Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bigot Ted Nugent insults Stevie Wonder

In reaction to the Zimmerman trial verdict, Stevie Wonder announced that he would cease performing in Florida. Obviously many people disagreed with this decision. One who did was the guitarist and right-wing attention whore Ted Nugent  who described Wonder and his decision in ugly insulting terms.
“How brain-dead do you have to be? How strangled by denial, how dishonest, how cheap do you have to be to focus on a clear-cut case where all the evidence, from the DOJ, from the FBI, from the army of investigative specialists in Florida determined that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense against a life-threatening attack by hoodlum, dope-smoking Trayvon Martin,” he continued.  Nugent said Wonder has gone from being one of the most soulful men in the world to “soulless.” He also called Wonder’s boycott “brain-dead.”  “I will pray for Stevie Wonder and all these other numb-nuts who think that Trayvon Martin is more important than the tens of thousands of slaughtered blacks at the hands of blacks,” he said.
Nugent is constitutionally incapable of agreeing to disagree or couching his honest opposition in non-insulting terms. No, like a lot of similar conservatives, Nugent seemingly believes that anyone who disagrees with him is stupid, evil, soulless, and probably racist to boot. While I'm not sure that a man who performs in a Confederate Battle Flag t-shirt has room to call anyone racist or soulless, this is just the latest in a long line of racially charged vitriol from a has been guitarist who is the very picture of intolerance. To the extent that Nugent is the face of the Republican base, and he does seem to be quite popular with certain Republican elected officials, the Republican Party will continue to have low popularity among the coalition that elected President Obama twice. I'm going to write more on this later if I ever get time but people don't vote for people who make it clear that they hate you. We wrote post-election about whether the Republican party could shed its image of racial exclusion or even if it wanted to. As long as Nugent feels comfortable identifying as a Republican, the Republican brand will be racist.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Federal Government wants your passwords

Allegedly the U.S. Government is obtaining or trying to obtain your various internet passwords.
I can't say that I am surprised by this allegation. The horrible thing about the post 9-11 world to which Americans have eagerly submitted is that it gave permission to the most power-hungry authoritarian impulses on the both the left and the right to run amok. We have ceded so many rights and privileges of citizenship in order to be safe that I do not doubt that a future Administration will wish to put video cameras and screens in each American's home just to keep an eye on what everyone is doing. If we have to submit to a virtual strip search in order to fly, are subject to random stop-and-frisk walking the streets, have the Post Office scanning every piece of mail that has been sent and sharing that with intelligence or law enforcement agencies without a judge's approval, and have the NSA monitoring phone records and likely phone conversations and real time web conversations, why wouldn't the government just want to make things easy for itself by just getting user passwords? No muss no fuss. They can just sign on as you and read through your email or blog posts or facebook messages without any issues. What's the big deal right? If you have nothing to hide why wouldn't you want the government to have your passwords? What are you? An Al-Qaeda supporter? A fascist? A socialist? A Green Party voter?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

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

That's What's UP - The Urban Politico Radio Hour
Join us Sunday, July 28th at 5pm (ET).

  • Juror B29
  • Race relation
  • Sex Scandals (Weiner and others.  What does it mean?)
  • GOP - In fighting

Listen Live Online HERE 

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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Movie Reviews-42, Fruitvale Station, Evil Dead, Vehicle 19

directed by Brian Helgeland
I'm not a huge baseball fan. Although I do happen to be currently kicking behind in my fantasy baseball league. Go figure. Snicker. Nevertheless obviously I knew about Jackie Robinson and the mythic figure he became to several black Americans in the post-war era. So watching this film I attained a better understanding of why my maternal grandfather, like Robinson a WW2 veteran, was such an enthusiastic Dodgers fan (Robinson's team). Though this is a sports movie and as such is mostly concerned with struggles between and among groups of men, it has a surprisingly strong secondary story line concerning the love between Jackie Robinson and his wife Rachel. She is key to providing Jackie support and love to keep going. She even has some relevant baseball advice. They protect and nurture each other. It's rare to see this in a black couple in a big budget Hollywood movie. This is really odd when you think about it. 42 is a traditional feel good movie. It's also big on sports cliches but it has the advantage in that a great many of these cliches in the story actually occurred.
This film takes place shortly after WW2. Last season the Brooklyn Dodgers were almost but not quite good enough to win the pennant. Changes in American society were afoot. Brooklyn Dodgers general manager/president/part owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) is determined to be part of what he thinks are required changes in American society, most specifically baseball. Rickey intends to find a black player who is skilled enough to play in the previously all white major leagues and who is smart and strong enough to deal with the eruptions of hatred that will surely follow from fans, rival players and even his own teammates. Rickey thinks that man is Jackie Robinson.

