Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is an Honest Conversation About Race Even Possible?

Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer
Greetings readers of The Urban Politico. I'm back from my marriage hiatus and full of stories to tell. Apologies all around to you and my blog partners for my absence, and two middle fingers to Blogger for losing my post before I left. But now that we are firmly up to speed in this interweb life of ours let's get to the goods.


We here at The Urban Politico get solicited a lot. Most of it's spam. Sometimes it's an opportunity to expand our blogging horizons. Sometimes it's just a good post.  What we are going to discuss today falls of course into the latter category.

Last week we were contacted about a piece written in New York Magazine by Frank Rich. The piece was a review of the play Clybourne Park through the lens of current racial and political events happening in the country. As I flipped through the digital pages on my iPad I wasn't quite sure what the person who contacted us wanted us to discuss. Quite honestly we could have re-posted the entire article and let you all have at it. But alas we're smarter than that. But so, too, was this article. Rich tackled in five digital pages what we cover every day. We were eye to eye and I, The Storyteller, for once was at a loss for words. That is until I came to the last page of the piece.

"By the second act of ­Clybourne Park, everything is on the table, including slavery, the American stain that neither time nor civil-rights advances can ever erase. “We get it, okay?” says the exasperated white homebuyer when that past rears up. “And we apologize. But what good does it do, if we perpetually fall into the same, predictable little euphemistic tap dance around the topic?” To which a black man of the neighborhood association sneers, “You know how to tap dance?” 
And so the tap dancing continues—verbally, that is—as both the white and black characters work hard not just to offend each other but to take offense even when none is intended. Both Norris’s andHansberry’s white men put great store in resolving conflicts by talking things out—to “say what it is we’re really saying …,” as one Clybourne line has it. "
A light bulb went off at this last line. "Say what it is we're really saying...," When have we as Americans ever done that; especially where race is concerned? The answer would be never. So I wonder is that brutally honest, no holds barred conversation on race even possible.

HBO Game of Thrones Season 2 Finale: Predictions

Season Two Finale: What are your predictions?
Well, to quote the Grateful Dead, what a long strange trip it's been in this season's HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. It ends Sunday night in a special 70 minute finale. If you've watched the series, and if you're reading this then you probably have, you know that the good guys don't always win, the bad guys don't always lose and sometimes you can't even tell who the good or bad guys are anyway. The hero stands up to do the right thing and gets his head chopped off. The fat jolly king was a drunken wife abuser. The beautiful queen is a manipulative (insert bad word here) while the demon monkey dwarf might be a basically nice guy who patronizes prostitutes. The best warrior in the country is boffing his sister and the rightful heir to the throne is such a bore that everyone ignores his claim. Or maybe it's that he has halitosis. Anyway a lot happened this season and there are a few cliffhangers that need to be resolved as well as a lot of challenges for old characters and new. If there's one thing we learned it's to expect the unexpected when you least expect it.
This season's summary:

  • Jon Snow could not kill the Wildling woman Ygritte, who led him into a trap. Jon Snow and Qhorin Halfhand are the last members of the ranger party. And the Wilding leader doesn't think he needs two more mouths to feed.
  • Thanks to the services of a man with profoundly odd diction, Arya Stark escaped from Harrenhal with her friends Gendry (illegitimate son of the previous King) and Hot Pie. Presumably she's going to find her big brother Robb.
  • Sansa Stark declined to leave with The Hound. She's still in King's Landing. 
  • Stannis Barratheon is licking his wounds somewhere. Davos and his son might not have made it out of Blackwater.
  • Robb Stark and Catelyn Stark had a spat when Catelyn released Jaime Lannister. Westeros' sole female knight, Brienne, is taking Jaime to King's Landing to trade for the Stark girls.
  • Robb Stark decided to do the do with the sexy foreign girl Talisa.
  • Tywin Lannister and Loras Tyrell have joined forces.
  • Littlefinger and Varys are just so smug.
  • Tyrion was badly wounded and might be dead after a sneak attack from a Kingsguard.
  • Theon Greyjoy holds Winterfell after his treacherous attack. He doesn't know that the younger Stark boys, Bran and Rickon are hiding in the crypts.
  • Daenerys is trying to get her dragons back, leave Qarth and ignore the increasingly amorous glances she's getting from Jorah.
  • And Joffrey Barratheon Lannister still sits on the Iron Throne.
The Urban Politico thought it would be fun to try to figure out how or if some of the story lines are going to be closed out this weekend.* Our unspoiled predictions follow below.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is the Military off limit to Criticism?

Over the weekend MSNBC’s Chris Hayes took a lot of heat after questioning the word “hero” when applied to every American soldier killed during combat.


