Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Beltway Nitwits get it wrong again.

Ah yes, the White House Press Corps. These are the self-agrandizing hacks who pretend to write the news when we all know their real goal is face time. Case in point: The indignation over the delay in the White House reporting the Dick Cheney hunting accident. Yes, I know it's almost old news, but it shouldn't be. It's not the shooting I take issue with--accidents really do happen--but the breakdown in communication perplexes me.

The issue is not whether or not the American people have a right to be informed, which is the unfortunate position the White House Press Corps is taking. The people do have a right to be informed but the issue is one of legal protocol. Why was there a delay in calling the police. Standard Operating Procedure in any hospital is to call the police when somebody requires treatment for a gunshot wound. It doesn't matter if that injury was sustained in a hunting accident or a gang related shooting and the victim has no say in the matter.

The fact that the police weren't notified right away indicates that somebody pulled strings to keep them out of the loop. This is a manipulation of the status quo. You're average citizen wouldn't be able to impose such a delay, but Cheney is not your average citizen. As Vice President he has the ability to alter normal procedure and in this case it's clear he did. That's what you call an abuse of power. Why was he so inclined?

Conservative spin doctors have been playing the "HUMAN TRAGEDY" angle on this one. They have spoken about Whittington and Cheney and their families as though everybody needs to stop and shed a single tear. That's bull. Cheney's getting paid a lot of money to be held publicly accountable for everything he does. If he eats two bowls of corn flakes, he'd better have his story straight. That's the price you pay for being in that office. In this instance the Veep shot a man. That's a pretty big deal.

I'm not upset with Cheney for shooting somebody. It's about time that this life long war monger got a little blood on his hands, even if it was in an accidental shooting. What upsets me is the complete disregard for due process Cheney and the Bush administration exhibited. Sure, four days after the event Cheney issued a brief statement, but why wasn't he questioned by police right after the shooting?

At worst Cheney might have been drunk. Obviously that is a scenario that would have given the left a lot of PR fodder, but ultimately that's forgivable--especially if Cheney had opted to come forward and face the music. Minor criminal charges would have been filed had alcohol been determined an attributing cause to the accident, but at the most Cheney would have been asked to pay a fine and seek treatment. If Whittington was also under the influence the charges might have been dropped if both men promised to never hunt again.

The press doesn't see it that way. Instead of asking why the police weren't called they want to know why they weren't informed. The White House Press Corps might be the lowest form of journalist. They sit in a special room and wait for the news to be handed to them. They remind me of hungry carp waiting for people to throw them scraps of stale bread. You can't even compare them to sharks because that intimates that they are predatory. These hacks and yahoos filling seats in the White House press room can't write a story until they're handed a press release. God forbid somebody should get off his butt and make a phone call or follow a lead. You know, reporting? Remember that? They used to teach it in journalism school.

Who, what, where, why and when. The five questions an average journalist must ask. What is the standard procedure for handling a gunshot wound? Why was this procedure not followed? Who decided to depart from the norm? Where was Dick Cheney when this decision was made? When were you planning on calling the police?

The White House Press Corps version of those five questions is something like this: Why didn't you tell us? Who do you think you are? What am I supposed to tell my boss? Where's my paycheck? When can I take my next vacation?

Actually what I really want to know is where Dick Cheney gets off taking a hunting trip. Cheney travels with an extensive security detail and has a medical team with him at all times. Besides the obvious logistical concerns of putting the Vice President in close proximity to loaded weapons, you have the enormous expense of paying all of those people to follow Cheney everywhere he goes. How much body armor could have been purchased with the money spent on Cheney's traveling party?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cheney's shooting woes reveal true nature of White House

Accidents happen. Especially when old white guys decide to shoot at birds. People have taken numerous shots at Dick Cheney over his hunting mishap and frankly I think it's justified. I don't feel sorry for Cheney or Harry Whittington, the man Cheney shot. I'm not impressed with the type of hunting they were engaged in, which is a staged hunt where the birds are released right in front of the hunting party. It's the kind of thing rich old white men do so they can feel powerful and I don't like it. For that matter I never feel any sympathy for hunters who fall victim to hunting accidents. I don't oppose hunting, but I also don't have a problem with natural selection. Trust me when I tell you that the people we lose to hunting accidents aren't typically people who will be missed by the human race at large. Sorry.

What troubles me over this whole ordeal, and what should disturb everybody, is the complete lack of respect Cheney has shown for the American people and his president in this matter. I'm not naive. I know Cheney has no respect for anybody. He's an nasty little troll of a man who is probably the brains behind the entire Bush administration, but one would think that Cheney would be inclined to at least feign subordination once in a while...especially when he breaks the law. After all, he is the Vice President which means, as ridiculous as it sounds, he reports to George W. Bush. Yes, it brings to mind those Career Builder commercials where the monkeys are running the company, but we elected him...well not really, but it was still close.

When a shooting victim is first identified by the hospital police are immediately called to take statements from witnesses and the victim if the victim is capable of offering a statement. Once that ball starts rolling the story is public domain. In the Cheney case the police weren't immediately contacted and it was the owner of the hunting ranch who first mentioned the story to the local news paper. This upset a lot of people, including the local authorities who wondered why they weren't notified immediately. In fact, failing to notify the proper authorities immediately after such a shooting constitutes obstruction of justice. Will charges be filed?

Even though this was an accident and the victim should recover nicely, the fact remains that a man was hospitalized after being shot by the Vice President of the United States of America. As soon as Whittington was in good hands Cheney needed to call the President and the President needed to issue a statement. Period. There was no reason for the delay. Anything less than full disclosure in this matter gives the public reason to question the validity of the story.

Since there was a solid 24 buffer period between the time of the incident and when it was actually reported and the local police weren't able to conduct an investigation one can only assume that there's something that the Bush administration is not telling us. There had to be some reason that the story was kept under wraps for such a long period of time. What could it be?

My guess is alcohol. A sad reality in the hunting community is that a staggering number of hunters drink before, during and after the hunt. After isn't a big deal, but booze and bullets are never a healthy combination. When you read the limited details that were released it sure sounds as if Cheney's judgment might have been impaired. We're talking about a group of people shooting at a flock of farm-raised birds. Cheney probably knocked back one too many bourbons and forgot the 5 minute hunter safety lesson he received prior to being driven out to the covey where the birds were to be released. That would have been the lesson where they tell the hunters to shoot within a predetermined firing zone. By failing to notify the authorities immediately, Cheney was able to forgo the requisite alcohol screening that would have revealed if the shooting was indeed an unfortunate accident or the result of criminal negligence brought on by alcohol abuse.

Cheney took his sweet time getting around to issuing a statement, but one gets the impression that the statement was carefully written and painstakingly rehearsed. Cheney was caught in a tough spot with candor being the only way out, but why the delay? Why did Cheney refuse to come forward until four days after the shooting?

It's a good question, but the answer is obvious: Bush isn't calling the shots. This is Dick Cheney's White House and he runs the show. Unlike a real president, Cheney is in that unique position of being able to show the press and the public complete disdain. He comes and goes as he pleases, says and does what he likes and there's nothing we can do about it because he's not the president...officially anyway. In the past, Presidents have demanded that their Vice Presidents toe the line and represent the administration in a positive light, but not Cheney. Dick's been a mean old bastard from day one and Bush has done absolutely nothing to rein him in. It's quite clear who wears the pants in this family and that doesn't bode well for this country. Case in point: Iraq. Weren't we supposed to be finished with that little endeavor by now?

I wouldn't be surprised if it is eventually revealed that Dick Cheney shot Whittington just to prove that he could get away with shooting a man. Cheney knew that the last V.P. to bust a cap in somebody was Aaron Burr and decided it was time to make a little history. Hey Harry! Here come the judge, here come the judge. POW!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Race Cards should be played with caution

Donvan McNabb finally opened up on his feelings regarding the Terrell Owens saga. Unfortunately, Donovan seems to have kept quiet on the subject too long and opted to express himself in an unflattering manner.

I respect Donovan McNabb. He's endured the hostile wrath of Eagles fans who wanted to see their team draft Ricky Williams. McNabb came to Philadelphia having to overcome an entire fan base that wanted to see him fail for no other reason than to vindicate the second guessing that occurred when the Eagles drafted McNabb with their first round pick in 1999.

Since then McNabb has been a class act. He kept his mouth shut and played hard, eventually winning the hearts of those cruel Eagles fans. When Rush Limbaugh took shots at him, McNabb took the high road and kept on playing without offering much of an opinion on the subject. Why argue with idiots? Even when things started to disintegrate shortly after the Eagles lost Super Bowl 39 to the Patriots, Mcnabb kept quiet and offered no insight into how he felt about T.O.

Now that T.O. is all but out of Philadelphia forever, McNabb has finally offered some perspective. In a recent interview he compared T.O.'s antics to black on black crime. Donovan said he was particular hurt by T.O.'s comments that Brett Favre would be a better fit for the Eagles. Apparently McNabb inferred a racial slur in this assessment because Owens chose to identify Brett Favre over the other black quarterbacks in the league.

I don't begrudge McNabb being frustrated. I also believe that McNabb and T.O. might have shared some private thoughts on Brett Favre and Owens' opted to use the inside information to hurt McNabb. In MY opinion, Brett Favre has been given a much longer leash because he is white. I believe that if Brett Favre were black, coaches and fans would be a lot less tolerant of his reckless style of play. I suspect that McNabb shares a similar opinion and expressed that opinion to Owens.

It doesn't really matter. What matters is the fact that T.O. went out of his way to publicly humiliate his teammate and quarterback. McNabb has a right to be upset and if he feels that race is a factor in those comments he is certainly entitled to that interpretation. Perception is reality.

unfortunately McNabb's timing is off. The T.O. situation is finished. The Eagles will trade Owens to another team or simply cut him at the last possible minute. It's obvious that Owens is not the right fit for Philadelphia. McNabb could have just as easily said good riddance to bad rubbish and moved on. Instead he decided to express his feelings and in doing so he finally played the race card.

It was a bad play. The time to lay that card on the table was when Rush Limbaugh accused McNabb of getting a free pass from a liberal sports media who wanted to have a black quarterback excel. Limbaugh claimed that his comments weren't racially motivated but they were. He implied that there weren't any successful black quarterbacks so the media was sensationalizing the performance of one charismatic player to fulfill that need. It was bull, but Rush was playing to his crowd of fat angry white people who aren't smart enough to form their own opinions. McNabb dismissed the affair as no big deal when in reality it was a very big deal indeed. Rush is a racist. McNabb even took a shot from the NAACP when a local organization boss, Jerry Mondesire, opted to accuse McNabb of selling out by trying to be a pocket passer. Again, another great time to fight back. Mondesire had no business using his post in the NAACP as a platform from which to take a shot at a professional athlete who has been nothing but a positive role model for blacks and whites alike. Mondesire seemed particularly upset that McNabb is a spokesman for Campbell's. Apparently nothing says Uncle Tom quite like a bowl of Chunky Soup.

Owens' comments don't have obvious racial implications. McNabb seems to be crying wolf. That's why I think that there's more than meets the eye to this Brett Favre reference. But since we don't have the whole story, we can't draw any conclusions and it's McNabb who looks like the moron.

Sadly, this misplay of the race card happens too often in sports. Athletes are insecure creatures. Nothing exemplifies this better than the antics of Terrell Owens, who needs reassurance through compensation as well as adulation. Black athletes sometimes feel that criticism, especially that from the predominantly white media/fanbase, is racially motivated. Sometimes it is, but most of the time it is not. For most people sports transcends race.

Barry Bonds plays the race card. The man accused the press of trying to tear him down when his mistress came out and said she saw him take steroids. It's not a conspiracy, Barry, whitey didn't make you cheat on your wife. You did that. Your mistress saw you taking steroids, got mad at you and told the press. They had to run the story. Barry thinks that the world hates him because he's a black man who is threatening to break all the records. That's not true. The world hates Barry Bonds because he's an insufferable ass. The fact that he's black is unfortunate because it gives him an out.

Shortly after becoming the highest paid athlete in the history of professional sports, Jose Canseco complained that he was treated unfairly by fans, coaches and the press because he happened to be Latino. That was untrue. He was vilified because he was an arrogant jerk who got paid too much money. His ethnicity had nothing to do with the animosity he perceived. If you want proof of that look for the footage of a routine fly ball bouncing off his noggin for a home run in Cleveland back in 1993. God doesn't even like Canseco.

When people use the race card to deflect warranted criticism or to justify unacceptable behavior they weaken the suit. It makes it that much easier to doubt the sincerity of future claims of racial prejudice and even alienates those who are sympathetic to oft-affected minorities. It's the cry-wolf scenario. Pretty soon nobody listens.

McNabb's comments disturbed me because they didn't make any sense. He said it would have been different if Owens had compared him to Dante Culpepper or Byron Leftwich, but that Brett Favre was a slap in the face. Why? Favre is a future Hall of Famer while Leftwich might be heading for a career carrying a clipboard and Culpepper is good, but not in the same category as McNabb. Why is Favre such an insult? It made me wonder if McNabb has some racial issues himself or if he simply feels the same way I do about Favre and his erratic play. Since McNabb didn't elaborate on why, he leaves us to fill in the blank. Unfortunately that requires too much of a leap.

McNabb's got to stay consistent. If he doesn't want race to be the issue then he can't bring it up. He avoided the discussion when Mondesire and Limbaugh came after him and he didn't take T.O.'s bate when Owens took shots at him through the press. He took the high road. Admirable. But if that's the path you choose to take you need to stay on it.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Archie Bunker's Bar and Grill..Part 2

I checked and Ohio doesn't have Confederate roots. During the Civil War Ohio sent troops to represent the Union and Ohio was a critical stop on the Underground Railroad. Slaves escaped southern plantations and made their way north along corridors that are now interstate highways in Ohio. Perhaps the motivation of the Underground Railroad wasn't so much to free the slaves as it was to encourage blacks to get out. That's pretty much the message Columbus night clubs are sending.

The hot spot in Columbus is the Arena District, which is an entertainment mecca built around Nationwide Arena, the downtown complex that is home to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets (I prefer Bleu Jackets because like the cheese this NHL team stinks and crumbles easily)and the subservient Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League. Trendy restaurants, bars and night clubs have sprung up in the area hoping to cater to the event driven crowds.

On February 3rd The Columbus Dispatch ran an article by Alice Cervantes revealing the arbitrary dress codes being enforced by many of the clubs and bars in the Arena District and adjacent area. Patrons are not permitted to wear athletic jerseys unless they are representative of the teams playing on a particular day. In other words you can wear a hockey sweater on game day, but not on the day after. Always forbidden are jerseys of teams not playing.So you can't proudly show your NFL, Major League Baseball or NBA affiliations. Additionally these establishments enforce hat standards that forbid patrons from wearing a cap that is cocked to one side. Stocking and flat brimmed hats are not permitted.

They don't stop there. Other items that are prohibited include "selected" logos (think Fubu) bandannas, baggy clothing and chain necklaces must be tucked inside a shirt. One club owner, Eric Fortney of Gaswerks, claims that he's not trying to be a fashion critic but that he wants to keep out that undesirable element. The chain necklaces are just "more gang-related". He further elaborated and said that you just don't want stabbings and shootings and drive-bys going on in a classy entertainment district. Eric apparently slept through the entire 1990's decade and missed that moment when Hip Hop counter culture became mainstream pop culture. That would have been when blacks and whites united to denounce Vanilla Ice and reject his music.

While nobody is coming out and saying it directly, the subjective dress codes are intended to discourage black patrons. Hockey is a white sport and the clubs in the Arena district cater to white people.By banning clothing associated with the Hip Hop culture these clubs can foster a predominately white environment.

It's true that these are private businesses that have the right to refuse service to anybody, but this is a clear cut attempt to enforce a discriminatory policy. It's not as though these are clubs that endeavor to serve a high class clientele; these are not jacket and tie establishments. Gaswerks is admittedly a jeans and t-shirt kind of place with a laid back vibe. Of course if that T-shit has the Fubu or Ecko logo on it, you'll be turned away at the door. Nascar, however, is always welcome because you don't get much whiter then inbred toothless rednecks who drive in circles really fast.

Sadly this sort of attitude is common in Columbus. Having lived in this town for almost 15 years, I have been stunned at the racial prejudice that is harbored here. Unfortunately it's that northern brand of racial bias where the white people are too cowardly to express their views directly. Epithets fly but only after the perpetrator scans the room for parties that would take offense.

At least in the south racists are open. They fly Confederate flags and scream racially insensitive remarks at anybody of color. That's the sort of racism you can respect. You know where you stand. But in Columbus these racists will shake your hand and treat you like royalty only to cut you and yours to ribbons once you're out of earshot.

Anybody who pays attention knows that Hip Hop is the scene for the 18-34 year-old crowd. Look at the music charts...listen to the songs being played in the clubs. Cindy Lauper's collaborating with Shaggy, Carlos Santanna's playing guitar with the Fugees, Snoop Doggy Dogg is a mainstream icon...Nelly sang a duet with Tim Mcgraw! The lines between black and white are more blurred than ever and these clowns in Columbus want to create a new brand of segregation? For what? Because in their tiny minds gang-bangers wear baggy pants? Please.