Friday, May 31, 2013

Teflon Media: Beyond Contestation?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?  This is a Latin phrase that translates to “who will guard the guards themselves” or “who watches the watchmen.”  Often, this phrase is associated with Plato in reference to political corruption, “who will watch the watch-guards?”

It makes sense to ask the question in reference to the government.  Given the role of government, keeping its potential power in check seems sensible.  However, this question isn’t exclusive to the government; no, I’d argue that ANY entity that assumes the role of “the watcher” automatically becomes the focal point of the question.  Adding my own twist of phrase, I’d say, “that’s fine, watch me, but who the hell is watching YOU!”

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Down Goes Bachmann! Down Goes Bachmann!

Michele Bachmann, who barely won reelection against newcomer Jim Graves, says days after Graves announced his intentions to run again that if she would have run again she would win again...but she's not going to.  She also repeatedly told us that Obama would be a "one-term President."

Per CBS:

Four-term Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann says she will not run for another term in the U.S. House.
The tea party favorite and conservative firebrand, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination last year, announced her decision in an almost nine minute video on her website Wednesday morning.
"The law limits anyone from serving as president of the United States for more than eight years," Bachmann says in the video. "And in my opinion, eight years is also long enough for an individual to serve as a representative for a specific congressional district."
Bachmann says her decision not to run again in 2014 was "not influenced by any concerns about ... being re-elected."
She narrowly won a fourth term in 2012 over Democrat Jim Graves, a hotel chain founder who is running again in 2014.

She also says recent inquiries into her 2012 presidential campaign did not affect her decision.
In January, a former Bachmann aide filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, claiming Bachmann made improper payments to an Iowa state senator who was the state chairman of her 2012 presidential run. The aide, Peter Waldron, also accused Bachmann of other FEC violations.
Taking a shot at what she calls "the mainstream liberal media," she says she "fully" expects them to "put a detrimental spin on my decision not to seek a fifth term. ... They always seem to attempt to find a dishonest way to disparage me. But I take being the focus of their attention and disparagement as a true compliment of my public service effectiveness."
Leaving the door open for future runs for office, Bachmann says, "I want you to be assured that there is no future option or opportunity, be it directly in the political arena or otherwise, that I won't be giving serious consideration if it can help save an protect our great nation for future generations."
A vocal opponent of the health care overhaul and other policies of President Obama, Bachmann promised her supporters she "will continue to work overtime for the next 18 months in Congress defending the same Constitutional Conservative values we have worked so hard on together."
She continues, "I proudly have, and I promise you I will continue, to fight to protect innocent human life, traditional marriage, family values, religious liberty and academic excellence."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Virginia Walmart: Those Don't Look Like Your Kids

The other day I stopped in my local grocery store to pick up some items. I saw a black man and white woman couple. They had a white girl and a younger black (mixed) boy tagging along with them. Obviously the black man was a pimp and the white woman was his prostitute. The two kids were either criminals in training or had been kidnapped for some other unspeakably nefarious reasons. So I went to the store manager and pointed these miscreants out. The manager called the police. The police bopped the two criminals on the head with their nightsticks and threw them in the squad car. So I had done my good deed for the day. But sometimes we are called to do more. When I turned into the bread aisle I saw a white man with two young black girls. So he HAD to be a pedophile. Why else would they be calling him Daddy and asking for donuts. I couldn't let this stuff go down. Not on MY watch. So I tackled him and this time called the police myself.
And this sicko was hauled away just like the couple before him. I felt good about myself. My spidey sense was on the job, amplified by my bigotry, resentment and paranoia. What's that you say, that doesn't sound like me? Well you're right it doesn't. And it wasn't. Nevertheless there are some people in this country who still think exactly like that. And they aren't exactly shy about getting officials with guns and authority to follow up on their suspicions. Witness Virginia:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

The Urban Politico would like to remember those who gave their lives while serving in the Armed Forces.

Thank you!!!