Of course since (1) he is on MSNBC, and (2) it deals with the military, the right wing COULDN’T WAIT to criticize: Chris Hayes 'Uncomfortable' Calling Fallen Military 'Heroes' – Marines respond by protecting his right to menstruate, said Ann Coulter in her famously classy style.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Historic Day for the Republican Party

Willard Romney - 1st Mormon to be Nominated for President of the United States

As much as I despise Romney and strongly disagree with his political ideology, I believe that his historic victory should be acknowledged, for it's a testament to all that this nation stands for. In The United States of America, anyone can dream and aspire to hold the highest office in the land, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Guidance for Women in the Workplace

I saw this article a few weeks ago and have been meaning to share it with you. Let's start with a few quotes, I recently came across that can lead us into a discussion.
"Glass ceilings are going to be broken, not by some announcement that we wish to break glass ceilings, but because their are people who are willing to break them." - Condoleeza Rice, Former United States Secretary of State
"Define yourself, not in terms of the ceiling that you might meet, but in terms of what you want to do, how you are going to get good enough at it to really make a case that you ought to do it, and then go for it." - Condoleeza Rice, Former United States Secretary of State
"If you want a fish, don't get a canary." - Eva Longoria

Monday, May 28, 2012

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Blackwater

George R.R. Martin wrote this, Season Two's penultimate episode. It stays tightly focused on King's Landing. Stannis is attacking. Tyrion is defending. Quite simple. This episode shone because it didn't jump around to a number of different story lines. It has a number of internal cuts but that's it. I liked this episode a lot. It definitely made up for last week's somewhat desultory program. If this episode had a theme it might have been that in war you find out who your real friends are. Tyrion, Sansa, The Hound and a few others all discover some things about the people close to them.
Blackwater opens up with Stannis' fleet advancing through the night while some of his troops are seasick beneath deck. Stannis is serene. He's made his move and is ready to fight and die for what he believes is his by right. God help you if you're in his way. Davos speaks to his son about the dangers of war and possible things that could go wrong but his son gently chides him for his lack of faith in R'hllor, the Lord of Light and tells Davos that he has faith in God, his king and his father. Tyrion admits to Shae that he is afraid and wants her to make love to him as if it's their last night on earth. Meanwhile Cersei has Maester Pycelle bring her poison and admonishes him not to ask what she needs it for. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Living Check to Check: Enjoy Today or Save for Tomorrow?

You might have heard about this recent Canadian law school/MBA grad last week who paid off his $114,000 student loan bill all at once IN CASH.  How did he do it?  He started a venture capital firm, of course.  But that's not the point here.  The point, rather, is that this guy just graduated with a JD/MBA in 2009 and 3 years later he is completely debt free.  When those of us at The Urban Politico first heard about this it sparked an internal debate that metamorphosed into one salient question:

When you DON'T have unlimited venture capital money like the rest of us mere mortals (in other words, when you're basically living check to check like most Americans), do you (A) save all your money for the future or (B) spend all of your money to enjoy life today while you're still (relatively) young?  We explore this debate after the jump.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Movie Reviews-Hustle: Season One, The Tortured, Chronicle

Hustle Season One
This is something I had briefly seen a few excerpts from probably on BBC America a long time back. I ordered the DVD but not gotten around to watching it for whatever reason. But I finally sat down and watched it and I'm glad I did. This is an intelligent little comedic drama set in England, mostly London from what I can tell, about a group of con artists, white collar criminals and grifters who despite being almost thoroughly amoral, eschew violence and usually do not practice their trade on everyday people.

Their first rule is "You can't cheat an honest man". This is somewhat less of a moral commandment-though their leader likes to live by it-than it is a description of the con artist's lifestyle. An honest man is not greedy or looking to hurt people. But a dishonest man is and is thus vulnerable to the group's manipulations and diversionary tactics. As the group's sole woman explains to a new member , "We find people who are looking for something for nothing. And we give them nothing for something". So they especially enjoy sticking it to the high and mighty, the greedy, corporations, those who hurt other people, the violent, etc. However in truly desperate times they don't mind occasionally taking advantage of the honest sheep, though a few of them may feel some guilt about it later on. The show's lead writer, Tony Jordan, said that he saw this group as a five member pseudo-family (husband, wife, grandfather, uncle and child) and this is why in the first season he limited any sense of outside connections.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Duh! You Can't Fly Wearing A Shirt That Reads F$%K

I am all for the pushing of the bar and making political statements, but sometimes we have to think before we act. I am a firm believer that we should all pick our battles wisely. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 10 and a half years, you are fully aware that as a traveler, we abide by the rules of our post-9/11 society. Yes, it's annoying as hell and quite frustrating, so why would anyone want to do anything to add to the drama that is "flying?" I am not going to give a yay or nay on this young woman's decision to board her American Airlines flight wearing a tee-shirt that read - "If I wanted the government in my womb, I'd fuck a senator," but I will say, she should have known better.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Naomi Schaefer Riley: Arrogance and Ignorance

