An Obama Chia Pet? The men in the Barbershop are at it again as they comb through the week's latest headlines. This week, the guys discuss same-sex marriage, basketball legend Michael Jordan's induction into the sport's hall of fame and a controversial item being sold to commemorate Barack Obama's historic presidency: a Chia Pet.
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An Obama Chia Pet?

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An Obama Chia Pet?

An Obama Chia Pet?

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I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. It's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds.

Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, civil-rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and Ken Rudin, political editor for NPR. Welcome, everybody. I may jump in here or there, but for now, take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, yo, fellas, what's up. Welcome to the shop. How are we doing?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey, hey, hey.


IZRAEL: Special K, up all up in the spot. What's up, man? I haven't seen you in a while.

KEN RUDIN: Because it's radio. I think that's the main thing...

IZRAEL: Well, I haven't seen you on the radio in a while. So welcome back.

RUDIN: Thank you very much.

IZRAEL: Well, check this out. You know what? This week, Vermont became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage, right behind Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa.

Now, you know, there are no hard numbers about the divorce rates among gays and lesbians. I wrote about this on, but I wonder if eventually, all of the states are going to join the 20th century and give everybody the rights that they deserve. Ken Rudin?

RUDIN: First of all, it's the 21st century...

IZRAEL: Well, I know what century it is, but last century is when we started giving everybody their rights, dog.

RUDIN: True, but the interesting thing here is that unlike the other three states, Vermont is the one that the state legislature have decided. They passed the bill.

Governor Jim Douglas vetoed it, and then they overrode his veto. And unlike the other ones where the courts have decided, you know, to allow same-sex marriages to go forward, this one is the state legislature, which makes it more political. And it'll be interesting to see what happens, if there's any repercussions in an election.

Of course, Vermont being one of the more liberal states in the Union. So there may not be a political fallback, but there are other states that are looking at it, as well.

IZRAEL: Yo, A-train.

IFTIKHAR: You know what, I think the next interesting sort of debate on this is, you know, now that gay marriage is legalized in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa, the question I think now from a legal perspective is, if a gay married couple moves to Alabama, will their marriage in the previous state be honored?

And I think that's going to probably go back all the way up to the Supreme Court. I think the full faith and credit clause is going to be the next sort of political focal point.

RUDIN: I think the real question is why would a gay couple move to Alabama?

IFTIKHAR: That is one question to ask.

IZRAEL: Hey, A-train, you take that all the way back to Dred Scott, you know, where a homeboy went to another state, and you know, he declared himself free, and it was like uh-uh, not quite. Ruben, my man.


IZRAEL: What's up, man? What do you think?

NAVARRETTE: Well listen. I'll put a word in for marriage equality like everybody else. I'm somebody on a personal level who's made a real progression on this issue.

Even the last five or six years ago, I was where, unfortunately, a majority of black voters still are in this country, a majority of Latino voters are still, are in this country, against gay marriage. And I have come a long way, I think, in a short time over the years.

And so I'm all for about marriage equality now. And I think it's incredibly cruel in states like California that you could take people who are married and actually invalidate their unions.

Having said that, what Arsalan is talking about, the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, unfortunately this issue's already been resolved in a very bad and negative way thanks to something called The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress, signed into law by none other than Bill Clinton, a supposedly liberal Democrat who betrayed his gay constituents by signing the Defense of Marriage Act into law.

And that says, basically, that one state doesn't have to honor a gay marriage recognized by another. So that's unfortunate. That's kind of where we're at. And it means that people who are married in Vermont don't have to worry about Alabama.

MARTIN: But isn't that the issue that would go to the Supreme Court.

Unidentified Man: Right, and the question would be does the Constitution trump federal legislation.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah, and that issues happens - that issue was relevant a week ago, before Vermont did anything. And that issue basically would be, okay, is the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional?

MARTIN: But what I'm wondering, though, is whether public opinion does change on these issues, once people get used to the idea, they get used to, you know, talking about it and thinking about it.

It's my understanding that in Massachusetts, for example, that the acceptance of gay marriage, approval of gay marriage has increased since marriage has been legal.

RUDIN: Although Ruben was quoting about a majority of African-Americans and majority of Latinos oppose it. A majority of whites oppose it, too. As a matter of fact, the last CBS-New York Times poll showed that only a third of the American people support same-sex marriage, but that's up from 22 percent in 2004.

