Friday, January 20, 2017

Donald Trump, John Lewis, Legitimacy, Normalization and The Rust Belt

You may have heard that Democratic Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) ,who also happens to be a civil rights icon, recently stated that he wasn't going to attend the inauguration for Donald Trump in part because he felt that Trump was not the "legitimate" President. As he is prone to do Trump responded with a mostly inaccurate tweet telling Lewis to spend time on his crime ridden district. At this point no one should be surprised that the next President is an incredibly thin skinned individual who takes everything personally. Lewis' views on Trump aside, Lewis has only been to one Republican inauguration after he was elected to Congress. This suggests that Lewis' issues are not so much with Trump as they are with Republicans in general. But Lewis is not alone with his take on Trump's legitimacy. At least 60 Democratic elected officials have said that they won't be attending the inauguration. One writer argues that Clinton is the legitimate President and that courts should intervene to depose Trump. An actress who has feuded with Trump is calling for martial law. Various other intellectuals, bloggers, media and political personalities seemingly spend all day on twitter styling themselves the Resistance, plaintively asking what can be done to prevent Trump from taking office, or arguing that Trump should be arrested for treason. Republicans and conservatives are, in a display of hypocrisy that should surprise exactly no one, are attacking liberals and Democrats for being divisive, saying that everyone should respect the office of the President or saying that being a sore loser diminishes our system of governance. Well.

You should also remember that many conservatives and Republicans steadfastly refused to believe that President Obama was born in the US. This included Donald Trump. Some people also believed that President Obama was a secret Muslim (who for some reason ate pork and attended a Christian church) who wanted to destroy the US from within. Many Republicans still think that and worse about President Obama. Some conservatives could not talk about the President unless they were also calling him and his family apes or monkeys, threatening to kill him, wondering why no one had killed him yet, burning him in effigy, calling him a witch doctor, saying he wasn't their President, or making other statements to let everyone know they rejected Barack Obama as President or as human.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Music Reviews: The Big Bamboo

Ska, Calypso and Reggae are all interrelated forms of music. One of the original giants of calypso music, who was also influential in the beginnings of reggae is Grenadian-Trinidadian singer Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco). Mighty Sparrow has been performing professionally since the mid fifties. The songs which he sings often have a sense of humor. These songs aren't necessarily to everyone's taste but I usually enjoy them. One of his better known songs, which has been covered by a number of different people is Big Bamboo, which is about the absolutely critical importance of the aforementioned renewable resource. It may well be a traditional song where true authorship is lost to time. As with American blues songs many of the versions have different lyrics. The singer can add or subtract verses as he sees fit. There are all sorts of different arrangements. Some are more driving. Others are down right languid. The first version I heard was by the Mighty Sparrow but I've also heard good versions by other calypso singers like Duke of Iron, Mighty Panther, Wilmoth Houdini and Lord Creator. I ran across a more recent version of this song by the musical group Ska Cubano. Ska Cubano, as you might suspect, combines a variety of Afro-Caribbean music, including but not limited to ska, reggae, calypso, salsa and soca. This is not as farfetched as you might think. The Ska Cubano version has a very insistent beat that can't be ignored or missed. I like songs that on the surface appear to be about one thing but when you think about it are about something else entirely. Sometimes limits can inspire more inventive wordplay. It's important to live a healthy life in tune with nature. I think that's what the song Big Bamboo is saying. Of course it could be about something else as well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Facts??! We're talking about facts??!!

Recently, Actress Meryl Streep criticized Trump during her speech at the Golden Globe Awards.  Her criticism was directed at his imitating New York Times Reporter Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a condition called arthrogryposis, a condition that affects motor skills.  Trump, never one to back down from a Twitter war, said emphatically that he did not mock the reporter and called Streep "over rated". (See the video here and decide for yourself.)

Now, I like to think I know politics just as much as the next person.  I get that you can spin things a certain way to get your point across.  I even get that you can use pictures, word choice, or even article headings to sway things your way.  I get that both parties simply despise the other.  But to flat out and intentionally lie is where I draw the line.  To boldly say, "I didn't do that" or "I didn't say that"  when there is video and audio proof to the contrary makes me question your ability to lead anything at any level.

