtful gamers and lovers of lit in the seats, the rest of the story's going to have go beyond of bunch full or quasi-vampires running amok. I think the tightrope walk's going to be short lived and Will will tumble on the side of hype and stupidity and least-common denominator pandering. Can Abrams' monster keep out of"Bee Movie" whoring? Lost is a cutting-edge good show only when compared to the garbage and low expectations (creatively) of our times. I'd say Rod Sterling and a bunch of folks blew it away 40 years ago on network TV.

So we come to Karen Quinones Miller, fellow author who's books transcend "Nigglature" and actually tell fresh, visceral stories--whilst tilting a tiny bit at the street and black chick lit windmill just for effect. She and Bumpy Johnson's widow are telling the real story of this man, of Harlem, of joints and jezebels and murder and drugs and booze and the policy (numbers). Trouble is, the big publishing houses don't pay what they should for narrative nonfiction of this impact. Trouble is, they want to give amateurs and convicts and churchladies to the megaphone. Impart more brain candy. Why scribe something truthful when you can give the brothers and sistas mythical entertainment, simplistic/cliche plots and brain numbing formulas? Well, because that's all we seem to demand. Sadder still--all we need is some ebonics and some cursing and thongs...or a wayward indicia of verissimilitude. Note the shifting demos when BET reports ratings for its own limited documentary series "American Gangster," with Ving Rhames doing his best work as narrator, versus almost every other show on the network. The skew toward folks with better educations, home owners, etc. is amazing. No, it actually cannot be explained by age or gender. It's explained by OUTLOOK. Something the giddy whitefolks in charge just don't want to hear. Bravo for Karen in deciding to bypass this machinery, and the thug lit-ocracy and present--not hype or market--this work directly "our kinda folk." I predicted this in my YouTube interview and I think you will see the silent majority of thoughtful folk eat it up: the people who pay to see This Christmas because frankly, there's nothing else to watch that's a cut above Tyler Perry. How's that for honesty?
Such honesty was lacking in the Spring of 1945. Yes, Hitler and Eva were getting married and taking poison in the Fuhrerbunker as Stalin's hordes scrambled on the bombed out streets above. Yet across the planet in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, the future makers of your favorite Toyotas and Hondas and computer games were still dug in or coming down in kamikaze dives. America was a nation sinking into debt to fund this march to Tokyo whilst also assuring milkshakes and baseball for a population on the cusp of the first big consumer orgy of the 20th century. Now, I bet Dick Cheney, Dubya et al read from this 60 odd year old playbook engineered after a journalist snapped a photo of a couple of grunts lifting a metal pole with a flag attached. Oh, there are the Pat Tillman analogies you could argue with a straight face when you survey the exploitation of the Iwo Jima flag Marines, but I'll admit it's a question of apples and apple orchards (not oranges). The orchard being our current War on Terror.
Americans haven't a clue about that reality and history are two different things, and that heroes are the folks in NBC's Heroes, and yeah, Abrams' Lost. Interestingly, Clint Eastwood, the supposed patriotic white man's man (who gave us the decidely un-NASCAR dad Bird with a young Forrest Whittaker and of course The Unforgiven and the flip side of Flags: Letters from Iwo Jima), is the author of this piece of Bumpy Johnson saga narrative nonfiction. It tells the truth about hype and myth and consumerism and how all is subordinate to those gods, without hyping itself. It does so in the guise of the Indian character, Ira Hayes, who suffers the physical effects of th deception, the hype, the marketing beast--all on top of the mental toll taken by the carnage on Iwo. I doubt these young bucks in their dress blues tossing rifles over in Arlington and beneath the statue know this. Indeed, they aren't supposed to. Lest it upset the monster. Look, if the Wizard of Oz had some verissimilitude, the Wizard would've concluded a secret pact with the Witch to kill Dorothy. Pulling the curtain away from him as a 1000 times more detrimental than anything those damn flying monkeys could've done to the Emerald City.

I again tug all of this yarn not because I love to grumble. No, it's a warning. The peril's here; it's not theoretical. Stupidity, mythology reign. Rather than facing reality, facing truth, embracing the healing power of real art and literature and robust discourse, the Roman Empire in the west retreated into greed, hyper-religious dogma, myth. Look what happened. The Empire in the east fared better only because it embraced reality. Even then, it couldn't last. We're on that cusp. So look, if you don't agree with all of my weird connections and tied thread, at last you've taken the time to sit and ruminate on them. Once you do, you can pick apart the hype inother venues. For instance, in a truly enlightened, non-hyped society, there'd be no Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Fox News, Jesse, Sr. or black books like Thong on Fire. That's Rome, before the Fall. So let's spin more string in '08, shall we?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cloverfield, Books and Flags of Our Fathers

Yes, I tie it all together. The strands: The "Cloverfield" monster (a sneak peek below based on the clues...if correct, sue me, JJ Abrams--Lost is a TERRIBLE show!). This could be the "Blair Witch Project" of the new century...or more hype bullshit like "Snakes on A Plane." More book news, including Karen Quinones Miller's decision to self-publish her biopic of Harlem proto-gangster "Bumpy" Johnson (based on Johnson's widow's collaboration). I guess street lit authors and the big publishers would rather deal with cartoon gangstas and hoes, rather than real ones. Luckily I have the comics medium. Oh, and lest we not forget, Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, currently playing on HBO; it's an allegory for the current political perfidity of Bush-Cheney. Don't I always tie it together? See how tomorrow...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday Blackness

1. Wretched Excess post Turkey-Day musings...

Have you joined the rest of the NASCAR Dads, insipid housewives, rim-spinnin' bamma baby-mamma's, trailer tarts, Hannah Montana-addled tweens and other miscreants in line at the Malls pre-dawn? If you not, according to Dubya you are NOT a patriot. You must spend spend spend to keep our economy strong. Spend for gas to get the malls to keep Big Oil and Dick Cheney happy. Spend at lunch to keep Big Fast Food happy...on top of the greazy crap you shovelled into your mouths Thursday (and get sick to keep Big Pharma happy in the process?). And spend, of course, to keep Wall Street happy because after all, you aren't keeping our economy strong.

Thing is, when you arrive at JC Penny at 4am to buy a leather jacket of which Tim Guinn would lisp "Oh my...that is hideous!" marked down from $250 to $40, that means it's really only worth $20. Why? Because it was stitched in Indonesia. The new all-American widget-gadget-ratchet and photo-hanging and butt scratching support the troops poster you got? Well, it's made in China. When it breaks down, you have to call customer service in India. Of course, China and India and Saudi Arabia own the cheap debt that Dubya and the VP and GOP always seem to charge up on the national credit card rather than raising taxes. Assorted other nations (including ones NASCAR Dads would consider Hadji or sand-nigger) have also cashed in on the American Garage sale; I wonder who actaully now owns the paper to your 5K sq ft McMansion now (the one with no books, no true art or learning implements unless you consider X-Box with all 3 HALOs as such...and DVDs of the last WWE Smackdown extravaganza as learning implements)?

What's even folks buying into this madness. Folk who need to keep up with the Jones (and Mr. Charlies and Missy Annes) buying educational tools, laptops, SAT prep courses, tutortin, networking assistance...saving money for letters of credit or operations credit lines for entrepreneurship. Nope, not them. They're too busy hanging in their own McMansions chock full of mattresses, leather sofas, 72 inch LCD flat screens--and no other furniture. Worst: folks who can't even afford that...who live off a lead-paint blustered stairwell in the Hood or down in da dirrty, shotgun-shack style, yet seem to have a ginormous SUV or late model Lexus...or 25 years old with three kids already...and the latest baby needs a box of Pampers yet they're the caregivers, in line at 5am to buy a Wii or that pair of faux-leather, guuuuuurrrrrlll...gotta have'em...