Happy Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Book Reviews-The State of Jones, Point of Impact, Bugs Bloodsuckers Bacteria

The State of Jones
by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer
This is probably the best book I've read this year. I like to think of myself as a well read, historically knowledgeable man. But I was surprised and embarrassed that I had never heard of this story's hero, one Mr. Newton Knight. Well there's no shame in being ignorant but there is shame in staying so.
Newton Knight should be as well known as John Brown, perhaps even more so because unlike Brown he was from the South. Knight stood up and did the right thing at great personal risk. He led an anti-Confederacy insurrection in Mississippi for over two years. He was constantly hunted and nearly killed many times. But at the high point of his guerrilla war, his home of Jones County Mississippi was a very dangerous, virtual no-go area for Confederate soldiers, and especially for Confederate tax collectors. Knight maintained two families, one black and one white and had both blacks and whites fighting and working under his leadership. This was quite scandalous. For many Northerners the Civil War's goal was to preserve the Union. Ending slavery was a secondary consideration. For many Southerners keeping slavery and white supremacy were the war's principal aims. What's often overlooked is the story of Southerners who neither owned or wanted slaves and certainly didn't see the point of starting a war to defend slavery. Newton Knight was such a man. Although his grandfather and other relatives owned slaves neither Newton nor his father ever did. Before the war Newton and his parents were known for holding strong religious beliefs on the equality of all men. This was in Mississippi. As you might expect this didn't make Newton's immediate family too popular at secessionist barbecues. Nevertheless in Jones County, secession was a minority viewpoint. Until he died, Newton always claimed that Jones County had never technically seceded because the voters had selected a Union supporting candidate. But that delegate was either intimidated or bought off. He voted for secession.

Thursday, May 23, 2013 Does Disservice to Black Women/Community Through Practice of Unreasonable Censorship

The hallmark of any respectable and noteworthy blog is the free expression of ideas.  This is particularly true within the Black Blogosphere which has provided a platform for members of our community to come together over the past several years in order to share thought provoking ideas in an open forum for the betterment of the Black Community.  Invariably, whenever diverse minds engage in open discussion, differences of opinion will emerge.  This is to be expected.  After all, the Black Community is not monolithic in its thinking, nor should it be.  The members of our community, just like the members of any community, do not always agree on any given topic.  The critical difference between good blogs and not-so-good blogs is all in how the blog administrators handle these differences of opinion whenever they occur.  
Many blogs such as The Field Negro, Jack & Jill Politics, The Uppity Negro, AverageBro, The Intersection Between Madness & Reality, Very Smart Brothers, Abagond and The Obsidian Files (just to name a few) encourage diversity of thought and welcome readers with differing opinions.  Accordingly, substantive discussions tend to thrive on these and other similar blogs.  Readers who frequent these blogs know that even if they vehemently disagree with the blog admins on these sites, so long as they do so respectfully and refrain from any unnecessary personal insults or ad hominem attacks (in other words, as long as they're not "Trolls") then their argument(s) will be heard and given a fair debate on the merits.  Gina McCauley's, unfortunately, is not such a place.

Did IRS Official Lois Lerner Waive Her Right to Plead the 5th Amendment?

Let me say up front so that nobody tries to accuse me of anything - I have NO IDEA what IRS Official Lois Lerner's involvement was or wasn't in the latest IRS scandal.  She could be guilty.  She could be innocent.  I haven't the foggiest.  And for the purpose of this post, I don't care.  The only issue this post is concerned with is whether or not she waived her 5th Amendment rights by stating at the beginning of her Congressional hearing yesterday that she was innocent of any wrong doing and had not broken any laws.

Per NPR this is what Lerner said at the beginning of her statement:

"I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee."
After making this statement, she then proceeded to take the 5th Amendment on all other questions.  As you can imagine, this didn't go over too well with the House Committee members:
Instead of simply taking the scorn of lawmakers for a day, repeatedly invoking the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination, and then moving on, she chose defiance. And her bravado has prompted House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to say she has waived her constitutional right to not comment. Now, he plans to haul the director of the IRS’s tax-exempt department back to the committee for questioning. “When I asked her her questions from the very beginning, I did so so she could assert her rights prior to any statement,” Issa told POLITICO. “She chose not to do so — so she waived.”  Lerner shocked the committee room in the opening moments of Wednesday’s hearing by delivering an opening statement denying any wrongdoing and professing pride in her government service.
So, did Lerner waive her right to plead the 5th by making her opening statement that she was innocent?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Anthony Weiner Will Run for Mayor of New York City

Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner Will Run for Mayor of New York City

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Obama Morehouse Graduation Speech May 19, 2013

President Obama gave the keynote speech at America's only all-male Historically Black College, Morehouse:

Monday, May 20, 2013

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Second Sons

The previous two episodes were heavy on setup and exposition. After Sunday's show there are only two episodes remaining. The first few installments set viewership records for the show, last week's show not so much. There were murmurs across the net that the show runners were making too many changes from the books. I deliberately don't like talking about the books here because (1) I don't want to give spoilers-see warning below, (2) I don't want to be the smug condescending arrogant jerk who compares everything to the books and (3) the show and books are significantly different and ought to be enjoyed and understood separately. I have been surprised by some things and disappointed by others just as people who haven't read the books have been. I love the books but Benioff's and Weiss' creation stands on its own. So all that aside what happened in Sunday's episode? Was it another snoozefest intermittently interrupted by torture? Well maybe. There was only minor torture this week. We spent a lot of time in King's Landing. 

We open up with Arya grabbing a big rock and considering the proper way to smash the sleeping Hound's head in. But The Hound wasn't sleeping and coolly advises Arya that if she wants to kill him she had better do it right the first time otherwise he'll break both her arms. Charming fellow that Hound. Arya thinks she's being taken back to King's Landing but The Hound profanely informs her that he's taking her to The Twins, The Frey stronghold, for the wedding between Roslin Frey and Edmure Tully. The Hound intends to ransom Arya back to her brother and mother.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

That's What's UP - The Urban Politico Radio Hour

That's What's UP - The Urban Politico Radio Hour
Join us Sunday, May 19th at 5pm (ET) as we talk about the Politics of the United States and beyond.

This week's discussion:
  • IRS-Gate
  • The Associated Press-Gate
  • The Right Still Talking About Benghazi-Gate
  • Game of Thrones
Listen Live Online HERE 

Or Call In to join our discussion (424) 675-6844

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Movie Reviews- Gangster Squad, Mama, Stand Up Guys

Gangster Squad
directed by Ruben Fleischer
This film is a little light on story and gloriously heavy on scenery, costume and surroundings. It's a trip to heaven if you are into late forties and early fifties clothes, cars, and art deco architecture or happen to yearn for a simpler time when men were men, women were dames and there was no problem that couldn't be solved with two fists and a .45. Gangster Squad is inspired by history but is not bound by it. It takes lots of liberties with the story. So if that appeals to you this movie could be worth your while. Despite some surface similarities it is nothing like LA Confidential, The Big Sleep or any other films with conflicted heroes or outright anti heroes. No here, the good guys are good, the bad guys are very bad and that's pretty much that. And all the girls are crazy about sharp dressed men...

I wrote about LA mobster Mickey Cohen before here. In Gangster Squad, Cohen (Sean Penn) is the quintessential bad guy. Quick tempered with a very broad NU YAWK accent, Cohen is the rising star bad guy in Los Angeles. He's got his fat little fingers in everything, prostitution, narcotics, gambling, bookmaking, loansharking, you name it he does it. A former boxer, Cohen is quick with his fists and doesn't mind throwing a beating to hapless subordinates. He doesn't like mistakes. Of course if you get off with a beating count yourself lucky as the quite sadistic Cohen has many other ways to enforce discipline, most of which involve removing you from the planet. Cohen's only rival for power in California is the older and more cautious Mafiosi Jack Dragna (Jon Polito) who is worried about Cohen's strength and insolence.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Obama, Holder, Clinton: Benghazi, and DOJ AP Subpoenas

Well well well, what a difference a day makes. It was seemingly just yesterday when the President was having his inauguration and sneering at people who didn't trust the government, or thought that they were taxed enough already, thank you very much. And it wasn't that long ago that rather than answer direct questions about her role in the Benghazi situation, Secretary Clinton was screeching "What difference does it make" at questioners.

