Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Should this Baltimore Mother be Declared a Hero?

If you haven't seen this video, please watch.......

Monday, April 27, 2015

President Obama, Liberals and TPP

"L'etat c'est moi"
President Obama recently invoked a surly and petulant tone when he lashed out against critics of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership fast track trade deal (TPP). TPP is a so-called free trade agreement that would theoretically increase economic integration among twelve Pacific Rim countries with the notable exclusion of China. President Obama claimed that the critics of the legislation didn't know what they were talking about. President Obama said that if this deal wasn't good for working Americans he wouldn't support it. It's ironic that at the same time President Obama was telling Senator Warren that she didn't know what she was talking about and angrily denouncing anyone who would question his advocacy of certain trade deals that he also had temporarily to break stride and apologize for bombing and killing people who shouldn't have been bombed or killed. In other words he made a mistake. He was wrong. I might discuss the drone situation sometime later but contrary to what the Boxers among us might think, Napoleon President Obama is not always right. Like many corporate bosses when things go well, (Bin Laden is dead), the President takes credit. When things go wrong some supportive media suddenly releases detailed information on how the drone program doesn't need the President's signoff for every target and so mistakes really aren't the President's fault. Fascinating. The President might want to remember that just because he supports something doesn't mean other people need to accept his judgment without question. The President's interests are not synonymous with America's interests. If he was wrong about something like a drone program, he just might be wrong about a trade deal. President Obama's good intentions do not necessarily make something good. There was no need for President Obama to make policy differences personal, but I guess when you don't have to run for election again you can drop certain masks. So it goes.

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: High Sparrow

"I've heard that it's best to keep your enemies close."
"Whoever said that didn't have many enemies."
Hmm. Imagine that in the film adaptation of Mario Puzo's Godfather novel instead of Michael Corleone being the one to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey, Francis Ford Coppola filmed the scene with Clemenza as the assassin. Now in the short term maybe it doesn't matter that much but looking past the immediate such a change would alter many character developments and motivations as well as the larger story themes and threads. Some of this might be for the good but then again perhaps not. I felt that kind of way after watching Sunday's episode. I'm not sure if all the changes worked. However, given that the showrunners have run out of published material for some characters they may have had no choice but to alter events while presumably still trying to tie things into George R.R. Martin's ending. They know the ending and we don't. There are small butterfly changes which are adding up to increasingly huge differences between text and screen. I will write more about that after the season. Multiple book storylines were shot in the back of the head and dumped in the river in last night's episode. Again, I urge you to read the books. Anyhow. We have a creepy open in the House of Black and White where Arya watches as Jaqen H'ghar gives a man a drink. Arya is impatient to get on with the business of becoming a world class assassin instead of just sweeping up but Jaqen reminds her she's not ready for that yet. That drink Jaqen gave the man was apparently poison as the fellow drops dead. Jaqen says everyone must serve the one god, death. Another young woman is apparently jealous of Arya's precocity and attacks her with a riding crop(?) wanting to know who she is. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Book Reviews: Half A King

Half a King
by Joe Abercrombie
Like George Martin, Joe Abercrombie writes grim dark fantasy that deconstructs many of the tropes that were used in fantasy literature post-Tolkien. I think this was necessary. How many times can one really read about ancient evil returning, kindly old wizards, grim but loyal warriors who never use their strength to do wrong or incompetent sheep herdsmen who turn out to be the lost heir/chosen one/world savior that everyone has been awaiting? After a while it gets predictable. In his First Law trilogy Abercrombie, like Martin and to a degree Moorcock before him, overturned all the chairs in the stuffy old temple of fantasy literature, using his sharp whips of cynicism and realism to drive out the lazy moneychanging clones of Tolkien and Anderson. However in his trilogy and a few of the stories he's written since then I thought that occasionally Abercrombie could go too far in the other direction where everything that happens is bad and everyone is only out for himself or herself. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that that wasn't the case in his book Half a King. Prince Yarvi is the second son of King Uthrik. Yarvi is an ongoing disappointment to his cold and stereotypically masculine father. Yarvi not only lacks the aggression, leadership qualities and violent streak much prized in men by his people, but even if he had those things it's unclear as to whether he could use them. Yarvi was born with a clubhand and withered forearm (on his left if memory serves correctly) and thus can't really properly bear a shield, swing a two handed battleaxe, or perform many of the military or athletic activities that are expected in men of his class and nation. In open despair, Yarvi once moaned to his father that he didn't ask to be born with half a hand. His father coolly replied that he didn't ask for half a son. There are only three close people in Yarvi's life who show something besides quiet contempt for him. They are (1) his beautiful, intelligent, perceptive and occasionally cruel mother Laithlin, who constantly gives Yarvi lessons on pragmatism and leadership, (2) his watchful uncle Odem who is one of the few people who doesn't laugh or turn away in disgust when Yarvi ineptly practices battle skills, and (3) Mother Gundring, who is the ruling family's minister (think doctor, biologist, philosopher, librarian, lawyer, advisor, and priest all in one person). 