So there is a growing, albeit slowly, a growing consensus for same-sex marriage.

MARTIN: Yeah, in fact, Ruben, I'm not sure you single out ethnic minorities on this question. It just seems to me the issue is that people with...

NAVARRETTE: I have no problem with that. I want to single them out because I think African-Americans and Latino-Americans - and I'll pick on those two groups - have a special burden to walk it like they talk it when it comes to equality.

MARTIN: That's interesting. You hold minorities to a higher moral standard.

NAVARRETTE: Absolutely. Because otherwise what black folks are saying is that they thought it was objectionable to have laws against black-white marriage but they're okay with you know same-sex marriage laws prohibiting those things. It's just blatant hypocrisy and we ought to call it out when we see it.

MARTIN: That's interesting. If you're just joining us you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm speaking with Ruben Navarrette, Ken Rudin, Jimi Izrael and Arsalan Iftikhar. Back to you, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Thanks Michel. Hey, President Obama took the show on the road this week to Turkey. You know, A-train was this just a photo-op or is Obama really rebuilding bridges here?

IFTIKHAR: Well, first of all, I mean, I wrote a column for entitled "Mr. President Next Stop Jakarta" because of the fact that he did such a wonderful job in his speech to the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey, in terms of reaching out to the Arab and Muslim world that, you know, I think that he should go back to where he lived from 1967 to 1971, the largest Muslim nation on earth, Jakarta, to make the first major global speech that he promised during his campaign.

MARTIN: What was important about it?

IFTIKHAR: Well, first of all, it was important because you know, we've seen eight years of cowboy diplomacy from the Bush administration towards particularly the Muslim world. And, you know, I think in January 2009 when he had the opportunity to give his first network television interview he gave it to Al-Arabiya. And so I think that President Obama has done a wonderful job thus far, you know, appointing George Mitchell as his envoy to the Israeli- Palestinian situation, Dick Holbrooke in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has done a lot in terms of his outreach to the Muslim world this far.

NAVARRETTE: Jimi, Arsalan, let me - let's back up a second here. I think that the significance of President Obama's remarks in Turkey and particularly I think it picked up in Strasbourg, France, I think, with the Town Hall meeting. This whole notion of I'm not a cowboy, I'm not Bush, you know, my policies are going to be different, all the applause lines, and people clapped. You really got to read the fine print on this. When Obama for instance said in France, we don't torture, the United States of America doesn't torture, everybody clapped, this is great. What he didn't mention is that he signed an executive order to outsource the torturing.

We still do that. We preserve the CIA's policy of rendition. We basically send people to other countries where we know they'll be tortured. We did that. He's against secret prisons in Iraq. Applaud him for that but he's in favor - Obama is in favor of keeping a secret prison in Afghanistan. So ding him for that. And likewise, lastly, on the question of detentions, my Muslim brothers and sisters out there, Arsalan included, they need to hold Obama and his administration accountable for the fact that they have lined up basically his Justice Department straight away with George Bush's Justice Department on questions of detention and secrecy and holding on to folks in the war on terror.

So all that stuff that he said in Europe about, I'm not Bush, it only pays off for people who don't pay attention to the facts and don't watch these stories.

IZRAEL: In the future just tell us exactly, exactly how you feel A-train.

MARTIN: Let me just say one thing, though, that CIA Director Leon Panetta has just told Congress this week that the CIA has taken no new prisoner since he became director in February. He says the CIA has terminated contracts with private companies that provided security at secret overseas prisons. And he also told them that secret prisons are no longer used and that the CIA is making plans to permanently shutter them.

IFTIKHAR: And let's not forget that, you know, one of the - like the second thing he did was to order the closing of Guantanamo Bay. I mean, I think Ruben does bring up a few good points. I think he's being slightly alarmist in the sense that it's gonna take time. Again, we haven't even had 100 days of the presidency yet.

RUDIN: That's a very good point because David Axelrod, the - President Obama chief political advisor said, look, yes it's true, the seas didn't part when Obama went to Europe. But again, this is 78 days into a presidency, let alone - not even a 100-day marker. So is it perfect yet? Does everybody get what they want? No, but again, 78 days in...

NAVARRETTE: I don't buy it, no, I don't buy it. This notion of 78 days, it is convenience to say, on the one hand Obama wants to do all these things. Now the news story out that he wants to do immigration reform before the end of the year. He wants to do healthcare reform. He wants to do all this stuff. He is operating on a whole different level and to his credit he's trying to do so much at one time, I think, that we cannot simply...