Stop buying garbage. Stop wallowing in it. Life's too short and this nation can't afford the Annual Percentage Rate and hidden fees.

2. The Quill Awards

Yep, Lit awards on NBC?! An announced by literati Tiki Barber and Natalie Morales on that erudite and urbane "Today" show? African American book/author was nominated. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah in the Debut Fiction category. That's it. Not even in the Romance category. And their credit, however, they have't Soweto-ized us into an African American Literature category. But day-um! What's this say about the work product being featured? Yet another indictment of "street lit," "sex books," "church lady fiction?" Not even Eric Jerome Dickey can fly in like Superman, braids trailing in the slip-stream, and save us? ;-) Look, in a previous post I highlighted the winners of the 2007 Hurston-Wright legacy Awards (where I presented the award in Fiction to Edward P. Jones). Is it sad that we have to keep coming back to Ed again and again? I think it is. Note also, as did my truly erudite commenter Sunrunner that few black AMERICAN writers were really in the mix this year. Sure, H-W needs to be jazzed up; it has some parochial, mom n' poppish tendencies that scream for adjustment. Fact is, however, it remains the rosetta stone for interpreting and lauding contemporary black literature, non ficiton and now poetry (to the exclusion, notice, of "commercial fiction" for the first time). And as Sunrunner elucidates, black authors can't catch a break. Are we not there? Hell yes we are, as Martha Southgate said in the NYTimes, perhaps in too much of a muted tone. Ignore us at your peril.

3. NEA Study on reading

As I sit here in my bathrobe watching the live-action version of the cartoon Ben-10 for the ninth time (it debuted Wednesday night, clever Cartoon Network!) with you-know-who & co., I am thankful that at least I'm not being subjected to the Hannah Montana Thanksgiving Marathon. Ben's turned into "Wildmutt" thanks to the DNA of the Omintrix, so that means, mercifully, the show is almost over. Then we dress and go to the Mall with the other bozos (see above) and shop and then spend a wad on "Beowulf." Anyway, I'm musing about ignoring us at society's peril...and along with this CN movie and Mall invasion, comes the peril of the latest NEA study. Percolate on this. The NEA's latest study on reading shows that once kids exit elementary school, reading literature, reading for pleasure plummets. I mean plummets like the Ravens' season. Do youreally need a study for that? Anecdotally you can see what's happening, even when you factor in reading "online" (other than Wikipedia, sports and porn). Kids aren't reading anything. It's mindless TV dramas and reality shows...a diet of mental junk food tantamount to what their parents are consuming. The implications for society? Well, it's not just the GOP and Big Anything (Oil, Retail, Food...etc.) who likes this state of affairs. And gamers, where the f**k do you think all of the themes, images, characters and flavors which fuel your product come from? Literature. Hell, even creative narrative non-fiction. Imagination fuels a free society, nothing more. Kill that, you murder freedom. You get the movie Idiocracy, which is the natural 25th Century extension of Office Space. Ponder it, if you're abel. If that sounds elitist, I apologize. I'm off to Macy's and Game Stop anyway...then back on the highway with the other shlubs. Oh and my niece is recommending the latest Carl Webber book. Being a hypocrite is fine during the holidays. I can always go back to my fighting trim after New Years, right? well...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Coming Tomorrow!

My conveyances of thanks, hope and joy for Thanksgiving...NOT!
Stay tuned.
Oh, and an older person claiming to be my father wanted to know why the themes to "Bonanza" and "77 Sunset Strip" and "Dragnet" and "Peter Gunn" weren't among the final nominees in the TV show poll. While the Peter Gunn theme, Bonanza and arguably the first eight notes of Dragnet are iconic, the songs needed at least three votes from my blue ribbon nomination panel (the panel did NOT vote in the final poll, by the way) and the songs didn't make it to the final dozen or so. Would it have made any difference? The bruhs and nubian queens loved Good Times!
And so...all you denizens of the former Cabrini Green--sing a-long:

Just lookin' outta the window
Watchin' the asphalt grow
Thinkin' how it all looks hand-me-down

Keepin' your head above water
Makin' a wave when you can
Temporary lay offs Good Times
Easy credit rip-offs Good Times
Scratchin' and survivin' Good Times
Standin' in the chow line Good Times
Ain't we lucky we got 'em?

Good Times

Seems pretty timely, still eh? I heard this was Dick Cheney's favorite song, too...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Funnies: My favorite public figure shows his crib...

Yeeaaaaah...I have a "chill-laxin'" room, too, complete with my Ethan Allen leather lounger. Happy Friday-before-Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cannibals, All...

So black people think "whitefolks' scandals" are boring, eh? And authors and publishers spawn yawns? Unh-unh. Forget mega Attorney and Brothaman Willie Geary showing his true bamma roots by knocking up some Atlanta skeezer and paying her $28K in child support every month. Forget my favorite loony author and African American version of Sylvia Plath Terry MacMillan blowing up Karen Hunter as the sultana of sleaze and for ghettofying black literature. And I don't wanna hear another word about Kanye West, his mother and Dr. Jan Adams. No, all that is trivial compared to this stuff involving Rudy Giuliani , Fox News and Bernie Kerik. If you are a Republican, it's enough to make you want to be a Romney supporter, or pray John McCain reverts to his old self of the 2000 campaign. If you are a normal American, it's enough to make you puke. If you are smart, it should make you shudder...
It lays bare to all but the most ignorant NASCAR Dad or insidiously corrupt pol that Fox News Network, it's Papa Roger Ailes and star scum Sean Hannity...and of course Big Papa Rupert Murdoch of News Corp....are Hell yes partisan tools, nee, manipulators who would make Josef Goebbels scratch his head and say "Day-um--how come I didn't think of that stuff?" ;-)
As you know, fallen-from-grace 9/11 mythic hero /former NYPD top cop Bernie Kerik's demise (bad mojo for Bush and Rudy G) has taken a tabloid turn. Yes he's on trial and disgraced and yes this fool could have been your and my Homeland Security Reichsfurher but for his corrupt streak. Severely under-reported on Fox. Better to pillory John Edwards' smarmy grin or quote Nas on the n-word or dig up Mike Nifong's corpse and show it. Oh but now my world, the book world, has injected itself. Remember Judith Regan--once the wonder woman of publishing celebrity memoirs ad other such crap--dumped by Rupert Murdoch over OJ's If I Did It (the same Murdoch who's companies make millions "reporting" on OJ, tabloid-style)? Hypocrisy ruled, as the book was ressurrected and turned into a cash cow for the Goldman Family (Nicole Brown's family was horrified). But that's another rant--check my Nat's old Posts, fanboys & girls.

Seems Judy might have some evidence showing that she was told by the poohbahs and News Corp., in league with Fox News, to keep her mouth shut regarding embarassing info about Bernie, and thus protect Rudy. Of course, wingnut Talk Radio and blog-trolls have battered fish to fry, like our glorious victories in Iraq, how to win a war wih Iran, or debunking global warming or predicting the Rapture. Accordingly folks--stick with Nat Turner for the real deal.
See, post 9/11 some rich clown donated use of an NYC apartment to the city, so relief workers and recovery volunteers clean up or rest after their horrific shifts at Ground Zero. Our patriot Bernie used it to bone a lot of women, including Judy Regan. Bernie was married at the time, of course. Regan dumped him when--get this--she found a note to yet another ho in the place (a city employee of course). Judy now alleges, with some proof, that Bernie then stalked her and members of her family. Hey, I did that crap after all of my break-ups. Shows Bernie's a normal man, and not just a Republican.

