Restoring Honor Open Thread

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I am fascinated to know what y’all thought about Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  C-SPAN’s video library has the entire rally and is available if you haven’t seen it.  Let me put a few questions out there to get the ball rolling.

(1) Was Beck successful in co-opting the message and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr?  (2) Were you moved by the vacuous patriotism and empty religiosity? (3) Did Beck erase the stain of his incessant race baiting against Obama by sharing the stage with colored folks? (4) Could you discern anything coherent from his pompous rambling? (5) What did you think of Palin’s remarks? (6) Did Alveda King make a fool of herself, her family, and the entire African Diaspora by lending her name to this rally?

Governor Davis: a fantasy in black and white

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Congressman Artur Davis, Mrs. Peggy Wallace Kennedy

Artur Davis is a facinating politician in many respects. The power of his intellect and sharp political skills set him apart from most pol’s.  The sky should be the limit for Artur.  In Alabama, congress is the limit for Artur.  If not for the Voting Rights Act, he would not be a member of congress from Alabama.

In America, it should be a no brainer that any child born anywhere should be able to reach for the highest political rung in state government and not be deterred, discouraged or attacked on the basis of race. Unfortunately, that is not the America we live in despite the fantasies of some whites that we live in a post-racial utopia.  It does not matter how many blackfolks buy into the white fantasy that Artur can win this year.  It isn’t true. This diary seeks to explore the reasons for this bitter reality.

A black man might be president,  but he would not be if America was a cultural mirror of the state of Alabama.  Only one in ten white voters, according to NBC political director Chuck Todd, voted for Barack Obama.  Extreme racial polarization is a fact of life in the Deep South that smart people can’t get around.

The President of the United States is a biracial man of color who is the product of an interracial marriage. He was raised almost exclusively by his white kinfolks. Most rural whites in the Deep South cannot process these facts and are profoundly threatened by his presidency.

They displace their discomfort with his race by questioning his citizenship and asking to see his birth certificate.  They are willing to question his professed and demonstrated Christian faith and believe any smear about him being a Muslim terrorist because the father he never knew was a Muslim.   They then voted for a Republican Senator universally known to have been born outside the continental United States in the Panama Canal Zone because “at least he is American,” which is nothing more than a euphemism for being White.

The President of the United States is the most nonthreatening black politician in American history. He is decidedly centrist in word and deed to the chagrin of most of us on the progressive left.  To most rural whites, though, he is a Socialist, Marxist, Communist Antichrist hell bent on creating a segregated, racist society in which only non-whites rule and whites are subjugated. That is a nifty piece of racist projection most psychologists would love to get their hands on and take apart.

Because of this ridiculous racial paranoia, there will be no ability to see a similar black man any differently.

Congressman Artur Davis and President Barack Obama

Race is still a bar to achievement and advancement in the United States in some fields of endeavor. Our inability to talk about race or be honest  about our racial fears is part and parcel of the infrastructure, which reinforces the bar to achievement and advancement.

Alabama is stuck in both a time warp and in a black hole of its own making with regard to race. There can be no change unless people are willing to smash the taboo of cross racial cooperation.

Meaningful cross racial dialogue and genuine fellowship is rare anywhere in the Deep South but more likely to occur in urban areas with a large University presence. On the other hand, if folks live in larger communities, they are still largely segregated. Nobody wants to go to school with us or live in our neighborhoods. If we are fortunate enough to live in communities where both white and black do go to school together, the interaction is largely superficial.

When time comes to choose a college, the choices are still segregated. We live separate lives and pretend that it is normal. It isn’t. We (blackfolks) are usually the ones that have to stick our necks out to make change.  It is rarely the other way around.

I think it is wonderful that most of the people on this board look favorably on Artur Davis and the egalitarian ideal his candidacy represents, but the hard work and foundation for an eventual win by a black candidate for Governor has not been done in any state of the Deep South–Georgia included.  Anybody who believes he can win in this backwards and hostile cultural environment is deluding themselves.

