Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Help Yourself and Your Fellow Colleagues with the Year-End Performance Review Process

October is the golden month. Most fiscal calendars come to an end and many organizations enter or conclude a “strategic planning” phase. This “strategic planning” phase often ends with budgeting and the dreaded performance review process. We all know that performance reviews are directly tied to our earning potentials and overall future with our respective organizations. Personally, this time of year has always been a breeze and I usually come out in January with a final review that mirrors my own thoughts on my performance. However, this year was one for the record books. A lot of tears, stress and sleepless nights could sum up my preparation process, for my impending review on November 1st. All the drama was mostly because I was in a new job and in a new department working amongst a group of very serious and cutthroat individuals. However, I think that there is a better way to handle this process without putting yourself through the nonsense that I just went through. Here are a few tips that can help you and your colleagues in preparation for and during the year-end performance review process, at your respective organizations.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It's On Us and Yes Means Yes: Bad Ideas or Overdue Requirements?

The Obama Administration recently launched a public relations campaign to combat sexual assault. The campaign was titled "It's on us". You can check out the video here. I do indeed feel a special obligation to look out for some women. This group would include all related women, particularly younger ones, some really good women friends or close co-workers, and any woman with whom there is, was, or might be an intimate connection. For those women I will risk confrontation and physical danger. I was raised to believe that it's my job to protect such women or offer advice, even if occasionally they eschew such assistance. So that is indeed on me. I wouldn't like it were I ever in a situation where I could have helped a woman and chose otherwise from fear or sloth. But strange women, women who I don't know from Eve, are not my primary concern. This is 2014. Many women proclaim that they are independent and can look after their own affairs. I don't think that they need or want a stranger monitoring their alcohol consumption and clothing choices, or deciding on his own that their planned sexual rendezvous with that dangerous looking biker is too risky and must be halted. It's one thing to see a woman being physically assaulted and callously refuse to assist her. I'm almost 100% certain that I would run to her assistance. There's no ambiguity about what's happening when someone is screaming for help or getting throttled or beaten. But the PSA is discussing preemptive bystander intervention. That's a horse of an entirely different color. That means someone would be overriding the woman's judgment with his own. That might not be such a good thing. It also means women can't be trusted to make their own decisions. I disagree with that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jayru Campbell Felony Charges Dismissed

We talked previously about former Cass Tech QB Jayru Campbell and his run-ins with the law. Now I don't know about you but if I had just gotten out of jail for assaulting someone I would make sure that at least for a while I would lay low and you know, try not to assault anyone. However Jayru Campbell apparently has a brain that doesn't work normally. Just hours after getting out of jail for body slamming a school security guard, Campbell assaulted his girlfriend, allegedly because he was concerned about text or other messages on her phone which hadn't come from him. While I can certainly understand a man or in this case a boy being deeply concerned that his girlfriend has concluded that his best just wasn't good enough, the fact remains that putting your hands on people in violence is usually a bad idea. It's a horrible idea when you were just released for doing the same thing. This shows everyone that whatever you experienced in jail, the experience apparently wasn't bad enough or long enough to make you realize that you never wanted to go back. Campbell did manage to dodge a bullet so to speak when the judge decided to dismiss the most serious felony charges that Campbell faced. It's quite possible that the prosecutors overcharged. I can't say yes or no to that. I'm no attorney. It's also possible that the judge bent over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who doesn't deserve it. It's true that there are far too many people, particularly black men and boys, who are wrongly caught up in the criminal justice system. It's also true that there are some individuals of all races and both genders who do need to spend some time away from the rest of us until they know how to act. Check out the video below and let us know what you think.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why Black Conservatives Stay Losing: The Cliven Bundy Edition

As you should know from living in 2014 and interacting with a variety of people or if nothing else, just from occasionally reading the various ramblings that show up in this space, Black Americans, and for that matter black people from across the diaspora are as politically, class, and increasingly ethnically diverse as anyone else. There are black people who are adamantly opposed to gay marriage and black people who strongly support gay marriage. There are black people who are feminists and those who are not. There are black people who support a strong aggressive military and black people who want to eliminate the military and smash the state. There are black people who are pro-union and who spend all their time organizing workers. There are black people who couldn't care less about unions and who spend all their time organizing corporate mergers. There are black people who are neutral or positive about immigration reform and black people who are vociferously against it. Blah, blah, blah. Yet despite all of this political diversity, when it comes to major elections black people generally vote Democratic by percentages that are usually over 90%. These days, a Republican or conservative candidate who receives more than 10% of the black vote is doing shockingly well. Black (and other) conservatives occasionally bitterly complain about this. But they generally have no solutions. One big reason that conservative leaning candidates do so poorly with the black electorate is that the conservative segment of the American political spectrum is filled with people of all races pledging fealty to white supremacy whether they be genial white racists like Cliven Bundy or apparently insane black conservatives like Kamau Bakari. Check out the bizarre campaign ad video below. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Music Reviews: Walter Hawkins-Love Alive