I can outline but do not fully understand such scientific concepts as Schrodinger wave equation, general and special relativity, Olbers' paradox, Planck's law, the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, study of fluid mechanics, Bernoulli equation, or several other ideas that are basic building blocks of modern physics and engineering. I've got the big picture on some of those ideas but definitely can't go into the nitty gritty details or the mathematical equations. Why? Well I took a few classes some decades ago and enjoy reading about them but I'm not a physicist or an engineer. So I'm not the man to speak with authority about any of those topics in either an applied or theoretical sense.
Imagine if I didn't let that little lack of knowledge or any basic credentials in physics stop me. Suppose I sauntered into a convention of physicists discussing string theory and smugly informed them that not only were their equations and calculations all wrong but also their entire field was balderdash, completely worthless. I declared the only reason they were involved in the field was because of a Eurocentric bias against non-Western modes of understanding the Universe. So to me, they were all, by definition, losers and racists with a special hatred of black people.

Let's say that, once challenged to share my credentials and experience in the field, provide some evidence of my claims, or even simply show that I had even read some of the sources which I was categorically dismissing, I arrogantly responded that I hadn't read any of their simple-minded twaddle and had not the slightest intention of doing so. If I were asked to leave it wouldn't be censorship. It would be an incident of experts involved in grown folks' discussion realizing that I was neither expert nor grown and had nothing of value to add.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Desmond Hatchett-30 children and counting

You have probably heard about this Knoxville, Tennessee man of profound potency and vast virility, Desmond Hatchett, who at the time of this writing has acknowledged 30 children by 11 different women. This may be a county or even state record. Just three years ago he only had 21 children so obviously Mr. Hatchett is something of a crosscut saw that some women like to have buried in their wood. Unfortunately for Mr. Hatchett, unlike other noted men such as Clint Eastwood (seven children by five different women) or Ted Nugent (eight children by four different women) Mr. Hatchett has apparently no marketable skills other than his good good loving. He makes minimum wage. He's 33 years old and only earning minimum wage which is $7.25/hr.

There's a saying that you can't get blood from a stone, though you can apparently get some other bodily fluids. So Hatchett recently went to court to try to get the state to reduce the child support payments. State law allows the state to take up to 50% of a non-custodial parent's income for child support but since Hatchett doesn't earn much money in the first place his children don't receive very much assistance-one child's mother is paid just $1.49/month.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Was Justice Served?

30 Days? That's It?

The New York Daily News:

A former Rutgers student convicted of spying on his gay roommate was sentenced to just 30 days in jail — a punishment generally reserved for shoplifting, vandalism or jumping a turnstile.

Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman, who could have sent Dharun Ravi to prison for up to 10 years, chided him for an apparent lack of remorse.

“I haven’t heard you apologize once,” Berman told the defendant during the four-hour hearing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

How Dare the GOP?

The GOP Stands with Newark Mayor Cory Booker?

Who does the GOP think they are?

Why Democrats SUCK - Cory Booker's Comments on "Meet the Press"

Warning to All Democrats - Get in Line with President Obama or Shut the "F" Up!

**Disclaimer** I actually like Cory Booker and find him to be a dynamic politician. If you don't believe me, refresh your memory here.

Yes, I am upset again and for a good reason. 

We are 168 days away from the 2012 Presidential Election on November 6th. It's a very simple and clear decision, and there should be no confusion on the views of these two VERY different candidates. I will not sit back and watch Democrats sabotage this election with their unresearched and spineless comments. I will not allow them to pretend they don't understand the depths of our issues and how they intertwine into a bigger picture. So here is my message to Cory Booker and other Deomcrats who think it's ok to step out of line and work against President Obama - GET IN LINE OR SHUT THE "F" UP! It's as simple as that. If you don't want to be a Democrat, leave the party. If you think "Liberal" is a bad word, take your ass to the other side of the aisle! I bet President Romney would do wonderful things for the people of Newark, NJ.  

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Prince of Winterfell

This episode was transitional. It's setting up things for the battle at King's Landing and the rapidly approaching season finale. This wasn't a great episode but I didn't think it would be. There were a lot of loose ends to tie up. 
We open up with the mass killing of ravens at Winterfell. This is so there can be no requests for assistance. It's the low tech equivalent of bank robbers demanding all the cell phones from the hostages. For some reason this impacted me a bit. I mean here are some pretty helpless animals that have been trained to trust men and they are all slaughtered. It's a small thing but again shows Theon's viciousness. Ned Stark is dead and his firstborn son is away. No one is there to protect his people or his ravens. Yara Greyjoy arrives at Winterfell with a much smaller group of men than Theon had requested. She makes fun of Theon and calls him stupid. When he blusters and dares her to do so again she does so again with profanity. Through her body language and tone of voice it's very clear that Yara is not physically afraid of Theon. Heck I believe she could take him. Yara says that killing the Stark children was cowardly and dumb and that their father wants a word with Theon. Yara will not stay at Winterfell. Theon refuses to leave Winterfell. Yara says that the entire North will be coming for Theon and that he won't be able to hold Winterfell. She reminds Theon of a time when he was a bawling baby and she didn't kill him which I guess is as close as you can get to familial love among the Greyjoys.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ladies Night on The Urban Politico Hour: Special Episode - "Life After You've Turned The Tassel"