But I think the worse part about Trump's latest Twitter beef is Kellyanne Conway's response.  Conway is his former campaign manager and her job is to defend the president-elect's outbursts, which I effectively call Trumpisms.  According to Ms. Conway, we shouldn't judge the PEOTUS by what he says, we should judge him by what's in his heart.  No, I didn't grab this story from the front page of The Onion, this is real life. She wants you to ignore what the soon-to-be sworn-in-leader-of-the-free-world believes in his heart rather than what he says.  I have no idea what Donny believes in his heart, maybe I can ask wife #1 or wife #2 for insight.  In any case, enjoy the video.  What are your thoughts?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

President Obama's Anger Translator: Final Address on The Daily Show

Comedian Keegan-Michael Key stopped by The Daily Show to among other things share his final (?) sketch of Luther: President Obama's Anger Translator which stars him in the titular role alongside his long time performing partner Jordan Peele as President Obama. The idea is that President Obama is giving a farewell address responding to the idea of turning over the Presidency to Donald J. Trump. I thought the skit was worthwhile. It must be truly galling to the President to be succeeded by someone who trades in racist birther theories. But that's life. Check out the short video below.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Daily Show: Republicans Attempt to Limit Congressional Ethics Office

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Movie Reviews: Solace

directed by Alphonso Poyart

Solace is a movie which initially makes the viewer think that it is about one theme before fitfully and eventually skillfully revealing another theme altogether. It's not quite bait and switch in my opinion because a lot of the clues were always there, if you bothered to look. I suppose you could be cliched and call this the thinking man's (woman's) thriller. It certainly fits that description, especially in the last third of the film. The problem was that the film wasn't quite as smart as it thought it was. It might have worked a little better to show things from the villain's pov. Although the lead in this movie is Anthony Hopkins, who does his usual masterful work, the other actors/actresses have such strong parts that you could fairly call this an ensemble cast. Depending on your belief system you may or may not believe that there is something in us that lives beyond our time on this planet.  What is certain though is that each and every one of us is going to die sooner or later. Hopefully we will die peacefully after a long happy life. But there's no guarantee of that. Parents murder their offspring; good people die of cancer. Entire families are killed by a drunk driver; spree killers pick people at random to murder. Benign tumors suddenly become malignant; a brief lack of attention on the expressway can cause multiple fatalities. That's life. No one can know when and how his life will end. There's a lot of religion and music that suggests (literally) that one day we'll understand it all by and by (presumably when we've transitioned to the next stage just as a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly). Well maybe, maybe not. Job asked God why and was told to shut up and stop asking questions above his pay grade. The point is that on this world and in the time we have we don't have all the answers. We don't understand why evil (random and deliberate) seems to have such power in this world. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Black Woman in Texas Brutalized By Police

I don't really know what to say about this story which recently took place in Forth Worth Texas. A white police officer insulted and arrested a black mother who was trying to make a complaint that a white man had assaulted her seven year old child. This story is a poignant example of white supremacy. This is really no different than what would have taken place in 1925. The only difference is that in 1925 no black person in Texas would have been under the slightest illusion that the police were obligated to respond to their calls for assistance and/or possibly arrest a white assailant. We've talked incessantly about retraining police or protesting or making police live in the areas they serve or hiring more black police or demilitarizing the police or having civilian review boards or so forth and so on. Those are all good ideas as far as they go but as we saw with the Michael Slager mistrial in South Carolina none of things mean a goddamn thing if the jury pool refuses to convict. And while convicting a truly guilty cop for abusing or killing a citizen is of course a good thing, it's infinitely better for the citizen not to be abused or killed by cops in the first place. As cops justifiably have no fear of sanctions for bad behavior from the justice system or their departments or their unions the only thing that will give bad police pause from committing wrongs upon citizens is if citizens start shooting them in the head. It is not normal for anyone to expect that American citizens should tolerate this sort of thing.This country was born in violent revolution from outrage over much lighter offenses.Other revolutions have started from anger over police brutality. The system has failed. If Black citizens can't even report crimes without being insulted, brutalized and arrested then that means that Black Americans aren't truly citizens. It also means that if you're going to be arrested anyway you might as well take the law into your own hands. So when someone does something wrong to you, don't call the police, handle it yourself. The mother trying to protect her son would have been wiser to call the men in her family to handle the assault upon her son instead of calling the police. The police are simply not worthy of trust or respect when it comes to Black people. It is inconceivable that that police officer would have been so contemptuous of or so quickly laid hands upon an upper middle class or wealthy white woman who was making a complaint. Racial hatred destroys society.

