Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wisconsin,Ohio and the Ongoing Battle Against State Workers

For months we've blogged about the highly contentious debate in Wisconsin over the collective bargaining rights of state employees.  Both Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, and Ohio's Republican governor, John Kasich, have signed measures into law that will prevent teachers, police officers, fire fighters and other state employees from being able to come together in a union and bargain for better working conditions, benefits, etc.  Just yesterday, Wisconsin's law officially went into effect.  From the AP:

After months of heated debate, ear-splitting protests and legal maneuvering, Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining law is finally set to take effect.Secretary of State Doug La Follette published the law in the Wisconsin State Journal newspaper on Tuesday. The measure goes into effect today, capping a tumultuous four months in Madison that saw state senators flee the state and massive protests at the State Capitol...The law requires almost all public employees on all levels of government — from teachers to librarians to State Capitol janitors — to contribute more to their health care and pensions. The changes amount to an average 8 percent pay cut. The bill also strips them of almost all their collective bargaining rights, allowing them to negotiate only on wages...Meanwhile, a coalition of unions, including the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's largest teachers union, have filed a federal lawsuit in Madison alleging the law violates the U.S. Constitution by taking away union rights to bargain, organize and associate.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

President Obama Press Conference: Opening Statement

It’s a sad day in the United States when we have a Congress that refuses to do its job and the President has to take to a podium to remind them how to do it. The President seemed slightly forceful in his delivery and sure that a deal would be reached regarding the raising of the debt ceiling.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Supreme Court Approves Violent Video Games, Scalia PWNS Fellow Conservatives

Congratulations to all of you kids out there on your recent legal victory, even though you're probably too busy playing Call of Duty right now to know what the heck I'm talking about.  In case you were wondering, your days of playing shoot 'em up video games have been secured for many years to come by the nation's highest Court in a 5-4 decision, Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Assoc., which held that the First Amendment does not allow the States to ban the sale of violent video games to minors. The Supreme Court, in a majority opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan (a rare combination indeed), ruled that video games (even violent ones) qualify as First Amendment "Free Speech" just like books, movies, plays, cartoons and comic books.  Pursuant to this holding, the Court struck down a California law that sought to make it illegal to sell what it defined as "violent video games" to anybody under the age of 18, irrespective of whether the kid had his or her parents' permission or not.  What was also particularly interesting about this case is that conservative Justice Scalia, in rare form, went IN on his fellow conservative Justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who departed from his opinion on this issue.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Secure Communities and States' Rights

Many people who are pro-comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) usually get very upset when some states create laws which seek to identify illegal immigrants and turn them over for processing and presumed deportation by the Federal government.

The normal complaint by CIR partisans is that the states have no right legislating on immigration issues, that such things are the sole purview of the federal government and that to let states attempt to even address the state specific portions of this national problem, (increased costs for schools and hospitals, business licensing revocation, etc) is tantamount to accepting a "states' rights" constitutional interpretation with the negative baggage that such a charge implies. Federal Supremacy is the mantra of this group They tell us that only the Federal government has the authority to act. The states have NO BUSINESS attempting to preempt the Federal government, enforce federal law on immigration or resist Federal rules on immigration. What the Feds say or do goes. They are the Big Dogs on this issue.

The War Against Planned Parenthood - *UPDATE*

After the midterm elections of 2010, the Republican Party took control of the United States House of Representatives and ten Governorships. They promised voters job creation, fiscal responsibility and an economic policy that would bring the recession to an end. Behind closed doors, the Republican Party hatched a unified plan to severely impair the reproductive rights of women across the country and limit the healthcare options of low and moderate income people.

Kyl later stated that his statement was not meant to be factual. John Kyl's statement outlined a bigger issue - he didn't know that abortions only make up about 3% of the health services, that Planned Parenthood provides. He clearly has no clue what Planned Parenthood does for people! He only knows his rehearsed GOP talking points and the lies fed to him by his conservative colleagues. Senator Kyl is clearly uninformed and admittedly gives false information.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Still Missing Mike

* I'd like to preface this post with a fun fact: I'm one of the biggest Janet Jackson fans that you may ever meet. But there could be no Jan if there was no Mike.

Two years ago the music loving world got drop-kicked in the gut on this day when it was reported by every news outlet on the globe that Michael Joseph Jackson was dead. Seriously. It can't be. But it was.

Two years ago June 25th was just a normal day to me. I woke up at the crack of morning to go to work at my station in Amarillo, Texas. To make the day go by faster I tweeted constantly with other Janet and Michael fans. The topic of the day was Mike's upcoming tour in London. This is It. For the last few weeks in June of 2009, many of the fans were trying to get Mike to become a trending topic. Later that day he did.

Book Reviews-Necroscope, Hannibal, Twelve and more

by Brian Lumley
The British author Brian Lumley may well be one of the best horror/sci-fi authors you've never heard of. In today's world literary and screen vampires are largely tortured Romantic heartthrobs who brood endlessly about their existence to sappy teen girls or they're omnisexual degenerates who flash fangs at Goths of indeterminate gender. However there is another concept of vampire: that of a soulless, evil monster, something that kills humans to live in a sort of "undeath". This sort of creature isn't to be found dancing the tango in Buenos Aires and has little interest in finding his missing love from centuries before. Instead it only appears human, a disguise which it sheds upon feeding or great anger. This is the sort of vampire that inhabits Lumley's world.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Marriage Equality: Victory in New York

New York State is now the 6th State to allow same-sex couples the right to legally marry. The State Assembly passed the legislation by a vote of 82-47, then passed the bill on to the New York State Senate. By a vote of 33-29 the Republican controlled Senate passed the final bill, erupting the chamber in applause and cheers. New York is the largest state to date, to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Are Americans in Danger of "Falling Down?"

In the movie “Falling Down” William “D-FENS” Foster, played by Michael Douglass, was an  unemployed divorcee who becomes frustrated with the woes of society and, as a result, goes on a rampage of violent terror in his California town in an effort to right some of these wrongs. He does this in a way that only a psychotic vigilante can. This all day terror spree ends with multiple individuals dead or wounded and of course his own life being taken. In the end, it doesn't pay to lash out against the LAPD, bad day or not. James Richard Verone was a lot smarter and much more polite in his approach, but has displayed the kind of actions that in this ridiculously uncertain time can quickly evolve into more cases like that of “D-FENS!”

Earlier this month Verone, a 59-year old convenient store clerk, walked into a North Carolina bank and handed the cashier a note demanding $1 and medical attention. Afterward, he sat and waited for police to show up.                                                              

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

President Obama's Address to the Nation: Moving Forward in Afghanistan

President Obama addressed the nation this evening from the East Room of the White House. He outlined his vision for Afghanistan and the withdrawal of surge troops.

Irresponsible Statements From Rappers?

Two weeks ago in a CBS News - What's Trending interview, Lupe Fiasco caused quite a fiasco when he referred to US President Barack Obama as a "terrorist."
"My fight against terrorism, to me, the biggest terrorist is Obama in the United States of America."
Lupe Fiasco decided to visit Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" to defend his statement and views with host Bill O'Reilly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wal-Mart v. Dukes: Supreme Court Raises the Bar on Employment Discrimination Cases

There's a civil procedure in the law that you have probably heard before on TV called a "Class Action."  To the lawyers who practice in federal courts, it's known as Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  The entire purpose of Rule 23 is efficiency.  A long time ago, the Judiciary and Congress figured out that if 100 people had a complaint about the same issue with the same defendant, then it just made sense to allow all 100 people to join in on the same law suit instead of having 100 separate law suits before 100 different judges wasting tax payer dollars in 100 different cases that could have been combined into 1 single case.  Having 100 different cases about the same thing would obviously be inefficient.  Combining all of those cases into just 1 case is, of course, a more efficient use of the court's time and of tax payer dollars.

That's the basic principle behind Rule 23.