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Book Reviews-The Art of A Song of Ice and Fire, Why dogs are better than cats, The House with a Clock in its walls, Mad Kings and Queens

The Art of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire Volume One
Mad King Aerys
As you know I am a A Song of Ice and Fire fanatic so when I received this collection of artwork based on events, people and places in Martin's invented world I was very happy to peruse it. This isn't quite coffee table sized but would make a great conversation piece in your living room or den all the same. It opens with a foreword by Martin himself who explains that the collected art is work commissioned by Fantasy Flight Games for a board game and collectible card series based on Martin's works. Martin is of course a comic book and gaming fan but says that despite that it wasn't without some trepidation that he gave the rights for this project to continue. In part his fears were caused by his proprietary interest in his creations. Martin was also worried that the illustrators wouldn't capture what he saw in his head and perhaps most importantly what the readers imagined. As Martin wrote in the foreword:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Facebook: To Buy or Not To Buy, That Is The Question

8 years ago, a few socially challenged kids sitting around a dorm room at Harvard came up with a social networking website.  2 years later, offered to buy it from them for $1 Billion dollars.  They turned the offer down.  Everybody thought these kids were crazy, especially their CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but the founders of Facebook truly believed they had something special and so they set their sights a little higher.  So far, it looks like they were right.  Last year alone, Facebook made over $3 Billion dollars in revenue.  Where did they get all this money from?  Simple: ads. Facebook has over 900 million users (which is 3 times the population of every man, woman and child in the United States) and so companies are willing to pay big dollars to get their hands on the access to so many potential customers.  Moreover, Facebook doesn't simply offer your average run of the mill internet ads.  That would be too easy.  What makes Facebook such an attractive offer to advertisers is the fact that Facebook has the personal information for nearly a trillion people.  What this means is that advertisers can specifically target a certain segment of the population with their ads.  Advertisers can also pay Facebook to see which demographics of people actually show interest in their products.  And all this time you thought YOU were using Facebook; little did you know it's actually the other way around.  But the biggest news coming out of Facebook these days is not the $3 Billion it made last year or the way it uses your personal info.  Rather, it's the (somewhat controversial) decision to take Facebook public on the stock market.  Zuckerberg and crew were certainly wise to turn down the offers from Yahoo and others in the past, but were they wise to make this Initial Public Offering (IPO)?  And, more importantly, should you buy their stock?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Urban Beat: Chuck Brown Busts Loose

Chuck Brown, the godfather of "go-go" music, died on Wednesday from sepsis and pneumonia.
Unless you were some sort of musical fanatic or had black relatives or friends who lived in D.C. you may not have heard of him but he was a regional musical giant who had some modest success over the years outside of the D.C. area. The music that he pioneered was called "go-go" music not because of any affiliation with strip clubs but because it was made for dancing and could make people "go go" all night long. It was basically funk music but of a particular variety. Whereas groups like The Meters or early Funkadelic slowed the beat down and introduced all sorts of tricky drum patterns, Chuck Brown kept a relentless quick beat and as he told a journalist, kept the drum beat very simple for dancers. "I'd been trying to get drummers to play that particular groove for the longest time. The beat is so simple most drummers don't like to play it."*

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage & the Black Church (Video)

Ever since Obama weighed in on his personal views on marriage equality, there has a been a large debate within the Black Church, with passionate and deeply rooted arguments being offered by both sides.  Rather than offer my feeble attempt to capture these two sides, I'll let you watch for yourselves and make your own call:

In opposition to Same-Sex Marriage:

In favor of Same-Sex Marriage:


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

JP Morgan Chase Loses $2.3B - Why We Care

About 80 years ago we learned a valuable lesson about banking: Greed is Bad.  Back then, there were no federal or state regulations separating commercial banks (banks like Wells Fargo, Chase, CitiBank, Bank of America, Commerce Bank, etc.) from investment banks (banks like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, etc.).  This set the stage for a situation more predictable than a Tyler Perry movie; commercial banks started to act like investment banks, who, for all intents and purposes, are the crack heads of the financial world.   What I mean by that is, commercial banks joined forces with investment banks (and in some cases they morphed into investment banks like Agent Smith) and started using the money in their vaults for risky investments on Wall Street.  This posed one slight problem: commercial banks hold the personal checking accounts and savings accounts of everyday people.  Because there was no division between the two banking systems, when the Wall Street investment banks lost all of their money at the blackjack tables, they took the commercial banks right along with them. Millions of people who had nothing to do with the high-risk stock market had their entire life savings wiped out.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how, in 1929, unregulated Greed created the Great Depression. What's worse is that the everyday people who lost their life savings in commercial banks back then didn't even understand why it happened.

Enter Glass-Steagall, stage left.

In 1933, as a direct response to the foolishness described above, Glass-Steagal was passed by Congress setting up the FDIC (the federal government insures your bank account for up to $250,000) and, more importantly, creating a legal barrier between commercial banks and investment banks. Investment banks were free to do whatever they wanted to do, but if you were a commercial bank then, from that day forward, you were forbidden from going to the casino with the average Joe's personal savings or checking account.  Because of this change, our economy slowly recovered and life moved on.  And for a while, things were looking fine...until one fateful day in 1999, Republican Senator Phil Gramm and Republican House members Jim Leach and Thomas Bliley passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which was signed into law by then Democratic President Clinton.  The Act specifically repealed Glass-Steagall's separation of commercial banks and investment banks. 9 short years later...well, you don't need me to tell you what happened next because we're still living it.  The point is this: allowing commercial banks to behave like investment banks is like giving Lindsay Lohan the keys to your brand new car.  Just as we should not be surprised if (when?) Lohan gets wasted and wraps the car around a tree, we should likewise not be surprised when JP Morgan Chase -- America's largest commercial bank -- loses $2.3 Billions dollars on risky investments.

Sergeant Major King: Leading Troops Without a Fighting Chance

The year was 2003 and I had been in Iraq for about six months.  I was Convoy Commander of a 22-vehicle convoy headed from Tikrit, Iraq to Doha, Kuwait.  My mission was to reach Kuwait and establish a supply route for the 4th Infantry Division.  Since Iraq was a recently occupied territory, it was critical to establish a supply pipeline with the already established Kuwait, which was teething with supplies brought in from India and Europe.  Easy enough.  There was just one problem.  A Sergeant Major (SGM) was assigned to my convoy and was trying to call the shots.

I was a Captain, which is the rank of a fairly young officer.  In most cases, a Captain would relish the opportunity to be part of  the leadership including a Sergeant Major, which is the highest rank an enlisted soldier can achieve  This title also indicates that the solider is the most experienced and combat-ready soldier in the unit.  However, this Sergeant Major, whom had never been deployed in his 28 years of service was trying to call the shots and was using strict army doctrine as his guide.  I was however, using the experience I had gained in three months as a combat convoy commander.

I mean at one point, he yelled over the radio that the convoy was moving too quickly on Highway 1, one of the most dangerous roads in Iraq.  Now I knew that Army doctrine dictated that vehicles travel only 35 miles per hour on convoys.  The trip from Tikrit, Iraq to Doha, Kuwait was about 400 miles, which could take as much as 12 hours at 35 miles per hour.  However I was nervous that we would be ambushed by the Fadayeen and felt that we should travel as fast as safely possible (about 55 miles per hour).

So guess what I did?  I yielded to the SGM with 28 years of service but no combat experience.  I let him call the shots and we were lost for 16 hours until I took over the convoy.  Of course, me and the Sergeant Major exchanged some words and damn near had a fist fight but that's right, I completely took over the convoy and found some Marines who led us to a safe route.  We then made it to Kuwait, where I was able to establish the supply pipeline for almost one thousand soldiers.  We returned to Iraq with zero casualties.  My six months of combat experience had bested the 28 years of Army doctrine the SGM had.  The point of this little story?  Read about it after the jump.

Monday, May 14, 2012

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: A Man Without Honor

What is honor? How is it defined? For Ned Stark it meant doing the right thing even if if hurt or no one else was around. It meant not taking unfair advantage. It meant not harming women or children. It meant not asking your followers to do anything you weren't prepared to do. But Ned's gone and his teachings may or may not apply to the choices his children and wife must face. In this episode we see Theon Greyjoy and Jaime Lannister, two men who knew Ned Stark, make choices that reject Ned's idea of honor and even the entire concept of honor. A lot happened in this episode-maybe too much. I really didn't like this episode's pacing. Some very important events got short shrift because the location changed every two minutes. The pacing hurt the storyline. Each season really needs an extra two episodes. It would help tremendously. This episode felt rushed.