Friday, July 26, 2013

What German Sounds Like

Some years ago in a different department and on a different project I worked with a number of Germans. They were like anyone else once I got to know them. Some were nice, some not so much. Each man or woman was a different individual. I learned a lot from some of them. I learned to stay away from others. But listening to them speak their native language to each other always sounded to me, well something like the video below. I love listening to German opera but as I used to joke with some German co-workers, German is the perfect language for telling people what to do. I'm not yet convinced of its utility for sweet nothings or lullabies. It is difficult for me to detect anger in German language since almost everything sounds angry. And I have the same problem detecting anger in Zulu since some of the saddest and/or angriest Zulu music almost always sounds happy to me. So it goes. That is the problem with only speaking one language. I should have buckled down and learned different languages when I had the chance. Obviously this video is a parody and an extreme exaggeration and not meant to be anti-German.... =)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Hardest Letter I've Had to Write: Post Zimmerman Thoughts

Longtime blog contributor, labor activist and string bassist extraordinaire Reece Chenault decided to share his thoughts about the Zimmerman verdict and what it says about us as a country and community in a short, highly personal and brutally honest piece. Share your thoughts in the comments....

Dear Future Child, 
I love you very much and I have some important yet difficult things to tell you.  It breaks my heart that this is the second letter I have written to you and I am sorry that it even needs to exist.

You will be born into a country that fears your mind, your body, indeed your very existence.  "Why?" you will surely ask (because you are my child and I know what kind of person is born from the marriage of Anice and Reece :-) ) and I can only respond that there are too many reasons why for me to truthfully answer you without feeling like I've left something out. Someday we'll get into that stuff at a time you choose (because that's what kids do) but for now let's just let the question and knowledge hang out there.

My silliness and the joy I express are real and you shouldn't forget that... but I have lived in fear for the majority of my adult life.  Thankfully, my childhood was the one I hope yours will be in that I was surrounded by family and friends who protected me while I was growing into my adult body, shielding me from many experiences I am eternally grateful I never had.  Hopefully by the time you're born I'll be (a great deal) smaller but I'm always going to be tall.  Your grandparents, as you will learn to understand, are fiercely intelligent black people with good hearts.  That tenacity, that physical and mental height advantage, that tradition of being proud makes us just that more likely to be targets for someone else.  At a certain age, I was taught that the best way to ensure that I wouldn't suffer the consequences of my birth was probably just to react like I would a dangerous animal:  take preventative measures, slow your movements, watch carefully for attack, gather information, when possible and safe just run away.  I am often ashamed of it but it has kept me alive.  Fear is an incredibly powerful motivator.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Here We Go Again - More Weinergate!

Here We Go Again!

If Anthony Weiner is willing to drag his wife and family through the mud to prove a point, he would do the same to New York City as Mayor. New York City does not need that type of a person in the top position. 

It has come to the surface that Weiner, after his 2011 resignation continued to engage in an inappropriate relationship with a 22-year old women. Weiner is accused of sexting and trading inappropriate pictures. This went on for six months post his resignation. Let me repeat and rephrase... Anthony Weiner was busted, lost his job and almost lost his marriage, but that wasn't enough. For six months following the self imposed monsoon, he continued to engage in the activities that caused the monsoon. Does this situation not smell like Weiner has some serious problems that need to be addressed in a psychiatrists office, not City Hall?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The British Royal Birth and American Media

Well, that's done. Aren't you excited? If you were like me you were anxiously waiting to get news of the British royal birth. The new Prince of Cambridge was born yesterday and I am just so excited by this news. The rest of you must have been similarly intrigued because most of the American based television news shows I skimmed before coming to work and after arriving home were all filled with American anchors and gossip columnists acting a fool. Lots of precious air time and print space on various American stations and newspapers was devoted to the amount of time that the Duchess of Cambridge spent in labor, what the name of her new child was going to be, how long it would be before this boy would be king, who was ahead of him in the line of succession, how his birth would officially be announced, who was qualified to actually be in the delivery room to verify that he actually arrived from the nether regions of the Duchess and wasn't some sort of nefarious pretender Antichrist switched at the last moment and all sorts of other trivia that was only possibly of interest to various addled headed romantics.  It made this sappy old traditionalist feel a swell of royalist patriotic feeling in his heart and.... wait a minute....