Speaking of Republicans, as we all know, the second biggest meglomaniacal fraud in politics behind Bill and Hillary Clinton, is Rudolph Giuliani.He is running for President, hoping to replace the THIRD biggest fraud, our current retard-in-chief George W. Bush. Concomittantly, GOP booster Rupert Murdoch owns News Corp. which owns Fox News. Fox is run by one Roger Ailes, a known pal of Rudy's (helped his mayoral campaign and, shades of Clarence Thomas and Rush Limbaugh, Rudy officiated Ailes' wedding). Sean Hannity is all up Rudy's butt on Fox; ironically the only person not biting cheese on this is O'Reilley. Murdoch's publications seem to declare Rudy the next Thomas Jefferson.
Along comes book diva Judy Regan. She's suing Murdoch for firing her over the OJ book. She now says "higher up" asked her to lie to the Feds about bone-fests with Kerik after Rudy convinced Dubya to nominate Bernie has Homeland Security chief. Judy spells out in her complaint that Murdoch, Ailes et al were out to watch Giuliani's back (and, of course, the Bush Administration).
I worked for the Justice Department for three years. My nephew is eight years old only knows of DOJ because his "Flat Stanley" visited the building. Yet it was he, not me, who said (likely from reading too many Marvel "civil war" comic book issues) "Uncle Chris, that's off-struction of justice when tell somebody to lie to the police!" This boy should be Attorney General, not Mukasey.
Judy claims to have evidence of this and hey, even if the Congress or a grand jury subpoenas her you won't hear of it on Fox. Hillary's too corrupt to use it as a weapon, and Barack's too much of a lightweight to run with it. My only hope is that my former hero John McCain will grow a pair and stop his pandering to the loonies and cudgel Rudy with it in the primaries. Or Mitt'll do it? Hey why not--Mormons can be big assholes. None of the other Democrat weenies are saying what needs to be said; they are biting around it like little mice. Shame on you Mrs. Pelosi. And you're a tough East Baltimore girl, supposedly. Your daddy Mayor Tommy D's rolling in his grave. Call your fellow goomba Rudy out and take a nice pee-pee on Murdoch and Ailes!

Ah well, stay tunedfanboys and girls. What could be next--Triple Crown publisher-author Teri Woods naming John Edwards as her baby daddy? Revelations that Barack ghost-wrote a "street lit" novel with C-Murder called The Gangsta Pussy Chronicles? Hey, it's "relevant and speaks to young hip readers," so maybe that's a positive campaign move. ;-) And you thought authors and publishing were boring? Thanks for raising our profile, Judy Regan!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Gentrification Panel Discussion: Nathan McCall

Today I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion on the hot-button urban issue of gentrification. It was held at ground zero of the same in D.C., Busboys & Poets restaurant and world bookstore. The inspiration for the panel was author-journalist Nathan McCall's debut novel--cleverly titled Them. The setting is the "Old Fourth Ward" of Atlanta, Martin Luther King, Jr's neighborhood, once an elegant black middle class community. Decades later it becomes "The Hood," with all of the attendant problems. When the protagonist, a black man, wants to buy the old house he's been renting, along comes the white professionals eager for an old Victorian home without the commute. Can the developers with their chain stores and condos be far behind?Included on the panel were Prof. Tony Samara of George Mason University, attorney and candidate for D.C. City Council Dee Hunter, Rick Lee, owner of Lee's Flower and Card Shop, one of the oldest small businesses in the Nation's Capital, and Nathan McCall. As you know, Nathan is the author of the New York Times bestselling and iconic memoir, Makes Me Wanna Holler, chronicling his life in the projects of Portsmouth, Virginia and his escape from a life of crime to the newsroom of the Washington Post. Nathan is now a professor at Emory University. We share the best literary agent in the world...Faith Childs!
So--what are your thoughts on "gentrification" and how it may encompass race, class, the utter greed or sainthood of developers and local politicians, be you in Brooklyn or Baltimore. Or what about the effects on the burbs? Tell me...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Funnies: Uncle Ruckus as The Exorcist

From the Boondocks (ten minute segment, and turn down your sound if you're at work). Satire--you have to be fairly intelligent to "get it." Stinkmeaner's evil spirit invade Tom DuBois' body. Tom then attacks granddad's house. Granddad bears an uncanny resemblence to my father...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

When I Was a Little Chris...

My mother's funeral was three years ago yesterday. I recall a Fall Dance a LONG time ago...her driving me to a party because I was nowhere close to being old enough to drive. And this song was playing when I got there. Lawd this was real music. I repeat...this was REAL MUSIC. The way Donald Goines and Ernest Tidyman blow away anything originating out of Triple Crown Publishing and other ghetto lit writers (or Karen Hunter) these days...

Monday, November 05, 2007

With friends like these...

Remember Saddam Hussein? Yep, this dead evildoer was once an ally (courted by Ronny Reagan, Daddy Bush). Or General Zia? You probably don't remember that piece of shit; he's Musharraf's mentor in Pakistan. He staged a coup supported by, who else, Reagan's boys and Daddy Bush. He hung the democratically-elected Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (Benazir's father). Now what did this stalwart ally of good and righteousness do upon taking over? He "Islamisized" Pakistan and empowered Muslim extremists. He singlehandly armed what would become the Taliban...whilst turning a blind eye to the THOUSANDS of acres of HEROIN poppies cultivated on land under his control. Indeed, one of his proteges fighting the Russians in Afghanistan was also recipient of much, much CIA cash and American largesse: Osama Bin Laden. Oh Lordy Lordy, whenever you point this stuff out to right wing clowns who see the world as a Biblical crusade or Saturday morning cartoon version of right and wrong, they suddenly get all Henry Kissinger on you and huff, "Oh, you don't understand the complexity of strategic thought." Or better yet, they wax as our president or various vacuous GOP candidates (sadly I'll stamp Barack and Hillary with the "vacuous" moniker, too):"You aren't a patriot, and you're endangering our freedom." So as we pay $3 and choke our bodies and brains commuting and pay big Oil and big Pharma and Big Developer and Big Collection Agency/Bank/Insurance/Wal Mart their pints of blood and cheer for Sean Hannity, I guess all we can do is just blindly trust in our leader's judgment again. Okay, so they assured us that these men were our pals, but Jesus is on our side and he'll make it right!

I recall the words of Jack Crabbe ("Little Big Man") musing about the treaties broken with the Sioux and Cheyenne in 1875-76. This land is yours, says Uncle Sam, so long as the grass is green, the sky is blue and the wind blows. "Well sometimes the grass ain't green, the sky ain't blue, and the wind don't blow..."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Refuge at Hurston-Wright

Tonight at the National Press Club here in DC, I'm presenting a fiction award (can't tell you to whom but check the site and C-SPAN later). It's the Annual Hurston-Wright Foundation's Gala. Much moolah to deserving writers and poets, both famous and unrecognized. Tonight will be an escape not from Dog Chapman, but the fools who enable or excuse this kind of behavior. Then again, the National Press Club's a spit and a skip from the White House, and there's a photo of Sean Hannity up there. At least the latter's tiny compared the one of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow...


addendum 11/04/07
Category Winners: Edward P Jones, Fiction (Pulitzer Prize Winner), Wangari Maathai, NonFiction (Nobel Peace Prize winner), Patricia Smith, Poetry, Aminatta Forna, Debut Fiction
North Star Award: Sonia Sanchez
Madame CJ Walker Award: Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstores
Got to converse with Zora Neale Hurston's niece, a professor, at the presenters' table. Very interesting. Nope, didn't see Karen Hunter there, nor any of her pornstar or video vixen authors, nor the whole Triple Crown paddock, nor Eric Dickey and Travis and Earl, et al. You might say it's insightful cutting edge non fiction's and literary black fiction's Alamo. Sad? Not when you think about how many Mexicans got shot-up before they stormed the place. So take heed, "Santa Ana" Hunter...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!!!