Well Madame Secretary it may make some difference after all. Yes indeed. You know just like it makes a difference that you didn't actually land under sniper fire in Bosnia. With that record of truthfulness you might understand that people don't necessarily want to take your word on something without proof.
( When you have a moment after reading this post please check out this excellent C-SPAN discussion with CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson. It's very long and not strictly speaking necessary for this post but it does clarify a great many of the issues raised by this scandal)


Or it may not, it could all indeed be much ado about nothing  h/t field negro
We don't know yet. What we do know is that Cheryl Mills, Secretary Clinton's Chief of Staff, called Gregory Hicks, the deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, and expressed her firm displeasure that Hicks had spoken to Representative Jason Chaffetz. She was also peveed that Hicks was raising questions about the initial official explanation on Benghazi. Hicks claims that his job and competence were harshly questioned and that he was demoted. We also know that Hicks stands firm that there was a stand down order that prevented a possible rescue mission from taking place

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

IRS Example: Where the Workplace and Politics Collide

Okay – so, maybe I’m biased. Or, maybe I’m privy to similar situations where there wasn’t much to report; however, that didn’t stop the media from making something out of nothing.  Who knows?  I do know this, if we just listen to the political spin or what passes for journalism then we’re left only with the results the pundits want you to hear.  Usually this is smothered in partisanship and lacking in impartiality and facts.

First and foremost, you all know that I’m a staunch supporter of the Federal government.  I DEEPLY feel it provides an absolutely necessary counter balance to a private sector whose principle objective is profit – even at the expense of the public.  

With that being said, there exists the necessity of trust.  Without it, the whole thing falls apart.  Rightfully so, the public sector has a level or responsibility that doesn’t exist in the private sector.  The results of some actions can lead to the loss of property, freedom, and in some cases, life.  Therefore, it is paramount for the public sector to maintain its integrity.  That means, it can’t do things like singling out conservative groups for extra scrutiny.  

HOWEVER, I also add caution and patience.  Speaking from experience, the truth rarely sees the light of day when one side sees a political vulnerability to exploit.  

Does this mean that there aren’t folks within the government who don’t mind the rules?  Of course not.  That expectation is unreasonable.  However, the devil is in the details, as they say.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reason #1,352 Why Affirmative Action is Still Needed: SCOTUS Saw 1 Black Lawyer During Entire Term

We are, at this moment, what I suspect is perhaps a week away (give or take a day) from the Supreme Court's decision in Fisher v. University of Texas which many Constitutional scholars (including yours truly) expect will be the end of Affirmative Action in higher education.  Well, for public schools anyway.  Private colleges will, of course, still be able to practice whatever Affirmative Action programs they wish no matter what the Court decides in Fisher.  But stepping back from that case for a moment, the bigger question that Fisher and other Affirmative Action cases have been trying to grapple with for the past 30-40 years is whether or not Whites and other minorities in this country are on an even playing field today.  And the answer that we keep coming back to time after time is: not really.  Don't get me wrong, we've come a long way.  We've made important strides.  We even elected a Black President which, in the minds of many Whites, is the sine qua non that racism is over in America...even though many of those same Whites spent the next 4 years actively tearing down the first Black President through personal attacks which had nothing to do with policy.  But hey, let's not focus on the negative right?  We've progressed a great deal as a nation when it comes to race relations.  This is true.  Nevertheless, despite this progress the numbers do not lie:

Per AP:
In roughly 75 hours of arguments at the Supreme Court since October, only one African-American lawyer appeared before the justices, and for just over 11 minutes.
The numbers were marginally better for Hispanic lawyers. Four of them argued for a total of 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Women were better represented, accounting for just over 17 percent of the arguments before the justices.
In an era when three women, a Hispanic and an African-American sit on the court and white men constitute a bare majority of the nine justices, the court is more diverse than the lawyers who argue before it.
The arguments that took place from October to April were presented overwhelmingly by white men. Women and minority lawyers whose clients' cases were heard by the court were far more likely to represent governments or be part of public-interest law firms than in private practice, where paychecks are much larger.
The numbers generally reflect the largely white and male upper reaches of the biggest and richest private law firms, where there have been small gains by women and minorities in the past 20 years. A recent survey by the Association for Legal Career Professionals found that more than 93 percent of partners in law firms are white and nearly 80 percent are men.