Nobody in the grip of a rural Tea Bagger’s poisonous racial paranoia is capable of building community with the blackfolks they see everyday that mirror them in every demographic respect.

They might know your people, might have known your extended kinfolk back to the Civil War, but it still don’t mean that they’ll vote for your daddy to become the first black sheriff. I have a hard time understanding why Artur has to come along like a Negro in a buddy movie and be their black friend when most rural whites have only superficial relationships with the blackfolks they see everyday.  There is no sense of community where stereotypically everybody knows and is kin to everybody. Ultimately, this is why Artur cannot be elected Governor this year.

Dr. King spoke of a desire to “..foster and create the ‘beloved community’ in America where brotherhood is a reality…Our ultimate goal is genuine intergroup and interpersonal living–integration.” That does not exist in Alabama or anywhere in the Deep South.  It doesn’t even exist up north but most of the time northerners are not so blinded by race that they will vote against politicians of color they are philosophically compatible with because they are not white.

We are still living separate lives despite dramatically less racial polarization in the north. The South is less physically segregated than the North but it is more functionally segregated on the ground.  This has to change.  Only hard work done by committed blacks and whites will change it.  Most of the onus is on whites though, and becuase it is I doubt seriously that it will happen anytime before I turn 50 in 2021.

It’s my Anniversary

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Today marks the end of anniversary week for Skeptical Brotha and two years is a long time to blog consistently. I don’t know how others have done it and I don’t know how I have, but it was and is worth it. I would like to thank all of you for 750,000 site views and for sticking with me through thick and thin. Your words of encouragement mean a great deal to me and the dialogs we’ve shared are deeply treasured.

In the last few weeks I have considered shutting down this blog, but y’all helped me come to my senses and realize that the most significant presidential election in American history ain’t no time to throw in the towel.

Burnout is a bear, but I have gone through the worst of it and was sufficiently inspired by a word from the Lord today to continue.

Rather than go into a long-winded dissection of this brotha’s life and work, it should be sufficient to show ya rather than tell ya.

 

Enjoy.

 

Bastardizing the Dream: Alveda King

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This is the week set aside in honor of one our own, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Normally a time for celebration, I have come to dread our annual commemoration because of photo-op’s like the one above with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Dr. King’s niece, Alveda King, has fallen off the mountaintop, bumped her damn head, and become a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

 

Employed full-time by the religious right, she is an aggressive pro-life activist, minister, and professional public speaker. As she has moved steadily to the right, Alveda has provided political cover and given full license to those who would distort, defame, and destroy the dream of her late Uncle in the name of a fictitious colorblindness that is really white supremacy.

 

A long time opponent of Affirmative Action, she is entangled in a network of right-wing preachers hell bent on destroying the progressive social change that Dr. King fought for. While Dr. King spoke of the power of love and the creation of the beloved community, the glue that holds their little movement together is hatred, homophobia and a fixation with stopping same sex couples who love each other from having the right to marry.

 

In the month of Mrs. King’s death, Alveda participated in “Justice Sunday,” a wingnut gala consisting of the full constellation of reactionary politicians and their talabangelical brethren dedicated to fighting for the confirmation of Bush’s judicial nominees like Samuel Alito. Alito, an archconservative with a history of hostility to civil rights, provided the fifth vote to strike down voluntary Affirmative Action plans in the public schools last year. Weakening the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education without the guts to admit it, Alito and his allies on the court dealt the principle of ending separate but equal education a mortal wound.

 

Among those beating the drums of fascist religiosity with Alveda were Justice Sunday colleagues Tony Perkins, Head of the right-wing Family Research Council and a former Louisiana politician who paid white supremacist and neo-Nazi David Duke for his mailing list, and Jerry Falwell, a former segregationist who smeared Martin Luther King, Jr. as a tool of communists.

During most of Dubya’s first term, he found some way to paw Coretta Scott King in a manner that made my blood boil. Born on the same day as my grandmother two years apart, Mrs. King was always an icon in my household. I would NEVER allow George W. Bush to put his damn hands on my grandmother and I could never understand why Mrs. King visited the White House of a man who stole the Presidency. Her graciousness was always taken advantage of by this White House and she invariably became a colored prop in Dubya’s annual racist stage play of deceit every third Monday in January.

