Monday, September 29, 2014

Pay your auto loan or don't drive!!!

I generally think that if you take out a loan you should adhere to the legally enforceable terms of the contact. So if you agree to pay X dollars back per month then you really should pay X dollars back per month. It irritates me when people borrow money from me and find all sorts of creative reasons why they should not pay it back. I think this is true regardless of financial status. Pay what you owe. A deal is a deal. That said, depending on what the loan or service was, the creditor can encounter difficulty getting repayment. The Federal government and to a lesser extent state governments have fewer problems getting money owed from you as they have the power to just TAKE money from your account, seize your assets, tell your employer or bank to stop giving you money and put you in prison. That will get your attention. Utility providers can shutoff service for non payment. Customers notice that. Loan officers operating outside the law can send unpleasant people to your home or workplace to threaten physical harm if they don't immediately receive payment. Getting your shins cracked with a baseball bat or having your hands broken can provide financial clarity. Some other creditors, say lenders on auto loans, don't have the ability to immediately and seamlessly compel payment. They loaned money on a quickly depreciating asset. Many people don't give car loans priority over housing or food costs. The debtor can easily move his car to another state. To repossess the asset, depending on state law, the creditor usually has to go to court to obtain a judgment before hiring some semi-reputable people to retrieve the vehicle. This could all be messy and costly. In some zip codes if someone hears or sees someone breaking into their car, they will shoot first and ask questions later. So what's a creditor to do?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Movie Reviews: The Equalizer, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Equalizer
directed by Antoine Fuqua
Do not f*** with people you do not know. This goes double if they happen to be Denzel Washington. That's pretty much the only message here. It's a simple enough mantra but one that evidently needed to be hammered home to a few people with leaky brains. Although I enjoyed this film it didn't need to run for over two hours. Washington is effective as McCall. It's hard to believe that the man is almost 60 years old. Given that the original Equalizer hero was also a bit past his prime I guess that's ok. Although this is based on the television series and is in its way an origin story for the McCall character the obvious comparison will be made to Man on Fire. Well in this movie the young lady in peril is not really an angel. She's more of a broken angel while Washington's character is far from despondent, suicidal or alcoholic. Although he may regret some actions he took in a past life they certainly don't force him into self-destructive activities. It is somewhat ironic that Denzel Washington made his debut in Death Wish as an uncredited alley mugger and now all these years later he's playing the secretly dangerous older gentleman with a hidden past. So much of Washington's acting here is wordless. There's a lot that his character lets people know just via his body language, and facial tics or expressions. In the seventies and eighties films it was often the Italian-American Mafia that was portrayed as being the dangerous organized business savvy baddies. Blacks or Hispanics were shown as the street thugs with a surfeit of testosterone and a constant need to show proof of same. In many modern films both roles have been given to the Russian Mafia. In film, these fellows all walk around with muscles on their muscles, slicked back hair, tattoos on just about every conceivable inch of their body and are always looking for a chance to hurt someone. Aggressive masculinity is how they roll. As Charlie Daniels might say they are mean as a snake, sneaky as a cat and belligerent when they speak.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Eric Holder and what his resignation means for black people

As Eric Holder prepares to step down as the Attorney General, he leaves behind a trail of cases; many seeking the kind of justice some believe only he could hand down.

Holder was the driving force behind some of the modern day strides people of color have made in the area of civil rights. Holder’s Department of Justice investigated the murder of Trayvon Martin and called for the Sanford Police to arrest and charge the admitted murderer, George Zimmerman as well other, similar cases involving police murder of unarmed blacks.

Under this Department of Justice the Rockefeller Drug Laws were repealed, and with them a slew of unfair jail sentences overturned, mostly affecting black and brown people.

And This is Why Black Folk Announce Every Movement to the Cops During a Traffic Stop

I got pulled over one time with one of my white friends in the car and did what I always do whenever I get pulled over: keep both hands on the wheel and announce to the cop very audibly that I'm reaching for my license and registration before I do it.  After the stop, my friend, having never experienced this before, asked me why I announced to the police officer that I was about to reach for my registration.  Behold Exhibit A:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Black-ish Premiere Tonight 9:30pm on ABC!

If you haven't seen the trailer, here it is --

From ABC:

Andre 'Dre' Johnson has a great job, a beautiful wife, Rainbow, four kids, and a colonial home in the 'burbs. But has success brought too much assimilation for this black family? 

