Monday, December 30, 2013

Movie Reviews-Don Jon, 47 Ronin

Don Jon
directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Don Jon is a nice heartwarming little comedy despite its unfortunate overreliance on broad stereotypes of East Coast Italian-Americans and its explicit subject matter. Although it's not really in the same universe as (500) Days of Summer, like that film it has something to say about how men and women see and use each other. There does appear to be another nod to that film when the protagonist's little sister can see things more clearly than the protagonist. The growth and change is once again done primarily by the male character.  I appreciated that this movie subtly called both men and women on the carpet for unrealistic and unhealthy expectations. Everyone has fantasies. They can be escapist but they can also shape what we desire in the real world. Some argue that these fantasies are completely socially constructed and unhealthy. I tend to disagree with that. But the cultural zeitgeist tends to be that male fantasies are nasty, degrading and disgusting and should be suppressed if not stamped out while female fantasies are wholesome, uplifiting and something that males should aspire to fulfill. Right. Well as anyone who's ever been intimate with anyone knows, the reality is usually very different than the fantasy. Often the reality is better in the long run though it's always more challenging. The film seems to be saying that there's nothing wrong with fantasies per se, but that you should never let fantasies prevent you from enjoying real life. 


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Phil Robertson, Justine Sacco and Free Speech

I didn't want to write about this until it had reached some level of closure and now that A&E has rescinded its non-suspension suspension of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson I'd like to discuss a few things.
We've talked about this before here and here and here. People should understand what free speech means. With a few exceptions the government, (state, federal, municipal) can't physically prevent you from expressing or sharing your opinion, fine you or put you behind bars for your thoughts, pass laws to make your opinion illegal, or require you to get permission from the government before expressing your opinion. There are increasing attempts by governments at all levels to undermine these protections. The First Amendment limits government actions. Private actors are far different entities. The blog lawyers could detail the case histories but corporations and individuals often have the right to hire and fire as they see fit and associate with whom they want. Their money, their company, their rules. If you don't like it well go find another outlet that more closely approximates your belief system. So when Phil Robertson said: 
"Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right" 
and 
"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person," Robertson is quoted in GQ. "Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.” 
It was no violation of his free speech rights for A&E to have suspended him from Duck Dynasty (which was just PR as the new season was already filmed) or for other groups to have criticized him.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Movie Reviews-American Hustle, Prisoners

American Hustle
directed by David O. Russell
Okay first things first. You should be prepared to see Amy Adams in a whole new light. Heh. There was a joke going around that she should win an award for least supported actress. In almost every scene Adams is braless in extremely low cut blouses, gowns or dresses. Perhaps this look will catch on. Snicker. You definitely notice her attributes, which, as she is playing a con woman, makes sense. The marks pay attention to her cleavage and not their cash. Decolletage aside this was a good film with some nice acting and writing. I'm not sure it was a great film because the film's ending third is somewhat telegraphed IF you were paying attention. It still had some interesting twists and turns, however. American Hustle is based on the ABSCAM scandal. The director uses that scandal as inspiration for his own story. American Hustle is set in the seventies but except for the music choices and tasteful use of hairstyles and vehicles this movie could pretty much take place today. Although American Hustle features four relatively young stars in Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper, it's an ensemble movie. Nobody dominates the screen. The rest of the cast all fit near seamlessly in their roles, including Robert DeNiro in a quick cameo.
I don't know if Russell was influenced by Scorsese. But the multiple voiceovers, flashbacks and captions certainly reminded me of Goodfellas. So I was inclined to like this movie from those techniques alone. It's like sitting into an comfortable old chair. You know what you're going to get. There are few completely bad guys here. Everyone is a shade of gray. The four primary characters all have positive and negative traits. This film confirmed what I already believed. I don't like the federal government's seeming ability to convert almost anything into a crime and then pick and choose which crimes it will prosecute. But that's my pet peeve. So what's this movie about?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Edward Snowden Christmas Message

If you didn't see this or hear about this already it's worthwhile in my opinion to view a quick message from the man whose actions continue to have extended repercussions both domestically and internationally. We're living in interesting times. I guess one man can make a difference after all. Say what you like about Snowden but he wasn't the one lying to you. Your government was. Wake up.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Movie Reviews-The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
directed by Peter Jackson
I finally decided to see this movie. I was initially apprehensive of the invented female character butt-kicking elf-warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and her involvement in battle. However while watching the previews, I saw an ad for 300: Rise of An Empire, which is a sequel to 300. This film stars Eva Green as a well, butt-kicking ship captain, Artemisia. What some may not realize though is that Artemisia actually was a real life Greek Queen, who did indeed command troops and fight in battle, most notably at the Battle of Salamis.

Queen Artemisia supported the Persians and was responsible for the death of many Greeks. The Greek war leaders hated her, viewing her not only as a traitor, which was bad enough, but as something almost unnatural. A woman fighting and leading men in battle was considered sinful. The Greeks had a special interest in capturing Artemisia alive. This wouldn't have ended well for her. I don't know how the film will depict this but history tells us Artemisia survived the Persian defeat at Salamis. Most Greek sources agree that despite her treason she was a skilled commander. She was the only female leader among the Persians. I mention this just to remind myself that life can be stranger than fiction. We (I) shouldn't automatically dismiss fantasy interpretations of female warriors, rare though they may be in real life. I'll have more on Tauriel in a minute.

Moving along.

Does Dialect Map Quiz Correctly Predict Your Home?

I like hearing the different accents and dialects which people use. I did a post on this before but enjoy revisiting the subject. A 25 question NYT interactive quiz claims to show you your primary accent based on how you pronounce certain words. It also shows other regions you might be from or where people have dialects similar to your own. Some of these make more sense than others. I was correctly pegged as being from Detroit. As I have repeatedly pointed out, only somewhat tongue in cheek, people from Michigan generally and people from Detroit specifically don't have accents. It's the rest of you folks who have accents. Or so I was told.  =) My other close places were Maryland, which is where both of my parents spent some time and is within shouting distance of the Carolinas, which is where my maternal roots lie, and of all places Yonkers(???!).

Maybe Yonkers came up because I do tend to strongly pronounce the "au" sound in words like "aunt". I never understood how anyone could pronounce the word for an older female relative exactly like the word for a ubiquitous hardworking insect.  The "u" is there for a reason. It seems that distinction is still found among some in southern Appalachia, parts of New England, and of course in my particular Detroit circles. I retook the test and again came up with Detroit as home but this time had similarities to Grand Rapids and Buffalo. Interesting. "Caught" and "cot" are also different words to my ear, but apparently that's not the case for everyone. Anyway have a go and let us know if this quiz correctly predicts where you are from. Or mebbe yew doan tawk a like yore kin no more.
Take this Test

Was the test accurate?

Where are you from?

Do you think you have an accent?

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Underground Railroad Wasn't a Real Railroad with Real Trains? (VIDEO)


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book Reviews-Wolfsangel, Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, Demon Shield

Wolfsangel
by M.D. Lachlan
Wolfsangel is a somber historical fantasy tale of the origins of the titular German rune and of the werewolf legend. It intertwines this with Viking action adventures and the ongoing battles among and between the Norse gods the Aesir. This was enjoyable but in a far different way than I had expected. Although there are a few scenes of extreme violence and horror, the book tends to avoid those to concentrate on mental agonies, worries and magic, much of which is wielded by women. So the action is actually relatively infrequent or at least I thought it was. M.D. Lachlan is the pen name for author Mark Barrowcliffe.

The Aesir are among my favorite gods to read about simply because they are almost all serious bada$$es. War and battle are their primary focus. This tends to be true even of those deities who represent more peaceful elements of human existence such as fertility, farming, love, travel, etc. The Norse eschatological myth, or Ragnarok, is similar to other Indo-European myths and indeed to some things that are described in Revelations. There will be horrible wars. Humanity's violence, lust and lawlessness will exponentially increase. Families will dissolve in violence and incest. People will murder and rape each other with glee. There will be seemingly endless winters which kill off large numbers of people. Eventually all the bonds restraining evil entities will dissolve. The forces of evil, giants, demons, etc will meet the Aesir and their chosen human heroes from Valhalla in the Final Battle. Unlike Revelations however the "good guys" are doomed to lose. Odin, AllFather, King of Gods and Men will be killed and eaten by the wolf Fenris, who is said to be so large that his lower jaw scrapes earth while his upper jaw reaches heaven. Other wolves will swallow and eat the Sun and Moon, putting out the world's lights. The fire demon Surtur will burn the world, indeed the entire universe, destroying everything. But the world will be reborn with new even more powerful gods. This fate can't be changed.

The father of Fenris, the evil trickster god Loki, was banished from Valhalla when he admitted his involvement in the murder of Odin's son Baldur. Loki was bound with his son's entrails at the center of the earth and placed beneath serpents dripping venom onto his face and eyes. There he will stay until Ragnarok. 


Friday, December 20, 2013

Why Olivia Pope Is Not Black



The 60’s and the 70’s were a pivotal time for the identity of the black descendants of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, (also known as African-Americans). It was quite possibly the strongest era in which African-Americans, particularly African-American women truly embodied what it meant to be an African-American. Although there was obviously a level of assimilation involved, and integration was in its beginning phases, black folks were “set apart.” There was a level of black pride reached which had overcome decades of Jim Crowism, and centuries of slavery and Willie Lynch tactics, which were designed to break the strong spirit of black people.


During this period blacks, particularly black women did not strive to fit into the white, European standard of beauty and status. The black family had arguably its highest rate of traditional, double parent homes, despite the oppression which still existed. Songs such as James Brown’s classic, “I’m Black and I’m Proud” became the cultural and political anthem to a race of people who had everything imaginable done to them in hopes that it would keep them in a perpetual state of servitude, yet this cultural and political movement said that it was okay to be who you were and that you did not have to assimilate into white America in order to co-exist and even integrate with white America. An identity had taken shape that embodied a centuries long struggle and an upward battle for economic, political, social and cultural equality.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Live Preliminary Exam for Theodore Wafer: Renisha McBride Killer

Watch live streaming video from freeplive at livestream.com

What's Your Excuse? Maria Kang Tells It Like It Is: Fat-Shaming or Truth Telling?

Smoking is bad for you. It causes and/or correlates with lung and throat cancer, hypertension, heart disease, yellowed teeth and fingernails, erectile dysfunction in men and several other nasty medical conditions in both genders. Smoking gives your hair, clothing and breath what I find to be an unpleasant odor. Being around smoke gives me a vicious headache. I don't allow smoking in my home. I avoid cigarette smoke as much as possible. Yes we all know of or have heard of someone who smoked three packs a day, had clean pink lungs and lived to be 107 or of someone else who never touched a cigarette and died at 31 hacking up his esophagus and lungs. But those are considered to be outliers. Most people, even many smokers, accept, grudgingly or otherwise, that smoking is bad for you. Although the anti-smoking crusade may have gone too far in some aspects, there aren't many groups, other than tobacco company fronts, who argue with a straight face that not only should you have the right to smoke but also that smoking is a positive good. If you smoke there are few support groups who claim that other people should stop trying to "smoke-shame" you. But oddly enough, many people see overeating as being different from smoking.

Despite consistent and increasing medical and scientific evidence that overeating, avoiding exercise and carrying excess weight is, generally speaking, bad for you, there are several people who won't accept that fact and don't want to hear other people raise it either. Sometimes their defensiveness slides into rage at a person's justifiable pride at being in shape. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Even The Holiday Season Can't Escape Conservative Extremism


Not even the holidays are safe from conservative extremism and racism. This week on Fox News we were reminded yet again why this network is on our 'most racist' list. Check out this video of The Daily Show, with John Stewart as he pokes fun at the Fox segment in question and as your watching think about two very important questions:

1. Why does Santa Claus have to be 'white only?'
2. Why can't Festivus (for the rest of us) and Christmas (nativity) live in harmony?



Affluenza: Worst. Argument. Ever.

I've been practicing law for quite a few years now and I've seen a whole host of cases ranging from civil litigation to criminal trials. I've been in federal court, state court, county court and even your local city night court.  Throughout all of that, I've observed that one general principle in the law tends to prevail in most cases: whoever has the most money wins.  Now, of course, there are exceptions to this rule and when we see the little guy win in court over the big money corporation it makes us all warm and fuzzy on the inside and, for a moment, we are reminded that every now and again justice prevails in this country.  But make no mistakes about it, for every one warm-and-fuzzy case out there, there are about 100 that you don't hear about where the party with the deepest pockets steam rolls the little guy into submission.  So I'm no stranger to the concept that money talks and "you-know-what" walks when it comes to legal representation. Wealthy individuals or corporations can afford to hire the top-notch legal representation of powerful law firms full of the most highly educated Ivy League law school graduates who will spend 24 hours a day combing over documents, interviewing witnesses, hiring experts, and finding the proverbial needle in the haystack to ensure that they win the case.  Meanwhile, if you don't have money then you take your chances with either the public defender in the criminal context or the small mom and pop law firm or solo practitioner in the civil context (or worse yet, you represent yourself!).   So trust me when I say that I fully understand how money has influence in our judicial system.  That said, the following case takes this rule to a whole new level:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Music Reviews-Phil Cohran, Bad Company

Phil Cohran
Kelan Phil Cohran has had a very productive musical life although I'm not sure that he's that widely known outside of the jazz/post-modern musical world. He's primarily a bandleader. His initial instrument was trumpet. He also plays cornet, psaltery, zither, French horn, frankiphone (an instrument he invented which is similar to a mbira), and various percussion instruments among others. Born in Mississippi he was a talented sideman for people as dissimilar as Jay McShann and Sun Ra. Cohran also was a founding member of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). The AACM became famous for its quality of musicians it attracted and for promoting what it called "Great Black Music", a melange of serious avant-garde jazz, blues, and almost every form of black diaspora music as well as classical and other forms of what would come to be referred to as "world music".  The AACM sought to challenge music industry exploitation as well as offer free music training to people in inner cities. The AACM gave classes in Hebrew, Arabic and Swahili as well as history. As was unfortunately the case during those times (and today?), the AACM attracted the thoughtful and negative attention of the Chicago Police Department and the FBI.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Genius that is Beyonce Knowles-Carter! Full Studio Album Released Today, No Promotion!

 

Full Discloser: I am a Beyonce hater from way back in the day. It's more like a love hate relationship between us now. I enjoy her music, but still have my issues with her every now and then. So what I am about to say should really hold some water coming from me.
 
F$&KING GENIUS!!!
 
Yes I said it! I'm going to have to bow down to the queen today! Beyonce has single handedly turned the long tested and true princples of the business of the music industry, upside down on its head. Long upheld has been the established practice of creating an album, then proceeding with EXTENSIVE promotion, leading up to an album release. Not today. Beyonce released a full studio album with 14 tracks and 17 videos. Available exclusively on iTunes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Does This Ever Happen to You?

I'll tell you right up front,  this post is a rant that has nothing to do with politics or the news. Enter at your own risk.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Michigan Republican Dave Agema makes new anti-gay remark

When you get together with your family do you ever encounter an older relative who theoretically deserves your respect but on the other hand loses any deference you might have given because of what they say or how they act? Maybe it's the crazy uncle in the corner who, upon seeing that you are temporarily not busy, wants to share his grand unified theory with you on how "THEY" are behind all the world's problems. Or maybe it's the loony cousin who only stops by at family gatherings to drop off her kids for some free babysitting while she goes out to party. Or perhaps it's the in-law who is just about to start up on his favorite anti (insert ethnic group here) rant and sees no reason to stop just because your date for the evening happens to belong to said ethnic group. Often times when people are our family we give them a bit more leeway to say or do things which we would automatically and fiercely oppose were other people to say or do them. That's human nature I guess. 

All the same sometimes even family can step over the line and need to be checked. I think that Michigan Republicans probably can relate to that necessity right about now. Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema, not content to limit his anti-gay remarks to Facebook, decided to go all in on how he really felt about gay people at a recent Republican meeting in West Michigan. He doesn't seem to understand that he's doing his pro-traditional marriage stance a serious disservice. Although I don't think that everyone who supports the one man, one woman form of marriage is a insane bigot Mr. Agema certainly seems to give credence to the idea promoted by the pro gay marriage side, that only bigots would want to limit marriage arbitrarily.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Live Stream: Mandela's Memorial Service




Join us for a special live screening of the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.


       

Monday, December 9, 2013

SNL Sharpton Skit

We had previous posts on how National Action Network head and Politics Nation MSNBC host Al Sharpton may not be the most compelling television host. His cadence, apparent discomfort, malapropisms, excessive volume, constant eye popping OUTRAGE, blind partisanship, slavish devotion to the White House talking point of the day, and never ending search for the teleprompter all make for exciting television in the same way that a 3 car wreck makes for exciting viewing on the daily commute. And generally speaking I like Al Sharpton. He's been willing to stand up and be counted which is more than you can say for most people. It's just to quote iconic film character Dirty Harry, "A man's gotta know his limitations." Al Sharpton appears to have completely disregarded that advice. Not only is he straying from his lane, he's not even driving on the street any more.

I just don't think that Mr. Sharpton is a smooth comfortable speaker in front of a camera, at least not when he is not protesting something. There are many skills I have and many that I do not. There's no shame in that. Public speaking is certainly not my kettle of fish. I have over the years tended to, consciously or not, shape my career so that I can minimize the opportunities for public speaking. It's not something I care to do or am much good at doing. As far as Sharpton goes, I think that the talents required to be an activist and protester are not necessarily those required to create must see TV. But heck if someone wants to pay me a busload of money to do something I'm not very good at and is okay with me not being very good at it would I turn them down? Would you?  We know Sharpton didn't. As it turns out we at The Urban Politico weren't the only folks to notice Mr. Sharpton's relative discomfort on his own tv show. As Fed Up brought to my attention, SNL, which I don't really watch any more, recently had a skit satirizing brother Sharpton, which touched on many of the points we had raised months prior. So either we should consider going to write for SNL or Sharpton's presentation shortcomings are so painfully obvious to everyone with a pulse that bringing attention to them is akin to saying that when it rains you get wet. Either way check out the skit below.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Movie Reviews-2 Guns, Price Check

2 Guns
directed by Baltasar Komarkur
I was expecting a little more from this film because of the leading actors but I didn't think too badly of it once it was done. I'm not sure if it was just a paint by the numbers kind of movie or if I just happened not to be in the mood for this flick. There is some snappy repartee between Washington and Wahlberg but for my money most of that was in the trailer. There is some toplessness from femme fatale Paula Patton (or her body double) and the requisite amount of bloodshed, doublecrosses and "will he or won't he figure it out" set pieces. So if you like action movies or buddy movies or movies where the good guys have to make last stands against seemingly omnipotent government agencies this could be the film for you. It's not by any means the best work of either Washington or Wahlberg. But it's not supposed to be. It's an action movie.

2 Guns messes around with time and flashback so that initially you're not sure what's going on or who exactly is the good guy. Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) is a gold-toothed thug and middleman supplier of all things criminal or legal who's looking to make a drug buy from Mexican drug lord Greco (Edward James Olmos). Trench's partner is optimistic, motormouthed and supposed ladies' man criminal Mike Stigman (Mark Wahlberg). When the drug deal falls through because the paranoid Greco doesn't quite trust Trench enough yet, Stigman suggests that for revenge they rob the bank where Greco deposits his money. Trench likes this plan. The duo carry out the deed, though not before thoughtfully disabling possible police pursuit and discussing the propriety of winking at waitresses.


The Lord's Prayer in Old English

Because of dynastic disputes, broken promises and outright greed, the Norman Duke William The Bastard (afterwards known as The Conqueror-it was a VERY BAD idea to refer to his illegitimate status or his relatively poor and non-noble mother as he tended to break things and hurt people) claimed the English throne and successfully invaded in 1066, putting an end to Anglo-Saxon hegemony at the Battle of Hastings. A new number of French and Latin words and phrases were introduced into the English language and it was slowly transformed to what we know today. Old English aka Anglo-Saxon fell out of favor.

What is less well known is that William's victory at Hastings was a close thing. His knights faced the ancient Anglo-Saxon infantry shield wall battle line which they found themselves quite unable to break. Victory only came when the Normans feigned a total retreat. Thinking that they had won, the Anglo-Saxons broke formation to chase after the fleeing Normans only to get the surprise of the millennium when the knights reversed course. The Normans rode down and slaughtered the dispersed and disordered infantry. The Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson had sussed out the trick and was apparently furiously trying to get his men re-organized when he was killed by an arrow to the eye. The rout began in earnest though true to their oaths Harold's house guard stayed to fight over his body and died to the last man.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Losing an Icon - Nelson Mandela Dies at Age 95

NELSON MANDELA
July 18, 1918 - December 5, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Landry Thompson Incident: Where are you going with that white girl?

I never had an official version of "the talk" which some black parents allegedly give to their children, especially their boys, somewhere around puberty about how white racist expectations can place them in danger and how they have to be careful. In part this was because (1) I think my parents believed such warnings to be self-defeating and self-limiting, (2) I grew up in an environment which was predominantly black, and (3) as both my parents and other relatives were active in social movements I picked up a lot by osmosis through the years, making a formal "talk" entirely unnecessary in any event. All the same I did get the idea, whether through comments by relatives or other people, that a black person needed to be especially aware of his surroundings and his companions. You have the right to travel anywhere in this country and with anyone whom you like. That doesn't necessarily mean that it is always a smart thing to do.  Because sometimes people can misinterpret such actions. And when such misinterpretations are based on race and people with the legal authority to detain, arrest or kill you get involved things can get dicey indeed.

We talked before about how a white parent or other adult with a black child can raise some concern among some people. I don't ever remember having any problems growing up traveling with white aunts, uncles or teachers but then again I didn't do that too often. Well just as a white adult with a black child in tow can make people question you the opposite is also true. A black adult travelling with a white child needs to be prepared for the occasional odd look, challenge or question. That's just the way it is. They probably aren't prepared to be arrested and accused of crimes but as no doubt some of my more cynical elders would say what did they expect.

Michigan: Detroit Bankruptcy, Pensions, and Abortion Insurance Coverage

There's a lot happening in Michigan. Recently a federal bankruptcy judge ruled that yes indeed Detroit was bankrupt.This shouldn't have surprised anyone. However the judge didn't stop there. Among other things he found that Detroit municipal pensions were not entitled to special protection despite what the Michigan constitution states. In the judge's view the pensions were contracts just like any other. The judge also implicitly agreed that the state and city did not negotiate in good faith but basically shrugged his shoulders and said that there was no alternative. If you're not familiar with the writer David Cay Johnston, well you ought to be. He has a knack for explaining what's going on in the worlds of finance and economics in an easily understandable manner. You should read this article.
The result will mean even worse poverty in the sputtering Motown, where a once robust industrial tax base has withered away, the starkest example of the economic devastation wrought by government policies that for decades have encouraged companies to move manufacturing offshore.
Financial mismanagement in Detroit under every mayor in the past six decades also contributed to the disaster, except for the honorable exception of Coleman Young in the mid-1970s. The result: Public worker pensions averaging $19,000 a year will be cut to the bone. That is sure to increase demands for federally funded food stamps, a program which Congress has just cut, and other welfare to make up for some of pensions workers earned but will not collect.
Norman Stein, a Drexel University law professor who is an expert on pensions, said that if the Detroit order stands it will become standard practice to slash benefits. “It would be a human catastrophe of the first order if pensions of vulnerable older workers can be cut whenever a local government goes to bankruptcy court,” Stein said. “We will be consigning firemen and policemen, who did nothing wrong other than protecting the city and depending on the city's promise, into old-age poverty.”


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Public Sector vs. Private Sector: Daily Show Examines Obamacare and Wal-Mart Websites



ObamaCare Website:


The Wal-Mart Website:


"So if a website crashes trying to give people healthcare, that's a national travesty. But if Wal-Mart's website crashes while their store is filled with people disemboweling each other to get SkyFall on blue ray..."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Rosa Parks Ended Racism?

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks made history when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. We all know this story and understand that Ms. Parks' refusal to give up her seat, was her way of taking a stand against segreagation. Yesterday, marked the 58th Anniversary of Ms. Parks' monumental and historial act. According to the "Grand Old Party" (or at least the person in charge of their Twitter account), Rosa Parks' stand ended racism.

Huh?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Reviews-Havana Nocturne, Locke and Key Vol 1-3

Havana Nocturne
by T.J. English
This is not just another mob story though the mob's dominance and loss of Cuba is the book's primary subject matter. Havana Nocturne tells the amazing story of how lowlife hoodlums attained virtual partnership with a foreign nation's corrupt leadership. It also summarizes how Cuban repression brought on the revolution. With an irony that was lost on the gangsters, the American political establishment and its gambling savvy organized crime counterparts made the wrong bet by presuming that revolution would not come. When revolution arrived the American mobsters were thoroughly unprepared for it. Attempts to buy off or assassinate Fidel Castro started almost immediately and continued for the next five decades. It truly galled some mobsters that having routinely dealt with corrupt and venal Cuban politicians for years they ran across a man that was initially anyway, filled with the fervor of the believer and thus immune to the normal blandishments of money and power. Havana's primary Mob leader during the pre-Revolution days was Meyer Lansky. Lanksy had a curious place in Mobdom. 

Because Lanksy was effectively the Mob's treasurer and one of the sharper gangsters around both intellectually and financially he maintained a first among equal status in the mob. His role as closest contact to Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and good friend to Lucky Luciano cemented this standing. In later days though, Lanksy wasn't able to call upon the large numbers of musclemen that the Italian Families could summon. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Recession? What Recession?

Black Friday in America has traditionally been pretty ridiculous over there years.  People have literally trampled over each other -- even killing one another -- to get the latest sale on [insert whatever here].  How has corporate America responded?  Have they put out public statements cautioning people not to trample over their neighbors as they race to grab that flat screen TV?  Have they attempted to, perhaps, add extra security or safety features in place?  Have they attempted to cancel or postpone the whole "Black Friday" phenomenon altogether out of a concern for public safety?   Nope.  Corporate America's response?  Why wait for Friday for all the madness to begin?  Let's start the clock on Thanksgiving night!

Per CNN Money:

Wal-Mart opened its stores at 6 p.m. this year, two hours earlier than last year and smack in the middle of most families' Thanksgiving dinners. So what does one of its top executives have to say?

CNNMoney spoke with Wal-Mart's CEO Bill Simon. 

Is shopping the kind of family tradition Wal-Mart wants to perpetuate?
Simon: Our job is to try to anticipate what the customer wants... Having families out, children in the building... gives it a different feel. And it's one that's in line with who we are at Wal-Mart. It feels a lot better in the evening than it did when it was early in the morning [on Black Friday]. 
Do you wrestle with the moral implications of [opening on Thanksgiving]?
Simon: We had planned not to move [the opening time] this year, but the market moved... I have a hard time imagining it could be 4:00. Let's hope that it doesn't move.
Are you willing to draw a line?
Simon: "We've seen about as early as it can go. It's hard to imagine that it can move much more."
Simon said he worked throughout most of the night, staying up by sipping coffee and downing a Monster energy drink. He noted that the company provided the 900,000 employees who worked on Thursday with a hot meal and extra pay -- plus a 25% corporate in-store discount for their own holiday shopping.
I'm not sure which is worse, the greedy masses of people racing out to the stores to save a few bucks on Christmas shopping, or the corporate executives like Bill Simon who encourage it.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from the Urban Politico!




Happy Thanksgiving from The Urban Politico.

GodSon
The Janitor
Shady Grady
Fed UP
The StoryTeller
Grand Central
Old Guru

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dance-Off at Pistons Game

Apropos of nothing it's good to be alive and sometimes the best way to express that joy is to have a dance-off. 11 year old Pistons fan Antwain Alexander and Palace usher Shannon Sailes certainly haven't forgotten that little piece of wisdom.

Antwain Alexander, an 11-year-old Pistons fan, had one goal when he attended last week's Detroit game against the New York Knicks.
"He had been trying to get that dance cam to be on him throughout the whole entire game," his father, Pastor Alexander, told ABC News.
The cameraman finally gave Antwain his moment and then, unaware that he was making history, cut from Antwain to Shannon Sailes, 46, an arena usher famous for dancing in the aisles during games. "He was, like, doing his moves and everything, and then they went back to me and I stood up and I said, 'Come on!'" Antwain told ABC News.

"It was time for me to step up," Sailes told ABC News. And step up, he did. The pair's dance-off has gone viral, and while no one has officially declared a winner, both competitors remained magnanimous towards their rival. 
Fox 2 News Headlines

Monday, November 25, 2013

Iran Sanctions Deal: Good for US or not?

First off just to state the obvious. No one can see the future. One can make informed guesses about it and presume that most states will act in what they perceive to be in their best interest but that's about it. So whether the new proposed deal concerning Iran's nuclear energy program is good in the long term or not I can't say. I believe that both Iran and the US worked out a win-win situation in which both sides talked tough for domestic constituencies but really didn't offer a whole lot that was new. To the extent that Iran "won", it maintained its right as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to continue uranium enrichment. This was a red line for the Iranians.They weren't going to formally give up rights to which they were entitled by international law. And for a lot of rather obvious reasons the US didn't want to talk too much about fidelity to international law. 
Some of the agreement highlights include

  • Iran will continue to enrich uranium, but at less than 5%.
  • Higher enriched uranium will be eliminated and/or converted to non-weapons grade uses.
  • The agreement is an interim one which lasts for six months.
  • The Iranian heavy water research facility at Arak will not be activated. This wasn't supposed to happen until 2016 anyway and was behind schedule.
  • Iran will receive sanctions relief of roughly $7 billion, about half or more of which is frozen Iranian assets.

HBO Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Finale-Farewell Daddy Blues

It's something of a conceit to talk about themes for an entire season of a show but for Season Four of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, trust seemed to come up over and over again. No one could trust anyone. And unlike Season Three when many of the series most prominent characters, especially those that are based on actual historical people, escaped consequence for some of their dastardly deeds, this season saw both the good and bad suffer. Misplaced trust cost some characters quite dearly, including but not limited to fan favorite and black gangster/businessman Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams), the stone cold war veteran killer with a heart of gold Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), Chicago syndicate Boss Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci) and incestuous murderous prostitute drug addict Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol).

It was a sign of the show's insights into human nature that in Season Four it managed to make Gillian Darmody a somewhat sympathetic character. This is after all someone who seduced her own son, manipulated him into a criminal war he could not win, murdered someone else in order to collect on her son's pensions and insurance, was needlessly cruel and humiliating to Richard, pimped young girls, and despite being wholly unfit and whacked out on smack was trying to maintain custody of her grandson, who she no doubt would have "initiated" into manhood once she thought him old enough. That is all part of who Gillian is. She is not a morally clean person. But in case we forgot the show reminded us subtly and directly that Gillian Darmody is a sum of her mostly bad past experiences. Years ago the show's lead protagonist Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), a then sheriff, acting on orders from a since deceased political patron and boss, picked the barely post pubescent Gillian out of a crowd and delivered her to that man who shortly after raped her, producing a son. This is not something which Nucky has ever seemed to feel any noticeable regret for having done. Perhaps distaste, but certainly not guilt. It's not discussed as much because Nucky is the protagonist but he's not a good guy in any real way. 


So in a very real way Gillian never had a family or protector. This explains why she held so tightly, too tightly on to her son Jimmy, who was of course later murdered by Nucky. It also explains, why having been too early introduced to the idea that men and authority figures could not be trusted and that her only value lay between her legs Gillian was extremely vulnerable to the idea that a man of power could be trusted and valued her for more than the obvious. She hid this well but ultimately it was her downfall. You could if you chose almost feel sorry for her. She fell in love with a businessman (Ron Livingston) who she thought would be her salvation. He helped her kick heroin and seemed to be in love with her for more than her sexual skills. However in a moment when she thought she was supporting him emotionally, she confessed to her murder of a young man. And that's when he revealed he was a Pinkerton detective. This was a pretty powerful scene.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Black Bernie Madoff - Ebony's "Top 30 Under 30" Fredrick Douglas Scott Arrested for Investment Scheme **UPDATE NOV 24 2013**

Fredrick D. Scott, arrested by the FBI for investment fraud
There's an old saying that goes something like this: "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."  Nowhere is this saying more applicable than in the financial investment market.

In February 2010, the St. Louis American reported on an attempted investment scheme between the then-25 year-old Fredrick Douglas Scott and the Mayor of East St. Louis, Illinois, Mr. Alvin Parks, Jr.  Mr. Scott, the self-appointed CEO of his own hedge fund (ACI Capital Group), told Mayor Parks that if the City of East St. Louis paid him $300,000 a year for three (3) years that he would help turn things around for the financially struggling City by bringing in $30 million dollars in outside capital.  As the Riverfront Times also reported back in 2010: 
Seems to be just a couple problems with that proposal:
  1. The city is flat broke and may not be able to pay any of its employees this month.
  2. Scott was already supposed to bring capital infusion to the city. That's why they gave him the exclusive negotiations rights to develop [city] property. 
To recap, Scott promised to provide the City with millions in the future if only they would pay him a couple hundred thousand bucks today.  This is also known in the more sophisticated hustler circles as the "Wimpy Doctrine" named after the character Wimpy from the cartoon Popeye who famously said "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."  We'll come back to this doctrine later.  For now, it should be noted that the City of East St. Louis is and has historically been a predominantly Black town with a predominantly Black city government.

A few months after Mr. Scott tried to swindle East St. Louis out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, Ebony Magazine, in its May 2010 issue, named him among their "Top 30 under 30".  An error that the good folks over at Ebony surely could have avoided had they done their due diligence into Mr. Scott's background.  According to Mr. Scott's own Linked-In page, the highest education he ever received was a high school degree and he has only briefly held down one real job (for less than a year, mind you) before naming himself as President/CEO of several of his own self-promoting companies.  Not exactly "Top 30 Under 30" material.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg, ladies and gentlemen.

According to the federal Criminal Complaint which you can read HERE, Fredrick Scott, who is Black, used the notoriety that he received from the Ebony article to defraud hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars out of Black investors:

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Movie Reviews-Man of Steel

Man of Steel
directed by Zack Snyder
This was a reboot. The movie became a little cold in its latter half and flirted with video game like, albeit impressive special effects during interminable knock down drag out battles. You can gleefully throw away any accurate understanding of chemistry, biology and physics, though the film did make a game stab at explaining Superman's godlike powers. Godlike is the key to understanding Superman's appeal as he is seemingly unbound by the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of momentum. The more you think about this the sillier it becomes so you should just go with the flow and not investigate the illogical or impossible.

The Superman story has several quite deliberate allusions to Moses, Jesus and even older chosen ones. Perhaps 2000 years from now humans will worship Superman as a god. What is it about humans that makes us seemingly want to tell the same Hero's Journey over and over again. A boy, perhaps a prince, is sent away or stolen from his family and grows up among strangers. He may or may not be aware of his singular nature and true destiny. Eventually he has to do battle with his own dark side or the people who killed his family or even save the world. This theme runs through stories as diverse as A Song of Ice and Fire (multiple examples), Jack Sawyer in Stephen King's and Peter Straub's The Talisman, Thomas Mallory's King Arthur, the Malian epic Sundiata, Susan Cooper's The Grey King and many more across times and cultures. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why ObamaCare Won't Work As Designed

The PPACA (ObamaCare) launch, has been an unmitigated disaster. The infamous Healthcare.gov website does not currently work anything close to specifications. Anyone who initially worked on its design, coding, management, testing or quality assurance should be embarrassed to list that on their resume. Some places will fire you because your boss didn't like your looks. In other organizations you literally have to fall asleep at your desk frequently before management reluctantly asks you to leave. Time will tell which model the President prefers but right now it looks closer to the second than the first. The President's claim that he was out of the loop on website issues stretches credulity. Now we find out that he was indeed briefed on problemsWhatever. I believe that eventually the website will work well enough for most to obtain insurance and/or subsidies. By eventually I mean I don't know when. An administration official recently admitted that 30-40% of the backend development that supports the malfunctioning website has also not been completed, including the sections which handle the accounting and delivery of payments and subsidies. The government and contractors haven't coded or tested that functionality yet. The hits just keep coming. I already knew that there are some incompetent people in government and IT consulting firms. What I only suspected before but has increasingly become obvious is that ObamaCare will not work as designed. Let me tell you why.


Friday, November 22nd, 1963

 
 
Friday, November 22nd, 1963 - 11:40AM (Central Standard Time)

President and Mrs. Kennedy land aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas, Texas at 11:40am Local Time. Preparing to seek reelection in 1964, the President headed to Texas to attempt to heal old wounds and bring stability to the state's Democratic Party. President Kennedy was meticulous in his approach and left no stone unturned. He understood his strong points and ultimate asset in the game -- his beloved wife, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy. America had fallen in love with her, so the President ensured to put her on display in Texas. Mrs. Kennedy had been out of the public eye since the death of their son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, in early August 1963. This was the President's moment to use Jackie to his advantage and make her shine. Departing Air Fore One at Love Field, the President ensured to take advantage of the eager press and media on site, letting Jackie depart Air Force One first, in that beautiful iconic pink Chanel suit. The cameras ate it up. Then came the President, looking dapper, confident, healthy, tanned and very iconic in his own way. The crowd at Love Field gave the President and Mrs. Kennedy such a warm and cheerful welcome, President Kennedy became consumed and in the first of a series of unplanned missteps, diverts from plan and decides to greet the well wishers on the field.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Harry Reid Invokes Nuclear Option: No Filibuster for you!!!

As Vito Corleone realized, sometimes you have to deal with people who simply aren't reasonable. When such people persist in their foolishness, even after you have swallowed insult after insult, turned every cheek you have, and steadfastly tried to point out to them the error of their ways by using unimpeachable logic, further discussion is useless. You just have to call in Clemenza and Luca and let them do what they do. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally came to a similar realization today when he oversaw a Senate alteration of the filibuster rules, due to what was widely seen as irrational Republican intransigence concerning Presidential nominations for judges or even high ranking executive positions. There is of course the chance that Republicans will return the favor if they ever regain the majority in the Senate but the Democrats could not continue to accept such behavior.

I'm not a huge Obama or Democratic Party fan (look out for upcoming post on that) but there are times and situations in which you have to, figuratively speaking, hit your opponent right in his mouth. And this was one of those times in my view. The Republicans suffer under the delusion that they can stop the President's entire agenda and/or prevent him from making his preferred appointments. As Tywin Lannister might have mused, it was time to show the Republicans a sharp lesson. Although there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, the Republicans have a simple way to stop nominations they don't like. Win the Senate back and win the Presidency in 2016. Until then they need to learn that like him or not, President Obama remains the President and will make nominations as he sees fit. Republicans are quite free to vote against his nominations and tell everyone what bad choices they are. But since they lack the votes, they can't stop the nominations. It was also hard to avoid noticing that many of the stalled Presidential nominations were of racial minorities and white women-people who have been previously prevented from reaching judicial and executive positions of serious authority. This change ultimately might be a good thing for the Republicans as it will FORCE them to recognize that they are a minority party in the Senate and have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. If they can address those issues they can retake the Senate. Until then though, they will have to dance to the tune that Senator Reid calls.  


Free Speech, Free Association, Photography and Gay Rights

Black people had to battle for more than one hundred years after the end of slavery for among other things, to have the right to sit down in a restaurant owned by whites and order a meal. This segregation was most zealously enforced in the South but was not uncommon in the North as well. Via a series of court decisions, new laws, and public activism, legalized business segregation was defeated though not before its supporters put up massive, oft violent, racist resistance. Now any black person can legally go spend his or her hard earned money with people who despise them but are eager to take their green. This last has never made sense to me. Why would you want to give money to people who don't like you? What are you proving by attempting to purchase goods or services from someone who has made it crystal clear that they don't want your business? The black struggle for civil rights provided the template in part for several other more expansive visions of rights for various other groups. It's important to limit the ability of the state or even of private actors to discriminate. We can't have a fair and open society without such limitations. 

However, there are other rights that are just as important. Or are they? You have a right not to be discriminated against in purchasing a home. But there is no law that prevents your new neighbors from seeing you move in and putting their home up for sale the very next day. You have a right to date or marry whoever you want. But that doesn't mean that a person who doesn't like your kind can be forced to date or marry you. You have a right to seek employment as an actor/actress. But if a film producer is making a historical drama about Dessalines and you happen to look like Brad Pitt, that doesn't mean the producer is wrong for rejecting you. Of course Hollywood probably would make a movie with Pitt playing Dessalines but I think you get my point.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Man Gives Ex-Wife The Finger...Literally

Wow what a busy week. I hope to have something more substantive posted tomorrow or before week's end but for now this will need to suffice. We talked before about revenge porn being outlawed in California and how often more mature people eschew revenge. Revenge can often backfire on you and/or reveal your ugly petty private insecurities for the whole world to see. That's usually not a good thing. Of course when most of us are hurt we want to hurt back. That's just part (an ugly part?) of human nature. And by taking revenge or as some would call it, seeking justice or providing retribution, we aren't just seeking to hurt those who we believe harmed us, but provide a future warning to other people that should they mistreat us, we intend to do the same exact thing to them. Under this way of thinking revenge, petty though it may be, can have a significant deterrent effect on would be bad actors and thereby make the world a better, safer, nicer place for everyone. If you know you won't get away with your crap on someone then maybe you won't try your crap on someone else. Don't start nothing, won't be nothing. We have outlawed pistols at dawn. And it's also no longer legal to buy yourself a shotgun as long as you are tall and blow that no good so-n-so dead against the wall. So what's a man who's mad and who wants revenge and whose patience is at an end supposed to do?

Well recently a local pimp strip club owner and businessman named Alan Markovitz, who buys, sells and owns various gentleman's clubs in and around Detroit and Philadelphia, and is going to have his own reality TV show, decided that the opportunity to take revenge on his ex-wife and her new lover was just too good to pass up. No he didn't beat her, post numerous pictures across the internet of her in her birthday suit, boast publicly of her intimacy skills or punch her new man in his face. Nope. That's for people who don't have money. Markovitz has money. Markovitz was so angry that his ex-wife Lea Tuohy cheated on him with someone that he knew that he bought a suburban lakefront house next door to the new couple and erected a $7000 statue of a middle finger pointing directly at the couple. Helpfully, the finger lights up at night. How sweet.

Is George Zimmerman the New OJ?


Per CNN:

A Florida judge on Tuesday set bail for George Zimmerman at $9,000 and ordered a number of conditions for his freedom -- including that he not possess weapons -- while he awaits trial on charges he pointed a shotgun at his girlfriend.
He was released from the John E. Polk Correctional Facility on Tuesday afternoon. He didn't speak with the media. It was unclear where he was headed.
Zimmerman was arrested Monday at his girlfriend's Apopka home, four months after he was acquitted of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin.
Earlier, Zimmerman said little as a judge, during Zimmerman's first appearance Tuesday afternoon in Seminole County court, said he found probable cause for Zimmerman's arrest on a felony charge of aggravated assault and misdemeanor counts of domestic violence battery and criminal mischief. Zimmerman's arraignment has been scheduled for January 7.
A prosecutor revealed a new allegation against Zimmerman while trying to argue for a higher bail -- that Zimmerman tried to choke his girlfriend a week and a half before Monday's alleged shotgun incident, and that Zimmerman had talked about suicide.
Assistant State Attorney Lymary Munoz argued for $50,000 bail, saying that new information should heighten concern for the accuser's safety, though the alleged incident hadn't been reported to police.
The new allegation is not reflected in the preliminary charges. But Judge Fred Schott cited the choking accusation when he put the bail at $9,000, saying it prompted him to set it higher than the $4,900 requested by the defense.
Jeff Dowdy and Daniel Megaro, the public defenders representing Zimmerman, told reporters afterward that they hadn't known of the choking allegation previously.
"That was news to us," Dowdy said. "... That was not contained in the arrest report, and that's the first we've heard about it."
Schott put conditions on Zimmerman's bail: That he cannot go to two Florida addresses; he cannot have contact with the accuser, Samantha Scheibe; he cannot possess weapons; he must wear a monitoring device; and he cannot travel outside Florida.

I mean, seriously, what is up with this guy?