 

My personal favorite was the 2003 King Holiday. Within days of the holiday, the Administration announced a bold frontal assault on Affirmative Action by filing a brief against the Affirmative Action Admissions programs for both the University of Michigan and its School of Law. Writing a powerful Five-to-Four opinion upholding the principle of Affirmative Action, Sandra Day O’Connor ended her twenty years of steady opposition to Affirmative Action programs. Within two years, she resigned from the court only to be replaced by Alveda’s choice, Samuel Alito. It is only a matter of time now before Affirmative Action is destroyed by the Roberts Court.

 

Monday, I kept hearing reports of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee being invited to attend King Day services at Ebenezer Baptist Church by a member of “the King Family.” While not identified, I have a hunch that the black fool in question was Alveda. She was the one sitting next to the presidential contender that told White South Carolina Republicans that they shouldn’t tolerate anybody dictating to them about where, when and how to fly the confederate flag. After desecrating the sanctuary with his presence, Huckabee used the occasion to accept the endorsement of a group of black wingnut preachers, the “Coalition of African American Pastors,” a group Alveda has claimed a board membership of on her website.

 

 

This week, Martin Luther King III, “deeply” concerned about politicians misappropriating the legacy of his father, wrote John Edwards a beautiful letter telling him to keep fighting and stay in the race. If he was truly concerned about folks distorting the dream, he would have stopped his Mama from being used by George W. Bush, stopped his sister Bernice from demonizing gays and lesbians, put his foot down to permit the man who paid for his Daddy’s funeral, Harry Belafonte, to eulogize his mother instead of the ignorant patrician in the White House, and done something to put his cousin Alveda in check.

 

As adherents of the drum major for justice who preached non-violence, it would be unseemly for the members of the King family to take Alveda aside and beat her ass until she remembers what the hell the dream is really about. Nevertheless, let me be the first one to say to the King family that all of black America would happily forgive y’all if you laid down the principles of non-violence temporarily to “lay hands” on Alveda with “the love of the Lord.”

 

I won’t tell nobody and I am quite sure that Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, a King family friend, would help. After all, she has kept her girls outta jail, despite the mess they’ve been involved in, and I’m very sure a discrete word from the mayor to the Po-po would squash it. If Shirley can’t help, somebody can always call Bishop Thomas Weeks, Juanita Bynum’s soon-to-be ex-husband. The way I see it he’ll pop either the question, Alveda, or both.

 

Although I can’t help but lampoon Alveda and make light of this situation for the sake of my fragile sanity, bastardizing Dr. King’s dream is no laughing matter.

OBAMA GOT GAME: Junior Senator crushes Hillary and Edwards in historic win

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I’m sorry I took too long, but as Gene Robinson of the Washington Post has said, this is a “Goosebumps moment.” As I write and listen once more to the victory speech, the tears are coming and I feel as emotional as a pregnant woman does. I will be in church on Sunday morning and nobody will be able to hold me down because I will be a shouting fool.

I needed this as my grandparents needed Martin and Malcolm. I needed this because I need to believe in something again. I needed this because my spirit has been shattered, my joy has been stolen, and my hope in my country destroyed. God has moved and his hand is clearly on Barack Obama. Iowa, 95% white, has sent the nation and the world a message that in the words of one of Sam Cooke’s signature tunes,”A Change gon’ Come.” And come it has.

Last night, Barack Obama, finally gave us, his people, “a word from the Lord.”

“They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”

“You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this New Year 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, one people, and our time for a change has come.”

I still have Goosebumps. I could shout right here in this internet cafe. I don’t know about you, but after the almost divine intervention of Oprah, I could feel this tectonic shift in American politics coming.

Basking in the glow of this historical moment, one I’ve dreamed of for 25 years, I’ve overcome my bitter and sarcastic cynicism, and I have decided to endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States.