Monday, April 20, 2015

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The House of Black and White

"Nothing's worth anything to dead men."
The Bolton flayed man sigil atop Winterfell showing in the episode intro is a depressing sign of change if you are a Stark partisan. But Stannis discovers anew that people in the North have an almost religious reverence for the Stark name. Roose Bolton can call himself Warden of the North but he might be well advised to watch his back. But more on that in a minute. This episode brought back everyone's favorite left handed action girl, Arya Stark. She has arrived in Braavos and been taken to the House of Black and White. There she knocks on the door which is eventually opened by, well for now let's just call him the kindly old man. Arya presents the coin, says the magic words and asks to see Jaqen H'ghar. The kindly old man says there's no one here by that name and closes the door. Arya waits for a few minutes. The minutes turn into hours; the hours turn into at least a day or two. Arya keeps her spirits up by reciting her kill list. Charming little lady isn't she. Eventually, depressed, she throws the coin away and goes off to live in the streets, just as she did in King's Landing. Hunting pigeons for food or barter Arya has just killed one when three thugs make it clear that they intend to rob her of her kill, her sword and possibly more. Unafraid, Arya is walking forward to fight. But the three ruffians look over her shoulder and run away. It's the kindly old man. He has retrieved the coin she threw away. He invites her to the House of Black and White. He also changes his face to that of Jaqen H'ghar. He tells Arya that he is no one. In the House of Black and White Arya will learn to be no one as well. Cue ominous music. In an inn Podrick is enjoying watching the sway of the serving girl's hips when quite by accident he sees Littlefinger and Sansa along with their Vale guard. That good old male gaze sure can come in handy sometimes. Podrick informs Brienne. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Movie Reviews: Last Knights, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires

Last Knights
directed by Kazuaki Kiriya
Imagine 47 Ronin redone for a world where people of different races all live together in the same area marrying, loving, hating and killing each other without regard to skintones. Imagine a A Game of Thrones subtheme (a man too proud and rigid in his definition of good refusing to play the game and bringing ruin onto his family) brought to the big screen. That is Last Knights. There is a continual conflict between deontology and consequentialism in life. If we discover that a little league team championship baseball team has inadvertently(?) broken the rules should we remove their title? If the text of a law creating health care subsidies has a glaring mistake within should we invalidate the law though that will harm millions of people? Should a proud and good lord refuse to pay bribes to a greedy minister and then call out the corruption even though by doing so he insults the emperor? Does anyone really believe "Let justice be done though the heavens fall"? Yes, some people do believe that. We may consider such people to be heroic martyrs or dangerously rigid idealists.

Although few people are absolute deontologists, those who tend towards deontologist mindsets tend to have tremendous respect for rules, codes and laws whether they be externally imposed or internally accepted. A man's gotta have a code pretty much sums up their outlook. They will think long and hard before breaking such strictures and will usually support punishing those who do, even themselves. A deontologist believes that a person should do the "right" thing and/or follow the rules regardless of the consequences. Doing the right thing is reward enough. Giving consequences serious consideration doesn't factor heavily into a deontologist's moral calculus.

Friday, April 17, 2015

ESPN's Britt McHenry Suspended for Berating Attendant at Tow Company

Was ESPN right to suspend McHenry for her behavior in this video?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Religious Freedom, Discrimination and Airplanes

I am not religious though I have respect for people's religious beliefs. I avoid needlessly poking fun at them. There are limits to this respect but in general I don't see the point in deliberately pointing out fallacies and flaws in someone's faith unless they try to push it onto me. Lately religious freedom has come to be used primarily by people on the political right to avoid otherwise generally applicable laws. There's no reason that religious freedom should be a partisan issue. There are just as many historical and current controversies where people on the political left have cited religious freedom to avoid participating in things the right supports (saluting the flag, pledging allegiance, being drafted, etc..). So it should go both ways. I see religious objections as just a smaller and fiercer subset of conscience objections. And I often admire people who are truly motivated by individual conscience. There is one small caveat though. I may respect people who are standing up to the state or business or other members of society who are trying to make them do something. I don't have any use for people claiming religious freedom who are trying to burden OTHER people. I have the religious freedom to abstain from eating pork or shellfish. It's not religious freedom however for me to try to make you live by my dietary restrictions. It's a small but crucial distinction. Recently some male members of the growing and politically active ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have made some news by refusing to sit next to unrelated women while using transportation. Presumably this problem would also extend to unrelated men sitting next to traveling ultra-Orthodox Jewish women. 

73-Year Old Reserve Police Officer Accidentally Shoots African-American Suspect During Sting Operation

The Tulsa County deputy who shot and killed a man instead of using his Taser now faces a manslaughter charge.
Video shows Reserve Deputy Robert Bates announcing he is going to deploy his Taser after an undercover weapons sting on April 2, but then shooting Eric Courtney Harris in the back with a handgun.
In a written statement, Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen A. Kunzweiler said Bates is charged with second-degree manslaughter involving culpable negligence. It's a felony charge that could land the volunteer deputy in prison for up to four years if he's found guilty.
Scott Wood, an attorney who represents Bates, said the shooting was an "excusable homicide."
"We believe the video itself proves that it was an accident of misfortune that occurred while Deputy Bates was fulfilling his duties as a reserve deputy," Wood said. "He is not guilty of second-degree manslaughter."

Monday, April 13, 2015

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Wars to Come

"The freedom to make my own mistakes is all I ever wanted."
Well we're back. Season Five is underway. We open up with a flashback memory as ten year old Cersei bullies her friend into accompanying her to visit a local witch who can supposedly see the future. Using the ever effective threat of an angry Tywin Lannister, the young Cersei makes the witch tell of Cersei's future. It's grim. Not only will she not marry Prince Rhaegar but her future husband will be a king who has twenty children while she will only have three. All of her children will have golden crowns and golden shrouds. A younger more beautiful queen will eventually cast Cersei down. This prophecy helps explain why Cersei, who clearly was already a bad seed as a child, has become such a paranoid and vindictive adult with an especial dislike for Margaery. Visiting her father's body before the public viewing, Cersei blames Jaime for releasing Tyrion and urges him to find their little brother. Jaime is well aware that Tywin's death will embolden Lannister enemies. Twyin was a bada$$ but now he's just a dead bada$$. At the wake Cersei can barely tolerate the fake condolences and murmurs of support. She's drinking herself into numbness. Cersei is stunned to see her cousin and former lover Lancel, who has joined the religious fundamentalist group known as the Sparrows. Judging by Lancel's appearance these people appear to be into poverty, chastity and bad haircuts. Lancel tells Cersei that he truly regrets playing "Mama's got a squeezebox" with a close relative and one who was married. He also is contrite about helping her to murder the king. He wants her forgiveness and for her to confess her sins. Unsurprisingly, Cersei is not huge on the whole confession thingie and denies knowing what Lancel is talking about. To be fair, confession really didn't work out so well for Ned Stark, now did it?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Book Reviews: Suspicion

by Joseph Finder
This was a very quick read and satisfying mystery/thriller story. A few characters are underdeveloped but fortunately they're not critical ones. I picked up this book on sale. A few twists were predictable; many others weren't. I enjoyed Suspicion. As we have discussed before the executive branch of the Federal Government, via its agencies such as the DoJ, the IRS, the DEA and the FBI among others, has a tremendous amount of flexibility to prosecute and effectively even define crime.

Most of us citizens smallfolk do not have hundreds of thousands of dollars in our money market accounts, millions more in stock or bond mutual funds and incredibly skilled, connected and aggressive $800/hr defense attorneys on speed dial. I can't call a US Senator or Cabinet Secretary on his or her private line and snarl at them to tell some overaggressive US Attorney to back up off me or else. 

So for the average schmuck the Federal Government can bring a frightening amount of resources to compel co-operation. The average person usually won't win fighting the federal government and doesn't even have the wherewithal to try. Do you have $250K to give as a retainer to a lawyer before he or she will even look at your case? Most people don't. Danny Goodman is such an average person. He's a widowed single father in the Boston area who's raising his teen daughter on his own. Danny writes historical biographies.

Danny's income stream is unpredictable. But Danny loves his daughter Abby very much even though she often annoys him (and vice versa). Danny has enrolled Abby in a very expensive private school, which he can't really afford. It's far beyond his means but pride and love can make parents do things that may not make financial sense. Danny can't pay for Abby to take school field trips abroad. He's behind on tuition, and it's not the first time.

Although Danny tries to hide his financial condition from Abby, Abby is only young, not stupid. At school, Danny runs into Thomas Galvin, the parent of Abby's best friend. The two men bond together. They have similar ethnic and class backgrounds. Like Danny, Thomas grew up lower middle class/poor in South Boston. 

Sesame Street: Game of Chairs and Jon Snow: Dinner Guest

Do you remember watching Sesame Street as a child? Sometimes things are so silly that you just have to laugh. The next ruler of Jesteros will have to play and win the Game of Chairs....(cue music)

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Murder of Walter Scott

Art often imitates life.

A few weeks ago there was a controversial episode of "Scandal" in which Olivia Pope was called in to fix up a mess in the metro police department. The mess was the death of a young African-American teenager who was shot dead on the streets of his Washington D.C. neighborhood (very close to his home), by a white police officer. The young boy's father knowing that his son was killed for no reason other than the color of his skin and the negative perceptions associated with said skin color, decided to take a seat (in a lawn chair) and guard his son's body with a loaded shot gun in his hands. The officer claimed that the young boy matched the description of someone who had robbed a nearby mobile phone store. The young man was stopped by the officer with a mobile device in his hands (one he had just purchased and had a receipt for). When the young man attempted to reach into his coat to pull out the receipt to show the officer, the officer shot him dead. The officer then repeated the line we continuously hear in these situations, "I feared for my life, the victim was reaching for a weapon."

In a final scene, after the gladiators solve the case and figure out that the officer had hidden evidence, planted a weapon on the kid, lied and had fellow officers lie for him, the officer proceeds to go on a a heart stopping rant. This rant in my opinion sums up what law enforcement officers really think about African-Americans that they come in contact with.


Kendrick Lamar, Skin Tones and Personal Choice

There is no reason, as an older mentor once advised me, for anyone to worry about what’s on another man's or woman’s plate. That just gets you agitated and envious. Your life won’t improve. Every person has different skills, gifts and characteristics which will attract people. What's a "must have" attribute to one person can easily be a "can't stand" quality for another. I recalled that advice when some Facebook friends shared what a self-described so-called “dark skinned activist” named Rashida Strober had to say about the upcoming nuptials of rapper Kendrick Lamar and his fiancĂ©e, one Whitney Alford. Now I don't listen to Kendrick Lamar's music. I couldn't care less about who he is sleeping with or his marriage plans. This news didn't put any money in my pocket or make me sleep better at night. But I thought the idiotic response by this alleged activist was worth discussing if only because it is a view into a mindset that if not exactly widespread, does have a ugly tenacity, sort of like cockroaches or scabies. Now the normal response when you learn that someone will be getting married is either happiness for them (if you know them personally) or perhaps bemused indifference (if they happen to be one of the 7 billion people on the planet you don't know). However Rashida Strober decided to take the news of Lamar's engagement personally, very personally indeed. 
“Well, well, well would you looky here. ANOTHER FAKE CONSCIOUS MUTHERF-KER EXPOSED. I will never support him nor his music with one dime of my money and encourage all dark skinned women not to either!”

I see calling out and exposing self hating fake black men who speak about consciousness but date and marry NON DARK SKIN WOMEN brought you haters to my page. WELL SHARE THIS MUTHERF**ING POST!!! These type of fake coons are the worst of the worst. DARK SKIN is the essence of true blackness and if these fakers were really and truly conscious they would MARRY DARK SKINNED WOMEN!!! You pissed ?? GOOD!!!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Found Guilty on ALL 30 Counts in the Boston Marathon Terrorist Attack - Eligible for the Death Penalty

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Jackie's UVA Rolling Stone Rape Allegation Falls Apart

It should scarcely need to be said but obviously rape is one of the worst crimes a person can commit, second only to murder. So society should do its best to prevent rape and failing that, to punish rape harshly. You may recall that a while back we did a skeptical post on the fact that Rolling Stone magazine was forced to retract its story about a gang rape at UVA. Since that time the local police looked into the story. They did everything in their power to avoid saying that "Jackie", the alleged victim, was lying. What they did say is that there was no substantive basis to support her story. Similarly Rolling Stone outsourced an investigation of its journalistic process and procedures surrounding this story to Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The School recently released its report. The report wasn't good in the same way that someone who comes home with 6 F's and one D on her report card didn't have a good semester. You can read the very long Columbia report for yourself if you are so inclined. For those of you who do not have the time or interest to read through 12,000 words let's just say that the report calmly eviscerates the lax reporting, fact checking and editorial standards at Rolling Stone magazine. If Erdely had called Kathryn Hendley and Alex Stock – their true names – to check their sides of Jackie's account of Sept. 28 and 29, they would have denied saying any of the words Jackie attributed to them (as Ryan would have as well). They would have described for Erdely a history of communications with Jackie that would have left the reporter with many new questions. For example, the friends said that Jackie told them that her date on Sept. 28 was not a lifeguard but a student in her chemistry class named Haven Monahan. (The Charlottesville police said in March they could not identify a UVA student or any other person named Haven Monahan.) All three friends would have spoken to Erdely, they said, if they had been contacted.

I always thought that "Jackie" was making stuff up. Let's say I said I'm going on a date. I show you a picture of my date and it's a 1970s picture of Pam Grier. I state that this woman is not Pam Grier but rather an old high school classmate whom I haven't seen in decades. You might reasonably conclude that I was lying through my teeth. This would especially be the case after you tracked down that old high school classmate and she told you that she hadn't talked to me since high school and had never dated me. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Music Reviews: Little Milton

Little Milton
James "Little Milton" Campbell (1934-2005) was best known and marketed as a blues musician and singer. However, placing him solely in this category was by his own admission somewhat problematic. Little Milton grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry and could have been the next Charley Pride. He was a lifelong country music fan. When he turned to blues in his teens and early twenties, blues was already morphing into rock-n-roll and post-war R&B. 

On the surface, Little Milton's sound, especially by the sixties and later, was different from the older music pioneered by Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and Jimmy Reed. Little Milton knew, respected and occasionally worked with the older musicians. Once, before a concert, Little Milton told Howling Wolf that he admired Wolf's expensive flashy cuff links. After the show Howling Wolf called Little Milton over and gave him the cuff links as a gift, jokingly warning him the next time Little Milton saw Wolf with something nice on, to keep his admiration to himself.

Little Milton's musical arrangements and vocal timbre, (similar to that of BB King who was an influence), owed much to jazz, jump blues and the burgeoning soul and funk genres. Little Milton worked the same circuit as performers like Tyrone Davis, Bobby Bland and Wilson Pickett. So Little Milton was almost completely overlooked by white audiences during the sixties blues revival as he was not DORF. Unlike many other black blues artists Little Milton retained a solid, though declining popularity with black blues and soul audiences. 

Through the seventies and beyond his bands would always open with hits by contemporary black performers such as Earth Wind and Fire, The Commodores, Michael Jackson and Prince. He received little attention from the white blues market until very late in life. Life is funny like that. It's odd that different groups who will show up together at a sports event will often decline to attend a concert if either group thinks that too many of THOSE OTHER PEOPLE will be there. But so it goes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Student Loan Repayment Strike

I went to college in the Pleistocene epoch when colleges did not cost as much as they do today. I was fortunate enough to have an almost full academic scholarship, some money saved from summer jobs, access to Pell grants and finally a supportive and demanding father who would and did move heaven and earth to ensure that I graduated on time with no excuses and no debts. The idea of taking out massive loans just to obtain an undergraduate degree was completely foreign to me. The world has changed since the days of yore. It's much more difficult to obtain scholarships and grants. The cost of private and public colleges has skyrocketed. Free money has dried up. If you want to go to college and are not a child of either the 1% or parents who are obsessive savers, loans will likely be a large part of how you pay for your schooling. The obvious problem with loans, as opposed to scholarships, personal savings, grants and money from Mom and Dad, is that you have to pay the loans back. Nobody lends money with any other expectation. That's why they're called loans and not gifts. Although a college degree has increasingly become a requirement for a chance to enter the precarious middle class, it is also more important than ever to get the proper college degree from a respectable university. Just having the B.S. or B.A. behind your name isn't at all a guarantee of finding a good job, particularly if you are of visible/undeniable African descent , but that is a different post. Getting a BS degree from a BS university may only net you a BS job. Many people find this out the hard way when they graduate only to discover that their current skill sets and newly minted alleged education will get them a job that barely allows them to make rent and loan payments each month, if they're lucky. It is a financial pain in the tuchus to pay back student loans. Generally speaking, the loan can't be discharged in bankruptcy. Some former students or actual dropouts have decided that their best plan of action is to refuse to pay back their loans.