Friday, January 31, 2014

Basic Necessities Have Outpaced Income

Today's guest post comes from Derrick Figures an activist based in DC.

It’s that time again, when the woes of economic inequality gaps across the nation are highlighted in the media, coming off of the heels of President’s Obama’s State Of The Union Address.

These concerns will likely dissipate over the course of the first half of the year as we move into the midterm elections, but despite my enthusiasm, I join in with the countless commentaries that cite disparages, in hopes of an inkling of support for better conditions to come.

In the meantime, we should expect to read about topics such as: raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, renewing Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, curing educational discrepancies and maybe something along the lines of workforce development solutions and other various patches to temporarily alleviate poverty for all “50 million” designates.

Warren Michigan Police Officer Cuts Off Woman's Weave

I don't have much to say about this. Perhaps it was jealousy of the other woman's hair? Maybe the officer is just always that abusive? Or maybe it's just a bad person using bureaucracy to do wrong.  To some cops being arrested is not bad enough. They need to make sure that the citizen feels completely humiliated. I don't know. The good news is that Officer Najor no longer has the authority of the state to hide behind. Her boss fired her. Although unnecessarily removing someone's hair is not as bad as a beating I am sure the shock and humiliation are similar. And I get the feeling that the officer intended to send a message about who was in charge and who wasn't. So ladies, if you have extensions or weaves, be careful about getting arrested in Warren, Michigan. Because the police might try to cut your hair. Watch news story below the jump.
At many jails, prisoners are required to remove hair extensions that clip in because they could be used as a weapon or to commit suicide. But Charda Gregory didn’t have clip in extensions. She had a weave that was sewn right into her real hair. Charda Gregory is a young mother who loves her hair. And the 22-year-old hair dresser loves changing her style often by using weaves. But Gregory’s hair changed dramatically after an encounter with a Warren Police Officer. 
Even though there’s no audio on the video from inside the Warren Jail, you can see Gregory kick her legs and writhe in pain as the officer plunges scissors into her hair, hacking away at the weave that was sewn into braids on her scalp. “There’s a real simple thing: it’s called right and wrong. And to me this is something that I won’t tolerate, I don’t think the citizens of Warren will tolerate it,” said Warren Police Commissioner Jere Green. Green says Najor’s explanation that she had to remove Gregory’s weave because of alleged threats of suicide makes no sense.
“I don’t buy that’s the proper way to treat a human being.  I don’t think it’s decent, I don’t think there was any reason to do it, and when I look at it – that bothers me,” said Green. Green says as soon as he learned about the incident, he placed Najor on leave and she has since been fired.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


I live on the east coast and grew up in the midwest.  Both regions are accustomed to snow storms and, as a consequence, both regions have developed protocols to handle bad weather.  So I can (sort of) understand how the City of Atlanta and its surrounding counties in the state of Georgia do not have a well developed game plan for snow storms.  I get that.  What I don't get, however, is two-fold:

1. Why local officials chose to ignore the clear warnings about the snow storm that were shouted from the mountain tops as early as Monday by weather stations all over the country? (and I'm looking directly at you, Atlanta Mayor who chose to keep the schools open!
2.  Why all of the citizens throughout the entire state of Georgia seem woefully inept at driving through just 2 inches of snow (really? two inches and you guys freak out?? Talk to me when you get two FEET of snow)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Civil Assault 101: Rep. Michael Grimm Threatens Reporter on Camera

In law school we learned that there are two types of assault: (i) criminal assault; and (ii) civil assault.  The difference between the two is fairly straightforward. 

Criminal assault involves actual contact; it occurs when somebody intending to cause bodily harm to another person does, in fact, walk up to said person and beat them over the head with a lead pipe/crowbar/bare fist/beer mug/brick/etc.  If you do that, your local State prosecutor's office will file assault charges against you which could ultimately result in your incarceration. 

Civil assault, by contrast, does not involve actual contact but instead involves the verbal threat of physical contact; it occurs when somebody threatens bodily harm to another person under circumstances where it would be reasonable for said person to believe that bodily harm is imminent.  If you do that, no criminal charges will be filed against you.  However, the person who you threatened can sue you in a civil court of law for civil assault. 

Against that backdrop, I present to you Exhibit A, New York Republican Congressman Michael Grimm:


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

State of the Union Chat and Post Wrap Up

Join The Urban Politico staff as we live chat during President Obama's State of the Union Address.  After, we invite you to join us on our live internet show as we follow the chat with a live discussion. Please join us.  Call in and talk with the staff as we cover the good, the bad, and the ugly from President Obama's address.  Take this time to tell us what you liked and didn't like about the address or the Republican response, by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers  of  Washington.

Live Chat and Internet Show

State of the Union
January 28, 2014

Monday, January 27, 2014

Handymen and Stay at Home Mothers

Do you think that traditional gender roles still have meaning?

Recently on Facebook one of my younger female cousins posted that she and her unmarried friends were running into a lot of male poseurs who claimed to be looking for traditional women insofar as such things as cooking, cleaning, and possibly even who works and who stays at home. She found it a bit upsetting though that when she or her friends challenged these men on their proficiency at such traditional male responsibilities as fixing things around the house, repairing automobiles or other machinery and doing other unpleasant but old school male chores these men were either clueless about such jobs, had to pay other men to do them or claimed that in today's day and age such chores ought to be equally shared between men and women. Showing the somewhat "shady" humor which tends to run rampant in my family one of my male cousins pointed out that although he might not be able to fix a woman's car he was more than capable of unplugging her pipes. He even had references, heh-heh. When I liked my male cousin's post my female cousin goodnaturedly told both of us that we were on timeout. Snicker.

Beyonce and Jay-Z Perform "Drunk in Love" at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards

The 56th Annual Grammy Awards took place last evening. Opening the show were Beyonce and Jay-Z, doing a live performance of "Drunk in Love."
In case you missed it:

A few things to keep in mind. Beyonce's self titled album "Beyonce" was NOT nominated (release date missed the nomination cut off), nor was the song "Drunk in Love." Understandably, "Drunk in Love" is the biggest song in the country right now. Beyonce was the only black woman to perform at this year's show. Granted there were other black women actually nominated, the producers decided to have Beyonce perform and open the show. The Grammy's are the biggest night in music and opening performances are supposed to be epic and should set the tone for the other performers. I shouldn't be able to point to a single performance and say that it was better than the opening act.


Was this an epic performance or a mediocre one being passed off as something epic? Was this an appropriate performance for the Grammy Awards?

Give us your thoughts....

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Music Reviews: Howlin' Wolf, Tuvan Throat Singing

Howlin' Wolf
The men don't know but the little girls understand
If I had to pick one bluesman who was the quintessential blues deity that man would be Howling Wolf, or as the IRS knew him, Chester Arthur Burnett. He was named after the President. I don't remember the first time I heard him but he impressed me. He impressed many people with his stentorian gravelly baritone-bass voice that sounded like crushed glass and radiated unrestrained masculinity. Producer Sam Phillips said that Howling Wolf was the literal soul of man who never died while fan and musician Bonnie Raitt talked of the sudden impact that just seeing and hearing Wolf had (from afar) on her lady parts. Howling Wolf stood 6-6 and weighed over 300lbs in his glory days. He received his nickname not just for his unusual howling vocal abilities but because as a child he was quite taken with the Little Red Riding Hood stories he heard. He reminded me of my maternal grandfather. Although it was Howling Wolf's surprisingly expressive, deep and oft sinister voice that most people noticed, he was also a fairly talented harmonica player and decent guitarist. Wolf's voice was such that I imagined that he woke up every morning and gargled with road salt and nitroglycerin. 

Howling Wolf's primary vocal influences were people like Charley Patton, Son House, Tommy Johnson and Jimmie Rogers. Elmore James and Wolf also had similar vocal styles. Wolf toured with Robert Johnson and learned harmonica from his brother-in-law, blues giant Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller). So Wolf was literally a blues Founding Father. Wolf's yelps, howls and vocalizations were unique. As Wolf said "I couldn't yodel but I could howl. And I been doing just fine."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jayru Campbell Arrested

There was a lot of talk recently about whether or not Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is a thug. I don't think he is. Generally speaking most thugs, in the most basic understanding of the word, don't attend Stanford or score 1400 on their SAT's. My snobby class bias aside though more importantly I think that your actions, not your words, hair style or skin color make you a thug. Speaking loudly and animatedly without cursing, about your success over a rival player after a big win does not a thug make. See a thug could be someone who body slams a school security guard. That would be Cass Tech QB and Michigan State University (MSU) verbal recruit Jayru Campbell, who was arrested for his actions in the video below. The security guard is of course somewhat fortunate to be alive as getting body slammed on a hard floor without any protection can lead to all sorts of bad outcomes, especially if your head impacts the floor as it did here. I didn't attend public schools until high school and certainly did not attend Cass Tech High School or MSU. Cass Tech has traditionally been considered one of the better public schools in Detroit but I've heard that in recent times (over the past 10-15 years or so) that's akin to boasting that you're the skinniest fat person at fat camp. My brother first brought this to my attention. He didn't attend Cass either. Smirk. Of course these things are not common but stereotypically this explains why people, black and white, racist or not, have been fleeing Detroit Public Schools. 

We hear a lot about about how certain people are improperly disciplined in schools and thus set up for a school to prison pipeline. That's true. A child who is boisterous, loud mouthed or questioning of authority isn't necessarily "disturbing the peace" or "special needs" or a "threat". The flip side of that though is that there are some children who are indeed threats and need to be removed from the school ASAP for the safety of others. Evidently Campbell was given second chances and missed them. So it is what it is. Of course in our society even where there is a video like this the accused is still presumed innocent until proven guilty. Just ask the cops who beat Rodney King. However, unless there is evidence that the security guard was assaulting Mr. Campbell or attempting to molest him or something like that I am not seeing how this ends well for Mr. Campbell. I think he gets expelled from school and convicted of any criminal charges. And I'm okay with that. I am both descended from and related to people who worked or still work in schools. I would hate to see something like this happen to them. Watch video below.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Being Mary Jane & Scandal: Where are the Wives?

I'm a media junkie. I work in television news. I watch all types of television shows; the good, the bad, the ratchet and riot worthy. I love a great documentary, Nat Geo Wild is awesome, movies are a pre-requisite to a good afternoon nap taken before I surf news, culture, hair, and music blogs among others. On any given day you may catch me with four screens in my face at one time; computer, iPhone, iPad, and TV. I say all this to say that when a new show comes out, an album drops, or a trending topic on Twitter goes viral, I know.

When Scandal premiered with its seven episode season one way back when in April of 2012 I was all about the "It's handled," "Gladiator in a suit" life. Fast-forward 15 months to when BET's Being Mary Jane movie premiered and my jaw hit the floor with the sperm freezing ending. (If you haven't been watching this will probably be the first spoiler alert of many, for both shows, so if you need to catch up stop reading now.) Fast-forward another six months to present day and the first half of Scandal season three has come and gone (Gladiators are anciently awaiting the return of Pope & Associates and crew February 27) and BET is three episodes in to its smash hit drama Being Mary Jane. 

I'm totally jazzed about all the love Black women are getting on the small screen; especially with top silver screen actresses making the jump to keep us entertained. (Quiet as it's kept I heard Halle Berry is coming to primetime in some capacity this fall, but I digress.) But what's really bugging me is that of the two dramas featuring prominent Black actresses that has tongues wagging, the streets talking, and twitter trending all sorts of hashtags; the common denominator is the women are single, successful, stupid gorgeous, and SLEEPING WITH MARRIED MEN. It begs the question, "Is that all successful beautiful women can hope to aspire to? A few fleeting moment's with somebody else's man?" If it is I'm sooooo not about that life and Olivia Pope and Pauletta/Mary Jane Paul shouldn't be about that life either.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Remains of Avonte Oquendo Positively Identified

14 Year-Old Avonte Oquendo Confirmed Dead

A city-wide search began last October for 14 Year-Old Avonte Oquendo, the autistic boy who disappeared from his Long Island City, NY middle school. Avonte was last seen on his school's security cameras running out of the building. His parents immediately sought the public's help, and extensive media coverage and a search team were put into place. Donations poured in toward the reward, for the boys safe return. Those donations sky rocketed to $95,000. In mid-novmeber the organization in charge of the donations asked the public to halt their contributions. Many feared that whomever was holding the boy, was awaiting the reward amount the dramatically increase before turning the boy back safely. 

This story consumed the news and New Yorker's. Flyers were posted at every subway station and all around the city. I personally paid close attention to the faces of young boys on the train, to see if they resembled young Avonte. Avonte's level of autism left him unable to verbally communicate. He had disappeared in the past and had a fascination with trains and the subway. So many thought that Avonte was in the subway and would ultimately be found there, safe and alive. 

Sadly, the search for a safe and sound Avonte Oquendo came to an end.......

More Trouble for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

When someone tells you who they are, you have no choice but to believe them. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is no exception. Since the moment he walked on to the mainstream political stage in 2009, he has consistently shown us who he is and doubled down on those performances. This is a guy who has shown us that he has no regards for rules and plays only by his own. Chris Christie has a philosophy of executing by any means necessary. He is a self-proclaimed badass who never backs down. Yelling at teachers and anyone who disagrees with him in a public setting.

During the 2009 Governor's race in New Jersey, we were introduced to Christie's unethical behavior as demonstrated during his time as United States Attorney for New Jersey. In 2007 Christie used his position as US Attorney to return a favor to his former boss John Ascroft (United States Attorney General, 2001-2005). Christie appointed Ashcroft's law firm to preside over the monitoring of an organization that was involved in a federal case that Christie prosecuted. The company in question was accused of giving high dollar kickbacks to surgeons, in exchange for their promotion and exclusive use of the company's knee and hip replacement devices. Many felt that this was a case that should have been fully prosecuted, forcing the company to pay fines for the fraud that they committed and ultimately shut their doors. This was not a case that should have been settled, and Christie did just that. The settlement resulted in a $52M payday for his buddy's firm. 

Christie also acted unethically when he decided to return another favor versus criminally prosecuting pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers. Christie made a backdoor deal that allowed the company to avoid prosecution in exchange for their financial contributions to Seton Hall University. Governor Chris Christie is a 1987 graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law.  Are we seeing the pattern here?? Uphold loyalty at all costs. 

If this is your personal mantra and the people in your inner circle understand that this is how you think, it should come as no surprise that the people in Governor Christie's cabinet and administration have been practicing this very behavior, on his behalf. 

A few weeks ago, we had "BRIDGE-GATE"  and Governor Christie expressed utter disgust for Bridget Kelly and her executing of the lane closures. He didn't sleep, eat or talk to anyone, because he was so distraught over Ms. Kelly's acts, which were labeled as "stupid" to him. In his two-hour plus press conference, he "accepted responsibility" and told us that we all misunderstood him, because he was actually a teddy-bear and NOT a bully. Okay. 

Well Ladies and Gentleman, Governor Christie already had 99 problems and the Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, Dawn Zimmerman just became another one........

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Richard Sherman Interview - Good or Bad for Black People?

First of all, a bit of context.  Last night, the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers to go on to play in the Superbowl.  Richard Sherman, a Seahawk (shown above), made the game winning play when he blocked a pass from 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the end zone intended for 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (pictured above) that would have given the 49ers the win.  In addition to this fact, Crabtree and Sherman have some personal beef that dates all the way back to the offseason last year.  In addition to this fact, the Seahawks and the 49ers are historic rivals who play each other harder than they play other teams. In other words, the tensions were high during this game.  After the play, Sherman walked over to talk to Crabtree but Crabtree didn't want to hear it and shoved Sherman in the face.  Shortly thereafter, Fox reporter Erin Andrews (a white lady) interviews Sherman (a black man) and this is what he said:

Immediately, the internet went viral with the interview and everybody was weighing in with their comments - most of them charged with the racial overtones of an "angry black man" scarring a poor innocent white woman (mind you, Sherman graduated 2nd in his high school class and also graduated from Stanford).  And, to be fair, Sherman was visibly irritated at Crabtree during the interview and said as much when he called him out by name. But that's enough context. We want to hear your impressions.

1. What are your first impressions of the interview?
2. Did Sherman represent himself well?
3. Was this 1 step forward or 2 steps back for Black people?
4. Is it unfair or reasonable to put a racial overtone on this interview?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Black Man Arrested for Drinking Arizona Iced Tea

This could just be reason # 345,754 as to why I generally don't like the police. I view them as at best a necessary evil. Police often escalate situations unnecessarily. Below the jump check out a May 2013 video from Fayetteville, North Carolina that somehow I missed but that The Janitor brought to my attention. It was hard even for me to believe that it was real at first just because the person arrested literally wasn't doing anything questionable, let alone wrong. The blog lawyers can discuss if any laws were broken. What I took away from this is that some police assume:
  1. any black men gathering anywhere must be up to no good 
  2. no black man anywhere has any right to not be pushed around by any cop. 
There's a lot of talk about school bullying or online "bullying" because someone implied on facebook or twitter that someone else could stand to drop a few pounds or wasn't the most beautiful person. I think this is real bullying. The citizen Christopher Beatty, a military veteran, is indeed lucky that the cop didn't shoot, tase or beat him. I think the cop made a wrong assumption. To pump up his ego and show Beatty who was the boss, he invented a reason for arrest. Fundamentally this is because some police and their enablers do not concede that black people have a right to public spaces. Watch the initial video and the updated interview video below. We've got driving while black, shopping while black, walking while black, and now standing and drinking iced tea while black. To be fair though it's not just a race thing. Police make mistakes and bad assumptions all the time with white people too. Such incidents are why I think that "victimless crimes" or "lifestyle crimes" should be decriminalized. Police should have limited reasons and authority to interact with or detain their fellow citizens. And no matter who you think you are I don't want your hands on my food or drink. It's just a pet peeve...

Book Reviews: Gates of Fire, Darkfall

Gates of Fire
by Steven Pressfield
Gates of Fire is the literary equivalent of the films Saving Private Ryan or Glory in that from the outside looking in it seems to capture not only the horror but also the courage and randomness of combat. Although the style of warfare depicted in Gates of Fire is extinct, war and death remain the same across time and place. I wonder if combat veterans think this book accurately illustrates the experience. The author is a Marine veteran. The book is on the reading list at West Point. Gates of Fire details the Battle of Thermopylae in which 300 Spartans allied with roughly 3-5000 Greeks from other city-states held off a Persian invasion force of at least twenty times their number for seven days before being betrayed, surrounded and annihilated in a last stand that has resonated throughout history as a definitive example of stubbornness, determination and total bada$$ery. To the very last, the Greeks disdained surrender, fighting with broken spear shafts, dented shields, blunted swords and finally their bare fists, feet and teeth. Sparta was not only famous for its military prowess but also for its wit, from which we have derived the word "laconic". This battle, or the legends that grew up around it, provided some famous quotations illuminating the particular and peculiar Spartan warrior ethos, which was considered extreme even by the standards of the time. Some of these include:

  • Come and get them! (King Leonidas' retort to a Persian envoy's demand that the Greeks lay down their weapons)
  • Good. Then we'll have our battle in the shade. (General Dienekes' response to a Greek refugee's claim that the Persian arrows would blot out the sun)
  • Eat hearty men for tonight we dine in hell with ghosts! (King Leonidas' exhortation to his soldiers upon news that they had been surrounded)
After King Leonidas was killed, his body became a rallying point for the remaining Greeks. In these last frantic minutes two brothers of the Persian Emperor Xerxes were killed. Enraged, Emperor Xerxes ordered King Leonidas' body to be decapitated and crucified, something considered sacrilegious by everyone. As the Persians are burying their dead and tending to their wounded they discover that one Spartan warrior is still alive, though slowly dying. Instead of having him killed Emperor Xerxes orders his own doctors to treat the man's wounds. Emperor Xerxes regrets the mutilation of King Leonidas' body. He wants to know more about the Greek, specifically the Spartan, way of life and of war.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Who Runs Kansas Schools: The Courts or The Legislature

Kansas is a centrally located state that has often been ground zero for a number of social changes, some good and some bad. John Brown made his bones in Kansas. It was after all Kansas that rang the death knell for enforced legalized school and other forms of racial segregation in the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education. The author Thomas Frank chronicled the slow rise of conservative and occasionally racist populism in his noted book "What's the Matter with Kansas". Part of Frank's thesis posits that fiscal conservatives use hot button cultural issues to whip up resentment among the socially conservative base in order to get said base to support policies and ideologies which are bad for them economically. To add insult to injury it was rare that conservative politicians even delivered on promises to the socially conservative segment of their base, instead preferring to promote fiscal conservatism. This theory was really popular among some progressives as it tended to confirm some of their deepest beliefs about conservatives. Frank's thesis is a little out of date since the national energy on one of the hotter social issues of the day, gay marriage, seems to be almost entirely with the liberal pro-gay marriage supporters. 

However another key tenet among the conservative base is the importance of having the people, and not the judges, decide what is correct among competing political ideas. "Activist judges" remains a powerful epithet for many on the right. Some fervently hold to the idea that a great deal of mischief is caused by know it all, elitist, out of touch, Ivy League, smug judges who arrogantly substitute their own preferences for plainly written law or long agreed upon custom.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Would Dr. King Have Supported Twerking?

Apparently Martin Luther King Jr. did not only fight for the civil rights of blacks, the poor and other marginalized groups of people, he also believed in every persons right to...twerk? Yes, I said twerk.  

In case you've been absent from the internet for the last several years and you aren’t privy to what the word twerking means, it is the obnoxiously lurid form of what some people describe as dancing. Women young and old everywhere have decided it is the best way to garner overnight internet fame. Twerking involves a woman gyrating her behind in various different styles, directions and positions. It is a highly sexual and in many cases raunchy way of dancing. Some might even go so far as to separate it from dancing altogether and label it as outright strip tease. It certainly is sexy enough to be labeled as such. Not that I regularly engage in this sort of internet entertainment….But again, unless you’ve been away from the internet over the last few years it is near impossible to miss.

So back to the original premise here, as you can see by the photo in this post, there is a Flint, Michigan based promoter who believes in the freedom to twerk, and is using Dr. King to illustrate the point….and to of course sell tickets to his party scheduled during Dr. King’s birthday weekend.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I Said Stop Texting During The Movie!!!

I am a movie buff.  Love going to the movies.  But there are a few things about the movie-going experience that definitely annoy me to no end.  Such as the couple who comes in late and proceeds to rearrange everybody to accommodate them after everybody is already seated.  Or the black couple who can't stop talking throughout the entire damn movie (yeah I said it, and I'm black!).  And lately, the thing that I find most annoying about the movie going experience is that person who can't seem to go 5 friggin minutes without picking up their HUGE touch screen phone to text/check e-mail/whatever with the super bright white light that can be seen from outer space which, of course, blinds everybody seated behind them.  And they are somehow oblivious to the fact that they are literally distracting everybody else from watching the movie.  Seems I am not alone in this pet peeve:

Per NY Times:

An argument over texting at the movies ended in a cellphone user’s death, when a retired police officer in the audience shot him at a theater near Tampa, Fla., on Monday afternoon, the authorities said.
Two couples were among patrons at a matinee of “Lone Survivor” at the Grove 16 movie theater in Wesley Chapel, about 20 miles northeast of Tampa, when one of the men, a retired Tampa police officer, got angry because the man in front of him was using his phone during the previews, despite being asked to stop several times, said Douglas Tobin, a Pasco County sheriff’s office spokesman.
A witness told local television stations that the offended man stormed out to get a manager, but returned without one. The man using the phone explained to the irritated man that he was simply texting his 3-year-old daughter, the witness, Charles Cummings, told Tampa’s FOX 13 television.
“Three seconds, four seconds later, the argument starts again,” Mr. Cummings told reporters outside the theater. “Their voices start going up; there seems to be almost a confrontation. Somebody throws popcorn, I’m not sure who threw the popcorn, and, bang, he was shot.”
A nurse in the audience tried performing CPR on the victim while an off-duty sheriff’s deputy from another county detained the gunman.
The victim was identified as Chad Oulson, 43, of Land O’ Lakes, Fla. His wife, Nicole, had placed her hand over her husband just as he was shot, and was wounded, Mr. Tobin said.
The gunman, Curtis Reeves, 71, was charged with second-degree murder.

As crazy as it is to shoot somebody in a public place (I'm conceding that it obviously went too far here), am I wrong for not feeling any sympathy for the texting victim here?

Monday, January 13, 2014

HBO Game of Thrones Season 4 Trailer

In case you missed it HBO released its first (I am sure there will be many more) trailer for Season 4 of its hit series "Game of Thrones". The show starts again on Sunday April 6. Enjoy the trailer below the jump if you are into that sort of thing. And as always if you happen to have read all of the books or be one of those know it all people who just looked up the published books' endings, kindly do not ruin it for everyone else, who may wish to watch the series in unspoiled anticipation. The Red Wedding may have been the series' biggest shock (to me at least) but there are several more surprises, twists and turns that may be coming along. My understanding is that the new season will cover at least the second half of book three, A Storm of Swords, which for my money is the most powerful and most disturbing book in GRRM's series. But who knows what the show's writers, producers and directors will choose to include or leave out from that book, how many new storylines they will create from their own imaginations, or how much material they will pull ahead from books four and five. We'll just have to wait and see.

December Jobs Report and Unemployment

In December the U.S unemployment rate fell to 6.7%. This should have been good news. Being below 7% should be a good thing. It should have been something that was seized on by economists as a sign that the US economy was continuing to recover and move out of the doldrums. We should have seen Democratic partisans run to the nearest microphone to take credit for Presidential economic policies that have led us to this point. (BTW the ability of ANY President-- Republican or Democrat-- to take credit or blame for a single data point in the massive system that is the US economy is far overstated but that never stops supporters or detractors from trying to give him credit or blame in good times or bad).

But this time there was no Vice-President Biden braying and bragging about a "recovery summer" on the way. That's because the greatest nation on the earth, a place that put a man on the moon and defeated Hitler and Tojo in just four years, was only able to create a net 74,000 jobs. Even by the standards of the so-called recovery we've been having this was a horrible number. The average net increase for 2012 and 2013 was a net 182,000 jobs. Even those numbers were just barely short of what was needed to keep up with population growth. The unemployment rate is only below 7% because more people gave up and moved out of the workplace. It's not because companies are on hiring sprees. They're not. At least they're not hiring in the United States.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Movie Reviews: We're the Millers, Elysium

We're the Millers
directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
I guess that Jennifer Aniston and/or her agent(s) would like you to know that she is still an attractive actress. Maybe this would explain in part her character's striptease in We're the Millers which echoes but sadly doesn't really live up to her similar turn in Horrible Bosses as a sexually harassing dentist. There, the storyline, absurd as it was made sense in its own wacky way. There was a point to it. But in We're The Millers, well it's pretty much just an excuse to see Aniston in bra and panties. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course (ha!) but because the story is so lacking I found the display to be pandering and desperate. This could have been a better movie but unfortunately at every single decision point it chooses to go for the cheap laugh and the lowest common denominator. Jokes around incest, gay sex, lesbian sex, sexually repressed evangelicals, underage sex and more gay sex abound. In fact these jokes are pretty much the film's meat and potatoes. It's a shame because every so often you happen to see a funny joke unrelated to the above topics or you realize that Aniston actually has pretty good comic timing, given the proper material.
But so it goes. This film was quite financially successful. There's even room for a possible sequel. I don't want to sound like I can never appreciate films like this because sometimes I can. I guess I just wasn't in the mood for that stuff when I watched the movie. As always YMMV. At its best this is like a much raunchier and lower-brow Three's Company with the usual misunderstandings and sexual innuendo. There is very little here that is subtle.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

BRIDGE-GATE!!!: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in Hot Water

Prior to moving to the New York/New Jersey area, I used to think that I knew what traffic was.  I was sorely mistaken.  Back in the midwest, when you get stuck in "traffic" you might be crawling along at a snail's pace but at least you're still moving.  On the east coast, when you get stuck in traffic you are literally stuck in the same spot.  For.  Ev.  Er.  Nowhere is this more true than at the few bridges and tunnels which connect the state of New Jersey to New York City.  Each one of them is infamous within its own right.  Today's story will focus on one in particular: the George Washington Bridge ("GW Bridge"). 

The approach to the GW Bridge can be crazy.  Over 100 million cars travel over the GW Bridge every year - that's a third of the United States population!  That breaks down to over a quarter millions vehicles every single day.  So you can imagine that the traffic over this bridge is already sick.  Now imagine that a government official purposely blocks several lanes of traffic on the GW Bridge.  Crazy right?  Who would do such a thing? Well we're not done yet.  It gets worse.  Now imagine that due to those closed lanes, emergency workers could not rush a woman to the hospital and she died.  That's pretty bad right?  But wait, there's more.  Now imagine that the REASON why the government official (a Republican) blocked several lanes of the GW Birdge was to get back at the Democratic mayor of a small New Jersey town located next to the GW Bridge all because said mayor did not endorse the Republican governor of the state during his 2012 campaign.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Bridge-Gate.

Robert Gates' New Book Attacks Obama

I don't know how it's handled in the Federal government workforce but in the private institutions I've worked in, often but not always, when someone decides to leave for greener pastures, there is an exit interview, formal or not. This usually depends on how "important" you are, how long you've been there, whether you're direct hire or contract and how easy you are to replace. Your boss and/or the HR department want to know why you're leaving, what they could have done differently to make you stay, if you enjoyed your time working at Penetrode Inc., whether you might ever want to return, or if they would ever be interested in having you back. I've had a few of these. Usually both sides are professional and cautious. Although you and/or your boss might be secretly or not so secretly delighted that you are finally departing, the custom is often to play things close to the vest. After all no one wants to be sued or tip their hand about a possible lawsuit. And even ignoring legal unpleasantness, usually neither the employer or especially, a wise employee, wants to burn down a bridge they might want to come back across. So the employee mouths the necessary pieties about an exciting new opportunity he just couldn't pass up and the boss says she's sorry to lose such a key part of her team but happy that her former subordinate is moving on to bigger and better things.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates evidently decided that he would ignore those conventions in his new book Duty, which details his experiences under the Obama Administration. He himself says that he didn't really enjoy his time there. I think it's fair to infer that he didn't much like or respect many of the people he worked with. So if this book was his exit interview it was a big "F*** All Y'all!!" to his former team members.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Advantages of Disadvantages

In my downtime as a currently unemployed person, I've been taking the opportunity to catch up on some leisurely reading.  One of the books I'm reading now is "David and Goliath" by journalist Malcolm Gladwell.  It raises some interesting points about how people who we would normally view as "disadvantaged" can become successful because of their perceived disadvantage.  Take the old Biblical story about David and Goliath.  Even if you're not a Christian or a religious person in general you're probably still familiar with the story of how the small underdog (David) was able to kill the huge and powerful warrior (Goliath) with a single stone from his sling shot.  However, Gladwell posits that upon closer inspection we shouldn't be so surprised that little David won the fight. In fact, when you look at how the battle went down, David should have won.  Consider the following: Goliath was a huge infantryman wearing heavy armor and armed with weapons (sword, javelin, etc.) that were designed for close combat.  He expected that the battle between himself and whoever the Israelites put up against him would be fought hand-to-hand up close.  In that day and age, that the prevailing view on how armies could settle their battles was two-fold: either (A) the entire army could fight against the other entire army; or (B) each camp could chose their best warrior to do up close and personal hand-to-hand combat with the warrior from the other camp.  But that's not exactly what Goliath got.  David did not think like Goliath.  In fact, David, an Israelite, did not even think like his own fellow Israelites; they offered to give David the same armor and weapons that Goliath had, but he turned them down because he was too small to be weighed by all of it.  David was a small shepherd boy who could sling small stones from far distances, so that is how he approached this challenge.  Any other approach to him would have seemed foreign.  But because the Philistines and Israelites were used to seeing two big guys slug it out, everybody viewed David's size, lack of hand-to-hand weapons and lack of armor as major disadvantages.  As it turns out, however, those three things were actually advantages in this scenario.

Advantage #1: Because David was small, he fought from a distance -- not up close where Goliath was expecting.
Advantage #2: Because David was not relying on a sword, he used the sling shot which allowed him to hit Goliath in the head from a safe distance.
Advantage #3: Because David was not carrying any heavy armor, he was able to run quickly after knocking Goliath down, pick up Goliath's sword and chop of his head all before Goliath had a chance to figure out what the heck just happened.

In other words, a "disadvantage" or an "advantage" really depends on your perspective.  Moreover, sometimes when life throws us a disadvantage, that disadvantage causes us to take different paths towards our goals that most other people don't have to take which, interestingly enough, can cause us to become more successful than most other people.  Stated differently, when you are forced to do things the hard way then you tend to become even better at what you do than the rest of the people around you who were able to do things the easy way.  In support of this proposition, Gladwell offers the fact that over a third of the most successful Fortune 500 CEO's and start-up entrepreneurs out there have dyslexia.  Dyslexia is, of course, a reading disorder that makes it more difficult for people to read and write.  However, what Gladwell found was that because people with dyslexia have to try even harder at every day life than those of us who don't have dsylexia, it causes them to become very successful in other critical areas that can lead to business/financial success such as listening, memorizing and thinking quickly on your feet.

I'd be interested to hear what folks think about this concept.

Can you recall achieving a milestone in your life that is usually difficult for others but that came easier for you because of a disadvantage that you have been forced to deal with?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan - The 20th Anniversary

With the Winter Olympics quickly approaching, today we are taking a trip down memory lane to 1994. Six weeks before the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lellehammer, Norway, the skating world and tabloids erupted when 25-year old figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was brutally attacked in an incident that became known as "The Whack Heard Around the World." Leading up to the 94' Olympics, in an attempt to secure her spot on the U.S. Olympic Team, Kerrigan was competing in the U.S. Figure Skating Championship. Post practice backstage, Kerrigan was clubbed in her right knee by an assailant unknown to her named Shane Stant. At this point of her career, Kerrigan was the favorite and predicted to win the U.S. Figure Skating Champions, earning her a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team, and expected to place in Norway.
Suddenly, a fellow competitor began to reap the benefits of Kerrigan's downfall -- her name was Tonya Harding.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Contrition: Fox News vs MSNBC (Video)

Contrition: deeply felt remorse

You may often hear that MSNBC is just as biased as Fox news.  To an extent, what you heard may be correct.  However, MSNBC always lacked the venom and malice often seen on Fox - well, at least to me.  I don't always agree with a lot of the things said on MSNBC (especially from Lawrence O'Donnell), but I never felt that MSNBC was out to inflict (political) harm to their political opponents.  For me, the same can't be said for Fox. The most recent brew ha-has illustrate my point.

Book Reviews: Dying Is My Business, Insomnia

Dying Is My Business
by Nicholas Kaufmann

If you like the Harry Dresden series or any of the numerous other urban fantasies about modern day magic then you really ought to get this book. I bought it when I was looking for something else. When I finally started to read it I didn't want to put it down.
I think I finished it in two days. I'm sure it wasn't more than three. So I can't really give it higher praise than that. I think this is first in a series.
Trent is a "collector" for a Brooklyn, NY crime boss named Underwood. By collector I don't mean he collects monetary debts though he's done that in the past. No, Underwood sends Trent out on "special" assignments. 
Underwood craves information, antique, rare or legendary items, or people who can provide him leads about the first two things I mentioned. Trent usually tries to leave the rough stuff to Underwood's other primary enforcers but this isn't always possible. Underwood could care less if Trent or anyone else gets hurt in the process of collection. 
Mostly this is because Underwood is sociopathic but it's also because Underwood and his goons know that Trent can't be killed. Any time Trent is killed, he rises again. But the person in closest proximity to Trent dies in his place. Trent feels guilty about this and has actually started keeping a journal of the people who have died in that manner. But his memory doesn't go past a year. 
He doesn't know his real name or where he's from. Underwood claims to have some of that information and be looking for more. Trent is almost certain that Underwood is lying to him but he's desperate for information and wants to believe Underwood.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone in 2014

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time then you probably already know that I am one of two resident attorneys on staff here.  As of yesterday, I quit my law firm job of 5 years doing what, to me, was a very comfortable practice in order to step out and try something new.  New firm.  New location.  New people.  New bosses.  New everything.  New can be very scary.  In fact, the concept of doing something new is so scary to some people that they can't even entertain the thought of doing anything else.  That was certainly the case with several people I talked with during my final 2 weeks at my old gig.  Don't get me wrong, the reaction from most people was congratulatory, but every now and then I'd see a glimmer of what I can only describe as a combination of bewilderment perhaps mixed with a little bit of awe and a touch of inspiration as some of my former co-workers tried to come to terms with and fully understand how on Earth I could leave such a great job. A job, mind you, that many a law school graduate would kill for.  Especially in this economy. 

So today I want to talk about what it is that makes us step outside of OR stay inside of our comfort zones.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio Inauguration (Full Video) & The Plantation called New York City (???)

Mayor Bill deBlasio receives oath from President Bill Clinton
Happy New Year's Day- Welcome to 2014!!! Today is inauguration day all across the nation in numerous local municipalities. New York City is no exception! Today marks the beginning of a long over due changing of the guard, for New York City. Mayor Bloomberg finally departed City Hall last evening after twelve long years in office. At midnight, the former Public Advocate of New York City Bill deBlasio, was sworn in as the 109th Mayor of New York City. deBlasio seems to have a full understanding of the important work he has been tasked with and the desperate need for a change in tone by the city's top office. At noon today, for the first time in a very long time, New Yorker's were given access to the mayor via his pubic swearing in ceremony on the steps of City Hall. Apparently, (I was unaware) our city has not had the privilege of participating in general public inaugural activities for a very long time. Understanding the importance of starting his job with the right tone, Mayor deBlasio and his transition team put together an inaugural program that was intended to be very inclusive and a visual display of our city's diversity. 

Full Video of deBlasio Inaugural Ceremony in New York City: