Saturday, November 30, 2013

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

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

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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Recession? What Recession?

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

Per CNN Money:

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

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

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from the Urban Politico!

Happy Thanksgiving from The Urban Politico.

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dance-Off at Pistons Game

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

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

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

Monday, November 25, 2013

Iran Sanctions Deal: Good for US or not?

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

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

HBO Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Finale-Farewell Daddy Blues

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

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

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

Sunday, November 24, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's What's UP - The Urban Politico Radio Hour
Join us Sunday, November 24 at 5pm (ET).

Listen Live Online HERE 

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Movie Reviews-Man of Steel

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

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why ObamaCare Won't Work As Designed

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

Friday, November 22nd, 1963

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

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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

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

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

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

Free Speech, Free Association, Photography and Gay Rights

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

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Man Gives Ex-Wife The Finger...Literally

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

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

Is George Zimmerman the New OJ?

Per CNN:

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Black Family in Minivan Resist Traffic Ticket and Cops Open Fire

I have several thoughts about the events captured in this video but I want to pose a question to our readers:

Who was in the wrong here? The family for trying to flee the scene of a traffic violation in the first place or the cops who follow them and shoot at a minivan full of children? 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Music Reviews-Bill Withers, Luther Allison

Bill Withers
Bill Withers is a West Virginia born musician who is generally placed in the R&B/Soul category. For him though that framework is probably a little limiting. 

He's a singer/songwriter/pianist/guitarist who has a mastery of and familiarity with a lot of different genres.

All the same though he also has an extremely distinctive voice and songwriting style that is pretty much immediately recognizable. 

Much like some musicians such as John Legend or Ben Harper who would come after him and perhaps were influenced by him(?), Withers wrote seemingly intensely personal, often melancholy soul ruminations which were occasionally balanced by more ruefully upbeat songs that veered into more danceable directions. Withers has a smooth and mellow baritone voice but can also sometimes reach into a tenor's range. He is one smooth dude.

Withers provided another example of how blues morphed into soul and R&B in the late sixties and early seventies. Many of his songs had a blues feeling even if they only very rarely followed typical blues lyrical or musical conventions. 

Withers has said that he found that the usual blues lyrics either bored him or that other people could sing them more convincingly than he could. He always wanted to write his own music anyway. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Renisha McBride News: UPDATE Charges made in case

UPDATE: Suspect charged with second degree murder and other charges. Read more after the jump.

On most days I don't like just putting up a news article with minimal analysis but this happens to be one of the days when my boss actually expects me to work. The nerve of that guy never ceases to amaze me. You'd actually think he pays me or something.  And because much like the President I am facing a November 30 deadline on some critical tasks, there must be less blogging and more programming/project managing on my part. So it goes. All the same though I did want to quickly draw your attention to this article below which has some new information about the Renisha McBride situation. The takeaway is that (1) the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office has still not issued an arrest warrant for Ms. McBride's killer and  (2) Ms. McBride was shot in the face, but apparently not from point-blank range. This would to me, seem to be another indication that the young woman was not a threat. There is something wrong in our society where the default is to consider ANY black person a threat. There have been different statements about whether there was an accidental discharge of the shotgun or whether, if charged, the suspect intends to claim self-defense.

FWIW, the Wayne County Prosecutor is a black woman, Kym Worthy, who may have first come to local and perhaps national prominence some years prior when she was the lead prosecuting attorney in the trial of Walter Budzyn and Larry Nevers, two Caucasian cops who beat the black motorist Malice Green to death.  It is unusual that the alleged suspect has not been arrested as of yet so we'll have to see how everything turns out. Wayne County, which if there is a trial is where the trial would be unless it's moved, is about 40% black. Juries tend to have lower black representation than that.
Dearborn Heights, which is where the shooting took place, is a Detroit suburb which is overwhelmingly white.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

President Obama and ObamaCare Change

Well what do you think?

President Barack Obama said the Obamacare rollout has been "rough so far" and he has been deeply concerned about it.

Under a fix offered by Obama on Thursday to address a controversial provision of the Affordable Care Act, the President said Americans who received cancellation notices may be able to keep their individual insurance plans for one more year.