Monday, May 13, 2013

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Bear and the Maiden Fair

This episode was penned by George R.R. Martin himself. For those who care about such things it had significant differences from the books. If you don't like that I suppose you could take it up with GRRM. =) Of course I would prefer you didn't as time spent responding to your outraged missives is time that GRRM's not writing the next book.  Anyway we open up on the Wall. The Wildling party has made it to the other side. Jon confronts Orell about the little issue of cutting the rope and dooming Jon and Ygritte but Orell says that's business. I liked this if nothing else because we get to briefly see a less emo and more forceful Jon Snow. Ygritte asks questions about the North's battle tactics and makes fun of what she sees as excessive regimented styles but it's apparent that she's somewhat nervous. Later Orell makes a play for Ygritte's wildling love (or at least Ygritte's wild thing) but she shoots him down by confirming that she loves Jon Snow. Embittered on a personal level as well as still not trusting Jon, Orell warns Ygritte away from Jon. Ygritte mistakes a windmill for a castle and has no cultural frame for understanding Jon Snow's more traditional expectations for women. She mocks them. Jon gives an impassioned speech about the futility of the Wildlings attempting to invade and defeat the North. From the way Ygritte looks at him you get the feeling that she might even believe this herself but can't stand to hear Jon say it. It's well acted, I thought. Ygritte reminds Jon that come what may they belong to each other.

The Stark-Tully army is delayed by rain in marching to the Twins for the Tully-Frey wedding. Catelyn is not happy about this. After Robb and Talisa have played hide the sword in the scabbard and find my wedding ring , Robb is temporarily not blinded by Talisa's beauty. Robb notices that Talisa is writing a letter to her mother. Talisa lets Robb know that's she's pregnant, something that makes Robb even happier than he already was.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!!!!

There is no radio show today. Hopefully you've done something nice for your Mom or in memory of her. The radio show will return next Sunday with what I expect will be a rather interesting number of different topics. Thanks.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Book Reviews- Unfinished Business, The Fall of Rome, Tarnsman of Gor, Elric of Melnibone

Unfinished Business
by Joseph D. Pistone
Joseph Pistone is a retired Italian-American FBI agent who is famous for his undercover work.  I wrote before about him here. You may remember the movie Donnie Brasco starring Johnny Depp. Pistone was "Donnie Brasco". He penetrated the Mafia, initially the Colombo Family and later the Bonanno Family. He was so convincing as a supposed jewel thief, hijacker and tough guy that he was ultimately proposed for formal membership ("being made") and given murders to accomplish. The FBI ended his assignment before he could be made, which still irritates Pistone today. Nevertheless Pistone gathered a wealth of information on the Bonanno Family and other organized crime families. It greatly embarrassed the Bonannos to have almost given their highest seal of approval to an FBI agent. Pistone duped the Mafia so thoroughly that when his direct Mafia sponsors and associates were informed that Pistone was an agent, they refused to believe it and for days thought/hoped that "Donnie" had been kidnapped and brainwashed. The higher ups, the bosses, underbosses and ranking captains who had been introduced to "Donnie" weren't just embarrassed. They were angry. And when people like that get angry, other people die. "Donnie's" captain was called into a management meeting. His body was later found with its hands chopped off. A soldier who had had close dealings with "Donnie" was lured out of hiding and murdered by his own blood relatives. The Mafia is not known for forgiving mistakes.

Pistone's operation reverberated throughout federal and state law enforcement investigations, indictments and convictions for several years. There were hundreds of indictments and convictions based in whole or in part upon Pistone's information. At least that's what Pistone says. He can speak without fear of contradiction as anyone who could contradict specific allegations is either dead or in prison. The man has a very healthy ego but I think most successful undercover agents would need one. For years he pretended to be someone else while surrounded by and working closely with thieves, murderers and a few psychopaths. Some criminal associates had extremely good memories. One mistake in his cover stories and that would have been it for Pistone. With the conclusion of active investigations he decided to revisit his story and share some dirty laundry. He's more forthcoming than he was previously.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Urban Beat: World Trade Center Becomes Tallest Building in America Topping Out at 1,776 Feet

Per CNN:

New York (CNN) -- Construction workers bolted a 408-foot spire into place atop One World Trade Center on Friday, symbolically capping New York's comeback after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The spire brings the iconic building to a height of 1,776 feet -- an allusion to the year the United States declared its independence. It also makes the building the tallest in the Western Hemisphere and the third-tallest in the world.
The company developing the building in partnership with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey confirmed the installation.
While the building still has significant construction before its scheduled 2014 opening, the installation brought cheers from New Yorkers, and from people around the country.