I am not taking back the substance of my criticisms because they represent my unvarnished feelings. Today, however, I feel like Patti Labelle and have “a new attitude.” Looking back over last year, I skillfully erected a wall of opposition to Barack Obama as strong as anything in the biblical Jericho because of his various missteps and obvious pandering to the corporate power structure. It got to the point where I could not even hear the brotha speak without picking out how he was telegraphing his mainstream intentions to the establishment and I just tuned him out. He didn’t move me until last night but Michelle and Oprah did, I must admit.

Michelle Obama cracked the walls of my ideological Jericho with her forthright manner in general and her South Carolina speech in particular. I cannot say enough about how attractive, articulate and persuasive a spokesperson she is on behalf of her husband. In February, after hearing him in person for the first time, I made it clear how necessary it was for Barack to give blackfolks, “A Word From The Lord.” He did and I guarantee that Black America will respond by abandoning Hillary Clinton en masse.

For me, however, Michelle Obama had already beat him to the punch with her address to a Orangeburg, South Carolina gathering. Sistah girl nailed it.

Michelle is able to communicate from the heart in a way that is both uplifting and empowering to me. Her spiel serves the dual purpose of communicating to whitefolks her safe middle class bonifides and her commitment to black empowerment. The frank recounting of the reservations she expressed about a presidential bid tells us that the sistah is grounded by the love of her upbringing, and will use those values as a guidepost for the road ahead. For Michelle, the personal is political which is demonstrated by her faith in a loving God and her wholesome commitment to strengthening families, especially the black family. I can think of no other woman I’d rather see become First Lady.

Michelle’s statuesque beauty, effortless style, bottomless grace, quiet intellect and amazing humility are exactly the qualities that America’s trailblazing black First Lady must exhibit and that her husband ought to have at his side.

Oprah, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Being in South Carolina with that massive crowd was almost a religious experience. The walls of my ideological Jericho came down with a mighty shout. I’ve been wrestling with how to tell y’all because I knew when I left the stadium that I would support Obama.

I traveled to South Carolina alone and adopted the lady in line next to me as my play mom for the day. I asked Ms. Johnson how many of her girlfriends supported Hillary. Ms. Johnson told me, “I don’t know nobody supporting Hillary.” I shoulda known then that Obama had ended Hillary’s chances of the nomination. Taking nothing away from the formidable imperial guard surrounding Hillary, I am quite comfortable predicting that Hillary will lose New Hampshire and the nomination to Obama.

Trailblazers like Oprah were way ahead of people like me. Never a true skeptic although she remained aloof from politics, Oprah, a billionaire as a result of her finger on the pulse of this country, knew a winner when she saw one.

Pondering the import of Oprah Winfrey’s whirlwind tour on behalf of Barack Obama has left me seeing the world in a new way and has me viewing Obama’s groundbreaking candidacy through the prism of Oprah Winfrey’s experience. Oprah’s humble yet passionate articulation of Obama’s cause brought the right touch of star power and street cred. Skeptical pundits have been forever silenced by Oprah’s power to help Obama draw weekend crowds of 66,000 in three states.

Both Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as Maya Angelou would agree, are phenomenal women, phenomenally. Just like Michelle Obama, I’ve had trouble reconciling Barack Obama the man and Barack Obama the phenomenon. Together, Michelle and Oprah helped put it into the proper perspective for me. Let me break it down, it’s all about the O, and I don’t mean Overstock.com.

Examining the arc of her remarkable life from Mississippi, Tennessee and Illinois, I am struck by how similar it tracks the same path as another daughter of Mississippi: Ida B. Wells-Barnett. I’ve always believed that although a prominent heroine of black history, Mrs. Wells-Barnett never fully received her due as a result of the bitter Victorian sexism of her time. Mrs. Wells-Barnett more than earned her place in the pantheon of black historical legends like Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois.

Born into slavery in 1862, orphaned at 14 by a yellow fever epidemic and left to raise five younger siblings, Ida B. Wells rose from the grinding poverty of Holly Springs, Mississippi to the highest echelon of black society. A teacher, journalist, anti-lynching activist, feminist, suffragist and Republican politician (we were republicans then), her significant contributions to our struggle against white supremacy and Jim Crow segregation cannot be exaggerated.

