Archive for March, 2008

Bill Clinton. Our First Black President?

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

We all know the story about how Bill Clinton had been so good for African-Americans that he was declared, by author Toni Morrison, to be ‘the first black president.’

Yesterday a friend and colleague at work gave me this video of Dick Gregory from the State of the Black Union, recently held in New Orleans by Tavis Smiley.

Mr. Gregory, whom I first heard about in 1965 as a freshman seminarian at Loyola University in Chicago, challenges this ‘black’ attribution in the video clip at YouTube: Dick Gregory

After you’ve watched it, ask one of your African-American friends if he or she has ever been pulled over by the police. It doesn’t matter whether this friend is your postal carrier, doctor, custodian, UPS driver, accountant… just ask him or her if they’ve ever been stopped.

After I’d seen and listened to Gregory’s words, I asked that question to my friend, whom I’ve known for almost 23 years. He is perhaps the most honest, loyal, giving, hard-working and selfless person with whom I’ve ever worked.

He looked at me, almost with tears in his eyes and said, "Three times." I asked what had happened. He added, "Even in my own home town."

This man isn’t capable of harming a flea, of even considering an action that would break the law. He doesn’t speed; he doesn’t drink; and he is so conscientious of the look of his neighborhood in which he lives that he mows the lawns of almost all of his neighbors.

And this father and devoted husband, the son of a sharecropper who has picked cotton from the age of eight; who told me the farmer got 90 percent of the earnings from the cotton and tobacco his entire family picked; this kind and generous gentleman told me of the terror he felt each of the three times he was stopped.

"Are they going to plant something in my car? What do they want? What will happen to me?" He told me that every time he drives home to North Carolina he has the same fear, every single mile of the drive.

Imagine living with that kind of fear. Not just in North Carolina, but where you live. Here in Northern Virginia. Back home in Springfield, Illinois. Or Boise.. St. Petersburg.. Scranton.. Grand Island.. Providence.. Birmingham.. Jenna.

Watch the YouTube video and realize the men and women in the audience are from all over these United States. And then think about Bill Clinton, who smugly said, after being asked about Barack Obama’s victory in South Carolina, "Well, Jesse Jackson won this state twice, and he ran a good campaign."

What was the purpose of that, Bill? To point out that someone else had won against the odds; or to let everyone know, and make everyone think and plant deep into their heads that Barack Obama is not the man running to be president who happens to be black.

No, Bill wanted to make sure we all, from that day on, saw Barack Obama as THE BLACK candidate for president. And I think he’s pretty well succeeded, don’t you?

Starting with that condescending talk of Barack Obama in South Carolina, the Clintons have done all they can to keep Barack in that box; to remind everyone who has prejudice in their hearts that he and Hillary are running against just another black man.

Just another black man who could be pulled over by the police, watched closely by the department store floorwalkers, whispered about as he or she walks into restaurants or enters the room.

Well, Bill… it isn’t going to work. The black community has officially taken your former ‘title’ away and now see you for who you are: just another cynical politician who will do anything, say anything… anything… just to win.

Because that’s all it’s about, isn’t it, Bill?

Think about this, Bill and Hillary: your time is over. The torch has been passed. And as Bill Richardson said, when he endorsed Senator Obama, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and Barack Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime leader."

Throw at him what you will, but Barack Obama will be the president of these United States; the president who will make us proud again, the president who will lead us for the good of the country, not for the good of his polls.

You’re a disappointment, Bill Clinton. Barack Obama is a statesman, and nothing you can say or do will change him in the minds of the voters and in the expectations of those who have and will vote for him.

God bless him. God have mercy on you.

War Without End, Amen.

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

And so it goes …

“Army Cpl. Christopher C. Simpson, 23, of Hampton, Va. … was killed Monday in Baghdad,” Washington Post, 3/21/08. “Army Major Alan G. Rogers, 40, [who had worked at the Pentagon] was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors … Killed by a makeshift explosive device in Baghdad on Jan. 27 … he was awarded a Purple Heart, posthumously, and his second bronze star … His thesis adviser at Georgetown said he had thought, ‘This is a guy I’m going to hear from in 10 years, and he’s going to be a general,’” Washington Post, 3/22/08.

You’ve seen how the officers wear their rows of ribbons and medals on their chests when they testify before Congress. Major Rogers now had three of the most honored, but they’ll never be on his living chest; he’ll never be that general his professor expected. He’s gone.