Okay, only in America can an obscure Celtic-Druidic harvest festival and excuse to rape and drink and sacrifice newborns and goats become a multi-billion dollar consumer orgy. Bandy-legged pie-faced Papists known as the Irish ;-) brought it here in the 1820s along with the concept of street gangs and an aversion to birth control, but it truly wasn't until the late 1970s-early 80s that it became a "holiday" commandeered from children by bored, craven adults. Perhaps it was the masterpiece 1978 film Halloween? Don't get me wrong, for movie lovers this is the best time of year thanks to AMC's "Monsterfest" and various documentaries, creature feature marathons, etc. Some say it was Reaganomics, the rise of the religious right. Some say it was the concomitant fear-mongering regarding serial killers and devilish pedophiles and black folks in masks burglaring homes? Or possibly economic dislocations and migrations and developer- and S & L-led building booms and busts, or people waiting to have to kids? This utterly skews the demographics of so-called stable neigborhoods. Hard to let kids trick or treat when you don't know or trust your neighbor...or you don't have kids!

Or maybe it was we baby-boomers (andI'm the young side of the post-war deluge, OK!) recalling the heyday of Halloween, now having the income to indulge their bullshit narcissism? BINGO!
See, we remember the "Ben Garrison"-brand flammable non-reflective cheesy costumes and plastic or paperboard masks. We remember when tribes of kids would roam neighborhoods en masse, in the DARK, and even get cooked food as treats! Schools had MASSIVE Halloween parties--no one gave a damn about Holy Rollers who thought it was demonic or left wing weenies who didn't want their kids "left out" if they didn't have a costume...
We, in turn, were soon running firms and businesses which might make a buck off Halloween. So we peddled this prurience to the masses et you have little girls wanting the same sex-charged costumes as their moms, and boys wanting to dress like the latest movie or computer game hero--duly licensed so everyone can make money. You can see it in the evolution of creatures like "Pinhead," or Michael Myers, Freddie Kruger, Jason Vorhees (who wasn't even in the first two Friday the 13ths--and didn't get the hockey mask till the third). They started as truly terrifying, fresh and original creations. Now milked to death and brand name pop icons. My generation has ruined this country...

My favorite hypocrisy is that of so-called pious black folks who associate Halloween with the Devil. Huh? Nothing is worse than talking to brothers and sister who I presume are educated, make a decent living and have some sense of history or perspective--and then they go and spout nonsense. One such fool, father of two, an attorney, upright brother, told he learned at Morehouse never to lower your dignity by putting on a costume! Interesting...considering his family's from the Caribbean and Catholic and this whole concept of Carnivale and communing with the dead and pre-Lenten festival attire was pretty much born there! But no--he became a Baptist at "The House" and told me his pastor had forbidden any mention of Halloween (they call it "Fall Party Night" for the kids, something silly like that). His wife--a former social worker and once a sharp, sexy woman, keeps her mouth shut and enables this crap. She's damn happy just to have a stable black man and "trophy" kids in BabyGap clothes and the huge pre-fab home of her dreams whilst her single girlfriends troll for the same. Mindlessly, she nodded in approval at hubby; she's told me many times her husband's full of shit. [They've moved back to the Atlanta area from DC so I don't much care if they read this and get offended Ha!] Wish I could say they were a minority within the minority, or there are pastors out there chuckling at Halloween and fighting the true evils out there: ignorance, poverty, war, crime, exploitation. Ahhhh...who am I kidding?
On the other side of the Bill Cosby-esque fence...while having coffee Monday and fresh from the trauma of another death in our extended family, I spied on a woman interviewed for a local newspaper. She was maybe in her early forties, obese (and I don't mean pleasantly thick) cigarette viced between two stubby fingers and corralling a horde of own kids, step-stair in age from toddler to possibly less than twenty years younger than she. Oh no, Halloween's for "them other folks," and she doesn't let her kids trick or treat, and she even told the school attended by two of her daughters not to have any Halloween celebration or allow any costumes. Her son looked to be a full foot taller than me, and was swathed in a black tall tee, black baggy jeans and his head squeezed into a tight wave cap, so tight that his short braids stuck out and ithad the look of a small black octopus sucking on the boy's head. He smirked and said he "di'n't need no Halloween to go out an' do what I [he] do," and the mom prompty told him to shut up (as the smarmy reporter and goth-looking photography chuckled nervously). But oh no--Halloween's demonic. Please.

So I'm going to enjoy the irony and stupidity and drive my wife nuts singing the annoying theme-song from Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (nothing to do with Michael Myers) now's the time for all you kiddies to put on your Silver Shamrock special mask...and DIE!!! AH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA AH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More Newsworthy than TI

Comments? Impressions? Musings? Let me know...
From the Associated Press:
NEW YORK - Stan O'Neal, the beleaguered chief executive of Merrill Lynch & Co., was reportedly close to resigning Sunday amid broad criticism for leading the world's largest brokerage to its biggest quarterly loss since it was founded 93 years ago.