Al Sharpton's new MSNBC show

I made a New Year's Resolution to stop watching PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton. I generally feel his heart's in the right place. I respect some of the work he's accomplished. But I think he's a horribly annoying television host. Constant outrage combined with inflexible partisanship and continuous yelling is not my cup of tea. I preferred the previous fellow at that time slot, Cenk Uygur. I'd much rather see someone like Ta-Nehisi Coates or Boyce Watkins in the role now. MSNBC has become a mirror image of FOX. So the other day when I made the mistake of breaking my resolution and turning on MSNBC between 6 and 7 PM imagine my surprise to learn that Al Sharpton, Eugene Robinson and Professor Cornel West have agreed to host a new prime time talk show for MSNBC starting for the fall season! 
The new show is titled "Loud, Confused and Confusing".*
Here's a cut from their pilot:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ariel Castro Charged w/ Kidnapping and Rape in Cleveland 10-Year Kidnapping Case

By now you've probably heard about the horrendous story of the 3 young women and the 6 year-old daughter of one of the women who have been rescued from a house in Cleveland where they were being held captive for 10 years.  Finally today the man who owned that home, Ariel Castro, has been formally charged by the state prosecutor with several counts of rape and kidnapping.

Guest Post: Baltimore Prison Love Black Guerilla Family Style

Today's guest post comes from Obsidian who shares his views on the recent Baltimore prison scandal. Let him know what you think in the comments. He can also be reached at his blog The Obsidian Files.
By now, you've probably heard about the latest activities of the prison gang/organized crime outfit, the Black Guerilla Family - the local Baltimore chapter chief, one Tavon "Bulldog" Smith, seems to have been up to quite a bit during his stay in the state's prison. Among other things (like running a full-service drug dealing operation from his prison cell), he seems to have impregnated at least four of the thirteen Black female prison guards that serviced him and other members of the BGF.
"Four corrections officers became pregnant by one inmate. Two of them got tattoos of the inmate’s first name, Tavon — one on her neck, the other on a wrist. The guards allegedly helped leaders of the Black Guerilla Family run their criminal enterprise in jail by smuggling cellphones, prescription pills and other contraband in their underwear, shoes and hair."

For those of us who follow the news headlines and examine them through the lens of EvoPsych and Game, none of these developments comes as any shock or surprise, nor is the incidence of "prison romances" anything new. Indeed other blogs have covered such stories in the not too distant past, where we find the rough-and-ready, yet sensitive-and-charismatic Prison Guy wooing the female prison guard or psychologist. While some have excoriated the powers that be for what they see as the very real downsides of the increased participation of women in what were traditionally all male workspaces, I have a differing tack on this thing.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Question: Wouldn't We give President Romney Credit for Current Economic Success?

Despite conservative talking points stating the contrary, the economy is actually improving.  Now, we shouldn’t be under the illusion that things are perfect and all is well, but we are in a far better place today than we were before President Obama took office.  So while we hear political pundits with ulterior motives talk about how up in arms we’d all be if Benghazi happened under a Republican administration, I’m curious why they remain silent about the recovering economy.  Especially since we know what the message would be if Romney had won the most recent election.

Again, while not perfect, it is hard to ignore the general economic numbers.  Also, while the devil is in the details, let’s not pretend that those details would make it into ANY of the conservative talking points.  With that being said, based on the standards used to illustrate the bad economy, it sure does appear that the tide has turned: the unemployment rate fell to 7.5%, the “Dow” is up more than 14% hitting record highs above 15,000 points, and consumers are starting to spend money increasing at a rate of 3.2%.  The economy grew 2.5% in the first quarter of 2013 and new home sales rose nearly 19%.  Not to mention that the public sector continues to shrink and government spending is on the decline.  Bottom line: the numbers look good and show that the economy is healing.  And all this on the heels of the worst recession since the great depression, political and budgetary ineptitude, European economic turmoil, and, contrary to conservative talking points, rising taxes.