Just this morning Reuters reported three more soldiers had been killed by the same ‘roadside device’ that takes a few more lives every single day. To the point that, as of this moment on a Saturday evening, three-thousand nine-hundred ninety-six human beings from the U.S. have given their lives for George W. Bush’s lies.

And Iraqi deaths? The British medical journal, The Lancet, estimated in 2006 that there had been “more than 650,000 Iraqi ‘excess deaths’ in the 40 months following the invasion.”

This past week Mr. Bush, speaking of his unilateral, UN-rejected invasion, answered his own question about its worth, saying, “The answers are clear to me. Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision …”

But on March 20, 2003, here’s what he had to say about the reason for his invasion, which he told the nation had already started: “American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.”

No ‘removing from power;’ no ‘surge’ to make one city, Baghdad, safe.

His reasons, delivered so eloquently and forcefully by the duped Colin Powell, were all an evil, contrived scam; leaving 23 year-old Christopher C. Simpson and 40 year-old Alan G. Rogers as lifeless bodies to return to their families.

Their deaths, the President knew, made no defense of this nation, which he has falsely told so many grieving families. Those families lost their precious sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, spouses; because we had a president who thirsted for war with Iraq, and made us all think it was about awful weapons and the ‘people who attacked’ New York and The Pentagon.

As many have noted, our nation, operating under the unconstitutional authority of a power-focused president, has now been at war with a minor nation for longer than our citizens served in each of the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

The man who will fill the Republican slot on our November ballots says our soldiers are “on the precipice of winning a major victory against radical Islamic extremism.” Victory? Just what might that be?

And, “radical Islamic extremism” — Could not the Iraqis who hate our presence on their sovereign soil, make an equal claim that they are in a fight with ‘radical Christian extremism’? After all, the President said he was on a ‘Crusade,’ the original ones being “military expeditions launched by Christian secular and religious rulers against Moslems in the Middle East from 1096 to 1291,” according to the University of Calgary.

Leaders of both the 2003 and Middle Ages military invasions said they were acting with God’s approval. As Mr. Bush repeats, over and over, God should bless our nation, implying that God is ‘on our side,’ not ‘theirs.’

It is all such madness. Killing and killing; day after day; on and on, with an end only “when ‘the job’ is done.” So, that’s what it is, just a ‘job,’ this killing of other human beings who worship a little differently than the majority do here in our country.

As for radicals, wouldn’t you say that a ‘religious’ person, who initiates an unprovoked campaign of killing, is more than a little ‘radical’?

Senator McCain says he’d stay in a state of war for “a hundred years” to “get the job done.” Senator Obama, who opposed this monstrous invasion when to do so was a major political risk, pledges to withdraw U.S. forces and end this national nightmare.

A nightmare that’s been quietly borne by some two-hundred thousand young men and women, who wanted nothing more than to serve their country. Instead, they were betrayed by a radical ‘leader’ who promises nothing but war without end.

“He Pulled out My Grandmama’s Nails”

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

This has to be read by more people than just those who heard it on NPR this morning. It will make you cringe. And it will make you, perhaps, understand what it meant and what it still means to be black in the United States of America. This story comes as part of NPR’s ‘StoryCorps’. Read and weep.

Morning Edition, March 21, 2008 · Mary Ellen Noone’s great-grandmother was a petite woman — probably 95 pounds wet — but she was very strong, Noone says.

Pinky Powell, who was born before the turn of the last century, used to say that she could pick 100 pounds of cotton by lunchtime, Noone adds.

“She never smiled, but I could tell when I looked in her eyes that she really loved me,” she says.

One night, Noone was painting her fingernails when her great-grandmother said, “You know, there was a time we couldn’t wear no fingernail polish.”

To explain, Powell told a story from when she was a girl. Around 1910, Powell lived on a plantation in Lowndes County, Ala., where “she would wash and iron for this white woman.”

“One day the lady had thrown away some of her old perfume and nail polish that had dried up. So [Powell] took it home and added some ingredients to the nail polish that made it pliable,” Noone says. “Well, when Sunday came, she got all dressed up and painted her nails and put on that perfume and went to church.

“On Monday, she went to the general store, and when she was ready to check out, the white owner asked her, ‘What are you doing with your nails painted up like a white woman?’ He proceeded to pick up a pair of pliers and he pulled out my grandmama’s nails out of its bed one by one.”

Noone, 65, says she often wondered as a child why her great-grandmother’s nails were so deformed.

“Every time I look at enamel red finger polish, I have a flashback, and I see red,” Noone says. “I still have that anger inside of me that someone would have that control over one person just because they wanted to feel like a woman.”

Noone recorded her interview as part of StoryCorps Griot, an initiative that collects the recollections of black Americans. This segment was produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo with help from Vanara Taing.

This monstrous act is a part of the history of race about which Barack Obama spoke this week.

Ferraro Said He’s Winning Because He’s Black

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Obama is winning, not because he is an African-American… what greater obstacle can that be in a nation where you could be shot or lynched or beaten just for having the audacity to try to register to vote as late as the 1960’s ?

He is winning because he is Barack Obama; because he has worked hard — after Columbia and Harvard Law — for his fellow human beings in the deeply depressed and hopeless ghetto that is Chicago’s South Side; because he was elected a state senator and worked hard for the good of his constituents in that same South Side; because he taught Constitutional law at the University of Chicago and practiced law for those same constituents; because he worked hard to organize a campaign and used his ability to inspire a state filled with many racist communities and still roll to an amazing win in every single area of that same state to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

He is winning because he inspires us to want to be more than what we are today, the same way John Kennedy inspired an entire generation who responded to his call to ‘do for your country’ and join the Peace Corps.

He is winning because inspires people of all backgrounds, culture and races who are sick of ‘terror’ politics; ’soft’ on guns, weapons, and war politics.

He is winning because he’ll use that phone to make calls to help ensure that fomenting crises are thwarted from bursting forth at 3am.

As he has said, “We are who we have been waiting for.” And we’ve been waiting, for a long long long time, for a real leader who can bring this nation together, assure us that when times get rough for us at the kitchen table late at night, we have not just a friend, but a dynamic leader who will make the right choice to heal our trauma and bring us together.

When was the last time, or did we ever, have a president who is all of this and more?

LBJ kept trying to change his persona to present an image with which voters could connect. It seems Mrs. Clinton is doing the same.

Barack Obama is winning because he knows who he is, and we are inspired and engaged with a person who believes that, yes, as a people, a society, a world leader… we can… and that with him, we will become all we hope to be.

Nick Penning is an Arlington, Va., writer.

She Is Angering Voters … He Inspires Them

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

While speaking with a relative not attached to any particular candidate, he volunteered that he’s upset at the Clinton attacks and just ‘wants it to be over.’ The ‘kitchen sink’ strategy may be her undoing. She and Bill have turned off a lot of their former backers with their South Carolina comments: “Oh, he’s just black, like Jesse” and “Dr. King did the dream; it took a president to pass the law.” [That's why President Obama will turn those dreams into law.]

Now it’s the 3am phone call and McC and she are the only ones capable of carrying on an intelligent conversation at 3am?

We need this man, who represents the possibility of hope and its potential fulfillment … the kind of inspirational leader who only comes around once in a generation. Dr. King; JFK; RFK … he’s all of them rolled into one.

FDR spoke to the nation at a time of deep economic crisis, and it was his WORDS, ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,’ and his WORDS in the ‘fireside chats’ that gave folks hope in the most terrible times of our parents’ generation. You have a cabinet and a circle of senior advisers to help move the levers of power; to help craft the strategy you want, to inform you, so YOU, the president, can make the right decision. This man has the basic instincts to know what is right and what is wrong. What we need, and not what the big boys want.

We need him to repair our broken system, our broken direction, our nearly broken spirit. He can rebuild our broken house, which, as Lincoln said, ‘cannot stand’ if it is divided.

Please, go to and volunteer to make 20 phone calls to Mississippi now, and Pennsylvania in a few days. Download Skype free and use your computer to dial and talk to the voters there (17 cents per minute) The script is on your screen and the campaign directions make the process easy.

Let us make this man our President and get our country back.

Connection Column is Over … Online for Obama

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

After having two out of the last three columns (posted below) — ‘Honey Grab the Derringer’ and ‘The Dream Shall Never Die’ — rejected by the Arlington Connection, I’ve decided to cease that column and make more postings on this blog.

Read my most recent comments at “Let Obama Be Obama”.

Keep on reading…. nick

Grab the Derringer, Honey, We’re Taking the Kids to McDonalds

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

What fun, huh? What could be more ‘American’ than coming home after a long day and deciding to give yourselves a break and the kids a treat? And now the Republican-led House of Delegates in Richmond has made it even more fun, by approving — in a 62-26 vote — your right to pack a revolver in your pocket while the kids eat their fries.

What in God’s name is happening to our culture? Or should the question be, what are gun-obsessed politicians doing to our culture?

The bill in question SB 476, had been drafted to prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms into Virginia restaurants. Take a look at how a sensible prohibition against guns in eating establishments, especially those which serve alcohol, was twisted into a permit to carry a gun in such places. This is the wording of the bill, as changed by an amendment added before it passed (the original words are in italics; the added ones are in bold):

• No person shall carry who carries a concealed handgun onto the premises of any restaurant or club … which [has] a license to sell and serve alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption … may consume an alcoholic beverage while on the premises.

Clever, isn’t it? Just amend a well-intentioned “No person shall carry a concealed handgun” into a bar or restaurant, and bastardize it into its polar opposite by changing the language. It went from “no person ‘shall’ carry” a gun, to “no person ‘who’ carries” a gun; and then adding “may consume an alcoholic beverage” at the end.

From, you can’t carry a ‘concealed’ gun into an eating place; to, sure, you can carry a gun in your pocket; you just can’t drink.

This nefarious victory for the National Rifle Association, which is headquartered just outside Arlington in Fairfax County, came courtesy of Emmett W. Hanger, Jr., a Republican senator from Mount Solon, in the Shenandoah Valley southwest of Harrisonburg.

According to press reports, Governor Kaine feels he has to ‘review the details of the bill’ before deciding whether to sign or veto it.

Based on this bill’s provisions, apparently it’s already Ok for you to carry your handgun and holster outside your jacket wherever you go in the Commonwealth. The cause célèbre of gunsters now is hiding them, when you’re in public.

Thirty people were meticulously slaughtered by Virginia handguns at Virginia Tech less than a year ago. Have we learned nothing about the insanity of widespread, no limits possession of handguns in our state and country?

For most of us, this kind of lawmaking is under our radar. Bills fly through our Assembly and, were it not for the press, we’d rarely hear about any of them. Most of the time an entity with the strength of the NRA operates with the wind at its back, sailing its packages of public poison into laws, despite the good efforts of our local Arlington delegates and senators.

Until now things seemed to be changing, in our Virginia and in the nation. We evicted a Republican racist from one of our seats in the U.S. Senate, installing Jim Webb.

Virginia appeared to be joining the nation in ending the politics of violence and hate. Instead, the Assembly snapped a bit of hope from our lives and gave-in to the purveyors of handguns, the only purpose of which is to kill human beings. While rifles are used for hunting and can’t be concealed, easily purchased handguns fit nicely in any pocket and are used all over this gun-infested land to kill spouses, girlfriends, neighbors, and street crime victims. There’s a reason they’re termed “Saturday Night Specials,” since they can be found at virtually every crime scene in every city and village across the country.

And now Virginia, if the governor should fail to use his veto, could see a metastasizing of gun violence in bars and eateries all over the state, thanks to this insane legislation.

‘Sure, you can hide your gun under your shirt or in your bag; but we made certain everything will be safe in the restaurants,’ say those who voted for SB 476, ‘because you can’t drink while you’re packing a gun.’

So, when you’re arrested for killing someone in a late night shootout, heaven help you if you took a drink, because that’s illegal.

To keep this crazy idea out of our statutes, you might consider dropping Governor Kaine a note — at or by mail to Office of the Governor, 1111 East Broad Street, Richmond 23219; or Phone: (804) 786-2211, or Fax: (804) 371-6351 — and asking him not to sign SB 476.

Maybe you and I can help this national change process by stopping the NRA here; by showing we reject the insanity of all guns, all the time; because they can only lead to more dead bodies too much of the time.

And, by the way, my column on uranium may have indicated I favor unchecked use of coal as our main energy source. I do not. For us to take advantage of our 200+ years’ supply of coal, we must first find a way to make its gaseous products clean and non-polluting.

Nick Penning ( is an Arlington freelance writer.