That's right, I'm not British. I'm American. And usually I am not personally emotionally engaged in the arrival of a child into this world unless that child is mine or that of my kith and kin. I am ALWAYS happy to hear that friends, relatives, classmates, co-workers or other people I know are new parents/grandparents/uncles/aunts. I enjoy seeing their baby pics and hearing their funny stories. Why? Because I know these people and like or love them. Other folks? Well the best estimate is that there are approximately almost 400,000 children born every day on this planet. I don't mean to be a curmudgeon but I don't know or care about most of those people. I wish every child on this planet happiness, health and long life. My interest ends there.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What IF Trayvon Had a Gun?

What if Trayvon had a gun?
What if Zimmerman was Black?

American Journal
I don’t know Juror B37 anymore than you do.  I think it is safe to assume that she doesn’t believe she's racist.  I'm sure she'd say she doesn't hate Black people anymore then Paula Deen.  However, any Black person that listened to her interview with Anderson Cooper heard how laced with race her comments actually were. 

The term you may be looking for is “implicit racism.”  Contrary to others (I’m sure) I don’t believe many people who say or do things that most Black people consider racist actually HATE Black people.  I do believe, however, that due to “implicit racism” they either (1) buy into the negative stereotypes, images, and generalities, or (2) come to a conclusion by relying on only part of the available facts and information.  Implicit racism led the AP to produce two similar stories implying two different acts.   It led (and leads) fraternities to host racially incentive parties, then turn around, shrug, and say, "what's the big deal?"  And this is where we find ourselves today.  Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman have thrust implicit racism to center stage.  Implicit racism is still racism. Yet, because it is hidden within the subconscious, it may be more dangerous than general racism.  How do you "fix" something when others don't see the problem?  Implicit racism takes an image or a small sample, and applies it to the entire race.  This allows some folks to say, "[ALL] Black people don't care about education" when the dropout rate for Black people is 8% according to the Dept of Ed.  So what would lead someone to apply an attribute from less then 10% of the population and apply it to the ENTIRE race?  Especially when the argument could be made that not only do Black people care, they care more since they've made the greatest improvements (from 13% to 8%) compared to their White (9% to 5%) counterparts.  As you can see, even if you THINK you don't have a problem -- Houston, there's a problem.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

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

That's What's UP - The Urban Politico Radio Hour
Join us Sunday, July 21st at 5pm (ET).

MORE on Trayvon Martin:
  • The Aftermath
  • President Obama's Statement
  • Right wing Statement

Listen Live Online HERE 

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

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Robb Stark and The Red Wedding: All his fault??

Robb Stark's Mistakes
Whenever author George R.R. Martin is asked about the Red Wedding he cackles evilly and rants that he won't stop his reign of literary terror until every last Stark is dead dead dead  calmly points out that the normal myth cycle has often featured a boy becoming a man by rising up after his father's death and leading his family to prominence/revenge/justice. But Martin had zero interest in writing that story. So by Word of God Robb Stark had to die. Martin has said art is not a democracy. If you don't like his writing ,read something else. He's certainly not changing his story because of your preferences. I might have something to write on that later as some fans have a bone to pick with Martin and Benioff and Weiss about representation and stereotyping. A really nasty controversy broke out about 3 weeks ago concerning some Season 4 casting news from HBO. But I digress. Anyway the Red Wedding was gruesome to watch on screen. It was horrible to read and according to Martin it was extremely painful to write. That is why he saved it for last (although chronologically it occurs a little past halfway through book 3). But temporarily putting Martin's decision aside, I'd like to step inside the creation and examine if Robb could have avoided certain mistakes and/or the costs that he paid for those errors. 

Hindsight is 20/20. Robb should have realized that Lord Walder Frey was EXTREMELY upset about the broken betrothal. I would not blame anyone for not anticipating Frey's actions at a wedding. People forget that Robb took over family leadership at a very young age and lacked any older trusted male advisor on his father's side. Robb was my favorite character. I strongly identified with him. The North Remembers! With that in mind let's review Robb's biggest mistakes.*