Walter Hawkins
Love Alive
If, to win a million dollars, I had to name the first three male gospel singers that came to my mind in 5 seconds, I would list James Cleveland, Edwin Hawkins and Walter Hawkins. It's almost certainly because those are the people whom I grew up hearing at home and at friends' or relatives' homes. I think of all of these people as downhome traditional gospel, especially in comparison to today's gospel music. Ironically though, at their height of popularity all these musicians, but especially the Hawkins Brothers were considered by some moldy fig gospel traditionalists to be somewhat avant-garde and too close to popular music, in particular rock-n-roll. As discussed previously, a great deal of early rock-n-roll actually came directly from gospel so no one should have been too surprised to hear gospel musicians turning it up and rocking out. People like Little Richard, Otis Redding, and James Brown borrowed heavily from the church. Musicians like Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Aretha Franklin came straight from the church. And as James Cleveland famously noticed in one of his sermons, the Lord liked music. He commanded people to make a joyful noise. And what could be more joyful than hard rocking Hawkins style gospel music. Not much that's for sure. This music brings back a lot of memories, mostly good, some bad. Some of the songs on this release are often played at funerals. But that's life yes? This is music designed to be played loudly. I don't think anything here could ever be described as background music. This is music to shake your moneymaker to or to be precise it WOULD be music to shake your moneymaker to were the lyrics not all about loving God, experiencing bliss through salvation, hollering how much you love Jesus and how after death you've been washed white as snow of your sin. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jon Stewart Debates Bill O'Reilly on the Existence of White Privilege

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Supreme Court Blocks Texas Anti-Abortion Clinic Law



Hot off the press:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed more than a dozen Texas abortion clinics to reopen, blocking a state law that had imposed strict requirements on abortion providers. Had the law been allowed to stand, it would have caused all but eight of the state’s abortion clinics to close and would have required many women to travel more than 150 miles to the nearest abortion provider.

The Supreme Court’s order — five sentences long and with no explanation of the justices’ reasoning — represents an interim step in a legal fight that is far from over. But abortion rights advocates welcomed what they said was the enormous practical impact of the move. Had the clinics been forced to remain closed while appeals went forward, they said, they might never have reopened.

State officials said the law’s requirements were needed to protect women’s health. Abortion providers said the regulations were expensive, unnecessary and a ruse meant to put many of them out of business.

The justices addressed two parts of the Texas law that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had provisionally let stand while it considered an appeal.

One of them required all abortion clinics in the state to meet the standards for “ambulatory surgical centers,” including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The Supreme Court, in an unsigned order apparently reflecting the views of six justices, blocked the surgical-center requirement entirely and the admitting-privileges requirement as it applied to clinics in McAllen, Tex., and El Paso.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have allowed the law to be enforced.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Supreme Court Puts "Disparate Impact" Discrimination on the Chopping Block Again

When was the last time somebody said something like this to your face: "Sorry ma'am, we would have approved you for this loan but we can't because you're a woman"?  Or how about this: "John, there's no question that you are the most qualified employee for our new sales position, but we've decided to go with Bob because you're Black and Bob is White"?  No?  Not ringing any bells?  OK, let's try this one more time. How about this one: "Everything on your housing application is great, but I'm afraid we're going to have to reject you because your last name is 'Hernandez' which means you're probably of Latin origins and we can't be seen providing housing to people of Latin origins"?  Chances are, all of these quotes sound pretty foreign to most of us today.  In fact, in today's liability-conscious society, these quotes probably sound downright outrageous, right?  That's because these are all examples of what we refer to in the law as "facially discriminatory" statements.   Which is another way of saying that the statements are "direct" or "blatant" proof of discrimination.  Each of these examples, if introduced as evidence in a law suit against the people who said them, would be referred to as the infamous "smoking gun" evidence that plaintiff lawyers only dream of.  In other words, they're the type of evidence that is so obvious that the case would be over before it even began.

