The Accidental President

Until Bill Clinton came along, Gerald R. Ford was my favorite president. He is still in my top two.

He never intended to be president, just like I never intended to be a reporter. The stars lined up and we did what we did.

He was selected in 1973, to replace Spiro T. Agnew, as Richard Nixon’s vice president. He ascended to the White House when Nixon was forced to resign. Mr, Ford is the only man to serve as vice president and president without being elected to either office.

While all this was going on, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I had no clear plan. I never thought a black woman could have a future in radio and television. But it happened and in 1976, I met Gerald Ford, president of the United States of America.

I met him when I was a rookie reporter and he was a rookie president. He always had an easygoing way about him. He always smiled, looked you in the eye and if you were close enough, shook your hand.

His handshake wasn’t that phony politician wet fish handshake. It was real. Solid. Firm. Friendly.

Mr. Ford always remembered your name. I wasn’t a national reporter at the time, but I covered him several times, at different times around the country, and after that first time, he always called me Jo.

Back in the day, before Hinckly shot Reagan, it was possible to get close to the president and sometimes Mr. Ford would hang around and chat. He talked sports, current events, and sometimes even asked about your life. Nothing special. Just chitchat before things turned official.

I liked him and looked forward to seeing him, even when there was no chitchat. His eyes always said “hello” even when he couldn’t.

Gerald Ford and others, like Barry Goldwater, Jimmy Carter, George McGovern, Ed Muskie, Tip O’Neill, are the last of a dying breed of bigger than life men, who never took themselves so seriously that they couldn’t connect with just plain folks.

Gerald Ford was a nice guy, period.

Rest in peace, Mr. President.

(originally published in CRAM Magazine, Volume 2, 6/2006)


If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it...

Later this week the Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue a long awaited decision to allow the sale of milk and meat from cloned animals.

Now according to all scientific testing so far, cloned food products are no different from natural food products. However, when polled about the subject, most folks don’t like the idea of eating anything with the word “cloned” attached to it.

I have to admit. I feel the same way. I realize cloning is the wave of the future. I realize the issue has been studied and will continue to be analyzed after the stuff hits the shelves for purchase.

I also realize that we have been eating genetically altered food stuffs for years. It just hasn’t come from cloned animals, yet.

I’m just, well, queasy about the idea. I don’t trust the source. I don’t trust the food stuffs. I don’t trust the scientists who clones the animals, who make the food, that I’m expected to buy and consume. The ultimate result in nearly all endeavors is to make money. And as we all know, some folks will do anything to make a buck.

We consumers are caught between a rock and hard place. Many of our health problems can be directly traced back to the food we eat and the fertilizers and growth hormones that are used to grow our food. The FDA is not the most vigilant of agencies, as we already know. Many of its rulings and approvals are political with little, or no regard for the consumer.

If we buy organically produced food, then we have to ransom our kids in order to buy it and to feed them. So, what do we do? Buy cloned food? Will it be cheaper? Will it be as wholesome as organic? Will it be healthier for us in the long run?

I guess, what I’m feeling is that the entire population is like a test rat living in a cage in some gigantic scientific testing facility. We’re being injected, poked and studied to see what will happen. The results take years to manifest. The same is true for the stuff we eat. It may take years to really tell what happens when we consume cloned food stuffs.

And one final question; given the regulations for what has to be put on a food label, will we even know that we’re eating cloned meat or drinking cloned milk?


Happy ChrismaKwanzaHannuka, Everyone

Taking a break...
May your holiday celebrations be free of stress and happy...
See you next year...


Was I Supposed to be a Boy?

I have never questioned my sexuality because I’ve been pretty convinced, almost since I was born, that I’m gay. I’m also quite sure about my gender. I’m a girl. I like makeup, and dresses and being overly emotional sometimes, and having the door opened for me and all that other feminine happy horse-stuff. I even like guys thinking they are smarter than me just because they are guys. It’s more fun when I demonstrate they’re not.

But 56 years after I’m born comes the question, was I supposed to be a boy!?

No, I’m not having gender issues. I don’t see any need to cut off my boobs. Gravity is rapidly taking them out of eyesight anyway, deflating them to where they lay down and will, in a few years, give me a more flat chested appearance, whether I want one or not.

And no, I’ve never felt the need to pee standing up, and the head perched on my shoulders functions quite well thank you, so I don’t need a backup between my legs.

So, why am I questioning myself, today?

Well, a couple of reports are floating around alleging that people are more aggressive and can think more rationally, if they got more testosterone in utero.

According to the BBC report, more testosterone means you can park your car better than someone who didn’t get much testosterone in utero. But it also means if you got it, then you probably drive like a crazy person, and are the reason for the creation of the term “road rage.”

For the unenlightened, “in utero” means while still inside your mom’s body. Testosterone is the male hormone that makes men, well men. As we women age and lose estrogen, which makes us women, we grow beards and exhibit other male like tendencies. Old men also tend to start looking and acting like old women, too, which proves they also have some estrogen in their bodies, but that’s for another day.

The way you can tell if you got the masculine dose of testosterone, but still look like a girl, is your ring finger, in relation to your index finger. If your ring finger is longer than your index finger, then you got more testosterone in utero.

That means you can probably parallel park your car exactly between the lines and you probably drive way too aggressively for your own good.

It’s more pronounced on my left hand, but my ring fingers are definitely longer than my index fingers.

Hmm...I guess that also explains why I’m good at sports, can think my way out of a paper bag, I drive too fast, look good in a fedora or newsboy cap, prefer trousers to mini skirts, and hate Joan Crawford “come-f**k-me-pumps.”


Running for President

The possibility of a Barack Obama candidacy for president raises a lot of questions about the American people. The first and foremost, or course, is whether or not whites and some blacks, would be willing to support a black man in his quest for this country’s highest office.

Obama represents the second black man who actually has the opportunity to pursue the presidency with the potential for success. The first was General Colin Powell. General Powell opted not to throw his hat into the ring, reportedly because his wife feared for his safety.

The Obama camp reportedly is also considering or has considered the safety factor. The bogeyman for blacks seeking higher office remains the white man with the sniper rifle.

Safety is not something usually discussed with white candidates. They don’t fear for their life when seeking higher office. The average white candidate doesn’t need to fear for his life in politics. They only worry about whether or not they have or can raise money for the campaign.

And that speaks to the underlying racism still permeating this country. For blacks, it’s the knowledge that going down some streets or traveling through some neighborhoods can still get you assaulted or killed in America. It’s not about being a politician. It’s about having power over whites, something that some whites simply will not allow.

As a country, we have not dealt with our racial feelings. We think we have. We respond to the racism polls as if we’ve put racism and racial thinking behind us, but we really haven’t.

A recent CNN poll reveals the deep disparity on race between blacks and whites. Whites think the problem is solved. Blacks are nearly united in thinking racism is still a very real problem in America.

Racism has changed. It’s not about slavery, jim crow, or segregation of the races. The laws of the land have done away with these concrete situations. The perception of racial inequality has been slower to change and therein lies the problem.

Just because the law says everyone is equal doesn’t mean that folks think that way. Mindset, just like morality, cannot be legislated away. It has to die off.

So until that happens, black presidential candidates will worry about their safety first and their fundraising abilities second while being twice as qualified as the white guy to handle the job.


Marching Backward

The boys of Ohio won a big one this week when state legislators overturned a Bob Taft veto of the current concealed carry gun law. The override abolished more than 80 local gun ordinances, including Cincinnati’s ban on assault weapons. The laws will actually fade away in 90 days.

The governor said he vetoed the state law because it was too broad and overturned the local ordinances. But the cave dwellers of the republican controlled legislature sided with the gun freaks of the NRA and went against the Governor.

So now it’s okay to own military style guns inside city limits again.

An assault weapon, for those of you who don’t know, are semi automatic rifles, pistols or shotguns originally designed for military or police use with larger than normal ammunition capacity. The bullets are typically housed in a removable clip. Semi automatic means you have to keep pulling the trigger.

The veto override now allows citizens to possess a semi automatic that can hold 10 or more bullets in a removable clip.

Fully automatic weapons are banned by federal law for everyone except the military, police and 007 types. It is possible for a private citizen to purchase a fully automatic weapon if they can get ATF, the county sheriff or police chief to sign off on the request and also pass an extensive background check. And after all that, it must be legal in the state of residence, too.

This is wonderful news for a city that is in the midst of a record breaking year for murders. So far there are 79 on the books. The record set back in 1967 at 82.


An American President named Hussein

I’ve been taking a breather from politics since the election. I’m tired of thinking about elections and presidents and presidential edicts and Iraq position papers and recommendations. I would prefer to write about other things now, but the thought of a presidential candidate in 2008, with the middle name of Hussein has gotten inside my head.

Barack Hussein Obama....can it happen?

Media has gone crazy over the first black man with a real chance at the White House, who might even want it. Colin Powell had a chance, but he didn’t want to take the risk. Obama hasn’t declared, but he’s put his big toe into the water to test the temperature.

At this point the welcome has been overwhelming. The talking heads on television refer to him as a “rock star” selling “hope.” Certainly looks like he is the flavor of the month. At least for now. But it’s early. Way too early to get serious about 2008.

His message is strictly uplifting lightness, no substance, yet. He’s in the honeymoon stage where no one is digging just yet. But you know if he decides to run, it will get ugly.

Just take his middle name, for instance. Prior to Obama coming into the picture we’ve had Saddam and a host of other Husseins, all with bad terroristic connotations attached. Will the American people be able or willing to distinguish between good Husseins and bad Husseins? Or will they just paint all Husseins with the same negative paint brush and go on and vote for the rich white guy?

The rich white guys are an interesting lot, too. Dennis the Menace Kucinich is tossing his hat back into the ring. So is former New York Mayor Giuliani who occasionally cross dresses and supports LGBT rights, and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney a Mormon, to name a few. Kucinich is a joke, Giuliani should be a democrat instead of a republican and Mitt has the problem of religion. Many Christian conservatives consider the Church of Latter Day Saints to be a cult. Romney also has the flipflop factor going. Last year he was for gay rights and pro choice, this year he’s not. I guess it depends on who’s listening when he talks.

It’s refreshing that the present front runner is female. Hilary Clinton is the woman to beat. She is formidable and the first woman to mount a real and legitimate challenge to the old boys club. But her baggage may drag her down, and I’m not just talking about Bill.

She is one of the democrats who voted with Dubya on going to war in Iraq. She hasn’t disavowed the vote only said we misunderstood. She needs to display more spine and less political equivocation.

But back to Obama. I listened and was uplifted by his speech in 2004. But political speeches are like sex, they feel good while they’re happening. It’s what comes after that really matters.

I need to hear that he is serious about running.

I need to hear where he stands on issues....ending the fiasco in Iraq, foreign policy, health care for the masses, social security, taxes, AIDS, funding for public schools, don’t ask, don’t tell, affirmative action, birth control, a woman’s right to choose, black on black crime, repeal of the sunset clause on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, repeal of the Patriot Act, revamp of FEMA and Homeland Security, etc..

I need to hear about all that stuff and more before I make a decision.

My feeling is that Barack will probably end up as somebody’s vice presidential candidate until he gets more seasoning in the national arena.

A vice president named Hussein would be a step in the right direction, too.

If it happens, you can bet that one of the first laws proposed will be to change who can run for president, in order to allow Ahnold his shot at running the whole country.

Hmmm, America really is changing before my eyes, becoming the melting pot that it has long been reputed to be.


Monday Meanderings...

Getting rid of face time.....Best Buy is going to put its entire workforce on flextime. From now on workers will be judged on what they produce rather than how long they spend being seen at the office. There will no longer be anything like arriving late or leaving early. There will be no schedules or mandatory meetings....as long as you produce.

Diana........yet another report on Princess Diana’s death. Now we learn her driver was drunk and she wasn’t wearing a seat belt. This woman died in 1997....when is she going to be laid to rest?

Sean Bell execution....first reports from police about the killing of Sean Bell don’t mention a fourth man in Bell’s car....Police have been terrorizing blacks in New York, looking for the mysterious fourth man who they say took away the guns alleged to have been inside Bell’s car the night of the shooting. Witnesses to the execution and the surviving men inside the car say the only guns present were those carried by the police. 50 rounds were fired at Bell and his friends as he left a strip club bachelor party the day he was to be married.

Eartha returns to the White House...has anything changed? The legendary performer was last at the White House during the Vietnam war when Johnson was president. She spoke her mind against the war and was promptly blackballed from performing in America. She apparently returned to the Bush White House last week at the invitation of the president.....Different war....but similarly problematic...According to reports, Ms Kitt kept her thoughts to herself this time...

Ancient Greeks had computers.....a recent find in a 2000 year old ship wreck in the Aegean sea off the island of Crete turns out to have been an analog computer. Scientists are totally baffled by the find....they are trying to figure out how it worked and who invented it...probably was a gift exchanged from an early close encounter of the third kind, way back when.

Iran holocaust conference...opens today for those seeking to prove the mass killing of jews during World War II didn’t happen. Many Americans are in attendance including six members of an orthodox Jewish sect, two of whom are allegedly rabbis...Critics have long said the holocaust was the illegal justification for the creation of the state of Israel.


Dick’s Little Girl, Mary

Mary Cheney, Dick’s little girl is pregnant. Mary and her lesbian girlfriend Heather have decided to have a baby 15 years into their quietly closeted relationship.

LGBT activists have their collective drawers in a knot because Mary is living her life of rich white privilege, rather than being the poster child for queer activism.

Why get upset. The fault lines in this country have always been driven by money. If you have it you’re cool. If you don’t then you have to follow the laws of the land or face penalty.

Mary doesn’t have to follow the law. Her dad is the Vice President of the United States of America. He is the head NeoCon in charge. Dubya is his lap dog. Who is going to tell Dick Cheney’s daughter, that she can’t do what she chooses when she chooses to do it? Daddy and his crowd make the laws, They never said their kids had to follow them, too.

That’s what the poor and middle class are for....obeying the laws, paying taxes and fighting wars....so they don’t have to.

The state where Mary lives, won’t allow her to marry her partner. Does it matter what the law says? 38 states and counting have anti gay laws on the books. Does it matter when it comes to rich people?

Who is going to tell Mary’s partner, Heather, she can’t visit Mary in the hospital or she can’t pick the kid up at school because she is not a relative, or she can’t say how the child is to receive medical treatment because she is not a parent?

Right wing conservative Christians who would just as soon put all queers in concentration camps or biblically throw them to the lions, have apparently given Mary a pass. They’ve been looking the other way all her life. Or for the past 15 years, at least.

Their kids, colleagues, and neighbors are all allowed personal lives. The Mark Foleys of the world are always well known within the circle. Every congressman and congressional worker knows who is queer on capitol hill. They just don’t tell the under privileged poor and middle class.

Mary Cheney’s pregnancy is just another example of “do as I say.....not as I do.”

Welcome to America..


Monday Meanderings

The murder rate in Cincinnati is on record pace this year. Three weeks to go until 2007 and already 79 people have been killed, including a 17 year old yesterday.

Maybe we need to work on getting the guns off the streets. Maybe it’s time to outlaw the NRA and it’s gun pandering lobby just like we’ve outlawed smoking.

Maybe if there were fewer guns...harder to get...harder to own...killing wouldn’t be the sport that it has obviously become.


20 years and you get a lousy polo shirt....that’s Walmart’s answer to improving the lives of its workers. Walmart has apparently instituted an “Associate First” program designed to make its employees feel special, and to combat the growing number of disgruntled workers picketing the stores...

I’ve got a great idea...why not raise salaries above third world levels, so Walmart employees can feed their families..


Whoa! Two days before he resigned, Donald Rumsfeld wrote a memo saying change in strategy was needed in Iraq.

Now if only Dubya would buy a clue. He’s already rejecting the Baker-Hamilton recommendations and they’re not due to be released until later this week.


Double whoa! Colin Powell says Iraq is a civil war....nice to see the general find his balls and comment, but is anybody listening to him these days.

Condi says mistakes were made in Iraq, but she won’t talk about it until after she leaves office.


Smoking ban goes into affect in Ohio on Thursday...Does that mean that employees will have to get into their cars and drive off company grounds in order to legally light up? Do same employees have to clock out first? Inquiring minds want to know?

And now that smoking has been outlawed in the name of healthiness....can overeating and obesity be next?

Is a visit from the weight police be just around the corner?