Movie Reviews: Suicide Squad, Train to Busan

Suicide Squad
directed by David Ayer
I had heard wildly different things about this film, which is based on a DC comic book team of antiheroes. Some people claimed that it was overwrought, poorly written and incoherent. Other people claimed it was pretty good. Still others stated that it was sexist, racist, and any other "ist". After watching it I can safely say yes to all of those claims. It wasn't anywhere near as bad as some people said it was. On the other hand it isn't the "serious" work that The Dark Knight was. I was never a huge DC comics fan so I didn't go into this movie with any familiarity with the characters. If you were a DC fanboy sitting down to critique this film I can certainly understand how you might have looked askance at the page to screen translations. As I wasn't a DC fanboy all of that baggage went right over my head. I didn't have the massive expectations I would have had if I were a fan of the comic book.  I'll have to check with my brother, who has an encyclopedic knowledge all all things comic related, to see what he thought of the adaptations. I was also interested in watching the movie because it was done by the same director who helmed End of Watch, Sabotage and Fury. The film reunited Will Smith and Margot Robbie who had pretty good chemistry in Focus. And it featured a bravura performance by Jared Leto which seems to have been severely and choppily edited. For what it's worth I liked this movie a little better than the last Captain America movie. That may not be saying all that much but Suicide Squad is fun to watch, regardless of some of the logical and moral inconsistencies.

Rudyard Kipling: The Stranger

The British intellectual and Nobel Prize in Literature winner Rudyard Kipling for most of his life was an unabashed pro-imperialist and pro-colonialist who apparently never really gave serious thought to the idea that people, especially non-white people, shouldn't be ruled by their betters, by which he usually meant English whites or at least whites of Anglo-Saxon stock. Kipling had little confidence in the abilities of people outside of that group to rule themselves. He extended this skepticism to the Irish, being an ardent foe of Irish home rule. Kipling justified British rule over the Irish by using the same tropes and dodges that Europeans used to justify their rule over Asians and Africans. It was only later in life after his son was killed in WWI that Kipling may have begun to rethink some of his more jingoistic views.Even though Kipling was criticized in his time and ours for some of his more reactionary ideas, few people ever questioned his literary talent or his devotion to his country. The recent terrorist incidents in Germany, France, Belgium, the UK and elsewhere in Europe which were primarily committed by recently arrived non-Europeans reminded me of Kipling's poem "The Stranger". It's Kipling at his most nationalistic. I'm not a huge fan of this poem. It has a smug tone. All the same regardless of whether you think this piece is a stirring paean to nationalism or an ugly screed to race hatred I think it's important to realize that nationalism and its uglier cousins of xenophobia and racism aren't going away anytime soon. "The Stranger" touches something real in this world. Nationalism isn't automatically an evil thing. There are limits to how many immigrants any country can accept, particularly if the cultures of the immigrant and his destination country are very different. This is especially the case in Europe, where most of the countries have been ethnic homelands of one kind or another instead of open source states like the USA. Theoretically anyone on the planet can become an American. That has never been the case with most other countries. To be a German or an Ethiopian is a statement of bloodlines and ethnicity just as much as it is a statement of geographic origin. The unchecked influx of the Global South into the Global North can't go on forever. It has caused, and will continue to cause, an increase in the popularity of right-wing nationalist movements. And I don't think those trends will be good for anyone. We may imagine a world where everyone can all just get along but as long as we have different nations, different languages and different ideas about how to set up societies that world isn't going to come about by pretending to ignore our differences. Progressives will need to re-engage with nationalism. It can't be left to the right.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