Crusader in Defense of the Black Body

Well educated for a child of slaves, she was educated at Mississippi’s Rust College and Tennessee’s Fisk University, both HBCU’s. By twenty, she moved with her siblings to Tennessee and settled in Memphis. By twenty-two, Wells-Barnett was leading campaigns against segregation in public accommodations. By twenty-four, she was writing editorials and investigative pieces to fight against lynching and white supremacy. She became a crusader in defense of the Black Body and a defender of our lives against the relentlessly racist oppression imposed by Jim Crow.


Crusader in Defense of the Black Spirit


Kosciusko, Mississippi born Oprah Winfrey, a trailblazing journalist, businesswoman, media personality, philanthropist, and child advocate, picked up Ida’s torch and has become a crusader in defense of the black spirit. Nashville’s first Black news anchor, she has used her life to fight a crusade against child sexual abuse, racism, poverty, and neglect. Single-handedly, the victim of rape and sexual molestation at the hands of cousin, uncle and her mother’s boyfriend, she is responsible for federal legislation that she authored to create a national registry of sex offenders to track predators against our children.

A philanthropist of legendary scale, she has given millions to black colleges and universities, is spending more money on rebuilding housing for hurricane Katrina victims than the damn federal government-over $17,000,000 million, despite billions appropriated and not spent by Washington, and is channeling millions of dollars for educational programs and HIV/AIDS programs in this country and worldwide.

An actress of legendary prowess, she came to national attention in her portrayal of Sophia in Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.” The character Sophia is asked by the wife of the town’s Mayor if she would like to be her maid. Sophia’s reply, “Hell No” is so robust, vehement, and unexpected that it ends up causing a dust-up in which she has to defend herself from a racist physical assault for “sassing” Miss Millie and her white male defenders. Sophia ends up rotting in Jail for years before being re-united with her family and the “kind-hearted” bitch for which she initially refused to work-as her maid.

Domestic servitude in the kitchens of white women is part and parcel of the history of black women in this country and touches upon a raw nerve that exists for black women of multiple generations-even now. Black women’s unjustified allegiance to Hillary Clinton tap dances on that nerve. My maternal grandmother, now in her 8th decade, is a woman of remarkable intestinal fortitude, humor, wisdom, and unassailable dignity. She is the rock upon which our family has relied for nearly 60 years. As a young mother of three and wife of an abusive husband, she found herself having to abandon the marriage and flee to the safety of family a good distance away. Work as a domestic in the homes of white women was what was available to her and she took it and used it to put herself through nursing school.

Mama told me how she was asked by the south Florida matron she worked for if she knew what “elbow grease” was. The woman wanted Mama to get down on her hands and knees and scrub the floor with a toothbrush like a house slave on the plantation. That vignette has always stayed with me and is like a festering boil that never heals. My grandmama’s story reveals the texture, depth, and authenticity of black women’s struggle in this country. It is something that Hillary Clinton, blinded by her sense of royal entitlement, will never understand and something that the grandson of a British colonial servant does.

Reminding us of the “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” on the tour with the Obama’s, Oprah echoed Jane Pittman when she famously asked each of the children, “Are you the one, Are you the one that will save us.” He won’t single-handedly save us, but I sincerely believe that he is the one for this moment.

His election as president, should it occur, will not overnight result in a diminution of the world’s oppressive racial order, but it will be a step in the right direction for change. I could never get the image out of my head that Michelle conjured up of her husband taking the oath of office. I don’t think he can single-handedly end white supremacy and the grip of capitalist patriarchy, but I think that he may serve as an inspiration to the child or children who can.

Obama truly got game. He can unite this racially divided country in the spirit of brotherhood as nobody can, and for this reason, he will have my unswerving support.