IFTIKHAR: So give him that time, Ruben. You talk about time like...

NAVARRETTE: Arsalan, how long did it take him to sign the executive order allowing the CIA to outsource torture? It took two seconds.

IFTIKHAR: Like I said, Ruben, you made a few good points but what we're saying is that it's only been 78 days. I'm going to give you 78 days to do something...

NAVARRETTE: What I'm saying is that you're grading him on the curve, and unfortunately, you use rhetoric like cowboy diplomacy for Bush, which is absolutely true, but you grade your guy on the curve when he's doing the exact same thing.

IFTIKHAR: And I'm telling you about the plurality and majority of foreign policy and domestic policy initiatives where he is making those remedies in the first 78 bloody days of an administration.

NAVARRETTE: If it helps you from now on, just pretend Bush is doing it, that will get your blood going.

IZRAEL: Whoa. Lot of hair flying in the Barbershop tonight.

IFTIKHAR: Straight razor is here, baby.


IZRAEL: In lighter Obama news, now, the Chia pet, the Obama Chia pet, probably has...


IFTIKHAR: Don't get Ruben started.

RUDIN: Oh no, now, got you going now.

IZRAEL: We're going to get the - going to get outrage now. Probably hasn't got the kind of reaction retailers hoped for now.

RUDIN: Especially with the Sunnis versus the Chias, I mean, I think that's...


IFTIKHAR: Don't forget to tip your waitress.

RUDIN: Here all week, folks.

MARTIN: But there is always this question of like, what's okay to do, what's not okay to do. I personally think, Ken, you probably got one of those Chia pets before they took them off...


MARTIN: You are a Chia pet aficionado, as I understand it.

RUDIN: Well, no I'm not actually. But I mean, I mean, if this were anybody and you have hair growing out and you have this stuff growing out, I mean, I guess, I guess I think people are more sensitive than they ordinarily would be. But to me its just a much about nothing.

IZRAEL: How can you resist the Chia pet theme? I mean - I mean for me personally, if I had known about it, I would have gone out and got one. We got some - we can hear the commercial, I think.

MARTIN: We actually can. We actually can. Yes, there it is.


Man: To commemorate the inauguration of our 44th president with a well-known American icon, introducing...

Unidentified Woman: Chi, chi, chi, Chia.

Man: Chia Obama, your Chia Obama is a symbol of liberty, opportunity, prosperity and hope.

IZRAEL: I think I'm going to cry. I think I'm going to cry.

MARTIN: I think I'm going to wake up tomorrow and realize this was a hoax.

IZRAEL: You know what, I don't - yeah, I don't believe it's culturally insensitive or racist or any of that. You know, is it inappropriate or disrespectful? Probably, you know, but still in my opinion so are the Obama magazine covers, you know, the - yeah, so, you know, I wish they'd bring it back out. You know, but of course I thought the same way...

NAVARRETTE: Yo, this is...

IZRAEL: Go ahead, Ruben. Go ahead. Go ahead.

NAVARRETTE: It's not a racist thing, we ought to be careful about how we use that because we deserve to fire off and we just fired off the other day when we saw some serious, blatant racism directed at the Obama administration. Remember the joke about how, this thing on the Internet about how there's not going to be an Easter egg roll this year at the White House because there are all these watermelons growing in the front lawn?

IZRAEL: Right, right, right.

NAVARRETTE: That's racism. That's pretty clear. That's a winner right there. You know, I think when you mix that up with the Chia stuff I think it just, it confuses people. And it dulls the sharpness of your attack when you really deserve it.

MARTIN: Arsalan has got this look on his face, though. What are you thinking about?

IFTIKHAR: Oh, I literally have nothing to say about the Obama Chia pet. But what do you think?

RUDIN: I think a more important story is when John Kerry walks into a bar and the bartender says, why the long face?


IZRAEL: All right, well, speaking of Obama, Obama was right on the money choosing UNC as the winner at the AC...

IFTIKHAR: The N double A-C-C.


MARTIN: I think you should revoke his guy card.


MARTIN: I really do.


IZRAEL: NAACP. Keep hoops alive.


MARTIN: Okay, we have a clip, we can prove that the president was on the money. You want to hear it? Go ahead.


BARACK OBAMA: The Tar Heels that are watching, I picked you all last year. You let me down. This year, don't embarrass me in front of the nation.

IZRAEL: Wow, that's deep. Well see, I guess my whole problem with that is I felt like a lot of other people, that I don't know if I wanted a president that had time to do brackets. I'm sorry.

IFTIKHAR: I do. I do.

MARTIN: Well what should he do? Study all day?

RUDIN: What's fascinating about this is that, the fact is, is that, you know, there was a great story - Michigan state was a great story. Detroit is suffering. The unemployment is incredible, the auto industry and everything. Remember in 1968 when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series the year after the terrible riot in Detroit? It would have made a great story but if you're looking at sports only, and North Carolina was just such a far superior team.

IFTIKHAR: Absolutely. They were a well-oiled machine. I mean, honestly like, Michel and I were talking, like, our brackets were busted in the third round.

MARTIN: You don't have to remind everybody.


IFTIKHAR: Well, I'm reminding them about mine, too. But, you know I remember Ruben picked Michigan State last week. And I think a lot of America was rooting for them for the reason that Ken stated. But honestly UNC was men against boys.

MARTIN: What about the women's team? What about the women's final?

IFTIKHAR: Well, I picked Yukon, for your blog. They were - they finished the season 39-0. I mean, they were the team to beat. Before the championship game their average margin of victory was 19 points. I mean, they were the team to beat and Yukon won it all.

NAVARRETTE: I was rooting for Stanford. I thought that University ought to be known for something. So I was gonna go for that.

IZRAEL: I was down Cleveland State but that...

IFTIKHAR: That was a great story too.

RUDIN: I was going to play discotheque, discotheque was my favorite...

IFTIKHAR: Ken is just on fire.

RUDIN: No, Yukon is certainly one of my favorite Canadian provinces.


IZRAEL: So it's like this. Now we're going to move from the NCAA to the NBA because MJ, Michael Jordan, David Robinson, and C. Vivian Stringer were all inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this week. Okay, A-train I think it's too long coming.

IFTIKHAR: Well, I think any NBA fan or fan of basketball there was no Hall of Fame until Michael Jordan entered it.

MARTIN: I don't understand that. Why did it take - I mean first of all, is it news that he made it? And I don't understand why it took so long.

IFTIKHAR: Okay, okay so, interest of full disclosure again. I'm from Chicago. I've been a ball boy for the Chicago Bulls.

RUDIN: Okay (unintelligible)

IFTIKHAR: Right, thank you. NBA rules state that you are eligible for a first ballot Hall of Fame five years after your last retirement. In Michael's case the number 45, coming back, you know...

MARTIN: Oh okay.

IFTIKHAR: On behalf of an entire generation, Michael Jordan helped so many of us tap into our inner Michael Jordans in whatever we do...


IFTIKHAR: Honestly, he was the audacity of hope before Barack Obama was the audacity of hope. And the reason I think...


IFTIKHAR: Listen, listen, I've been in third world countries where kids don't have a toilet but they'll have a Michael Jordan poster on their wall. That was sort of...

RUDIN: Their Chia pet?

IFTIKHAR: They didn't have a...

MARTIN: Well so what? But so what?

IFTIKHAR: I mean it is an inspirational story of personal triumph of the human spirit. I mean, Michael Jordan is the standard in basketball.

RUDIN: I'm probably the oldest guy in this Barbershop here but I - so I remember Chamberlain and West and I remember Elgin Baylor and all those guys. And forget about the hope and the dreams and everything. On the court, offense and defense, the best player ever.

IFTIKHAR: Transcendental.

RUDIN: Oh absolutely.

IZRAEL: Well from three point land, I think that's a wrap, ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank you for coming to the shop and doing your thing. I have to pass the ball now to the lady of the house.

RUDIN: Thank you very much.


RUDIN: Oh, I'm sorry.

IZRAEL: Michel Martin.

MARTIN: The door is over there.


MARTIN: Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist who writes for the and TV One Online. He joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Ruben Navarrette writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and He joined us from San Diego. And Ken Rudin is NPR's political editor, our political junkie. He joined us from our studios in Washington, with had Arsalan Iftikhar the founder of the and a civil rights attorney. Gentlemen. thank you all so much.


NAVARRETTE: Thanks, Michel.

Thank you.

IZRAEL: Yup, yup.

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