In a week that included an $7.9 billion write-down related to subprime mortgages and O'Neal's unauthorized overture to sell the company to retail bank Wachovia Corp., the board of Merrill Lynch reached a broad consensus Friday for his dismissal, according to several media reports. He would become the highest-ranking casualty of the global credit crisis that swept through Wall Street's biggest investment banks during the third quarter.
An announcement of his departure could come as soon as Sunday evening or Monday morning, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
A Merrill Lynch spokesman declined to comment Sunday.
Merrill's 11-member board, which currently includes O'Neal as chairman, was expected to initiate a search to find a replacement that will include both internal and external candidates.
O'Neal, 56, came under fire Wednesday when Merrill Lynch announced a $2.24 billion loss as big bets on mortgage-backed securities were rendered almost worthless because of a global credit squeeze. His fate was also plunged into doubt after he initiated talks about a possible merger with Wachovia, according to the Times. Such a deal could have handed O'Neal a $250 million separation package if he wasn't chosen to lead the new company.
O'Neal, who rose to power five years ago, was known for shaking up top management and putting a greater emphasis on riskier bets rather than the safety of just selling stocks. That strategy — which handed Merrill Lynch record results during the market's peak — came with a heavy cost during the tumultuous third quarter. The company said Wednesday it didn't know what impact it would have in the current earnings period.
O'Neal shouldered the blame for the earnings miss.
"I'm not going to talk around the fact that there were some mistakes that were made," he said in a conference call with analysts Wednesday. Merrill Lynch shares plunged for two days, then spiked Friday amid speculation O'Neal might be forced out.
Investors, who have seen Merrill's shares slump by 30 percent this year, will now be keenly interested in who might take control. Widely tipped as a successor is Laurence Fink, currently chairman and CEO of asset manager BlackRock Inc. He's credited with being one of Wall Street's most powerful players in the fixed-income market, which has been slammed by a global aversion to risk as mortgage-backed securities lost significant value during the summer.
Fink had dinner with O'Neal on Thursday but has yet to meet with Merrill's board, according to a person familiar with the matter who was unauthorized to speak on the record. Merrill Lynch owns a 49 percent stake in BlackRock.
Internally, Gregory Fleming, Merrill's co-president, has been named as a possible replacement, as has Bob McCann, who heads Merrill's brokerage division.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Thanks to consumerism, MTV/BET and the No Child Left Behind Act, high schools really don't teach literature, essay-writing, basic composition, etc. any more. So let's define the term. Allegory is an extended metaphor, the way an illustration's an extended, story-like example. It carries a literal meaning and a symbolic message..., five years after her son's murder, Jam Master J's mother Connie's still looking for answers. No leads. No clues. One thug who'd been living on J's sofa and likely witnessed the crime isn't talking to the cops or anyone. Connie blames the "don't snitch" sub-culture. J was one of the softer souls in Hip Hop, and in Run-DMC's music he will forever be a pioneer...
...and T.I., king of the durrrtySouth, is out on bail. The actual bond would buy a couple of houses even in this crazy D.C. market. Several of his fans were outside the courthouse, Michael Jackson-fan-style (by the way, did you know MJ's a citizen of our fair state, Maryland...sharing prime Chesapeake Bay frontage with Dick Cheney, author Tom Clancy and a couple of billionaires?). Their tee shirts read: "Let your haters be motivators." And what did this man who's "gettin; paid" do with his money to get him landed in the pokey? Stock fraud? Mis-stating a form 10-K? Nah. He brings machine guns and pistols with silencers to the BET Awards. Allegedly, of course...
...thus I pray the Connies out there will no longer have to grieve and lament. I pray our kids pick new heroes and real causes. Then again, they don't teach allegory in school anymore...
NEWSFLASH (yeah, and I tie it in, don't worry): The Turks vow to make the Kurds "grieve." It's so good to see our President inspiring yet more horseshit spillover from a horseshit war. Indeed, here's a quote from an old black man, a barber, down in Upper Marlboro, Md whose son just finished his stint in the Army and is now in a reserve unit: "The white trash and conservatives put Bush in office, let the white trash fight his wars and they can do it to a country music soundtrack. And let the conservatives pick up a rifle and put down their damn Blackberries and Bibles." By the way, this dude used to cut my hair, and I ran into him at Border's during the Capital Bookfest. He won a Bronze Star and Purple Heart in Korea (in case you wish to disparage him, Rush Limbaugh & Dittoheads) and yep, was once stationed in Turkey guarding an old missile base during the thick of the Cold War. He's one of the few regular folk out there who understands the centuries-long mess between the Turks and Kurds. And this dude barely graduated high school. But wait, didn't Dubya go to Yale? No affirmative action baby, him, right, so it must've been on merit. I'm sure they taught him something there, eh? ;-) Too bad TI's a hero to our youth, and not this old brother.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Me, unexpurgated

Compliments of Felicia Pride of The Back List, at toward the end of a long day at the Capital Bookfest. This is me, unexpurgated. Jeez...the camera indeed adds ten (twenty) pounds. Many of these views presented in the video aren't new; I've used the dessert-dinner metaphor since I was on the old BET News (remember BET had news) BET Tonight with Ed Gordon...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Affirmative Action on the front burner: My interview with Peter Schmidt

Peter Schmidt's new book is Color and Money: How Rich White Kids Are Winning the War Over College Affirmative Action (Macmillan hardcover, 2007). First heard of Peter's work during a conference of African American Princeton alumni in September '06. Some of us were discussing fellow blogger Field Negro's favorite lunatic Quisling*, Ward Connerly. Ward and his ilk happen to one of the many subjects Peter covers in his reporting and in Color and Money.
Peter is a deputy editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education here in D.C.; his subjects are affirmative action, state and federal higher-education policy, and historically black colleges and universities. He previously covered school desegregation, urban education, immigrant education, and education research for Education Week. He also has reported for the Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press, the Northern Virginia Daily, and the Ann Arbor News, The Weekly Standard, Teacher Magazine, and Detroit Monthly magazine. Peter apparently is a booster for Ambergris Cay, Belize--a place my aunt's been trying to get us to for years! You can get details on more of Peter's work and the conceptual framework of the book on his blog, Color and Money.
I spoke to Peter recently about his book and the issues it presents. Join us for this frank discussion, and please, besides buying Color and Money, you should take away some knowledge here that will cut the fog of lies, bombast and emotion on both sides of this debate. IT'S A LONG INTERVIEW, BUT YOU'LL BE TAKING NOTES, NO LIE...
Peter, welcome! Let's get right to it. Your choice of a title may make some parents and students uncomfortable in this strange milieu of Duke Lacrosse players and the Jena 6. Why did you pen this book, and why the title?

This book is in many ways a natural extension of my 20-plus-year career in journalism. Almost since the day I graduated from college in 1986, I have been writing about education and finding myself covering battles over education access. In one of my first jobs, as a reporter for the Associated Press, I covered a fairly pivotal minority student protest movement at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor—the movement that prompted the university’s administration to begin developing the affirmative action policies that would later be challenged before the Supreme Court in the Grutter and Gratz cases. I subsequently spent just over six years at Education Week, where I covered urban school districts, school desegregation—including the major Supreme Court desegregation decisions of the early 90s—and various issues related to the education of immigrants. I came to The Chronicle of Higher Education in 1996 and almost immediately began covering affirmative action, reporting on Proposition 209 in California and following the Grutter and Gratz cases from the district courts on up to the Supreme Court.

I’ll be honest with you. If my career as an education writer had pushed me into jobs where I had to review reading textbooks or use the term “pedagogy” 30 times a day, I probably would have gotten bored and found some other calling. But the debates over education access that I covered have fascinated me to no end. The temperature of these debates tends to be blistering hot, and they involve some of the most profound questions confronted by our society: Who should be part of our nation’s elite? How do we define merit? What kind of nation do we want to be? Writing this book has enabled me to take what I have learned from covering hundreds of such controversies and, more importantly, has given me a chance to tackle these bigger, overarching questions head on.

I guess I have an emotional attachment to this subject as well, because, at some level, I take injustice very personally. As a matter of background, throughout my grade school and high school years, I was generally one of the fattest kids in my class, and I put up with a lot of grief as a result. I won’t be an idiot and tell you my experience was anything like the experience of a black person—or any other racial or ethnic minority—in our society. But I can tell you I do know what it is like to get my ass kicked day in and day out—to be pinned down and have my face pushed into the ground and be told to eat dirt or grass or dog shit—simply because of what I look like.

I had known I wanted to someday write a book on subject of affirmative action as of about ten years ago, because I knew how well-positioned I was to do a book on this subject. What finally made me decide to write this particular book, with this specific focus, was the language Sandra Day O’Connor used in writing for the majority in the Grutter decision. In upholding the status quo in college admissions, and accepting the University of Michigan’s arguments that it had no alternative but to consider race, she wrote:

“In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry,
it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented
and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity. All members of our
heterogeneous society must have confidence in the openness and integrity of
the educational institutions that provide this training.”