Weekend Developments

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U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JULIA CARSON 1938-2007

As I am sure you’ve heard, Indiana Congresswoman Julia Carson, 69,  passed over the weekend after a short bout with lung cancer.  The Congressional Black Caucus lost another trail blazer and progressive stalwart.   Mrs. Carson’s career in public service was long and distinguished by her grace, wit, determination, and compassion.   Holding public office for 35 years, she is the first African American woman to be elected to both Houses of the Indiana legislature, local elective office, and the U.S. Congress. 

The second African American woman elected to Congress from Indiana, and the first to be re-elected, Julia Carson stands alone in a class by herself.  In 35 years in elective office, Miss Julia never lost a race.   Her devotion to the down and out was legendary and so was their affection for her.   On Friday, Miss Julia will break down one last barrier when she becomes the first African American woman to lie in state at the Indiana State Capitol.     Well Done, Sistah.  Well Done.

Also this weekend, the endorsements of the major papers in the first caucus and primary states came out.   In a surprise move, the Des Moines Register endorsed the Hillary Clinton, a.k.a the Borg Queen.   It was just what she needed to right her listing ship of inevitability. I was expecting them them to either re-endorse Edwards or to endorse Obama.   Not to be left out, Obama picked  up the endorsement of the Boston Globe, a major coup because New Hampshire has long been considered a bedroom community to Massachusetts.  

 Mitt Romney at CPAC

Finally, Mitt Romney appeared on Meet the Press yesterday to have his chesnuts roasted over an open fire.  He and Tim Russert had this interesting exchange.  

 MR. RUSSERT:  You, you raise the issue of color of skin.  In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court, Brown vs.  Board of Education, desegregated all our public schools.  In 1964 civil rights laws giving full equality to black Americans. And yet it wasn’t till 1978 that the Mormon church decided to allow blacks to participate fully.  Here was the headlines in the papers in June of ’78. “Mormon Church Dissolves Black Bias.  Citing new revelation from God, the president of the Mormon Church decreed for the first time black males could fully participate in church rites.” You were 31 years old, and your church was excluding blacks from full participation.  Didn’t you think, “What am I doing part of an organization that is viewed by many as a racist organization?”

GOV. ROMNEY:  I’m very proud of my faith, and it’s the faith of my fathers, and I certainly believe that it is a, a faith–well, it’s true and I love my faith.  And I’m not going to distance myself in any way from my faith.  But you can see what I believed and what my family believed by looking at, at our lives.  My dad marched with Martin Luther King.  My mm was a tireless crusader for civil rights. 

You may recall that my dad walked out of the Republican convention in 1964 in San Francisco in part because Barry Goldwater, in his speech, gave my dad the impression that he was someone who was going to be weak on civil rights.  So my dad’s reputation, my mom’s and my own has always been one of reaching out to people and not discriminating based upon race or anything else.  And so those are my fundamental core beliefs, and I was anxious to see a change in, in my church.

I can remember when, when I heard about the change being made.  I was driving home from, I think, it was law school, but I was driving home, going through the Fresh Pond rotary in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  I heard it on the radio, and I pulled over and, and literally wept. 

(Romney becomes teary-eyed) Even at this day it’s emotional, and so it’s very deep and fundamental in my, in my life and my most core beliefs that all people are children of God.  My faith has always told me that.  My faith has also always told me that, in the eyes of God, every individual was, was merited the, the fullest degree of happiness in the hereafter, and I, and I had no question in my mind that African-Americans and, and blacks generally, would have every right and every benefit in the hereafter that anyone else had and that God is no respecter of persons.

MR. RUSSERT:  But it was wrong for your faith to exclude it for as long as it did.

GOV. ROMNEY:  I’ve told you exactly where I stand.  My view is that there–there’s, there’s no discrimination in the eyes of God, and I could not have been more pleased than to see the change that occurred.

I am so “moved” that a grown man wept about his church embracing the twentieth century, 10 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, and deigning to allow black folk to participate fully in the church’s ministerial ranks.  But the unanswered question is what did Mitt Romney and his parents do before then to make this change occur?   The answer is probably nothing.  Because if Mama and Daddy or Mitt had done anything, we’d have heard about it before now and he certainly woulda said so yesterday.  Whatcha’ll think?