Music Reviews-The Soul Messengers, The Modern Jazz Quartet, The Pharaohs

The Soul Messengers
You may or may not be familiar with the phenomenon but there are some Black Americans who claim descent from one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, or who had African Jewish ancestors who were kidnapped and enslaved, or who converted to Judaism, or who simply very strongly believed that Black people in general were the original Chosen People. The competing religious claims, rivalries and varied histories of all these groups go back for decades and in some cases centuries. They overlap with Marcus Garvey and thus with religions and movements like The Moorish Science Temple, The Five-Percenters, Rastafari and other black nationalist based groups. It's a longer post than I want to write this at this time but suffice it to say that in mid sixties Chicago and Detroit there were Black Jewish citizens, separate from Euro-American Judaism, who were proud of both their Jewishness and Blackness. Ultimately some of these people, known as African Hebrew Israelites, or just Black Hebrews, decided that America was no longer the place for them. They decided to immigrate to what they considered Promised Lands: certain countries in Africa and of course Israel. Their experience overseas was not without headaches as they were pressured by natives to prove their racial/religious/ethnic bona fides. Many people then and now thought they were fake. They believed the same of many of their critics. Some Black Hebrews gave up and returned to the US. Others eventually settled in Dimona, Israel where after several legal battles they were allowed to stay. 

Anyway, politics and race aside, the Black Hebrews who settled in Israel brought with them intimate knowledge of the then current popular and religious music of African Americans. One group that is worth listening to is The Soul Messengers. Like Parliament-Funkadelic, this group had different names and satellite groups that it backed up but it was usually pretty much the same group of musicians and singers despite what the name on the album release might say.

Friday, July 19, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: Obama: "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."

There were many in the African American community who were looking for President Obama (the country's first African American president) to comment on Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman trial.

Today, in an unannounced, unscripted press conference, President Obama gave his most extensive comments on race relations since his "A More Perfect Union" speech in Philadelphia in 2008. 

"When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said this could've been my son. Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could've been me 35 years ago,"

What are your thoughts?
What is the significance of these remarks coming from the first African American president?
What's next?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Detroit Files for Bankruptcy

As predicted here recently, the City of Detroit just became the largest municipality in US history to file for bankruptcy. Typically for the ways things are done around here, even the filing was filled with some shenanigans as Governor Snyder and Emergency Manager Orr filed the bankruptcy just before a judge was set to grant a temporary restraining order preventing such a filing. I think this is a sad day. But it is probably one that was necessary. My only interest now is in hoping that the retirees and their dependents, some of whom are very close to me, don't get the shaft in whatever comes out of this process. But being the pessimistic sort I think they probably will.
The city of Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history Thursday afternoon, culminating a decades-long slide that transformed the nation’s iconic industrial town into a model of urban decline crippled by population loss, a dwindling tax base and financial problems. The 16-page petition was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s office was making plans this afternoon to hold a 10 a.m. Friday morning news conference at the Maccabees Building, 5057 Woodward in Midtown, according to his office. It’s the same location where the governor declared a financial emergency for Detroit on March 1.  Snyder authorized Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to file bankruptcy under a law the Legislature passed in December that replaced the previous emergency manager law voted repealed last November.

Obama considers Ray Kelly to head DHS

One thing which my father and other mentors always told me is to pay less attention to what people say and more attention to what they do. Actions speak louder than words. A manager might say that she's impressed with your experience and skills but if she ensures she pays you less than everyone else in your department with equal or lesser experience then perhaps she's not really all that impressed. A couple might say they would enjoy coming to a get together at your house but if every time you invite them they're busy or you get voicemail then perhaps they're trying to politely send you a message. Another person might tell you that your business plan is going to take the world by storm but if he's unwilling to invest chances are he doesn't have faith in your supposed business acumen. 

So with all that in mind it was irritating to hear a President who has spoken eloquently about the evils of racial profiling in Arizona and elsewhere to, if not quite endorse, float a big fat trial balloon towards the appointment of NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to replace outgoing Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. New York Senator Chuck Schumer has been lobbying to get Kelly that job. Obama offered Kelly praise, saying he would be "well-qualified" for the position.

Ray Kelly's obviously done an extraordinary job in New York," Obama said. "And the federal government partners a lot with New York, because obviously, our concerns about terrorism often times are focused on big-city targets, and I think Ray Kelly's one of the best there is.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Juror B37 Speaks Out About the George Zimmerman Trial

Your thoughts?

Monday, July 15, 2013

5 Ways To Lash Out After The Zimmerman Verdict

Immediately after the jury handed down its shocking, 'Not Guilty' verdict in George Zimmerman’s murder trial, social media, TV news and every urban street corner erupted in shock, disbelief and outrage at the jury’s unfavorable decision of allowing Zimmerman to walk free. Although it took the state of Florida months to bring charges against the neighborhood watch leader for the murder of 17-year old, unarmed Trayvon Martin, most of us believed that once all of the evidence was presented in the case that no one could deny Zimmerman profiled, harassed and ultimately murdered an unarmed, black teenager who was walking home from purchasing a pack of skittles and an iced tea. We believed this not because we are living in a post racial America, as the result of having elected a black President, or because black men have finally been accepted as an equal member of American society, because neither is true. We expected justice for Trayvon Martin because it was so obvious to us what occurred on that tragic evening in 2012 and we had to believe that a jury would see this as well.