Starring: Anthony Anderson | Tracee Ellis Ross | Yara Shahidi | Marcus Scribner | Miles Brown | Marsai Martin | Laurence Fishburne

I'm excited for this show. Watch tonight and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shonda Rhimes and the Mainstream Media's Problem with Propelling Black People

Saturday, September 20th was the 30th anniversary of the US premiere of “The Cosby Show.” The tv guide was filled with Cosby Show marathons all weekend long and even after seeing every single episode of this show multiple times, I like to tune in when I can. On Saturday afternoon I happened to catch an episode that I’m guessing was probably season 4 or season 5, putting us in 1988 or 1989. The episode begins with Cliff in the kitchen and Rudy coming down stairs listening to music on her walkman while singing along. Word for word Rudy is repeating the lyrics – “I want you to do it to me all night long.” Immediately Cliff’s ears peak up in a diplomatic WTF manner. He calmly walks over to Rudy and removes the earphones from her ears and proceeds with a father/daughter Q&A session.

(the dialogue based on my memory)

Cliff to Rudy --  “what is it?”
Rudy to Cliff --  “you know what it is – kissing and holding hands.”
Cliff to Rudy -- “what else is it?”
Rudy to Cliff  -- “what else is it?”
Cliff to Rudy -- “IT is homework, lots of homework.”

Rudy walks off singing about doing homework all night long :)

Later in the episode we see another moment of conflict between parents and child, when Vanessa gives an unexpected performance....

Monday, September 22, 2014

WATCH: This 11-Year Old Future Leader Scolds Ferguson City Council

Too often as an adult I find myself in a state of pessimism concerning this country's future, particularly when I see the horrible state many of our children are found in and the values I see them growing up with. But every now and then that pessimism is challenged by an extraordinary individual  -- and if 11-year old Marquis Govan is a glimpse into the future, then I feel much better about it then I did before watching this video.

Check out the young leader as he scolds city council for the city's handling of the Ferguson drama, and let us know what you think in the comments. This little guy is going places.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Reviews: The Scythe, Saint Camber

The Scythe
by Balogun Ojetade
I am continuing my research into modern pulp, especially pulp that seeks to redress or rectify some of classic pulp's shortcomings around race and other hot button topics. So I read this book shortly after finishing the Black Pulp collection reviewed here. Anyway I enjoyed this book but not as much as the Black Pulp collection. The Scythe is a short novel, (novella?) that tells the story of the title character, a black doctor in 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma. Well if you know your history you know that the 1920s saw the Harlem Renaissance and ever so slight halting black progress. However it was also very close to the nadir of American racism. White supremacy was unquestioned in almost every facet of American life. Many whites were only vaguely aware that some black people didn't care for this state of affairs. You can read about the so-called race riots of Tulsa here. I say so-called because a) it was actually a pogrom and b) unlike our modern conception of race riots it was actually whites running amok, killing, shooting, looting, robbing and raping. The interesting thing about the Tulsa attack, if anything can be considered "interesting" when detailing such an atrocity is that it showed that the strain of "do for self" black political thought, that is "run your own businesses", "don't beg for government assistance" and "hire and work for your own people" which was shared and promulgated by people as politically diverse as Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Dr. Claude Anderson, Zora Neale Hurston and some modern black conservatives, had some very real limits and drawbacks. It's good to do for self and be self-sufficient whenever possible. But if racist whites decide that your success is a threat or intolerable insult and you must be literally beaten down into economic dependency or even eliminated, then what do you do? Unless you're ready, willing and able to meet fire with fire you will lose everything you hold dear. Economic success without political progress and the ability and willingness to defend yourself and your property is meaningless.

Why Fall Is My Favorite Season!

What does fall or autumn mean to you? Fall is my favorite season. I think this could be some ancient preference encoded in my DNA. Fall means that another year's harvest has been successfully gathered. It's time to reap in the bounty and get ready for winter. Fall means that I no longer have to mow the lawn every four or five days. That's great because I can save some time on the weekends or weekday evenings for more important things. The cooler weather means I can stop running the home air conditioning. I don't usually turn the heat on until sometime in mid November. So there is a two to three month period where my electric and heating bills are extremely low. Money saved always makes me happy. Fall means gray skies, rain and overcast days but it can also provide sunny days which lack summer's overwhelming heat and humidity. There's nothing worse than working in a building during the summer when the central air fails and you swiftly become aware of the unpleasant aromas arising from your fellow human beings. And they would likely say the same about you. Summer can be just sort of a stinky season all day every day, particularly if you have to work outside, work with people who don't believe in deodorant or your job requires constant movement. Fall stops that from happening. In fall you no longer have the irritating experience of running your home AC all day long only to see the inside temperature stubbornly remain around 74 degrees. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scottish Vote For Independence Fails

In a vote that was watched closely by independence movements in Europe and throughout the world, the people of Scotland decided to remain as part of the United Kingdom instead of breaking away to become an independent state. The final vote in favor of remaining British was a decisive 55-44. There were plenty of good economic arguments for staying together and obviously a strong nationalist interest in forging ahead separately. I think that not only did the economics not make sense but that also there wasn't quite the fierce level of simmering hostility or just "difference"  which is normally required to break apart a state. Unlike, say multi-ethnic states in Eastern Europe, Eastern Africa or the Middle East, the Union of Scotland and England dating back to 1707 has been pretty stable. I didn't think there was enough fire in the belly on the parts of the Scots to separate from England. I have a few friends who are Scottish residents as well as a few acquaintances descended from recent Scottish immigrants. It will be interesting over the next few days to see what they thought of this vote and of course how they voted, if eligible. Although every independence movement is different, with its own peculiar set of real or imagined historical grievances, ethnic, racial, religious or geographical identities and planned goals for the future, just about every separatist movement would have gotten a real boost if Scotland's independence had become something real in 2014 instead of remaining a memory. Nevertheless this is another example of the power of nationalism and memory in the modern world.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Unintended Consequences: New York Lesbian Mothers and Kansas Conservatives

By the time I was a teen my father no longer practiced corporal punishment on me. He thought it was no longer effective on me and disrespectful to both of us. However one of his favorite sayings when he thought I (or anyone else regardless of age or relationship) was about to do something ill-advised was to throw up his hands and declare "You can do whatever you want to do. You're (almost) grown." Left unsaid was the sentence "But don't come crying to me when it doesn't work out, dummy!" I've adopted that saying and use it often. I was reminded of this advice while reading two stories concerning recent events in New York and Kansas. In each instance, policy changes that were implemented have proven to have some consequences which were either not fully anticipated (New York) or were the exact opposite of what was promised (Kansas). This doesn't necessarily prove that the policy changes were stupid ideas, though my bias would make me argue that's definitely the case in the Kansas situation. But it does show that before people make legal or policy changes they do need to think things through a little more carefully. Fewer people would get hurt and bloggers wouldn't have fodder for quick posts before devoting their undivided attention to their day job. Both stories showed that good intentions don't necessarily lead to good results.  Both stories also illuminated that liberals and conservatives can be equally dogmatic and/or have blind spots when it comes to certain base principles.

Monday, September 15, 2014

To Spank or Not to Spank, That is the Question

As the NFL pivots from one controversy (Ray Rice's domestic abuse of his wife) to another (Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson's abuse of his son), it has brought yet another important issue to the fore: child rearing.  In particular, is it right to physically discipline your child?

I grew up in the age of "whoopins", not spankings.  A spanking would have been scoffed at by my siblings and I, but a whoopin' was an entirely different matter altogether.  My dad had "the belt", and when you were in trouble you had to go get "the belt."  Going to get the belt was probably worse from a psychological standpoint then actually getting the whoopin' itself because it was analogous to a convict walking down death row on his or her way to the execution.  Time seemed to slow during those moments which caused my siblings and I to wonder whether whatever act of misbehavior we had just recently committed was worth the price we were now paying.  And, for us, after we received that whoopin' we did not do it again.  All of my siblings have grown up to be successful people, college and law school graduates, and responsible parents of their own children.  Would we have turned out the same had we not been disciplined?

With some kids, however, a stern talking to will do the job.  With other kids, a mere look from mom or dad is enough to get them in line.  Other kids, not so much.  Each child is unique so there is no universal guide to effective discipline that will get all kids to behave and, unfortunately, children are not born with an inherent sense of self-discipline.  That has to be instilled by the parent.  So the question remains - is it ok to physically punish your child for bad behavior?  Or are those days behind us?

Sound off in the comments below.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Book Reviews: Mr. Mercedes, Dead Wrong

Mr. Mercedes
by Stephen King
I've been reading a lot of Stephen King's works lately. Someday I will get around to reading what some people say is King's masterpiece, The Dark Tower series, but I didn't have time for all that. So Mr. Mercedes it was. This book is about 400 pages. There are no supernatural elements so if you're unable to suspend disbelief to enter the world of vampires and curses, ghosts and multidimensional demons, then this might be safe reading for you. King called this book his first hardboiled detective tale. King provides some detailed descriptions and some very realistic characterizations, generally. He also stumbles in creating a black character. Here, the black character, despite being a teenager of very high intelligence, is a person who finds it amusingly ironic to speak to the white protagonist in 1930s Stepin Fetchit dialect. The teen claims to do this because he's upper middle class, likely going to an Ivy League school and worries that he's not really living the true "black experience". This is senseless. I grew up middle class. My brother is a Harvard grad. Last I checked there were about seven first or second degree family members on both sides who are attorneys or doctors. We rarely had doubts about who we were or what society was all about and if we did we certainly wouldn't have expressed them by speaking Amos-n-Andy dialect to a white man old enough to be our grandfather. NOBODY in either parent's family thought poverty or dysfunction was the real black experience. Also, my parents wouldn't have allowed me to hang around alone with any adult man, regardless of race. Alarm bells would have gone off. "So Shady, where do you think you're going? Oh Dad, I'm just going over to Mr. Hodges' house to hang out and do things I can't talk to you about". Right. Don't get me wrong. I know that good friends can racially or ethnically mock themselves and each other. I've seen/heard it. But my experience has been that such banter is done by long time intimate friends or lovers with enough history to know that no malice is meant. 

I just couldn't buy that a sixty something white retired cop and a black teenager would have had such trust and history. And certain black conservatives not withstanding I don't know any black people who would find it amusing to refer to their employer to his face and in front of other whites as "Massa So-and-So".

Friday, September 12, 2014

Do the Right Thing!

Do you think you are a moral person? You probably do. There are very few people who consciously think of themselves as evil, immoral or heartless. Even people who kill puppies for a living usually have what they see as good reasons for doing so. From time to time we all have to make decisions, some small and some large about what sort of people we are. Generally these are not difficult and life altering major decisions like telling your dying friend that his wife cheated on him and he has been raising another man's children or escaping a sinking ship and realizing that the lifeboat only has enough room for two other people when you have three kids. All the same morals are morals no matter how minor the decisions seem to be. The choices we make in situations both big and small define the sort of people that we are trying to become. There aren't necessarily right answers to many of these questions but there are probably some answers that may seem right to you. Some questions are purely hypothetical; others are drawn from real life experiences, albeit not necessarily mine. What's the right thing to do in the following ten situations?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Presidential Address on ISIS

Per NY Times:

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday authorized a major expansion of the military campaign against rampaging Sunni militants in the Middle East, including American airstrikes in Syria and the deployment of 475 more military advisers to Iraq. But he sought to dispel fears that the United States was embarking on a repeat of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a speech to the nation from the State Floor of the White House, Mr. Obama said the United States was recruiting a global coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militants, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He warned that “eradicating a cancer” like ISIS was a long-term challenge that would put some American troops at risk.
“We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” Mr. Obama declared in a 14-minute address. “That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq,” he added, using an alternative name for ISIS. “This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
The president drew a distinction between the military action he was ordering and the two wars begun by his predecessor, George W. Bush. He likened this campaign to the selective airstrikes that the United States has carried out for years against suspected terrorists in Yemen and Somalia, few of which have been made public.
After enduring harsh criticism for saying two weeks ago that he did not have a strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria, Mr. Obama outlined a plan that will bolster American training and arming of moderate Syrian rebels to fight the militants. Saudi Arabia has agreed to provide a base for the training of those forces.
Mr. Obama called on Congress to authorize the plan to train and equip the rebels — something the Central Intelligence Agency has been doing covertly and on a much smaller scale — but he asserted his authority as commander in chief to expand the overall campaign, which will bring the number of American troops in Iraq to 1,600.
“These American forces will not have a combat mission; we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq,” Mr. Obama pledged, adding that the mission “will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; it will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”
For all of Mr. Obama’s efforts to reassure the public, his remarks were a stark acknowledgment of the threat posed by the militants, whose lightning advance through Iraq and Syria and videotaped beheading of two American journalists have reignited fears of radical Islamic terrorism.