Anyway this episode started with Theon waking up to discover the Stark children are gone, along with Osha and Hodor. Theon beats a man who points out that Theon slept with Osha. Theon leads a search party and takes Maester Luwin with him. Luwin begs for the boys' lives. Theon seems to really enjoy his turn to the Dark Side. Bran and Rickon see a farm where some orphan boys lived and debate as to whether to go there. Bran thinks they shouldn't because they'll bring trouble to the settlement. Osha points out they need to be moving as they are losing their head start.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Urban Politico Radio Hour: That's Wsup

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Movie Reviews-The Avengers, Bunraku, Black Sunday, Don't Be Afraid of The Dark

The Avengers
directed by Joss Whedon
I best know Whedon as director/creator of Serenity/Firefly. He brings some of that trademark humor to The Avengers. Look, this is an enjoyable film but it's not by any means one that is plot driven. It's a summer extravaganza flick and must be understood and enjoyed on that level. It is also as good an example as any just why American made films dominate the domestic and international marketplace. They're entertaining. It really is that simple. If you make quality movies and have good people marketing them you can do well. That said, as Disney's failed turkey John Carter shows, no one knows ahead of time just what any one particular film will do. But The Avengers is breaking box office records and will likely continue to do so.

So, what kind of movie is it? Comic book movies do tend to skew male and young just as comic book readers do. The Avengers is not that different in that regard. However there are "realistic" (to the extent that you can talk about realistic anything in a comic book film) female characters who are not sexpots nor are they just there to be rescued by male characters. You simply don't do the kind of business this movie has done just by appealing to boys. The movie runs a tad long at roughly 2 hours and 22 minutes but I don't think it's all that noticeable. 

What's it about? Good old Loki (Tom Hiddleston) (last seen "dying" in Thor) has reappeared and boy is he upset. Wanting to get back at his brother Thor and really everybody in the Universe he has shown up to steal the Tesseract (multidimensional power source last seen in Captain America) and make a deal with the other dimensional Chitauri (reptilian looking aliens) to serve as Loki's army to invade earth, and presumably Asgard and other places too. As S.H.I.E.L.D Agents are working with the Tesseract , it activates and Loki enters, enslaving S.H.I.E.L.D agent Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and scientist Selvig (Stellan Skarsgaard), taking the Tesseract and killing more than a few agents on his way out, but not S.H.I.E.L.D leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Meanwhile...Romney Takes Credit for Auto Bailout. No Really.

While America debates the merits of Same-Sex marriage in light of the President's recent statement and North Carolina's recent state-wide ban on the same, another subject in the news this week was the Auto Bailout.  Yes the Auto Bailout where the U.S. Government, in a most controversial manner, used tax dollars to bail out the failing auto industry.  As we've explained in our previous post on this subject:

in 2008 when the Big 3 came hat in hand to the federal government, the substantive debate boiled down into 3 schools of thought:

1. The Conservative Approach - Companies should be allowed to rise or, in this case, fall on their own without government intervention no matter who they are.
2. The Progressive Approach - The government should help companies that are facing collapse during hard economic times.
3. The "Too Big to Fail" Approach - Irrespective of the Conservative or Progressive approaches, the Auto Industry employs between 1 to 3 million people and, if allowed to fail, will significantly contribute to the unemployment rate.
Now, just in case anybody forgot, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney was on record back in 2008 as a firm believer in option #1.  In fact he wrote an entire op-ed in the New York Times entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."   In it, he argued vehemently that the United States Government should absolutely NOT get involved in bailing out the Big 3 auto makers and that they should go through a structured bankruptcy like every other failing business. 

But that was 2008 Mitt Romney.  Now that the federal government's bailout of the Auto Industry has worked, 2012 Mitt Romney has a new tune.  To summarize this best as only they can do, Jon Stewart and the Daily Show crew break it down for us after the jump:

Thursday, May 10, 2012


We at the Urban Politico just wanted to give a quick shout out to our very own The Storyteller who will be walking down the aisle this weekend.  For those of you who read the blog regularly, you already know that The Storyteller is a conscious sister who doesn't take any mess and calls it like it is, so you'll be happy to know she is getting married to a solid brother with a good head on his shoulders.  We wish them both the best.

To the Bride & Groom -

The Janitor
Shady Grady
Grand Central
Old Guru

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Urban Beat: BREAKING NEWS - President Supports Same-Sex Marriage

Tea-Party Strikes Again?

Indiana Senator Lugar Defeated by Tea-Party Candidate

Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana lost his re-election bid in the state's Republican primary Tuesday, ending the 36-year career of a GOP elder statesman and handing the Tea Party movement its biggest upset victory so far in the 2012 elections.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Phil Mushnick: Jay-Z Said the N-Word So I Can Too

A while back we asked for blog suggestions and one of the common themes that many of you expressed was that you wanted to hear about more local stories.  Well I just so happen to have one for you today.  I want to talk about this local story out here in New York that has been picking up momentum lately due to its multiple levels of controversy.  This particular story deals with racial comments, and if there's ever a publication in New York City that knows about racial comments it is the infamous New York Post.  Now, for those of you who do not live here, the New York Post is generally accepted as the City's default bastion of conservative sentiment.  This is the same paper -- owned by Fox News' Rupert Murdoch by the way -- that had a political cartoon of Obama as a dead monkey shot by two cops and, when called on it, effectively said "Racism?  What racism?  We don't see any racism so F you."  Yes, THAT newspaper.  Suffice it to say, this publication has developed a bit of a reputation for reveling in controversy.  Many New Yorkers speculate that, given the fact that the paper typically loses money every year, Rupert Murdoch keeps it around to maintain his voice.  That is another debate for another day.  For now, just know that the Post is at it again. Enter New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick.