The harsh reality of how much of white America views black people, particularly the black man was never more apparent than in this mostly white, all women jury’s verdict to acquit Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin was viewed by that jury as exactly what the defense attempted to portray him as--America’s worst nightmare--a young, black troublemaker. Yet those of use with half a brain have surmised from the evidence presented during the trial that Trayvon had EVERY right to do what he was doing that evening, and that if anyone was at fault in the matter it was George Zimmerman, who incited a verbal conflict with Trayvon, which ultimately became violent, ending with the death of a child.

The verdict was not only a tragedy for the Martin family, or even to the black community as a whole, it was a tragedy for those who naively believed that we were living in a post-racial America as well as those who have fought and continue fighting to make America a society who does not see race.

But now the verdict has been handed down and we should just accept the decision and move on. We rallied for a trial and we got it, so we should be satisfied, even if the decision was based in deep seeded and potentially subconscious racism and the perpetuation of a negative and mostly false stigma about black men. Even our black President, who upped the antees on the case last year, showing that he identified with the black teen, has pleaded with his biggest supporters to accept the verdict and essentially have faith in the criminal justice system. We should be satisfied.

The good thing is that no one is satisfied. Everyone wants to know what the next step is and how we can hold Florida, George Zimmerman, society accountable for the death of another one of our children. Here are a few steps we can all take to continue fighting for justice for Trayvon and his family.

1. Boycott Florida Tourism: First and foremost, do not spend a dime in Florida. If you’ve booked a trip to Miami, or had planned on taking the kids to Disney World, I’m sorry but we are going to need you to cancel that trip ASAP. Florida has proven time and time again that it does not value its black citizens and that they are dispensable. Since the only thing these people understand is money, we can at least make sure they do not get ours.

Black people are the biggest consumers in the world. We spend, spend, spend on products owned by people who hate us. We are the biggest victims of the social engineering practices of the advertising and entertainment industries. If we stop spending money in this country for a week I imagine we could cripple this country’s economy. All we are asking is that you stop supporting Florida tourism. You can travel to a caribbean island for about the same price anyway and stay at a beautiful all inclusive resort.

2. Sign The Petitions: Quit being lazy and sign the petitions you see circulating online. They’re calling for the US Department of Justice to bring charges against George Zimmerman for violating the civil rights of Trayvon Martin. This was the “plan B” in case Florida decided not to do the right thing.

3. Wake Up And Pay Attention:  There are other cases similar to the George Zimmerman murder trial that we need to rally behind, many of which are just as important to the struggle. Marissa Alexander, a black woman, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for firing a warning show in her home, while in a conflict with her abusive husband. Alexander invoked Florida’s “Stand Your Ground’ law, but to no avail. Apparently this law is reserved for the person who actually kills their enemy. Also in Florida Michael Dunn, a white man was arrested and charged back in November, with the murder of 17-year old, unarmed, black teen, Jordan Davis in Florida. Sound familiar? The argument was apparently over loud music. Dunn initially tried to invoke the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, by saying he thought the teen had wielded a shotgun.

4. Mentor And Help Educate Black Children: It is no secret that the prison system is disproportionately filled with men and women of color, many of whom are inside for petty drug offenses. Much of the reason for this, outside of the prison industrial complex and the new Jim Crow, is because our children are not being educated or even raised in some cases. The criminal justice system, education system, prison system, etc is hell bent on keeping black people in their place. Laws like "Stand Your Ground," give WHITE rednecks like George Zimmerman the justification to make sure we stay in our place.

I spent the last school year mentoring a group of High School kids in Washington, DC and it was one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had. I can attest to the fact that too many of our black children are in desperate need of mentorship and there are not nearly enough willing mentors around to satisfy the demand.

5. Support:  Donate to the Trayvon Martin Foundation. George Zimmerman raised over three times as much money for his defense as the Martin family, which is a clear indication as to how far America has come in matters of race. Text TMF to 50555 to donate $10 to the Trayvon Martin Foundation.

What are some other ways we can ensure that Trayvon Martin's murder is not in vain and that it does not go un-punished?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

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

That's What's UP - The Urban Politico Radio Hour
Join us Sunday, July 14th at 5pm (ET).