Monday, May 6, 2013

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Climb

This episode was transitional in different ways. "The Climb" was the episode title. The climb is the literal description of Jon Snow's and the Wildlings' perilous journey up 700 feet of a possibly sorcerous ice wall. It's also the metaphor for Littlefinger's opportunity to move to a higher level of power as chaos covers the land. I thought a few things, especially Littlefinger's motivations, were much too obvious but this is television.

We open up with Sam showing Gilly his obsidian spearhead and general ineptitude at outdoorsmanship. But his heart's in the right place and after Gilly's horrific existence that might count for a lot with her. In contrast the quite skilled outdoors women Osha and Meera argue over the proper way to kill, skin and cook rabbits. Violence seems imminent but Bran orders them both to kill that noise. I wish we could get 15 episodes a year because Bran and Arya are growing and changing very quickly. I hope they don't recast. Jojen has a vision of Jon Snow beyond the Wall surrounded by enemies. The viewer already knows this. This is why I wished the Reeds had been introduced last year. What does this add?
As Arya practices her archery under the watchful eye and careful critique of Anguy, she notices a party approaching. It's Melisandre and her escort. She is displeased to find Thoros here. Thoros was supposed to convert Robert but obviously failed. When Melisandre sees Beric she is shocked speechless that Thoros was able to resurrect him six times. Apparently this is beyond her powers. Thoros speaks of losing his faith in King's Landing amid lust and decadence but finding it again when he prayed Beric back to life. Melisandre thinks that's all very interesting but she wants Gendry (Robert's son) for some yet unknown purpose. To Arya's and especially Gendry's dismay Thoros and Beric agree to this, also taking some gold in exchange for Gendry. To say that Arya is angry is an understatement.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Movie Reviews- Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3
directed by Shane Black
I am trying to write shorter more concise reviews. Iron Man 3 happens to be a perfect film on which to practice that style. The foreign marketplace, especially China, is an increasingly important part of the Hollywood business model. Studios must create films which can appeal to people even if they have to use subtitles, dubbing or have no translation at all. Thus enter Iron Man 3. It is an action film. No one expects Silver Linings Playbook or Annie Hall. Subtle, Iron Man 3 is not. But there's a, I don't know a patina of boredom and paint by the numbers attitude that pervades this film. Sequels rarely live up artistically to the original and this one is no different. But even for an action film this movie seems to have a remarkable lack of feeling. Good looking woman in peril? Check. Wisecracking hero? Check. 2nd tier buddy who helps save the day? Check. Bad guy with secret past? Double check.
As mentioned China is a more important market to Hollywood these days. That country has not been shy about censoring films that are thought to be insulting to China. So The Mandarin, who in the comic was a definitively Chinese/Eurasian villain, has been reworked to be a probably non-Chinese villain of possibly Western or South/West Asian origins played by Sir Ben Kingsley. In a nod to the original comic he leads an organization called the The Ten Rings, which claims to be taking revenge on America for, well, basically everything from the slaughter of Indians to pick your reason. He's been hijacking the airwaves and ranting his manifesto immediately before or after his minions carry out another terrorist attack. No one can figure out how these bombs are being set off or for that matter how a cave dwelling crazy old man can tap into the private and public satellite network of the entire planet. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Music Reviews- Hound Dog Taylor, Paul O'Dette

Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers
I've written a lot about blues musicians who didn't fit the stereotype of wild and crazy drunks. Well of course there are people who not only fit the stereotype, they helped create it. Whether he was playing live or in recording in studio Theodore Roosevelt "Hound Dog" Taylor was rarely without a bottle of whiskey and often somewhat buzzed if not technically drunk during performances. He routinely got in arguments and fights with his band's other guitarist, Brewer Phillips, whom he loved and hated in equal measure. Driving across country to make gigs Taylor would occasionally slap the sleeping Phillips across the back of the head telling him to "Wake up and argue!." They often traded insults and had fistfights. This friendly and not so friendly rivalry took a deadly wrong turn once. When Phillips joked about how he used to know the current Mrs. Taylor when she was allegedly in a different line of work, an angry Hound Dog shot Phillips twice with the intention of killing him. Phillips survived and the two men repaired their friendship shortly before Taylor died of lung cancer. Presumably Phillips thereafter refrained from discussing the sexual history of his buddy's wife. I don't know. I know that Taylor didn't shoot him again. And if that's not real friendship I don't know what is.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Price for Freedom is Death

  "The price of freedom is death." Malcolm X

This is a famous quote from Malcolm X.  I wonder if this is true today...  If it is, I believe the dynamics of his point have changed.  When compared to one of his other more familiar quotes, "By any means necessary," you can see the context for which he was speaking.  To me, he was speaking to the African Americans during the times.  Those who were fighting the good fight of Civil Rights.  He was telling them that the freedom they seek is not without a price.  Equality, at times, must be forcefully removed from the oppressors.  Sometimes that means folks die... sometimes that means that YOU will day.  YOU will day so others can be free.  "By any means necessary."

I guess that was a more selfless day and age…. If you were able to listen to our show on Sunday you heard my blog partners and I discussing this very issue; I thank them for humoring me. I’ve actually been thinking about this for a while. Just to be clear, I'm not a proponent of some extreme dystopian state where a totalitarian government has absolute control over every aspect of our lives.  However, I do find some of our national debates very interesting, to say the least. Where Malcolm X was motivating the African American community to fight - to the death if necessary - to free themselves from the oppression of the white establishment, today, the fight for freedom is no longer a selfless cost.  No, today, we are FAR more selfish.  During the Civil Rights movement, individuals laid down their own life for freedom.  Today, we appear to be accepting the deaths of others so that they can be “free.”

Thursday, May 2, 2013

You Deserve Rape: Free Speech or Harassment?

How far do you think the First Amendment protections on free speech should stretch? In a famous Supreme Court case which then restricted the ability of anti-war citizens to distribute anti-war literature, the Court said that a person could not falsely yell fire in a crowded theater. I think the example was a good one although the actual case opinion was in my view horribly incorrect.

"The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent." LINK

This standard was fortunately later modified in the 1969 Brandenburg decision which allowed that free speech could not be restricted unless, among other reasons, it incited or was likely to incite imminent lawless action. I'm guessing this would for example include such things as standing up in a courtroom where your loved one was about to be sentenced and yelling out to your numerous friends and family "Let's burn this muyerfuyer down and kill that judge!!". That's probably going to get you removed from the courtroom and arrested. There are some other instances in which free speech protections do not apply: threats, lies, copyright infringement, parental rights over children, and a few other circumstances which don't much interest me for purposes of this post. Of course my blog partners Old Guru and The Janitor can easily give chapter and verse on exactly where free speech is and is not limited legally. It's what they do. But I'm not only interested on where the legal line currently is but rather where do you think it should be?

3 Years Later Only 37% of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Is In Place

Maybe the 99 percenters had it right all along; there's a battle going on in this country right now between Wall Street and Washington DC and its outcome will affect all 300 million of us here in America.  However, you won't hear about it on the news and you won't read about in the papers.  Why not?  Because it's about things called "derivatives," "credit default swaps," "futures" and a whole bunch of other complicated financial mumbo-jumbo you've probably never heard of that the media has a hard time sensationalizing to the general public.  If the topic of this debate was religion, race, guns or sex then we'd be seeing it all over the 6 o'clock news everyday for the next 3 months straight because the media has an easier time selling that stuff to the masses.  We can't hear enough about what Kim Kardashian is up to these days.  But when it comes to Wall Street, your average American has no idea what the hell goes on there, let alone why they should even be concerned about it.

But America found itself becoming extremely concerned with the affairs on Wall Street in 2008, didn't it?

By then it was too late.  As we've explained before, the recession that we all saw in 2008 was the culmination of events that had been going on for many years.  Perhaps if Americans had been more concerned with the aforementioned "mumbo-jumbo" before 2008 then we could have avoided crashing our economy into a ditch and taking the rest of the world economy down with us.  But you know how we do, America - if it's not smacking us upside the head in our day-to-day lives then we tend to be oblivious to whatever "it" is.  So in the interest of going upside our collective heads, let's talk about the latest exposé on the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (aka "Dodd-Frank").