The deal is meant to cover millions of people who have had their insurance policies canceled because the policies do not meet Obamacare requirements. The uproar has ensnared the White House for weeks, shining a spotlight on Obama's earlier promise that people who liked their insurance plans could keep them.

But the fix, as reported earlier by CNN's Dana Bash, puts the onus of the renewals on insurers. The administration is not requiring insurers or state insurance commissioners to extend the existing plans, but instead is allowing insurers to offer an additional year of coverage.

Also, insurers must notify policyholders of the difference in benefits between their policies and the Obamacare plans available on the insurance exchanges. And the companies must inform people that additional policies are available on the exchanges and that subsidies may be available to those who qualify.

This fix will not solve "every problem for every person," Obama said.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ms. Annie Roberston - Rape and Race

We've long heard the startling statistics regarding rape in the United States. According to Crisis Connection the statistics are even more startling when you focus on college campus' in the United States. Here are a few of those statistics:
  • Every 21 hours there is a rape on an American college campus
  • 1 in 4 women in college today has been the victim of rape, and nearly 90% of them
    knew their rapist  
  • Of the college woman who are raped, only 25% describe it as rape
  • Of the college women who are raped, only 10% report the rape
  • 34% of completed rapes and 45% of attempted rapes take place on campus
    • Almost 60% of the completed campus rapes that take place on campus occur in the victim's residence
    • 31% occur in another residence
    • 10% occur in a fraternity
It gets worse when you take a closer look at the recent high profile cases, (Steubenville/Genarlow Wilson) which involved victims below the collegiate level.

I am a young woman, so I don't need these stats to tell me that there is a problem. I can also understand the indescribable pain that victims of rape feel, as well as the devastation that occurs for victims who speak out against their perpetrators, only to feel silenced. I get it! So the controversy at Sarah Lawrence College involving Annie Robertson and Garvey-Malik Ashhurst-Watson are of no surprise to me.

Annie in her own words:

To make matter worse for Ms. Robertson, Mr. Ashhurst-Watson was initially charged with two counts of sexual misconduct and those charges were later dismissed. The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office launched an investigation and concluded that there were inconsistencies in the accounts of the events between the two parties and not enough evidence to prosecute Mr. Ashhurst-Watson.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Word On Richie Incognito and other So-Called "Honorary Blacks"

By now you're probably aware of the recent controversy surrounding Miami Dolphins players Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.  If not, let me briefly summarize: Incognito (who is white) regularly harassed Martin (who is biracial) both on and off the field, at one point saying that he (Incognito) wanted to slap Martin's mother and calling Martin a "half-nigger piece of shit." Martin quit the team shortly thereafter and Incognito has since been suspended.

Now, as you can imagine this has sparked yet another national conversation about race.  As is customary during national conversations on race, some people take the position that no racism occurred whereas other people take the position that racism did, in fact, occur.  Typically when a situation involves a White person being accused of racism towards a Black person most of the supporters for the proposition that no racism occurred tend to be White and vice versa with respect to Black people and the proposition that racism did occur. What makes this Miami situation interesting is that we've seen a quasi-reversal of that understanding as certain Black people -- namely Incognito's Black teammates -- have taken the position that it's "OK" for Incognito to use the word "nigger" because he's an "honorary Black."

Come on in and let me rap to you for a minute about these so-called "Honorary Black People."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Movie Reviews-R.I.P.D, The Last Days On Mars, Guys and Dolls

directed by Robert Schwentke
Sometimes you can get fooled into watching a movie because you see some noticeable names in the cast and assume that well that must mean there's some minimal level of quality. That was certainly the case with me and the movie R.I.P.D. I foolishly thought that a film that had Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, and Mary Louise Parker in it would have no problem reaching a basic level of distinction. Well that was a mistake. Actors and actresses can go slumming and/or do things strictly for the paycheck or to repay a favor or simply to get their name out there just like the rest of us. The other reason I wanted to watch R.I.P.D. was that it was based on a graphic novel with which I wasn't familiar but had heard good things about. Hmm. Well if the movie was in any way faithful to the source material I no longer have any interest in reading the graphic novel. The only good thing about this movie from my perspective was watching the Sports Illustrated model turned actress Marisa Miller bounce around. Pulchritude alone couldn't save a really bad stupid movie. I'm glad I didn't see this in the theater and am seriously considering if I can get a refund from my cable company on the grounds that this movie really stunk.

R.I.P.D. appears to be a low rent ripoff of the Men in Black franchise with a shout out to Ghost. It's got the old grizzled cop with a strange name (Bridges) and the smart mouth young rookie (Reynolds).  Even though they don't much like each other they have to Overcome Their Differences To Save The World. When people die most of them go to heaven or hell. As with any rule though there are some exceptions. Some dead people, generally the ones who would have gone to hell, decide that they'd rather stay on earth. I mean earth is better than hell, right. And if you were going to heaven you wouldn't stick around on earth would you.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dear Black People in SYG States - If You Get in a Car Accident Do NOT Seek Help Nearby

You've heard the saying "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action"? Well it looks like enemy action may be afoot, folks. Yet another Stand Your Ground state has claimed the life of an innocent young Black person as Renisha McBride was gunned down last Saturday in Michigan after she was involved in an auto accident and tried to seek help at a nearby neighbor's house.  That neighbor opened the door and shot Renisha in the head.  She died there on the porch.  Two months ago a similar scenario happened to Jonathan Ferrell in the Stand Your Ground state of North Carolina.  Jonathan, like Renisha, had just been involved in an auto accident and tried to seek help at a nearby neighbor's home.  The neighbor called the police thinking Jonathan was an intruder and when the police showed up they tazed and then shot Jonathan 10 times until he was dead.  Jonathan's story gained traction after it was discovered that he was a former football player for Florida A&M.  

In theory, Stand Your Ground laws sound like a good idea.  Indeed, they are often presented as a necessary means to allow innocent law abiding citizens to protect themselves from the ills of society.  However, more and more we're seeing cases like Renisha's and Jonathan's (and don't forget Trayvon's) where innocent and unarmed Black people automatically trigger a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality among gun owners.  Instead of protecting innocent people, Stand Your Ground laws seem to be responsible for the deaths of innocent people.  Especially at the hands of those who harbor racial prejudices.  Whereas before, a midnight knock at the door might have ended with somebody being told to get lost, now it results in somebody being shot in the head.  Thus, it is difficult to see how laws like these are taking us in the right direction as a society.

If you are the type who doesn't particularly care for people of other races then that is your God given right to believe so.  You can believe whatever you want.   You can even go so far as to say just about whatever you want. This is, after all, America.  Freedom of speech is enshrined within the First Amendment.  But where I draw the line is when we, as a society, make it legal for people like you to DO whatever you want because then we have a problem.  It's one thing to have a society that tolerates the verbal expressions of bigots and racists; it is an entirely different thing altogether to enable those same people to legally act upon their feelings towards others.  

Crackhead Mayor Rob Ford

Cocaine is a hell of a drug
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who recently admitted that yes he really had smoked crack, after a long time of denials, was recently seen on video in a highly agitated state threatening to kill an unspecified person. Now I don't much care what people do in their personal lives but I don't think it's too much to ask that the mayor of your city refrain from ingesting illegal drugs and vividly demonstrating his intention to commit bloody mayhem. But apparently that's just me. Plenty of people seem to like him. In fact his approval ratings had gone up before his latest admissions and the revealing of the latest strange video. You do wonder what it would take for some people to question if Rob Ford is the right leader for the city of Toronto.  In fact, as a Facebook friend pointed out, similar actions by former Mayor Marion Barry of Washington D.C. were used as prima facie evidence of Barry's utter unfitness for office, the stupidity of people who had voted him into office and as another good reason why the people in Washington D.C. did not deserve statehood.  Hmm. What could be the difference between the two mayors? In any event here's to hoping that Mayor Ford finds the help he needs to stay away from mood altering substances, including carbohydrates. Because watching him throw his tantrum I was rather surprised he didn't have a coronary on the spot.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Twitter's IPO: To Buy or Not To Buy?

I have to admit,  I never really "got" Twitter. And by that I mean I never really understood the appeal of people distilling all of their thoughts down to 140 characters or less and repeating this process several times per minute while simultaneously keeping track of the millions of other people who are doing the same thing in real time.  I guess for me it all boils down to an efficacy issue;  by the time you "Tweet" whatever your thought was and apply the ubiquitous hashtag, 10,000 other Tweets have already been piled on top of your Tweet and pushed it so far down the wall that you'd have to scroll down for 30 minutes just to find it.

Nevertheless,  I do have to respect the fact that Twitter has taken its rightful place as an established icon among the social media elite. A business just isn't doing business these days unless it has both a Facebook and a Twitter page.  Celebrities regularly use it to talk to their fans.  And let's not forget our nation's elected officials who constantly Tweet their talking points (among other things *cough* Weinergate *cough*) to the American people on a daily basis.  Yes indeed, it would appear that Twitter is here to stay.  But does that make it a wise investment for people looking to expand their stock portfolio now that the social media giant has decided to sell its shares on the stock market?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Halloween and Blackface-Just Say No

When I was growing up long ago when dinosaurs walked the earth and Osborne Computers were state of the art products Halloween was something that as far as I could tell was primarily for young children. Because of religious/cultural reasons my family didn't celebrate Halloween so I never dressed up in costume or got to eat candy (another thing which was forbidden). But aside from teachers that would dress up along with their young, pre-high school, students I don't seem to recall a lot of adults or even older teens getting involved in the celebratory atmosphere. They could have been of course since being a kid I wasn't quite privy to much of what was really going on.  And perhaps I was just living in the wrong neighborhood. But that's just not what I recall. These days things are different. Halloween seems to have become much bigger and much more politically and adult oriented. Rather than a child dressing up as Spiderman or a Count Dracula, now children are dressing up as Klansmen. And rather than teens or adults dressing up as television characters or naughty maids, some people just seem to want to go for shock value and dress up in blackface.
Greg Cimeno posted a picture of himself dressed as George Zimmerman, with his friend, William Filene dressed in Blackface wearing a hoodie with a bloody bullet hole in the center of the chest.George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder after fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin through the heart on February 26, 2012.The girl in the disturbing images, Caitlin Cimenoalso posted the horrifically racist and insensitive picture and described it as “just for fun.”

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

President Obama and ObamaCare Statements

The problem with simple definitive statements is that if you make them, e.g. "Read my lips, no new taxes" or "We were not trading arms for hostages, nor were we negotiating with terrorists" or "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" they need to be true. They don't need to have legal disclaimers added on at the end written in very small print or read aloud in a hurried cadence and low volume voice. And when it comes out that not only were the statements you made untrue but that also you may have had reason to know they were untrue but that you or your advisers decided that the greater good required you to continue making them, well maybe that's just good old fashioned politics. Politicians don't necessarily get elected by telling people things that people don't want to hear. Remember President Perot? Indeed. But for someone whose brand is that he's not like all the other snake oil salesmen politicians, definitive confident assurances that "If you like your health care plan you can keep your health care planPeriod." are risky things to say right before hundreds of thousands to millions of cancellation notices are sent out.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe my eyes and ears deceive me. Perhaps the President was, as he recently implied, merely misunderstood by people who heard him speak on the PPACA. I know sometimes that people in my circles of work associates, family or friends didn't hear what I said or claim I said something different. So I can certainly sympathize with the President if that's what happened to him.

Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really like that plan, what we said was you could keep it, if it hasn’t changed since the law was passed,” he said. “We wrote into the Affordable Care Act, you’re grandfathered in on that plan. But if the insurance company changes it, then what we’re saying is they’ve got to change it to a higher standard, they’ve got to make it better, they’ve got to improve the quality of the plan that they’re selling.”

Monday, November 4, 2013

Guest Post: Movie Reflections: 12 Years a Slave

We've been blessed with a another guest post from the Diva blogger Tasha Rose. She shares her thoughts on the recent movie, 12 Years a Slave. Please engage our guest in the the comments below.  Be sure to follow her on Twitter @TRosePhD


(Disclaimer: Let me start off by saying that this is not a review. I have my own particular beliefs about reviews, which can be summed up by saying that I find all art and entertainment to be too subjective and personal for me to lend any credence in them. Additionally, I hate when film experts (loosely defined as people that went to film school or made a few films or just people that decided that because they like movies and decided to write about them that they should be experts) trash a movie I like and endorse a movie that doesn’t move me. So this is not a review. This is a reflection.)

12 Years a Slave is not for the faint of heart. The storyline itself, and the fact that it is based upon a true story, is troubling, if not heartbreaking. Although I am not a stranger to the knowledge of how horrific and brutal the institution of slavery is, and knew that it would be tough to watch this movie, I still was not quite prepared for the reactions I found myself experiencing. In some of the more difficult scenes I found myself so shocked that I could not even cry or think. There were times when I wanted to just walk out, which I have never done at the movies. If I were at home, I would have just turned the channel like I do whenever an uncomfortable scene comes on with anything I watch. But I stuck it out. Still, I left feeling a variety of things that I was not able to articulate until I read some comments on line from others regarding their reactions, questions, and decisions regarding whether they did or did not watch them.

A consistent sentiment I’ve read about this movie is why Hollywood continues to make movies that depict the brutality and imagery of slavery. I partly understand the frustrations of some people about slavery themed movies. It makes sense to argue that with all the advancements that African-Americans have made, more focus should be on positive stories. However, I disagree with the idea that films about slavery are negative. Before you can know where you are going, you have to know where you came from. While some may consider that statement cliché, the truth of it resonates in knowing that the past provides context to much of what we see in the world around us. For many of us, it’s a short leap between today’s cases of blatant racism and modern-day lynchings and the history of how people of color have been treated in society; however, there are large groups of people today that don’t make that connection. Even for those of us who recognize the connections, sometimes we get so comfortable in our positions, that we sometimes forget, amidst our frustrations, how significant our achievements are as the offspring of former enslaved people.

2013 Spotlight Elections Tomorrow

There are some exciting races going on in different parts of the country that will be coming to an end tomorrow.  Here are a few highlights:

VIRGINIA GOVERNOR - Terry McAuliffe (D) vs. Ken Cuccinelli (R)
Per Weekly Standard:
A final poll from Quinnipiac on Tuesday's gubernatorial race in Virginia shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a six-point lead over Republican rival Ken Cuccinelli. Forty-six percent of likely Virginia voters say they will vote for McAuliffe, according to the poll, while 40 percent say they'll vote for Cuccinelli. Eight percent say they will vote for the Libertarian party candidate, Robert Sarvis. Here's more from Quinnipiac:
There is a large gender gap as McAuliffe leads 50 - 36 percent among women, with 9 percent for Sarvis, while men are divided with 44 percent for Cuccinelli, 42 percent for McAuliffe and 8 percent for Sarvis. Democrats go 93 - 1 percent for McAuliffe, with 3 percent for Sarvis, while Republicans go 85 - 5 percent for Cuccinelli, with 7 percent for Sarvis. Independent voters are divided 40 - 40 percent, with 14 percent for Sarvis.
Without Sarvis in the race, McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli 49 percent to 42 percent.
NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Bill de Blasio (D) vs. Joe Lhota (R)
On Election Eve in New York City, a new survey tells the same story: Democrat Bill de Blasio is the overwhelming front runner in the battle for mayor.
According to an NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Pollreleased Monday morning, Blasio has a 41-percentage point 65%-24% lead over Republican Joe Lhota among likely voters.
De Blasio, the city Public Advocate, has enjoyed the commanding lead virtually since he won the crowded Democratic primary in early September, edging out once-dueling frontrunners City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and scandal-plagued former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Lhota, a businessman, deputy mayor under Republican Rudy Giuliani and former head of the New York City transit authority, has been unable to close the gap with attacks blasting de Blasio for a perceived lack of executive experience, being soft on crime and his seeming eagerness to tax the wealthy.
DETROIT MAYOR:  Mike Duggan (D) vs. Benny Napoleon (D)
The last time there was a white mayor of Detroit, the Vietnam War was just ending and the nation was getting used to a Supreme Court decision called Roe vs. Wade.
But now this city, which is in the midst of a trial to determine whether it is eligible for bankruptcy protection, is set to elect its first white mayor since 1974, Mike Duggan, and by an overwhelming margin. Recent polls show Duggan up by a nearly 2-1 margin over his opponent, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, in a city that is 82% African American.

What's going on in your neck of the woods? 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Book Reviews-The Damned Busters, Operation Family Secrets

The Damned Busters
by Matthew Hughes
This is a quirky book that was a fun read. Like many books these days it is first in a trilogy. I'm not quite sure that everything couldn't have been wrapped up in one book. The reader will however be curious as to what happens next. I am reading the second book now and hope that the series doesn't go the way of The Matrix trilogy. Matthew Hughes is a British-Canadian writer. Though this story takes place in an unnamed and presumably American Midwestern city it still has the kind of sardonic dry humor that I often find more common among British writers. I liked that. It's a little long and occasionally repetitive in one or two spots but hey no one is perfect.

Chesney Arnstruther is a low level actuary. Even among actuaries, who generally aren't the life of anyone's party, he is introverted, shy, socially inept and somewhat easy to push around. This last is the result of being brought up by his strict, religious, domineering mother Letitia Arnstruther. Letitia spends her free time writing letters promising hellfire, brimstone and damnation to anyone who offends her and especially anyone who is listed as a bad person by the TV preacher Rev. Billy Lee Hardacre. The self-righteous and almost frigid Letitia has an unadmitted crush on the Reverend. Chesney is also most likely a high functioning autistic. His world is dominated by numbers, statistics, doing what's right, and comic books. He calls those things his "pools of light" or areas in which he has a frightening amount of knowledge and can speak with total authority. Most other things he's either not interested in, unaware of, or fearful of getting involved in. The last category includes women. Chesney likes women and will often arrange his Sunday lunches in the park to watch women jogging or exercising. He has NO idea how to talk to women.

Friday, November 1, 2013

UPDATE: Round 2 Goes to State of Texas - Federal Judge in Texas Gives 1st Round Victory to Pro Choice Crowd in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott


 From AP

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that most of Texas' tough new abortion restrictions can take effect immediately — a decision that means a third of the state's clinics that perform the procedure won't be able to do so starting as soon as Friday.

A panel of judges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said the law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital can take effect while a lawsuit challenging the restrictions moves forward. The panel issued the ruling three days after District Judge Lee Yeakel said the provision serves no medical purpose.  Read Entire Article

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The rule is this: states can make whatever laws they want so long as those laws do not infringe on the Constitutional Rights of the people.  And when we say the "Constitutional Rights" of the people, we don't mean the State's interpretation of the Constitution but rather the federal government's interpretation of the Constitution which is handed down to us by none other than the United States Supreme Court. That being said, one may wonder what the current Constitional rule is regarding abortion because it seems to be a topic that has picked up momentum lately in several state legislatures.  Before we get to this latest ruling in Texas let's just take a moment to review the current rule on abortion.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that abortion is legal in all 50 states in the landmark case Roe v. Wade.  But the Court did not grant an absolute right to abortion.  Instead they ruled that a woman's constitutional right to an abortion has to be balanced against the state's right to protect the health of the mother and the health of the child.  In order to achieve this balance, the Court came up with a trimester framework that essentially created an absolute right for a woman to seek an abortion within the first trimester but gradually transferred that right from the woman to the States as the pregnancy approached the third trimester.

In 1992, with many people expecting the overruling of Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a Republican, shocked many people in the legal and political communities by authoring the Supreme Court's ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey which effectively doubled down on the proposition that abortion is legal in all 50 states.  However, in that case the Court tossed out the whole trimester framework of Roe v. Wade and adopted a simpler yet somewhat more confusing rule which is the current rule on abortion today: the "Undue Burden" rule.  The "Undue Burden" rule basically says that the states are free to pass laws regulating abortion as they see fit so long as those laws do not create an "undue burden" for a woman to access her Constitutional Right to an abortion.  What is and what isn't an "undue burden" is a matter of legal interpretation left up to the federal courts, which brings us back full circle to this week's ruling in Texas.