Zimmerman Trial

Listen Live Online HERE 

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

George Zimmerman Acquitted: Read/React

I'd like to point out that I said George Zimmerman would be acquitted a month ago. Not that I necessarily wanted that outcome but because I know my state and its laws.

An unarmed Black kid was shot and killed. The Hispanic man who killed him never denied the killing. The Stand Your Ground Law was not the primary defense used by attorneys Mark O'Mara and Don West, but because it is law it played a part in how the jury decided the verdict. Under Florida law George Zimmerman had no duty to retreat in the fight with Trayvon Martin. Under Florida law deadly force is legal no matter who the aggressor is in a confrontation.

This is the law. This law in its application is not always equal. So while both prosecutors and defense attorneys say this specific case was not about race, I understand as a Black community (that is not said to alienate our non-Black readers) why we feel like it is.

I spent the night of the verdict inside my newsroom containing my feelings and trying to make sure I presented balanced coverage. As a journalist that is my duty. As a person, a woman of color, I still can't help feeling some kind of way.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

UPDATE: Zimmerman - Not Guilty...


Jury Finds George Zimmerman NOT GUILTY on all counts.

On Wednesday, the Defense attorneys for George Zimmerman rested and Mr. Zimmerman himself told the judge on the record that, after consulting with his attorneys, he had decided not to take the stand.  In criminal trials, this tends to signify confidence on the part of the defense - sort of like choosing to pull your starters out of the game during the final minutes when your team has a comfortable lead.

Now everybody wants to know one thing: will Zimmerman be found guilty or not guilty for the killing of unarmed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin?

Movie Reviews-Breaking Bad (Season Five), The Watch, Redemption

Breaking Bad (Season Five)
created by Vince Gilligan
Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall
Season Five was both better than Season Four and a minor letdown. This season stretched the believability of chemistry teacher Walter White's (Bryan Cranston) criminal descent. Now, he's not only a murderous drug dealer but also a resourceful jack of all trades who robs trains and monitors the DEA ? Some of this was too much. This is the terminal season. Hopefully another TV show and the author who inspired it will take some hints about having a beginning, middle and end. One of the producer/directors (Michelle McLaren) who works on Breaking Bad also works on Game of Thrones. Perhaps some of the urgency shown on Breaking Bad will bleed over to Game of Thrones

Season Five (it had a midseason finale before this year's August denouement) opened with Walter and others dealing with fallout from the epic Season Four power struggle between Walter and Gus (Giancarlo Esposito). As Walter coldly tells his wife, "I won.". The King is dead. Long live the King. But Gus' top hitman and effective underboss Mike (Jonathan Banks) is unhappy with this turn of events. Although Walter offers Mike a partnership, it doesn't change Mike's essentially negative feelings about Walter. Mike's defining characteristic is loyalty. Walter constantly appeals to Mike's self-interest to prevent Mike from killing him to avenge Gus. Mike is angry and exasperated. Mike is trying to protect "his guys" from Walter's incompetence and greed. He also wants out of the business. Mike has deep legal and criminal knowledge which Walter lacks.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Must See: Fruitvale Station

Before Trayvon there was Oscar Grant III.  In the early hours of New Years Day 2009, Grant, unarmed and lying face down on a platform at Oakland, California's BART Fruitvale Station, was shot in the back and killed by a white police officer.  The whole thing was captured on video by spectators:

Released Court Footage

Ryan Coogler
Fruitvale Station tells Grants story.  Directed by first time African American director, Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station chronicles the last day in the life of 22 year old Grant including the chaotic moments leading up to his death.

Michael B. Jordan (young Wallace from The Wire) plays Grant.  Fruitvale Station also stars Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) and is produced by Forest Whitaker.

Michael B. Jordan
Fruitvale Station won 2013 Cannes Film Festival's Best First Film, and the Audience and Grand Prize Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

If we're lucky, we will get a movie review from our resident movie critic, Shady Grady...

Fruitvale Station opens to a limited audience today, July 12 and nationwide on July 26.  If you find time, support the film, and then join in on our conversation.

Movie Trailer

Dwight Howard and Criticism

Dwight Howard decided to leave the LA Lakers to take less money with the Houston Rockets. While there were quite legitimate basketball related reasons behind this move statements from both Laker partisans and Howard himself suggest that Howard was not ready for the LA spotlight or for the occasionally pointed and direct criticism from fellow Laker and famously intense competitor, Kobe Bryant.

I don't like criticism that much. I don't know many people who actually do like criticism. It can hurt your ego when someone explores your shortcomings. The critic's tone and who they are can outweigh their valid content. It's one thing when someone who is more successful or experienced than you in your chosen field and/or has the authority to oversee your work gives you some pointers. It's a different matter entirely when a person who has been homeless for a decade starts lecturing you on your career or finances. A firm and fair critique or a blunt discussion behind closed doors resonates with me more than a person who, when pointing out something wrong or dumb I'm doing feels the need to a) inform the entire world and b) throw in gratuitous insults about my intelligence, competence or immutable attributes. Ideally, both the person giving the criticism and the target of the critique should separate the criticism from the person.

However, usually without someone to push you, you simply can't grow. You'll constantly make the same mistakes. That's true in both personal and business relationships. You need honest feedback that lets you know where, to use corporate speak, you have "room for growth". So even though I dislike criticism, I've occasionally sought it out. If I know what my weaknesses are hopefully I can make changes to develop in a positive direction. This means checking my ego and investigating if the criticism is valid and useful. That's more important (usually) than the tone or motivation.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Willow Smith: Summer Fling - Appropriate or Inappropriate?

Willow Smith's New Single, "Summer Fling" - Appropriate or Inappropriate?

There is some controversy brewing on Willow's recent single and video. I have my own thoughts but would like to hear what everyone else is thinking, before I unleash. 

Willow is 12-years old and the daughter or Will and Jada Smith.

Watch the video and read the lyrics......

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wife tries to hire hit man to murder husband

I guess some people take "Until death do us part" a little too literally. I don't know how many stupid people have to get busted trying to solicit murder until the word gets out that trying to do this will almost inevitably wind up with the would be killer revealing themselves as an undercover police officer and the so-called shot-caller going to prison.  I mean I think I read at least one of these stories every six months or so somewhere in the United States. 

I'm also a little surprised that the husband doesn't want his wife to go to prison. Heck if that were me I'd want her under the prison like yesterday. For me anyway, it would be more than a little dismaying to learn that the person who is supposed to be your other half, the woman who's got your back, the one person who you can really count on, is making plans for your funeral arrangements...and you're not even sick. I mean this woman had all sorts of ideas about the best way to commit murder and get away with it.  I also think I might be a little cagey with my wife about exactly how much my life insurance was worth or precisely who the beneficiary was. But again, there's a thin line between love and hate and that's often quite evident in domestic violence cases. Six years seems a little light for sentencing but then again perhaps trying and failing to have your husband killed is better (or at least not as bad) than trying and actually succeeding in having your husband killed. Sometimes we wonder how much we're worth to the people that say they love us. I guess Mr. Merfeld knows the answer to that question. About $400,000 give or take.
An investigation into a 20-year-old West Michigan woman who later pleaded guilty to soliciting the murder of her 27-year-old husband included videotaped meetings with an undercover police detective. On the video, Julia Charlene Merfeld of Muskegon is heard telling the detective posing as a hit man that the killing would be "easier than divorcing him." Merfeld said that if he was killed she wouldn't have to worry about her family's judgment or "breaking his heart."  Two videos made in April were released to WZZM 13 by prosecutors. Merfeld pleaded guilty last month to soliciting a murder. She's jailed ahead of sentencing July 30 and is expected to face prison time. Authorities say she wanted her husband's $400,000 life insurance policy, and promised to pay $50,000 for the killing.



Monday, July 8, 2013

Don't Call This a Comeback!

Former Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer to Run for New York City Comptroller

I want to crawl under a rock, go to sleep and wake up a Republican. Republicans don't make stupid political moves like this. They also don't make decisions like this that will damage the party or set it back. Yes, the Republican Party has committed the political felony of refusing to adjust their ideologies to accommodate today's electorate. Despite that flaw, you can always count on them to demonstrate order and strategic alignment. What do I mean by strategic alignment? The Republican Party will lie, cheat, and steal to keep traditionally Red States red, or hold on to positions that are often held by Republicans. Sounds bad, but that's strategy. Can someone please tell me why can't Democrats do the same? First Anthony Weiner, now Eliot Spitzer. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Reviews-We Will Shoot Back, The Rise of The Fourth Reich, The Sundered Realm

We Will Shoot Back
by Akinyele Omowale Umoja
Some believe that the modern US Civil Rights Movement started with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, reached its zenith in the March on Washington and/or the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and died with the assassination of MLK. This story version normally shows black people and some supportive whites being beaten, insulted, spit on, shot at, and even killed all without even trying to protect themselves. The blacks are long suffering martyrs who look mutely to Washington D.C. for guidance and protection. Well. This book puts the lie to that fantasy.