Knowing what I knew about how colleges actually worked—and how a huge share of this nation’s people will never get a realistic shot at a selective college education mainly because they were born on the wrong side of the tracks—Justice O’Connor’s words practically made me spit out my morning coffee. “Openness and integrity”? Who was she kidding? We are nowhere near to having the system she claimed to be upholding. And she had to have known that. I mean. After all, Sandra Day O’Connor is a Stanford alumna who became a member of Stanford’s board of trustees, giving her an insider’s knowledge of the place. Lo and behold, she watched two of her three kids get into Stanford, one of them while she was a board member. I don’t care how smart they were, Stanford turns down great applicants all of the time. If I gave you a buck for every person without connections who has watched two out of three of their children get into Stanford, I doubt you would end up with enough money to order a shot of bourbon at a dive bar. Four of the five justices in the Grutter majority were among at least two generations of their families to attend the same elite college. They knew full well what a legacy preference is, and I cannot believe it did not occur to them that the University of Michigan and other colleges could achieve a significant degree of racial and ethnic diversity without considering ethnicity or race simply by abandoning some or all of their many preferences for the wealthy and well-connected, who tend in our society to be white. I guess it is human nature not to challenge a club’s admissions rules if you are among those inside the club.

Now, as for the title of my book, I’m happy to hear it might make people uncomfortable. If people are uncomfortable, they are thinking, and I want to make people think. I firmly believe that, even if all my book does is get people to spend five minutes coming up with reasons to say I am wrong, I’ll be doing our society a favor by getting them to spend that five minutes.

In terms of your reference to the Duke lacrosse prosecution, let’s not forget that one of the Duke defendants, Collin Finnerty, had recently assaulted a man on the streets of Washington DC because the guy seemed gay to him. Let’s also keep in mind that Duke has a de facto segregated campus and a reputation for poor race relations, that the students in the lacrosse house had a reputation for being terribly disrespectful to their black neighbors, and that someone at that Duke lacrosse party told a black woman “thank your grandpa for my nice cotton shirt.” There came to be a point fairly early on where the Duke defendants were being prosecuted unjustly, no question about it. But I personally am not about to buy the argument that white privileged kids are the real victims of oppression on America’s college campuses, and that what happened at Duke is somehow reason to shelve the discussion of whether college admissions should be more fair and democratic.

I recognize that my title is provocative. But, since you have read my book, you know that I wrote it for a wide audience because I want to democratize this whole debate. I’m convinced that, if we continue to leave discussions of college admissions to the elite, the elite will continue looking out for itself while demanding sacrifice of everyone else. I mean, suppose I had called my book An Analysis of the Debate over Affirmative Action in College Admissions Based on First-Hand Reporting, a Review of Key Historical Texts, and an Examination of the Available Research on How Race, Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status Affect Educational Opportunity. How many people would have read it? Two dozen? Three? Four? And I’m guessing that nearly all of them would have been academics with a vested interest in keeping the status quo intact.

The only guilt I feel about the title is that it plays a bit of a trick on the reader. You see, as the debate over affirmative action in college admissions is currently framed, no matter what, rich white kids are going to win. Colleges use race-conscious admissions policy to create the illusion of equal opportunity and diversity when, in fact, their admissions policies overwhelmingly favor privilege (which generally is correlated with white skin) and in many respects their enrollments are not diverse at all. Many critics of affirmative action don’t really care much about socioeconomic diversity either, and if they force colleges get rid of race-conscious admissions without finding alternatives, the enrollments at selective institutions are going to become even more disproportionately wealthy and white. With a few exceptions, no one on either side of the debate talks much about making any sort of serious effort to dislodge the grip that the economically privileged have on such campuses.

I am glad that bloggers like you are paying attention to this book, because much of the mainstream press clearly is uncomfortable with it. You have to understand that many of our nation’s larger newspapers and political journals are essentially Ivy League clubs. Many of these people aren’t eager to see the world reading a book that reveals how many of the graduates of their alma maters are fairly dim and lazy, a book that exposes how the privileged game the system, and could conceivably make it harder for their own children to get into their alma maters. Much of the mainstream media also seems incredibly uncomfortable talking about affirmative action and issues of race. Some of our nation’s leading thinkers have raved about this book, and yet it has been incredibly difficult getting anyone to review it (even though the reviews that I have gotten have been overwhelmingly positive). For nearly two months Amazon has consistently ranked my book as a bestseller in a long list of categories, including public policy, race relations, minority studies, and modern U.S. history. Nevertheless, a few of the publishers who rejected this book told me flat-out they did not want to see the matters that it deals with discussed. I guess I have to give them credit for at least being honest.

I imagine that, three hundred years ago, you didn’t hear much debate about the best form of government among the world’s royal families. Those on the top of the pile don’t take kindly to any discussions of whether they belong there.

In the book and in other forums you allude to something called the “knighting effect.” Can you elaborate on this term with respect to low income minorities vis a vis middle class minority college applicants, and how “rich kids”may have “hijacked” this concept?

Well, I want to use this term “knighting effect” carefully, because if we misapply it we risk clouding the debate.

“Knighting effect” applies to the phenomenon in college admissions where the chance of being accepted by a selective college is actually quite good for someone who both comes from a financially impoverished background and very, very smart. The student is such an extreme case in both respects that the admissions officers can’t help being wowed, and pat themselves on the back for finding such a diamond in the rough. It is important to keep in mind that there is only a small population that this applies to. At least in one study of 28 selective colleges conducted by two Williams College researchers (and available on my Web site,, the knighting effect seemed to have no bearing at all on students whose families made more than about $24,000 annually, or who had SAT scores below about 1300 on a 1600 point scale. If you scored a 1400 but your parents made $35,000 annually, or your parents made $10,000 annually but you scored an 1100 on the SAT, you weren’t statistically shown to benefit.

Where colleges aggressively use race- and ethnicity-conscious admissions policies, I don’t think the knighting effect has much relevance for black, Hispanic, or Native American applicants—they’re generally smiled upon without it, regardless of family income, in some cases even when their academic credentials are well below the “knighting effect” threshold. Where such admissions policies have been banned, I am not sure the knighting effect helps a lot of lot of students, simply because there are so few black, Hispanic, and American Indian students from poor families who earn impressive enough grades and test scores to benefit. You have to keep in mind that, nationally, there are only about 1,600 black and 3,000 Hispanic students who post SAT scores in the top 10 percent every year. And, because academic achievement correlates with class, a disproportionate number of those kids are from families earning incomes well above “knighting effect” range. I suppose they might benefit from something similar to the knighting effect if colleges consider their race or ethnicity to be, in itself, a disadvantage. Given that (on just about every major test out there) the average score for the subset of black students coming from the upper-middle class is about the same as the average score for lower-middle-class white students, you can statistically argue that discrimination and its after-effects still hinder achievement, that race plays a significant role independent of class. But equating black skin in itself with disadvantage does not sit well with a lot of people, and there is a risk of feeding into stereotypes and perpetuating discrimination by doing so.

Rich white kids have not hijacked the term “knighting effect,” they have turned it on its head. Properly used, knighting effect refers to the triumph of exceptional ability over impoverished circumstances. When wealthy white kids get admitted based on their connections or their families’ ability to donate, what we are witnessing is the triumph of privileged circumstances over a lack of ability.

Within the context of the book’s thesis, how did this “paradigm” of the “qualified, deserving white student” originate? Indeed, if I may play Bill O’Reilley or Sean Hannity, why should “unqualified, undeserving minorities” have some sort of preference in admissions, and, by extension of your thesis, financial assistance? What about “middle class” students of any race or ethnicity?

Your question prompted me to do a computerized search of my book to see if I had ever used the term “deserving” as you do here, and I was relieved to find that I hadn’t. The question of who deserves what in our society is a value judgment that I went out of my way not to make. I raise the question of who should be getting into our best colleges, but the closest I come to offering an answer is to lay out the options and describe what the consensus has been at various points in our nation’s history.