TSA Body Searches Angela Rye

People say that President-Elect Donald Trump will usher in a new era of fascism and lack of respect for rights. And perhaps he will. A man who has said that he will order torture of terrorism suspects, asks why we can't kill the family of terrorism suspects, refuses to admit that the Central Park Five were innocent and speaks approvingly of national stop-n-frisk, no doubt limited to majority Black areas, is not a man who has any great love for individual rights. I don't dispute that. My only issue with those who are suddenly discovering a fervent post-November 8th love for civil liberties is that right now, today, we are living in a country where there is less and less institutional and popular respect for or understanding of civil liberties. And this is happening under a Democratic Presidential administration headed by a former constitutional law professor. People worry about "normalizing" Trump. We have already normalized prison procedures for the entire dammed population that intends to travel by airplane. Like everyone else I have loved ones who I hope live to be as old as Methuselah. I don't want them harmed or killed by some religious nut who thinks God told him to blow up an airplane. But I also don't want them cavity searched by some bully with a badge who literally gets off on humiliating and searching people. I don't want people with "incorrect" political views harassed under color of law. As I wrote about a similar incident around airplane safety I definitely want some level of confidence that the people sitting next to me or mine on a plane have gone through the same boarding procedure as everyone else. But I would question if that procedure needs to include the touching of anyone's reproductive/excretory organs. There has to be a better way of doing this. But if I have to choose between liberty and safety I'm going to choose liberty. 

Firebrand CNN political commentator Angela Rye was subjected to a humiliating body search while trying to board a plane to New York City on Wednesday night. She posted the video to Twitter and alleged that the TSA employee who searched her twice touched her inappropriately. Rye said she was singled out for a random search and that she had not set off any metal detector alarms. The TSA called a police officer when Rye asked why she was being singled out. Officials told her she could cooperate or be escorted from the airport by police. Rye agreed, finally, to submit to the search, which covered every inch of her body, including an uncomfortable-to-watch probing of her genital area.

By the end of the search, Rye was shedding humiliated tears.

Godfather Two: Who Opened The Drapes?

In the movie Godfather 2 after a long day of business Michael Corleone finally returns home to his wife and children. Michael's wife Kay has already gone to bed but was either not completely asleep yet or had awoken upon Michael's return. The lamp by the bed was still on. As Michael looks at a picture that his son drew for him his wife Kay looks at him with love but then curiously asks why are the drapes in the bedroom window open. Michael looks at his wife and then looks at the drapes. And he apparently sees the assassins just before they start shooting. He hits the floor and crawls over to throw himself on top of Kay until the shooting stops. Now the reason the drapes were open was to give the would be assassins a better shot at Michael. That's pretty obvious.What's not so obvious is who opened the drapes. Kay asks Michael why were the drapes open. This makes sense because, like most women, fictional or real, then and now, Kay was not an exhibitionist. She would undress in front of her husband but not in front of an open window. There's no chance that Kay would have undressed/changed clothes for bed unless she closed the drapes prior to doing so. So that means that when Kay went to bed the drapes were closed. Someone entered Michael's bedroom and opened the drapes.Who did this?

Music Reviews: When The Levee Breaks

Memphis Minnie (1897-1973) and her husband Kansas Joe were the original writers and performers of "When The Levee Breaks". As you might imagine it was about hard times after a flood that occurred near Greenville, Mississippi. Then as now, most of the people who lived closest to the flood plain were poor people. The song lyrics talk about what happens when the titular event occurs and how people have to find work and lodgings elsewhere. Musically it's a surprisingly upbeat song, considering the subject matter. Memphis Minnie was one of the better known pre-WW2 blues guitarists. She was a huge influence, albeit often unacknowledged, on guitarists who came afterwards. Unfortunately by the time that rock-n-roll begin to take off her particular style of blues was considered decidedly old-fashioned. Also her age and health were starting to work against her by the 1950s. So it goes. Even so her biggest hit, the risque "Me and My Chauffeur Blues" was reworked by Chuck Berry into the raunchy rock-n-roll song "I Want To Be Your Driver". It amuses me how both versions of that song allude pretty directly to subject matter that any adult is familiar with while nonetheless avoiding dirty words. Some songwriters today might want to take a note or two. The titular song of this post was later covered by the British rock group Led Zeppelin. I'm not sure if the group originally gave Memphis Minnie credit but certainly modern releases have her name listed as a co-writer. Most people born after 1950 are certainly familiar with the Zeppelin version, as much for John Bonham's brutal bass drum attack if nothing else. That drum sound would later be sampled by Ice-T for his horror rap track "Midnight". It probably shows up in a few other rap songs as well. 

Andre Johnson Gives Back To The Community

We hear a lot about former or current athletes who have lost all their money, abused their wives or girlfriends or otherwise behaved poorly in some way. It's important to remember that just as with any other job, the jerks, dummies and slobs are most likely a minority of the people that you'll meet. One person who is going above and beyond to help people in life is former Houston Texan wide receiver Andre Johnson. It is important to reach out and help those less fortunate than ourselves, especially if they're children. Children don't own responsibility for their situation. You may not have $20,000 to give away but I am sure there are other ways you can give of your time and resources to those who need and appreciate the help. Retired NFL star Andre Johnson holds nearly every Houston Texans receiving record - but for the past nine years, Johnson has fulfilled a very different kind of streak. Come the holiday season, Johnson brings several children from struggling families into a Toys R Us - and tells them to pick out whatever they'd like.

You'd think there would be a spending cap or limited amount of toys the children can take home, but Johnson has only one rule. Kids, ages 5-16, have to fill their shopping carts in 80 seconds (80 was Johnson's jersey number). Not hard to do when you're, you know, a kid in a toy store.

Totals from Johnson's past shopping sprees have run between $5,000 and $16,000 - the kind of numbers that credit card companies send fraud alerts over (that actually happened to Johnson in 2014). But this year, Johnson set a new personal best. The total on the receipt? Exactly $19,144.58. Oh, and everyone got an Xbox (or their gaming system of choice). Naturally.

The origin of Johnson's yearly ritual is rooted in a earnest desire to give back and to help kids in need. "I know that a lot of kids don't get what they want for Christmas," he told New Fix. "This idea was brought to me and I just kind of took it and ran with it.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Clinton's Michigan Mistakes

Rubio was a clown. He never could have outfought Hillary. But what I didn't know until this day was that it was Trump all along.
According to one model of human emotional process, there are five stages of grief which we pass through when a great loss occurs. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the more intense Democratic partisans seem to be currently stuck in one of the first two stages. And they don't seem to want to leave those stages any time soon thank you very much. Some Democrats have progressed to the third stage. A tiny number of people are in the fourth stage. But virtually no one has reached the fifth. So it goes. Everyone who voted for Clinton or hoped that she would win will need to deal with Clinton's loss in their own way. In a country where a significant proportion of the conservative voting population dealt with the eight year reality of a black President by insisting contrary to all evidence that (a) he wasn't a citizen (b) wasn't black (c) wasn't Christian (d) was Muslim or (e) all of the above I'm not going to throw stones at anyone who needs more time to process the fact that Donald Trump indeed beat Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States. Those people should take all the time that they need to take. But for the people who are ready to deal with reality however unpleasant it might be, this examination of how Clinton lost Michigan will be useful, perhaps even required reading. Clinton suffered a close loss in Michigan. You could blame the Clinton loss on third party voters or Russian hacking or any number of other things. But ultimately the buck has to stop with the candidate. 

To summarize, Clinton made some very critical mistakes, some of which I and other people on this blog pointed out before the election. Others were just so basic that a campaign manager for high school class President would have corrected them.

Woman Dragged Off Plane at Metro Detroit Airport

I don't think that this would qualify as police brutality. If the publicly available information is correct then the correct steps were taken. Of course just based on previous incidents where certain people have gotten out of pocket and have not had force used against them you always have to look at things like this with a very skeptical eye.

Delta Flight 2083 was preparing to depart from Detroit to San Diego early Monday morning when the unidentified woman allegedly displayed aggressive behavior towards the attendants, according to NBC News. Passengers aboard the plane alleged that the woman walked past the gate agents in the terminal without showing a ticket or proper ID to board the plane, which initially prompted Delta personnel to approach her, officials confirm.

Air officials were soon alerted to the incident. After the woman repeatedly ignored the officer's requests to leave the aircraft, security was reportedly forced to remove her themselves. In video taken on a cell phone on the plane, two officers are seen attempting to pick up the woman, who was lying still in the middle of the aisle. It's unclear why the woman was on the floor to begin with, but voices heard on camera suggest she may have been tasered. After a couple of seconds of adjusting, they begin to move her down the aisle and off the aircraft before stopping midway. One officer then proceeded to drag the woman, whose eyes appear to be rolled back, the rest of the way.

Given the post 9-11 extreme caution about who is allowed on planes and under what conditions, I am surprised that someone would think that he or she would be able to get on an airplane without going thru the same procedures as anyone else. I wonder if there is more to this story. But for now it looks as if the still unidentified woman was in the wrong.