And because the recognized goal is efficiency, the criteria that plaintiffs must meet in order to qualify as a Class Action case under Rule 23 is a pretty low bar.  In a nutshell, the plaintiffs merely need to have a lot in common in terms of (i) what they are suing about and (ii) who they are suing.  If those things match, then congratulations - you can bring a Class Action law suit under Rule 23.  At least that's how it used to be until the Supreme Court decided to literally change the rules in yesterday's case Wal-Mart v. Dukes.  In this case, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, decided to raise the bar in Class Action cases, making it more difficult for people who are trying to bring employment discrimination cases against their employer.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jon Stewart vs. Fox News (VIDEO) *UPDATE*

Jon Stewart battles with Fox News' Chris Wallace about Fox's claims of liberal bias in the main stream media and that it is unfairly labeled a right-wing bias. Stewart makes the case that the media is primarily overcome by sensationalism and laziness rather than liberal bias, and that Fox's viewers are consistently the most factually misinformed viewers out of all the other major news networks.

It's All About States' Rights

"Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction."
- Republican front runner Mitt Romney, GOP New Hampshire Debate, June 13, 2011

If the recent Republican debate in New Hampshire was any indicator, we suspect that you're going to hear the phrase "States' Rights" quite often between now and next year's election.  During the debate, all 7 of the candidates on stage echoed similar statements like the one from Romney quoted above.  And this probably comes at no surprise since conservative candidates have been advocating for "States' Rights" for quite some time. There is a common belief among conservatives/Republicans that Federal government is inherently bad, but that State government is somehow inherently good.  But why is that?  Where did this notion come from?  Is it a valid argument?  What does this "States' Rights" phrase really mean and how has it affected our day to day lives over the years?  We take a more in depth look at these questions after the jump:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Juneteenth from UP

Many of you may know that tomorrow June 19th is Juneteenth and as a gesture of celebration we have decided to share with you some of the history of this great day, courtesy of where I would encourage everyone to register for free.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln's authority over the rebellious states was in question   For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

Movie Reviews-Benny Hill, True Grit, The Mechanic

Benny Hill-The Complete Megaset 1969-1989

I've spent the last few days watching Benny Hill:The Complete Megaset 1969-1989.

Sometimes things you get a glimpse of as kids don't really hold your attention as adults. Thankfully this was not the case with The Benny Hill Show. Although his show did include a lot of stockings, garters, sexual innuendo and cleavage it was also much more than that. There was quite a lot of wordplay, puns, satire, parody and so on. Some of this was obviously particular to a certain time and place in the U.K. but much of it was not. Hill also had a huge debt to silent film/slapstick and to Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. There was more drag than I remembered. There was also some racial and ethnic humor. YMMV on this of course. The only saving grace is that he seemed to include just about every group in this and it wasn't often too mean-spirited. Still, times and standards have changed. That's a good thing.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh I Wish I Was an Oscar-Meyer Weiner **UPDATED AGAIN**

OK so you've probably heard by now about this growing controversy over New York Congressman Anthony Weiner and the infamous twitter picture of somebody's junk which was sent to some lady in Seattle.  I didn't think this was much of a story upon first hearing about it but the media seems intent on keeping it going so now I suppose we have to give it a second look.

The quick facts as we know them:

1. Weiner has been shucking and jiving on the question of whether the junk in the photo is, in fact, his junk.
2. Weiner has claimed he was hacked, which would be a crime, yet he has not called for an investigation.
3. Twitter accounts are apparently easy to hack within a few minutes (which doesn't make me feel very motivated to tweet)
4. Weiner does not know the woman in Seattle and the woman in Seattle has confirmed that she does not know Anthony Weiner.

So did he do it or not?  See Rep. Weiner's response in the video after the jump:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Should the Game of Politics Trump Honesty?

Without a shadow of a doubt, our nation is facing very difficult times. We have a high unemployment rate and many are beginning to lose hope. All of us here at The Urban Politico are extremely grateful for the various careers we’ve each been blessed with. I can also tell you that many of us at times, feel frustrated with our jobs or disappointed with certain aspects of our life. Some mornings we wake up and we may not feel like going to work. Some mornings we get to work and the day can turn into total chaos and for a couple of minutes, we hate our job. This is normal and the feelings are honest of an individual and a part of life. Imagine you were in a position where you have these very feelings, except those aspects of life are much broader and have greater significance and impact. What if you were never allowed to take a sick day, because if you did, your boss would broadcast your choice along with false reasons for that choice, over company email? What if you had all these great ideas to make your company a better place or stronger competitor, but you had a majority of your co-workers blocking your ideas, never letting them see the day of light?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Can We All Agree That This Video Is Racist?

Regardless of your political or social views I think you'd have to agree that this at least is racist.

Looking into the id of some Republicans is not really a pretty sight.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Modeling Is for White Girls

Models Wanted:
Looking For: Tall Women, lithe, not too muscular, not too bulky
Natural looking
Ambiguous Ethnicity a Plus
NOT Dark, NOT Black
If you fit the criteria we want to meet you in Paris, Milan, London, and all the other Fashion Capitals of the World.
--The Management

If you saw the above ad posted on a bulletin board, or run in the newspaper it's safe to say most of us Black women would be offended. We'd be ready to write somebody a letter, call Al Sharpton and see when we could stage the next protest, until this injustice was undone. But because the discrimination in the modeling world is not as blatant as the above ad we don't say anything at all. We ooh and ahh over the fashions on bodies that don't look like us from designers that may or may not want anything to do with us.

According to Carole White, former agent for supermodel Naomi Campbell, Paris and Milan don't want black girls on their runway. I find this funny as in 2008 it was Vogue Italia -- which is run out of Milan -- had their all Black issue where every model from the cover and in between every page was of African descent if not African. I remember the Today show doing an entire segment on the "historic publication" and the initiation of the conversation of why it's taken so long for Black beauty to be seen and celebrated in a major fashion publication. (Vogue Italia has since reprised the all Black issue for their May 2011 edition)

But just as quickly as the conversation started it stalled.

New Hampshire GOP Presidential Debate Highlights

Last night, the 7 Republican Presidential candidates took to the stage in the primary state of New Hampshire to debate the issues facing the country.  Although Fox News attempted to host a GOP debate a few weeks ago that went largely unnoticed, last night's debate on CNN effectively served as the Republican candidates' introduction to America.  As with any debate, there were certainly some clear winners and some clear losers.  Our break down of who's who after the jump.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why Newark Doesn't Deserve Cory Booker

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, caught many off guard when he recently formed his political action committee, CoryPAC. This formation leads many to believe that Booker, intends to seek a higher office. There were speculations he might consider a US Senate run for New Jersey and as of Thursday, he has ruled this out.

Booker is a natural-born leader, who on a national stage has shown the country what an elected official is supposed to do - put the constituents first, at all times. He constantly engages with the citizens of Newark; hosting a monthly radio show, open hours at City Hall and utilizing social media to hear about issues, concerns and complaints from residents. I personally follow the Mayor's Twitter feed and he spends most of his free time from City Hall, attending events around the city and promoting local businesses. When outside of Newark, Mayor Booker uses his time to let people know about the city's transformation and his vision for its future.

Drawing Lessons from the Auto Bailout

These days, a political story in the news has about a 3 to 4 day shelf-life before we're on to the next hot topic.  What's more is that during that short life span, the political spin on the facts often becomes more popular - and more memorable - than the facts themselves.  We repeat this cycle so often that we hardly ever take a moment to pause and look back on a story to see whatever became of all those partisan predictions on the Left and Right.  Who had it right?  Who had it wrong?  Who was full of hyperbole? And who was actually close to the mark?  One such story was the Auto Bailout story from 2008.   Ahhhh, yes....the Auto Bailout.  How could we forget about the good old "Big 3" (GM, Ford, Chrysler) Auto Bailout, right?  Whatever happened with those guys anyway?  Well, fortunately for us, the facts in this story have been very well documented in the public domain from 2008 all the way through to last week's op-ed piece by Treasury Secretary Geithner.  So let's see if we can separate the fact from fiction.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Book Reviews-A Song of Ice and Fire, The Butcher, The Tomb

A Song of Ice and Fire
by George R.R. Martin
A Song of Ice and Fire is the fantastic fiction series written by the author George R.R. Martin (GRRM), in which the first book is A Game of Thrones. He intends to write seven books in the series. The books in order after A Game of Thrones are A Clash Of Kings, A Storm Of Swords, A Feast For Crows and to be released in about a month, A Dance With Dragons. I've read all of the released books.
It is virtually impossible to tell you what happens in the series without giving spoilers from the first book other than to note that in a world similar to our own circa 1300 a civil war breaks out over the correct royal succession on a continent suspiciously similar to Europe, named Westeros. While the various factions wage war and do their best to eliminate each other, chessmasters manipulate them from the shadows and a supernatural threat grows offstage. What makes this different than any number of other mindlessly bad historical fiction or fantasy series you ask?
It's because GRRM is one of the best living authors in the genre. He deconstructs the genre, turns it inside out and makes it his and his alone. And like any true master, his characters transcend the genre. His characters have depth. GRRM writes real people-with all of their warts, fears, hatreds and jealousies. He's on a par with Stephen King as far as this goes. Some characters are shown not to be either as evil or as good as earlier books might have you believe. And some characters do indeed always try to do the right thing no matter what it costs. Most of his major characters have incredible depth-whether it's a 16 yr old boy trying to figure out how to lead his people after his father's murder or a strong yet shockingly ugly and touchingly naive warrior woman struggling against the prejudices of her time or a violent brutal retainer who tries to kill his conscience with alcohol.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Bigger They Are the Harder They Fall: Newt Team Quits

And in an interesting turn of events, Newt "Obama is a Kenyan born radical Muslim who wants to steal our White Women" Gingrich, a once percieved front runner among GOP candidates in 2012, apparently is about to sit this one out.  Per the Daily Beast:

Newt Gingrich’s troubled campaign for the Republican presidential nomination finally imploded Thursday when the core of his political team, vexed by the candidate’s own erratic performance, quit en masse. The decisive moment came in a meeting at Gingrich’s Washington, D.C. office between the candidate and his top two operatives, campaign manager Rob Johnson and strategist Sam Dawson, who had hoped to convince Gingrich that his approach as a candidate—which one insider described as “appalling”—needed a drastic transformation. When Gingrich did not agree, Johnson and Dawson said they were done.
That began a cascade of defections, including Gingrich’s longtime and trusted aide, Rick Tyler, that effectively ended the former speaker’s run for the presidency, which began less than a month ago. By the end of the day, campaign staffers in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa, and Georgia, also had jumped ship, along with Sonny Perdue, Gingrich’s national co-chairman, who said he now supports the candidacy of Tim Pawlenty...
The final straw for some in the campaign was Gingrich’s decision to suddenly absent himself from the fray earlier this month to take a luxury Greek cruise with his wife, Callista—an odyssey one Gingrich insider called, “the Greek tragedy.” Some on Gingrich’s campaign staff had strongly urged the candidate not to abandon the field for an opulent vacation.
Gingrich’s insistence on taking the cruise reflected the deep disconnect between his staff’s idea of what was required to win the nomination, and Gingrich’s own. Gingrich sometimes “seemed almost annoyed at the process,” one top staffer said.
Some of the blame for that disconnect has been laid at the feet of Callista Gingrich, who didn’t appreciate the demands that a presidential campaign places upon the candidate and his family. “It’s how much time that his wife thinks that he should spend on this,” the staffer said. “It’s not a hobby. This is a full-time, 80-hour-a-week job.”

Can't say that we're sad to see him go.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Homeless Woman Faces 20 Yrs in Jail for Sending Her Son to School

Some things just don't even sound right when you say them out loud.  This case is certainly one of them.  It has been making a little buzz on the local level over here in the tri-state area (NJ-NY-CT for our non-east coast readers) so I figured we could do our part in helping it make a little more.  The woman standing at the microphone in the pic is Tanya McDowell.  She is homeless.  Not only does she have the burden of being homeless, but she also has the added burden of trying to take care of her 5-year-old son.  Given the fact that she does not have an address, McDowell (who used to live in Bridgeport, Connecticut) used the address of her babysitter who lived in Norwalk, Connecticut so that her son could attend kindergarten at Brookside Elementary School.   Bridgeport is 45% White, 30% Black, has a median income of $34,000/yr and 18% of its residents are living below the poverty line.  Norwalk, by contrast, is 70% White, 14% Black, has a median household income of $70,000/yr and only 7% of its residents are living below the poverty line.  After her son attended the school for 4 months, the Norwalk school district discovered that McDowell had falsified her address, contacted the authorities, removed McDowell's son from the school immidiately, arrested McDowell and charged her with 1st Degree Larceny and Conspiracy to Commit Larceny in the amount of $15,686 dollars - the cost to tax payers in 2010 to educate a child at Brookside Elementary School.  It is the first time in the history of the State of Connecticut that a parent has been criminally charged for falsifying a school district address.

Racism: How did we get here?

Is it just me or has there been an issues involving race and racism since the election of President Obama in 2008?  Who knows – maybe the issues have always been there.  Maybe we just pay more attention now… I don’t know.  I mean, we all knew the elevation of President Obama to the highest office in the land would pull the scab off of our race relations in this country.  It was always there, dormant.  Everyone was just living; dealing quietly with the inconsistencies in our daily lives.  Maybe, it took the election of the first African American to our highest office to force our issues into the mainstream.  To be honest, I would say that this was a no-brainer to most black folks.  Most of us that gave it any thought expected it.  But this post isn’t about the racism that exists in our country –we know that.  It is about a trend, that may have been there all along, but I’m just seeing it.  Granted, I could be completely naive, but there appears to be a genuine lack of understanding and/or perspective on what is or isn’t racism. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

So You Want to Go to Law School?

Last week, a California woman sued the law school that she recently graduated from when, despite taking out over $150,000 in student loans and graduating at the top of her class, she still remains among the thousands of law school grads in America who are unemployed with 6-figure student loan debt.  Sounds crazy right?  Even though I do not believe that graduating with good grades entitles anybody to a job, I can't say that I'm too mad at her.  You see, it used to go like this: go to law school, study hard, pass the bar, get the big firm job, live happily ever after. The end.  Indeed, there was a time when a license to practice law was jokingly referred to as "a license to print money."  Consistent with that perception, many moms and dads lovingly encourage their children to aspire to become "doctors and lawyers and such," assuming that inclusion among the legal profession all but assures that their child will ascend into the upper echelon of the American Dream.  Ladies and gentlemen, despite how green the grass looks from the outside, I am here to tell you today that such assumptions simply are not reality for the majority of the 40,000 graduates cranked out of America's law schools each year.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Obama and Holder: Black Leadership at Work

For the last 30 years the crack cocaine epidemic has been the staple of American injustice, from it’s infiltration of the black power base and it’s inevitable overflow into America’s backyard, to it’s subsequent deterioration of everything in it’s path. Turning loving mothers into desperate prostitutes and responsible fathers into violent criminals, its rotten seed had evolved into a menacing weed. At the height of its destruction an overwhelming cry for help was heard, particularly in the black community.

The answer to this domestically created problem-child was stiff prison sentencing for anyone caught in possession of the cooked up coke. Eventually individuals caught with crack could be sentenced up to three times as long in prison as someone caught with powder cocaine. These laws disproportionately affected black people to the point where the prison population more than doubled as a result. About a year ago this author discussed vehemently this very topic as it related to the Prison Industrial Complex and concluded that stiff prison sentences for any drug crime that is not violent is an unfair practice that only exists to fuel the corporate interests.

Guest Post: Sarah Palin’s “Real Pro-American” Tour

Old Guru honors us again Today with another Guest Post.  We're honoring his request to suspend our moratorium on Sarah Palin So he can get somethings off his chest.  So please extend him the same courtesy and let him know how you feel in the comments below.


So I’m riding on my daily commuter bus to D.C. and I notice that many of my fellow passengers are reading newspapers with a fancy bus on it or staring at a brightly decorated bus on their iPad screens.  I glanced over at the young woman next to me and realize she was reading an article about a fancy bus as well.  Being the curious person that I am, I strained my eyes through my glasses to see why every one was reading about some tricked out tour bus.

I quickly realized that the bus belonged to Sarah Palin’s political action committee, SaraPAC, and because I voraciously read anything dealing with the former Governor of Alaska, I pulled out my touch phone, clicked the internet icon, and searched the web for more information about her newest venture.

Almost immediately, I realized what a hoax her trip around the United States was.  Dubbed the “One Nation Tour,” Palin has managed to finagle the American People into donating money for her summer vacation around the US.  Apparently, because this trip is paid for by her PAC and because she is not an actual presidential candidate, she can use the funds for personal expenses, including her mortgage, and doesn’t have the stringent reporting requirements to deal with.  But that is another story; my real agitation came from statements that Palin made surrounding her tour.  Apparently, the former governor is taking this trip to:

“…educate and energize Americans about our Nation’s founding principles,
  in order to promote the Fundamental Restoration of America.” 

In addition, Palin has stated that she is focusing on “America, its foundations and its freedoms.”  “Hmmm,” I thought, as my mind ventured back to Palin’s 2008 statement in Greensboro, North Carolina about visiting the “real America, the Pro-Americans”.  I wonder which founding principles Palin is referring to.  Also, what does the Fundamental Restoration of America even mean?  Does she mean freedoms for African Americans as well?  More importantly, does Palin really know or for that matter, even care, about the founding principles of this Country.  **Spoiler Alert: I’m about to discuss racism in America.**

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Book of the Month: "Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class"

"Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class"
Lawrence Otis Graham

Per Publisher's Weekly:

Graham, an African-American attorney, went undercover as a busboy at an all-white Connecticut country club and wrote about the experience first in New York magazine and then in Member of the Club, his 1996 book of essays. Now, he switches his attention from the white to the black elite. Graham spent six years researching the history of the African-American upper crust and this book is both a thorough work of social history and a thoughtful appraisal of his own place in the black social hierarchy. Graham makes clear that the black elite has always been strongly shaped by the peculiarly intertwined American preoccupations with color and class, noting that, in the past, most members of the black elite felt they were "superior to other blacks and to most whites." Stressing the importance of surrounding themselves with "like-minded people," the black elite enrolled their children in certain social clubs, which were training grounds for the social graces and created the foundation of a black old-boy network. Graham stops short of offering an apology for behavior that is hard to characterize as anything other than snobbish (he himself had a nose job when he was 26 so that he would have a less "Negroid" look). But he does bemoan a dwindling interest in tradition, and he suggests that it wasn't such a bad thing to grow up in the 1960s and '70s without the "sense of anger and dissatisfaction the rest of black America" expressed in those years. Graham has produced a book that casts an unblinking eye on America's black elite, cataloguing its achievements while critically analyzing its shortcomings. It is a must read for anyone interested in African-American history and the impact of ideas about social class on our society.

Music Reviews-Albert King, Ann Peebles, and Bobby Bland

Albert King
There were giants in post-war blues and Albert King was literally one of them. Standing 6-5 and weighing around 260lbs in his salad days, Albert King (1923-1992) was one of the Three Great Kings of the blues (pun definitely intended) along with Freddie King and B.B. King.

He was from the same town as B.B. King.  B.B. King reached prominence first. Albert Nelson changed his last name to "King" and even named his guitar "Lucy". B.B. King had named his guitar "Lucille". From time to time Albert King even hinted or flat out stated that he and B.B. had the same father. This wasn't the case.

Both men were heavily inspired by such musicians as Louis Jordan, Lonnie Johnson and especially T-Bone Walker.
But Albert King and B.B. King created their own distinctive sounds and would go on to influence those who came afterwards in quite different ways.

Albert King was left handed and even for a man his size, possessed massive hands. He did not (by his own admission could not) use a guitar pick. His fingers were just too big for that. Instead he used his thumb as a pick. Eschewing standard guitar tuning, Albert King used a lower dropped C tuning. Being left handed he played upside down and backwards by "normal" standards. King created his signature sounds with transistor amps whereas most guitarists preferred tube amps. His hand strength allowed him to make EXTREMELY wide bends of notes. Albert King very rarely ventured out of the minor pentatonic scale and almost never played chords. Along with people like Ike Turner and Hound Dog Taylor he was one of the first blues guitarists to incorporate a thick distorted sound and use controlled feedback.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Working For Less: Returning to Chains (Part 1)

Last weekend I watched both Too Big Too Fail on HBO and the documentary Inside Job. In short both movies pissed me off. It wasn't just because of former Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld's sense of entitlement or the tilt on Henry Paulson being painted as the concerned and benevolent Treasury Secretary. I was incensed because every big bank CEO, especially Lloyd Blanfein of Goldman Sachs, knew what they were doing and did nothing to stop the impending economic collapse because they were all "too busy making money." Meantime, the rest of us were seeing our wealth erode, our assets depleted, our degrees not being the worth the paper they're printed on, and the implosion of the middle class in what one of the interviewees in Inside Job determined to be the biggest ponzi scheme ever.

That brings us to today. The first Friday of the month where the Labor Department unleashes on the market the unemployment rate. It has once again edged up, now at 9.1% from 9 percent in April and 8.9% in March. The private sector created only 54,000 jobs in May. That's the fewest amount of positions created in 8 months. Furthermore, this is happening at a time where the job market is flooded with college grads looking for work. They are all looking for a job after being promised by their respective schools that there would be work waiting for them. Unfortunately many of them are finding out they are shit out of luck and taking it out on the wrong person or school.

Chris Christie: Mr. Fiscal Responsibility

Don't throw stones when you live in a GLASS HOUSE.

The "King" of fiscal responsibility has shown New Jersey his true colors, once again. Governor Chris Christie has demonstrated his lack of judgement and an intentional disregard for New Jersey residents and the states struggling economy. The Governor used a New Jersey State Police Helicopter to attend his son's baseball game on two occasions. The trip in question took place on Tuesday evening, when Governor Christie and his wife flew from their son's baseball game, to the Governors Mansion in Princeton, NJ. Awaiting Governor and Mrs. Christie were the top brass of GOP campaign contributors, seeking Christie's consideration to a 2012, presidential run. No official state matters, no state of emergency, no snow storms, and certainly no New Jersey school children in need - purely the influence of wealth and greed, persuaded Governor Christie to hasten his commute. According to the New Jersey State Police, Governor Christie's usage of the helicopter was of no additional cost to New Jersey taxpayers. The pilots need the flying time to keep their skills in tact, so the helicopter would have flown with or without Christie on board. On Thursday afternoon, with no remorse and his usual condescending and unapologetic tone, Governor Christie announced that he had reimbursed the state $2,100 and asked the New Jersey Republican Party to chip in an additional $1,200.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Assault on Our Body

We've all heard the story numerous times and may even know someone or have a close family member who has dealt with Cancer. In 2006, I became involved with an organization called “FertileHope” whose mission was to provide women diagnosed with cancer, alternatives to fertility, pre and post treatment. The founder of the organization became a friend of mine and her story stuck with me and became an inspiration. At 26 years old, one day after running the New York City Marathon, she was diagnosed with tongue cancer. She was active and very healthy. How could she have gotten cancer? Many of us wonder why as well, but we often tell ourselves “that will never happen to me.” Something about healthy check-ups, regular exercise and sudden cases of cancer, never quite felt right to me. There had to be something else responsible for cancer, something that we are purposely ignoring or something we are not seeing.

Food is the center of our very existence. We are surrounded by food at all points of our lives; meetings, family functions, holidays and vacations. Growing up in a West Indian household to Guyanese parents, food was the focal point. My culture utilizes every animal and all parts of those animals. I grew up eating Curry Chicken, Oxtail, Stew Peas, Pigtails, Chicken Foot Soup, Fish Tea, and my two favorites Cook-up Rice (a traditional rice dish with pigtail, beef, peas and coconut milk) and Black Pudding (cow intestines, cow blood and rice). There a plenty more meals I could list, but it would take too much time. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Black Economics: How Far Should We Go to Support Black Business?

My family has owned a popular seafood restaurant in the University City section of Philadelphia for about 15 years. Before that they owned two, smaller locations around the city before centralizing the operations. The recipes they used have been in my family for decades, maybe longer and I have been enjoying them my entire life.  As far as the food quality goes I can assure you that it is top notch and if it weren’t so, I would happily say so. I will admit though, that the quality of service has improved over the years.

At the height of Baltimore Crab's popularity, folks were pouring in from all over the tri-state area to get a taste of something new in the area. The combination of seafood and soul food, at the time, was something you could only get in someone’s home on Memorial Day, if you were lucky. Later they noticed competition across from their huge (mostly kitchen) corner establishment in the way of a seafood truck. The black man who owned the truck was a former customer who had tried to replicate some of B-More Crab's menu items at a much cheaper rate. Ha! So the competition began. Eventually his little truck became multiple restaurants across the city and obtained the popularity that B-More Crab should have gotten.