I think the consensus for at least the last 50 years has been that college admissions should be meritocratic—with valid exceptions. There is generally a consensus around the goal of meritocracy because it appeals to our belief in fairness and to our society’s interests. If you are going under the surgeon’s knife, you like to think our medical schools are selecting the best. If you hold stock in a corporation, you like to think the people running it got into business schools on their own merits. The Cold War and Space Race—and, subsequently, the emergence of global economic competition—have largely convinced this nation that it cannot afford to have its colleges rejecting top talent.

Most of the debate revolves around how we should define merit and what, if any, exceptions we should make to any definition of meritocracy. Just about everyone has some population that they would like to see exempted from the idea that college admissions should be based on grade point averages and SAT or ACT scores. Maybe they think you should take a person’s circumstances into account, so that a kid from an impoverished background with a 3.3 GPA will be considered worthier than a millionaire’s kid with a 3.4. Maybe they think it is important for a college to enroll great football players, regardless of whether they have the brains to be there, because they hate to spend their Saturday afternoons cheering a bunch of losers. Maybe they want their kids to rub elbows with the children of the rich and famous—out of a belief that the resulting connections will pay off—and therefore are more than happy to see them enroll in a college that lowers the bar for the children of movie stars, politicians, and business tycoons.

As my book explains, the reason minority students initially got admissions preferences, back in the sixties, was because our cities were being torn apart by riots, and the people running our selective colleges thought our society was going to slide further into chaos unless black Americans were sent a clear signal that they could move up in the world, that the nation’s top colleges and top jobs were open to all, regardless of skin color or ancestry. The belief was that, once black Americans could see other black Americans heading up the ladder and becoming part of the establishment, they would no longer be easily convinced that violence was the only way to improve their conditions, and the establishment had to be overthrown. The nonviolent, integrationist teachings of Martin Luther King would hold more appeal for them than the militancy of the Black Power movement. This desire to avoid more urban uprisings was hardly a trivial concern.

As time went on, however, the rationale for affirmative action evolved. With the Bakke decision of 1978, the Supreme Court decided that public colleges cannot be in the business of giving one group preference over another for the sake of bringing about social justice, that it is folly for government entities to be in the business of trying to decide who owes what historical debt to whom in our society. The only justification for such preferences allowed by the court was the idea that college students benefit educationally from the presence of diversity on their campus. The court accepted colleges’ word on this matter—it never really asked them to prove educational benefits. As time went on, college came to see the production of black and Hispanic graduates as a way to get financial support from corporations and government agencies. While not yet embraced by the court in a way that gives it the power of law—and somewhat morally troubling if one looks back at the Jim Crow-era argument that white businesses would lose their customers if forced to hire black employees—there is this idea that affirmative-action preferences are justified because the future of our economy hinges on the ability of companies to hire a diverse workforce.

One of the problems supporters of affirmative action face is that the current rationales for it don’t seem to have much public appeal when something like Michigan’s Proposal 2 or California’s Proposition 209 gets on the ballot. I mean, if I am middle-class white father who thinks my kid just got rejected from a college in favor of a minority kid, am I going to feel any better about the situation if someone tells me that college is filled with wealthy white kids from overwhelmingly white schools who need to finally be exposed to the racial diversity their parents had been sheltering them from, or that the financial well-being of Fortune 500 stockholders and executives depends on kids like mine taking it on the chin? If you look at the exit polls from when Michiganders voted on Proposal 2 last fall, the biggest supporters of affirmative action were people with advanced degrees—who had gotten about as far as they wanted to—and people who had never made it past high school. The people most opposed to affirmative action were those who had just a few years of college or, at most, bachelor’s degrees, people with some ambition who never made it to the top of the academic ladder.

Consider this illustration. In his book A Class Apart, Washington Post reporter Alec Klein related that in the case of a New York public high school for gifted children, Stuyvesant, Asian students were preparing for three years to take the entry test in underground academies; they dominate the student body far out of proportion to other groups in the school and their general presence in the city’s student population. Increasing swaths of black and Hispanic students are excluded despite near-misses at the test cut-off; black and Hispanic enrollments at the school have been in steady decline. Here’s the rub. The usual comments of “lazy” or “unprepared” minorities, and of “meritocracy” headlined any criticism of those who said Stuyvesant’s admissions needed to be reformed. That was until the true extent of Asian students’ predominance came to light. White students (Catholic, white Protestant, Jewish) began disappearing as well, and mysteriously, all talk of “meritocracy” disappeared from the debate. Suddenly the school board is discussing “remedies.” What’s your take?

Your illustration reminds me of a study discussed in my book. In the early 1990s, David Wellman, a sociologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz, conducted focus group interviews in which he asked students their opinions of various admissions policies, including race-conscious admissions. When he asked white students how black and Hispanic applicants were evaluated, many were adamant that admissions policies should be based strictly on grades and test scores. When he asked white students how Asian American applicants should be evaluated, the white students’ support for a SAT-and-GPA-based meritocracy evaporated. Suddenly, they didn’t think applicants’ SAT scores were nearly as important
as whether or not they were “well rounded.”

It probably should not shock anyone that there is a remarkable overlap between how people define “merit” and the self-interests of those doing the defining.

As an aside, I am often surprised by how colleges talk about Asian American students. I get press releases essentially saying “Good news: Our Asian American enrollments went down” or “Despite our best efforts, Asian American enrollments went up.” If colleges talked about any other population the way they talk about Asians, all hell would break loose, but they seem comfortable describing their growing Asian enrollments as some sort of blight, or a cancer that needs to be kept in check.

Difficult questions here--how are flagship state/public universities doing with respect to recruiting and maintaining minority and low-income students , as opposed to private schools? Are the Ivies doing better? What about sectarian private schools, from Notre Dame or Georgetown to Bob Jones University?

I am going to have to dodge this series of questions for several reasons, but I hope I can shed some light even in doing so.

I don’t want to get into comparing specific institutions partly because the Chronicle has scrupulously avoided getting into the college-ranking business, which your questions seem to drag me into. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education does a lot of these comparisons, and I would suggest that your readers consult it if they really want to know how Bob Jones stacks up against Notre Dame.

In regard to the broader comparison you invite, the Chronicle has not sought to compare all flagship publics against all privates, in part because there is so much variety among both types of institutions such comparisons might be meaningless. Moreover, I think one has to be careful comparing institutions without taking into account the populations they serve. I mean, just as it does not take a great cosmetologist to make Angelina Jolie look beautiful, I am not sure it says all that much for an Ivy League college to have high minority graduation rates when that college has the luxury of cherry-picking the very best minority high school graduates out there. In this respect, I think a lot of HBCUs that educate large numbers of ordinary students from disadvantaged settings don’t get nearly enough credit.

Your questions do bring to mind one interesting phenomenon that I can share. Some research, including that described in the well-known book The Shape of the River, has shown that minority students have higher graduation rates at highly selective colleges than they do at less-selective institutions. Much of the explanation for this may be found in the intense academic support that such elite colleges can offer. Things seem to have changed since I was in college in the early 80s and I took it as a badge of honor that I graduated when a lot of kids in my class failed out or dropped out. Partly because U.S. News and other guides judge them on their retention rates, and partly because no parent wants to spend huge amounts on tuition sending their kid somewhere where they won’t graduate, these top colleges bend over backwards to try to make sure their students graduate. Their retention rates are often in the high 90 percents. Some critics say the desire to keep students in college at any cost has spawned grade inflation or a dumbing down of the curriculum. I have certainly heard plenty of people say the hardest part about Harvard was getting in.

As an aside, I note that your question asks about recruitment and retention but does not ask about achievement. I think focusing on the retention of minority students ignores a key problem, which is that the disproportionate numbers of black and Hispanic undergraduates fail to academically achieve at high levels. Some people say academic credentials are a lot more important than grades—a Harvard degree is a Harvard degree, whatever your GPA. But, without top grades, students have trouble getting into our better graduate and professional schools, unless those institutions also give serious consideration to ethnicity and race. (To shamelessly plug my own work again, see the article on my Web site with the headline “What Color is an A?”) Affirmative action has allowed colleges, and our society as a whole, to paper over gaps in achievement stemming from societal and educational problems we have not begun to resolve. Wherever and whenever affirmative-action preferences are banned, it is like a trap door suddenly opens under those who are not achieving at high levels. They go from surveying opportunities to being in a hole they have trouble crawling out of.

In your book you find support in the work of researchers like Anthony Carnevale of the Educational Testing Service. Minority students who gained a foothold based on their race/ethnicity don’t appear so “unqualified and undeserving” in the face of such research. Please give us a little background or Mr. Carnevale's study, and how it might reframe the whole debate over affirmative action.

Back in the late 1990s, Carnevale and some fellow researchers at ETS began looking for alternatives to using affirmative-action preferences to bring about diversity on campus. ETS, which administers the SAT test under contract with the College Board, initially supported this research out of self-interest, because people there thought there would be a backlash against the SAT if affirmative action went away and the SAT took on an even bigger role in determining who got into good colleges.

As part of their research, Carnevale et. al. were given access to data on students from 146 of the nation’s top colleges—mostly state flagships, top private research universities, the Ivy League, and solid little liberal arts colleges. Most people never get access to this type of information, because it is covered by federal privacy laws, but they were able to use it because they could be trusted not to produce results that personally identified any student. At one point, they decided to construct a fake admissions process based on what they knew about the minimum academic standards of these institutions, and then ran student profiles through this process, to see how many students made the cut based on things such as grades, SAT or ACT scores, teacher recommendations (scored on an index), and “leadership” (basically involvement in extracurricular activities, also scored on an index.) The researchers found that 15 percent of these students were white kids who did not meet the standards of their own institutions. Based on other research, Carnevale concluded that some were recruited athletes, but many others had gotten in because they were legacies, or connected to a major donor, or had ties to a politician, or were the child of a faculty member or administrator, or had some other non-academic “hook” (to borrow admissions office jargon).

You have to keep in mind that these 15 percent were just the tip of the preference iceberg, the students who clearly had the bar lowered for them. Throughout most of the applicant pool—or, at least, the reaches where applicants are not absolute shoe-ins—students with cash and connections elbow aside better-qualified students who lack those things.

Carnevale estimated that, without affirmative action, the share of the enrollment at these colleges that is black or Hispanic would drop from 12 percent to about 4 percent—an 8 percentage point difference. So it is clearly the case that a white applicant to one of these colleges has a much better chance of losing a seat to a less-qualified white applicant than a less-qualified applicant who is black or Hispanic.

I initially called attention to Carnevale’s 15-percent estimate in The Chronicle of Higher Education a few years ago, and our readership in higher education seemed to yawn and think nothing of it. When I called attention to it again a few weeks ago in a Boston Globe essay, it was picked up by a lot of liberal or leftist blogs and by blogs geared toward minority audiences, as evidence that people who blame affirmative action for their failure to get into college are attacking the wrong target.

One thing people have to keep in mind, however, is that Carnevale’s findings cut both ways in the affirmative-action debate. The Supreme Court has said that colleges must consider alternative ways to bring about diversity before giving extra consideration to applicants’ race, ethnicity, or gender. Carnevale’s research shows that colleges may not be trying very hard to find these alternatives. Other studies have provided additional evidence that colleges could marginally increase their racial and ethnic diversity—and substantially increase their class diversity—if they stopped giving preferences to jocks and applicants with cash and connections. If they rethought their reliance on academic criteria that arguably have some educational basis but also strongly correlate with class—SAT scores, the number of AP courses on a transcript, high-school reputations—they could increase such diversity even more. As my book shows, there is a long list of other college policies—too complex to summarize easily here—that work to the advantage of wealthy applicants. It is entirely possible the courts may someday consider all of these things and tell colleges that claim there are no alternatives to race- or ethnicity-conscious admissions that they have not been trying hard enough. Chief Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court spent much of his career in private practice representing colleges and higher-education groups. He knows the higher-education field well enough that it won’t be easy for colleges to pull the wool over his eyes.

Finally, Peter, I’d like you to comment on this. A tenet of your thesis is that too often colleges with huge endowments are not honoring pledges to recruit minorities and provide financial assistance. Hence, an overrepresentation of “wealthier” white students…many partying hardy rather then studying. It’s been my personal experience the Admissions program at my alma mater, Princeton, as well as other Ivies, are strongly committed to recruitment, retention, financial relief—drawing down much opprobrium from conservative alumni. Concurrently, local D.C. schools such as American University or George Washington University with lower endowments appear to correlate with tuitions higher than the Ivies, and ...I'm prepared for the bloody howling AU and GWU will shoot my way on this next claim...traditionally low minority and low income enrollment. Am I setting up an inapt comparison, or are there some points here that hold water?

Your question draws attention to two truisms in life—it is easier to be generous if you are rich, but it is harder to become financially rich if you are too generous. It is absolutely the case that some Ivy League institutions have recently taken the lead in trying to hold down tuition and provide more aid to low-income students, largely because their endowments are big enough they feel they can afford to do this. Meanwhile, a lot of colleges with smaller endowments do not feel financially secure enough yet to take such steps.

A few wrinkles you have to keep in mind, however. First of all, there are plenty of colleges with large endowments that have not taken such steps. Secondly, all the recruitment and aid in the world won’t make a difference if students are not being admitted, and as long as colleges continue to evaluate applicants based on criteria that reward privilege, there won’t be a huge increase in the number of low-income students who get through the door and qualify for these aid dollars. Finally, you have to keep in mind that these colleges generally have not been curtailing their non-academic preferences, so any increases in their numbers of low-income and minority students is coming at the expensive of working-, middle-, and even upper-middle-class white and Asian American kids who lack cash, connections, or the savvy or cynicism to use them. Because colleges generally don’t call attention to their preferences for the privileged, the anger of the rejected gets directed at policies that advantage minorities. The political backlash against affirmative action intensifies.

By the way, I am not saying that everyone who rejects affirmative-action preferences does so out of self-interest. I have heard valid arguments against such preferences based on the principle that any racial or ethnic discrimination is wrong, and I have heard valid arguments against them based on pragmatic concerns over whether they are accomplishing their goals. But in the political realm actions trigger reactions. If people become convinced the deck is stacked against them, eventually, they rebel.

Peter, thanks so much for joining me here, and for those of you aren't in academia, you can find Peter's work showcased in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a periodical dedicated to features and editorials covering critical issues facing colleges and universities, from research grants to, well...affirmative action. Again, the book is Color and Money: How Rich White Kids are Winning the War Over Affirmative Action.

You Demand Better, I Give it To You...

* Quisling was the Norwegian government official who, in 1940, collaborated with Hitler and then invited the German Army to invade his country. He ran Norway as a vassal state of Nazi Germany until 1945, when he was hung or shot. Don't recall which. Hear, that Ward? At least Clarence Thomas' emotional and psychological problems (and wife) explain his stridency...