Monday, May 7, 2012

All Americans Should Care: Equal Rights for LGBT Americans - Part I

Equal Rights for All

We're presently witnessing an overwhelming amount of hypocrisy, and outright mean spirited behavior spewing from certain pockets of our nation. I wish that I could sit here and tell everyone that it will come to an end very soon, but, unfortunately it won’t. As we draw closer to the upcoming Presidential election, we will see incidents surface where LGBT Americans will be berated, subjected to unnecessary criticism and outright hate. The people who engage in these incidents will attempt to justify their hateful behavior, in the name of uniting our country or making us a better nation. 

I am very passionate about equality for all Americans, especially LGBT Americans, and will go twelve rounds with anyone who wants it. I strongly belief that same-sex couples should have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts; including marriage and adoption. I will never support any laws that take away their rights in any form, nor can I support any laws that strip a human being of their dignity or pride. The LGBT population is currently subjected to legalized discrimination; meaning we have laws on the books that prevent them from living a full and equal life. I find this unacceptable and an absolute disgrace. However, with the unjust treatment and legalized discrimination in place, nothing pisses me off (deeply upsets me) more, than the practice of that discrimination or the advocating of hate against LGBT Americans, especially from the religious community.

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Old Gods and the New

Ok. At the close of last week's episode we saw (but I did not explicitly point out) the germination of a nasty little idea in Theon Greyjoy's head. Upset by the disdain of his men and his relatives, Theon decided to grab the gold ring. The Greyjoys do a feint attack at Torrhen's Square, then while the minimal Stark forces ride off to assist, Theon takes Winterfell, which by this point is virtually undefended. Bran does not wish to yield but Theon helpfully points out that if Bran wants to see his people unharmed, he'll do the right thing. Osha asks to serve Theon as a fighter but he declines. And my goodness but Osha (Natalia Tena) has some large expressive eyes.  Rodrik Cassel has figured out the diversion and fought his way back to protect his liege lords but he is captured. Cassel spits in Theon's face. Theon is urged by his men to kill the unbowed and unbroken Rodrik, which he does in front of the castle populace. Bran's dreams of the sea coming to Winterfell have come true. Remember that there were almost no fighting men in Winterfell. Theon's betrayal is both tragic and cowardly. Theon is obsessed with what he sees as the trappings of honor. He wants everyone to call him Lord or Prince. He swaggers around as if he's won a great battle. As Cassel and Bran ask Theon, did he really hate the Starks that much? Theon is like-"Forget you , I was a hostage".* We get the feeling in the aftershock of Cassel's murder that Theon has crossed over some critical moral lines.

We go to the North where Qhorin Halfhand tells Jon Snow that although Jon may die, his real job is to stay alive to protect those south of the Wall. This location (Iceland) is just so beautiful. We also see Ghost, Jon's direwolf, who is much larger than season 1.  
The Night Watch detachment sneaks up on the wildling scouts (apparently this is testament to Halfhand's skills, since he spends a lot of time talking about how much the wildlings know about the wilderness) and kill them all. All except one that is. It's a redheaded young girl named Ygritte and Jon Snow can not harm a female. Qhorin has no such scruples, especially after Ygritte admits that were the situation reversed Qhorin would likely be tortured AND killed. But Jon says he will kill Ygritte. Qhorin and the other rangers tell Jon to catch up later. Ygritte tries to escape but Jon captures her. He can't kill her.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

College: Is It Worth It Anymore?

When I graduated from the University of Kansas (home of the mighty Jayhawks) in the early 2000's, in-state tuition ranged from about $1500 per year to about $2000 per year depending on how many classes you took each semester.  Today, in 2012, in-state tuition is currently sitting at $8,364 per year for your average student taking 15 credits each semester.  That's roughly a 500% increase in tuition within the last decade.  This led me to wonder what about my alma mater has changed so drastically over the past few years that would justify a 500% increase since I left.  Did they increase the faculty by 500%?  No, they still have about the same number of professors teaching today as when I was dozing off in the back of class.  Perhaps they've increased the number of buildings by 500% or quintupled the amount of land that it owns.  While they have done some serious renovations to a few buildings since I left, the school was undertaking a similar number of renovations when I was there so that can't be it.  And the footprint of the school has remained the same, so that can't be it either.  So what can it be?  Are they teaching that new math?  Did one of the professors discover the Arc of the Covenant in between teaching his classes on archeology?  I've got it!  Maybe the rate of inflation or the cost of living in America has increased 500% over the past decade?  That has to be the explanation right?  Actually no. According to the stats, inflation has only gone up about 27% over the past decade.  That means a tuition costing $2,000 10 years ago should cost about $2,500 today.  You don't need to be a mathematician to see that we have a bit of a discrepancy on our hands here, folks.  My old tuition is supposed to be, at most, about  $2,500 in today's dollars.  Instead it's $8,300.  What the facheezy is going on here?  What manner of sorcery is this?

And this hike in tuition is by no means exclusive to my alma mater.  Over the past decade or so we've seen colleges and universities all over the country significantly increase their cost of tuition.  But these schools can never really answer one simple question about these tuition spikes:  why?

Sherlock Holmes' infamous quote on solving riddles instructs us that "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."  In the case of rising college tuition all across America, we're able to eliminate all of the things that you would normally think of that might contribute to a college's overhead (more staff, new construction, new facilities, etc.) as well as the impact that inflation and cost of living increases have on tuition.  What we're left with is this: colleges and universities are raising the cost of tuition simply because they can.

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

R.I.P. Adam "MCA" Yauch of the Beastie Boys

Yesterday the hip hop community was saddened with the news that hip hop great Adam "MCA" Yauch of the legendary Beastie Boys died from an ongoing battle with cancer.  He was 47.

For any of our readers who may have been a little too young in the 80's, just know that before there was a white rapper named Eminem, there were the Beastie Boys.  As three Jewish kids from Brooklyn, New York, they signed early with Def Jam (the official who's who of hip hop record labels during the 80's and 90's) and earned the respect of Black artists throughout the hip hop community, including Run DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest.  They introduced hip hop to many White kids across the country and helped to establish rap music as a permanent music genre in America during a time when many thought it to be a temporary fad.  They had a comedic style to their delivery that was unique and made them stand apart from other rap groups.  In 1999, their single "Intergalactic" won a Grammy for the Best Hip Hop Song by a Duo or Group as well as an MTV Video Music Award for best Rap Video.  The Beastie Boys were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

In honor of the late MCA, we play our favorite Beastie Boys tracks after the jump:

Movie Reviews-Safe, Contraband, Brighton Rock, Meeting Evil

If you have seen any recent Jason Statham movie you pretty much know what you're gonna get. A bald bada$$ British bruiser who is both a dangerous man and a fashion plate kicks a$$ in all sorts of interesting ways while finding time to drop a few cool one liners in a gruff tone. It's what he does and he does it well. But either his brand is starting to wear thin or he's just not choosing the best scripts. Safe was entertaining enough once the butt-kicking commenced but it was, even for an action film, rather empty. Looking back I think this was because Statham didn't have a love interest or more importantly for this genre, any really interesting rival/opposite to play off against. So as a result there just wasn't enough there. I would say in hindsight that this was probably a wait for DVD/Netflix film. And I like Statham. But it is what it is. The ending both deconstructs action film showdowns and sends a tip of the hat to Statham's ensemble film Snatch.

Safe is suitably frantic and violent but verges on ridiculousness at times. It's hard to believe, especially in a city as densely populated as New York, that the characters could engage in the sort of violence that they repeatedly do and manage to largely avoid police interference.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Limits to Religious Freedom: Circumcision and Herpes

I'm not religious although I don't think I'm necessarily anti-religious. People can believe what they like and within certain constraints act as they like based on their religious beliefs. If you want to believe that there's someone in the sky watching you or some Force in the universe that is interested in the doings of human beings, it doesn't really impact me. Go for it.  I came down on the side of the Catholic Church over the contraception provision controversy. Basically I think that as long as you aren't hurting anyone else the state should pretty much stay out of your affairs. I think that's a general good rule for most citizens and it's a constitutionally protected right for religious institutions. You mind your business and I will mind mine. Good fences make good neighbors. Each captain runs his own crew. We all have to tend our own gardens. Live and let live. And so on.
There are limits. You don't get to sacrifice babies to Baal. You don't get to force your children to become temple prostitutes for Ishtar. The Catholic Church has no constitutional right to priest-boy sex. Although your religion might find dogs unclean you can't go around banning or killing other people's dogs. And it's iffy because parents do have the right to oversee and direct medical care for their minor children but if a parent wanted to use prayer instead of medicine to treat a gunshot wound to a child I would not lose sleep if the state intervened, treated the child and arrested the parent. Those sorts of actions would make me hostile to religion, not just because the religious person is accepting myths that to me make no sense, but because they are harming other people. That's the red line I think.