Even though many of us may have faced some form of discrimination in our lifetimes, it is rare in this day and age to come across a "smoking gun" example of discrimination in our day to day professional settings.  This is because no bank loan officer, employee supervisor, or any other person of authority is willing to subject their entire company to untold millions in liability by saying something as blatant as the above-cited examples.  Nobody is that stupid anymore.

But the conservative Justices on the United States Supreme Court seem to think so.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Upskirts, The Lincoln Memorial and Privacy

I believe in privacy. I also believe in free speech and free expression. Sometimes those values conflict. I have always believed that if an attractive lady has taken the trouble to put something on public display it would be rude not to look. And gentlemen should always strive to avoid being rude. The probability of me telling a non-related woman or a woman who I do not know from Eve that she is showing too much and should cover up is probably zero. I may have been tragically warped for life by watching too many Benny Hill skits at an impressionable age. That's my brother's hypothesis anyway. I don't say no to that. Nonetheless, if I did accidentally see something interesting, I definitely wouldn't grab a camera and start taking pictures. THAT seems a little bit, well creepy might be too strong of a word, but over the top would certainly fit. A gentleman doesn't do that. You take a quick glance, maybe offer a smile and keep moving. Discretion is important. You don't stand there drooling and staring like a fat man at a $2 all you can eat buffet. But everyone has different styles. When faced with publicly visible evidence of attractive femininity while visiting the Lincoln Monument, one Mr. Christopher Cleveland did more than take a brief look. He also chose not to approach the women to inform them in a non-threatening big brotherly manner that they might be revealing more than they intended. No. Mr. Cleveland decided that the right move was to whip it out (his camera that is) and start taking photographs. The local police noticed him. They forced him to stop taking pictures. They made him come away with them. Mr. Cleveland was charged with voyeurism. His camera's memory card had scores of revealing images of women in public places. And that's when things got interesting.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Movie Reviews: Neighbors

Neighbors
directed by Nicholas Stoller
This comedy film featured Seth Rogen in a lead role so I pretty much knew what I was going to get. Do you remember the first time that you fully understood you were an adult? For many Americans there's not really a bright line ritual that says after this you are a responsible member of our society. We have a legal drinking age of 21. Most states have legal ages of consent that are between 16 and 18. You can vote at 18. We speak of college "kids" but when a teen commits a crime for which we want to punish him beyond the strictures allowed by the juvenile system we talk of "young men." There have been, since the sixties, some social changes that can provide for an extended adolescence well past 18 or in some cases even past 21. Some entertainers whose teen years are far behind them often still seek to dress, act and talk like teens or young adults. I think that's silly and in some ways pathetic. It can be unhealthy for people and/or the larger society to demand too much responsibility and accountability from teenagers but on the other hand at some point you should be able to expect that someone past 21 be responsible and well, adult. The gray area between those two expectations are where Rogen has made a pretty good filmic comedy career.

Neighbors mines that gray area for all that it's worth. It's a funny film at times but much like We're the Millers I thought that the annoying insistence on gross humor, in this case excretory and sexual, didn't work. YMMV as this film did very well financially. I just didn't see the humor in one character angrily dismissing a frat pledge by telling him that another frat brother had had his penis in his mouth while he slept. The pledge proudly and unironically defended himself by claiming that he certainly wasn't asleep. Of course as mentioned this is a Rogen film so no one should be surprised. I liked the slapstick but could have done without all the gay jokes. Anyway.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Daily Show Takes On AIG

Enjoy:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Some Comic Relief for Your Day - Street Fighter, Angry Goat Edition


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Curious Case of Civis the Creepy Clerk

I ain't fooling, you need schooling
Baby you know you need cooling
Baby way down inside, woman you need love
Muddy Waters- "You Need Love"
Perv or Philanthropist?
Some people are more touchy feely than others. They like showing affection in public, not just in private. This could arise from genetics. It could be caused by how your parents raised you. It could come from how long you were nursed or any number of other reasons, including geographic, ethnic or national cultural preferences. American, and from what I hear Northern European, cultures are each supposedly a little standoffish while Southern European, Middle Eastern and some West African cultures are more relaxed about touching. I couldn't tell you for sure. I've known effusive Germans and cold Italians. What I do know is that like anything else with humans there is a continuum of behavior among people who seemingly can't connect to others without reaching out and touching them and people who would prefer that workplace/non-sexual touching of any kind be discouraged. I tend to fall in the second category. Work is work. So please keep your hands to yourself unless we are related or we are already intimate(or planning to be). In some states there isn't always a difference between these two categories but I digress. Snicker. It is a fact though that in the workplace, especially when there is a gender and/or a sexuality difference, many people prefer minimal physical contact, and ESPECIALLY no form of physical contact that could be possibly misconstrued as flirtatious, harassing or sexual. A hand shake is okay. A hand on a woman's hip, thigh, chest or behind definitely isn't. A fist bump or hand slap for closing a deal is fine. A facial caress isn't. A brief hug or shoulder pat to a co-worker who just lost a parent, spouse or child is usually acceptable. A tight full body embrace with a peer who has returned from an overseas trip just might send out the wrong message. Just saying. And so on. 

Americans generally recognize some responses as being reasonable for someone who is providing your nookie and totally inappropriate for someone who is not handling that task. This isn't rocket science, folks. Unfortunately a grocery store clerk in West Michigan has forgotten that it is truly not his job to provide hugs and bottom pats for women who, in his opinion, look like they might need them. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

President Obama Sells Out Workers

We all are hypocrites in one way or the other. It's just part of being human. Nobody is consistent across the board on everything. However I am amazed by the fact that the Obama Administration has managed to maintain so much support from labor and many members of the working class when it continues to display that it is not necessarily a big friend of the working class. Its rhetoric doesn't match its actions. One of the critical employee rights which we are supposed to have in this country, whether we are union or non-union, white collar or blue collar, is that if you work for someone else you should be paid for the time you're at work and the tasks you complete. There are a few marginal exceptions to this. The exempt professional worker usually does not automatically get time and a half overtime pay for more than 40 hours of work per week. Such pay might be made but it's much more likely to be compensated (if at all) in additional time off at some later date. Possibly. Maybe. It depends on your company's policy and boss's needs. Obviously in some professions, working 40 hours per week is considered slacking. You don't become partner at a law firm, trading boss at a hedge fund, or head surgeon at the hospital by only working 40 hrs each week. The flip side of that though is that if a salaried professional leaves early one day because they're sick or have a family emergency or just want to see a playoff baseball game, their next paycheck probably won't include a line item for pay docked. So in theory it balances out.

Still whether professional or not, if the company says you must do X as part of your job duties chances are you will do X as part of your job duties, if you want to continue getting paid. And getting paid is the key thing here. The company shouldn't be able to obtain work or time from you for free. Of course companies are amoral and increasingly want to do just that. And for some strange reason the Obama Administration is siding with the companies.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Book Reviews: Gentlemen of the Road, The Harlem Hellfighters, The Night Eternal

Gentlemen of the Road
by Michael Chabon
If you like adventure tales with a side order of mystery you might enjoy this book. Or if you just like buddy stories then this might be okay. And obviously if you can enjoy self-aware heroes who don't mind engaging in sarcasm or constantly arguing with each other about things that might not appear to be all that important to outsiders then this story could be up your alley.
Chabon dedicated this book to the sci-fi/fantasy author Michael Moorcock but it also pays homage to the fantasy author Fritz Leiber and his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series. There is also more than a dash of cop buddy storyline here. I liked this book. I liked it even more because unlike many genre entries the book was short. My hardcover edition clocked in at just under 200 pages.  Imagine that. Someone wrote a good story without rambling on forever. So in yet another way this story is also a throwback to people like Leiber and Moorcook. Much of their best work was done in novellas or short stories instead of sprawling 900 page works, though of course Moorcock proved himself quite adept at that as well. The book's initial working title was Jews with Swords. As Chabon explains in the afterword this was probably a rejoinder and corrective to some people's (including his own) image of Jews as urbanized nebbishes who look and sound as if they stepped out of a Woody Allen movie. Chabon thinks that a people with a history of exile and pogroms, kingdoms won and lost, have just as much raw material for adventure stories as anyone else. I also enjoyed this book because a main character reminded me of Ice Cold from Fear of a Black Hat. I have to empathize with any character who's fussy about his style and accoutrement. After all they come a running just as fast as they can cause every girl is crazy about a sharp dressed man.