While certainly MLK believed in non-violence as both a moral necessity and the only realistic tactical choice available to an outnumbered, mostly unarmed and incredibly despised minority, MLK's views never achieved 100% acceptance in the movement, even among people inclined to support him like many SCLC, SNCC, NAACP, and CORE members. Some people, even those who meant well, were under the incorrect impression that southern blacks were more comfortable with non-violence and turning the other cheek while those crazy blacks from the NOI or Panthers (usually from the North or West) were the ones who supported defensive, retaliatory or pre-emptive violence. Some black movement participants had this viewpoint before they came south.

This simply wasn't the case. The Civil Rights movement needs to be understood as not just something that happened in the fifties and sixties in the South but rather as an ongoing struggle by black people throughout American history to claim their independence and constitutional rights. Several southern born and bred black men and black women simply did not believe in turning the other cheek. The fact that occasionally they HAD to did not mean they accepted it. Some simply didn't do so under any circumstances. Often such people were considered "crazy n******s" and wound up dead, imprisoned or in insane asylums. But it did not go unnoticed that white racists normally gave such people a wide berth. It's one thing to abuse people who won't fight back. It's something else to mess with people who have guns and will use them.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Black Beauty as a Bankable Commodity

com - mod - i - ty (noun): something of use, advantage, or value.

The magazine industry has taught us for decades that beauty brings in the bucks. And while most men's magazines are just now catching up to this fact, women's magazines and the men behind them have known it for eons... like since the dawn of breasts and the age of ink.

But what isn't quite so comparable is Black beauty. Can major magazines make money off of a real Black face, even if it is light in complexion?

Apparently the answer is hmmm.... maybe????

I give you exhibit A....

And now exhibit B.....

As the Beyonce cover headline makes it plain, the time difference between these two beautiful Black women covering Vanity Fair is eight years. I'd like to also mention that within those eight years these are the only two Black women who have covered Vanity Fair solo. 

Eight years. 

I'll let that sink in...

ObamaCare Employer Mandate/Fines Delayed

In case you missed the news the Obama Administration announced that by the authority vested in it from (I'm not sure exactly since the implementation date was specifically written in law) it was delaying the requirement of the employer mandate to provide health insurance or face fines until January 1st, 2015. It thus gave something of a victory to conservative and business groups who had argued that the employer mandate would cost jobs, lower wages and make the cost of doing business more expensive. Because most large companies already offer health insurance coverage for their workers the impact on worker coverage is not expected to be that great.  

Of course, many people who were against the law popularly known as ObamaCare had already pointed this out and claimed that the employer mandate was a tremendous interference in the private marketplace which was largely unnecessary. The Administration had previously ignored these complaints but for some reason recently changed its mind.
Employers who don't provide health insurance will be spared penalties of up to $3,000 per worker until 2015, a one-year delay of a major component of President Barack Obama's health care reform law, the Treasury Department announced Tuesday. Under Obamacare, companies with at least 50 full-time employees are required to provide qualifying health benefits to workers or face financial penalties called "shared responsibility payments." The provision of the law aims to shore up and strengthen the system that provides health benefits to most covered Americans. Under regulatory guidance to be published next week, the Obama administration will free companies from this mandate and from rules that they report information about their health benefits to the federal government next year.
"During this 2014 transition period, we strongly encourage employers to maintain or expand health coverage," Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department, said in a statement. The change does not affect people who will buy health insurance on their own or small businesses that will buy coverage through the law's health insurance exchanges.
More than half of Americans, 170 million people, are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance, according the census data. Of companies with at least 50 workers, 94 percent already offer health benefits, a survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation shows. The one-year delay of the penalties won't have a meaningful effect on jobs being the leading source of health care coverage, said Paul Fronstin, a senior research associate with the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
"The fact is, employers have been offering coverage voluntarily for how many years now. They didn't drop it before the law was passed. They offered it for business reasons," Fronstin said. "I don't think you'll see a mass exodus because of this."

Monday, July 1, 2013

The George Zimmerman Trial: What the Prosecution is Trying to Prove

While America continues to watch and debate the George Zimmerman trial, we thought it might be helpful to provide some legal context as to what is actually going on here. As you've probably heard by now, George Zimmerman has been charged with 2nd Degree Murder for the shooting death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin.  Trayvon Martin was unarmed at the time of the shooting but George Zimmerman claims that he shot Martin in self defense.  So what does Florida criminal law say about all of this?  And what is the difference between 1st Degree Murder, 2nd Degree Murder, 3rd Degree Murder and Manslaughter in Florida?

We take a look after the jump: