Friday, October 9, 2009

Levi Johnson - Posing for Playgirl

Levi Johnson, Sarah Palin's daughter's babydaddy is posing
taking a break from hunting and hockey to be the new hunk for the cover of Playgirl Magazine.

He's squeezing that fifteen minutes of fame like the last dollop in a tube of tooth paste. Let's hope he slips back into the Alaskan wilderness soon. And he should take Governor Palin with him.

Pres. Obama - 2009 Nobel Laureate for Peace

President Obama was elected the first African American President, selected Time Magazine person of the year in 2008 and is now a 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate. When the announcement was made the reporters assembled sucked the air out of the room with one collective gasp. He is only the third sitting U.S. president to win the prize for peace (preceded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919, picture above). He was awarded the prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." In other words, for using the novel practice of talking first and shooting later.

I'll be the first to admit that is sounds a little premature. I mean, its not like peace has been declared between Palestine and Israel. But the web is full of people who say that President Obama hasn't done anything to merit the the honor. And that's not exactly true either. I've learned that he was elected twelve days before the deadline for submissions to the committee. So he was considered due to his potential to create peace instead of a particular act. That potential was made manifest in several ways. Due in part to his leadership, the world avoided a global economic depression. President Obama began a withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq. He gave a major speech offering an olive branch to Muslims and Arabs in Egypt. He closed Guantanamo Bay. Israelis and Palestinians are engaged in peace talks again. The U.S. is once again engaged in diplomatic relations with North Korea and Iran. He is considering a new strategy in Afghanistan. He has turned away from the eight years of the U.S.
"go-it-alone strategy" that was headed toward universal catastrophe.

The Nobel Peace Prize is not like the other Nobel Prizes for science and literature. The other awards are given for completed work. The peace prize can be given to people involved in the process of resolving a conflict or creating peace. On those grounds, people who suggest the president hasn't done anything to deserve the honor are plainly wrong. Turning a large ship around takes time. President Obama has set out to turn the Ship of State around and that can not be done in an instant. But the direction in which President Obama is trying to move the country, indeed the world, has as its destination a place of lasting peace.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Johnson Treatment

President Obama is a brilliant orator. But the time for big speeches has passed. Health care reform is going to require what political scientists call the The Johnson Treatment.

President Lyndon Johnson gets a bad rap as president, chiefly because of the Vietnam Conflict. But we sometimes forget that it was he, not President Kennedy, who was responsible for getting Civil Right Legislation passed. It was President Johnson who got Medicare and Medicaid through the United States Congress. It is not commonly remembered that before becoming Vice-president and then inheriting the presidency; Johnson had been an iconic legislator. I can say without fear of correction, that Johnson had been one of the most influential and powerful majority leaders in the history of Congress. He was able to use the full force of his own personality to garner support for bills he supported. He convinced people to either join his cause or prepare to get bulldozed.

The most famous aspect of The Johnson Treatment was executed through shear proximity. Johnson got face to face with people. He then used every emotional weapon in his arsenal. He used everything from flattery to cajolery. He used logic and threats, and anything in between. But that was only part of the treatment. Johnson was a master at finding out what people wanted and needed. He told people face to face in private what he needed from them, and what he was willing to do for them in return. One newly elected freshman congressman was ushered aboard a plane and delivered to the Oval Office for a private audience with president who said "Congratulations son I'm going to need your help". The congressman never voted against him.

Its alright for the president to sell the nation on health care reform with stately speeches in grand halls and whistle stop tours. But he needs to get up close and personal with the blue dogs. He needs to apply The Johnson Treatment one them one at a time, and away from their staffs. There is something each one of them needs support for in their districts. Someone needs more aids, someone needs a hospital, someone needs government funds for play grounds. All of them need campaign support contacts. I know it all sounds like pork and the president is against pork barrel spending. But this fight is too important not to pull out all the stops. I assure you that Congress was not rushing to get in line to support Civil Rights Legislation in 1964. It took some arm twisting to get that done.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tyler Perry Again?

Congratulations to Tyler Perry for having his second number one movie opening. I Can Do Bad All By Myself was a hit at the box office, raking in over 20 million dollars. It stars two of the best and most undervalued actors in Hollywood, Taraji P. Henson and Brian J. White. And for that reason alone I wish I could bring myself to support this film, but I can't.

Tyler Perry is the most over rated phenomenon since the electric knife. I watched his plays and I saw the movie Diary of a Mad Black Woman. I have watched several episodes of Tyler Perry's House of Payne and Meet the Browns. And I come away from every experience dissatisfied. Now he's launching a talk show. Being ubiquitous is no substitute for being good.

There are good moral messages in his stories and the music is usually great. The cast is always attractive. The casts though attractive are generally either poor actors or poorly cast. Either way, the effect is disastrous. His famous "Madea" character's language mocks the Bible and I find it a little offensive personally. Then there is his nasty habit of resorting to stereotypical buffoonery. Watching Tyler Perry's work reminds me of the old Amos and Andy sitcom. It's a little embarrassing to watch, but on the other hand I'm so relieved to see black folks on television that I kind of put up with the shucking and jiving. Maybe this new movie is better than I think. By most accounts I'm missing a real treat. But I'll wait till its on HBO to find out. I prefer investing in quality programming. For me, supporting Perry's work at this point is like supporting Al Sharpton's bid for president. Just being black ain't gonna get.

Friday, September 11, 2009

911 Eight Years Later

Its been eight years since the 911 attacks that gripped the nation. The President and First Lady braved the cool fall weather and the rain (much of the time without umbrellas) to honor the fallen and support the families that they left behind.

I still marvel that people could unleash such violence on other people. Anytime that happens I am deeply saddened. What is more remarkable is the courage displayed by people in crisis. One of the stories I recall was the security guard who led three separate groups of strangers down the stairs to safety. Four times he charged up into a building on fire until it finally collapsed on top of him.
September 11 was declared a National Day of Service by executive order of President Obama. (Not a bad day's work for someone who conservative extremists have branded an un-American, communist, socialist, fascist, terrorist, liar ugh?)

Let us live up to the challenge to do something today that in some small way honors the examples of love and sacrifice that shown through the rubble of that national catastrophe.

God bless the President. God bless the United States of America.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Buttons and Bows

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis inspired women around the world to adopt the pill box hat and super sized sun glasses in the sixties. And unless I miss my guess sparkling brooches and over sized bows will be showcased on the runways of New York's Fashion Week in 2009. The First Lady (pictured above) attending the joint session of Congress last night has been wearing voluminous bows regularly, since her tour of Europe in the Spring. Mrs. Obama is almost single handily elevating the status of accessories.

Normally Mrs. Obama chooses big bows in black and white or black on black. Last night she was the fairest of them all in a coral colored frock that featured detailed handiwork that would have made Coco Channel light headed. As if the bow covered pleats, brilliant brooch, abrupt sleeves and stiff skirt were not eye catching enough, just behold all the drama in the back. Mrs. Obama is fashion forward and fearlessly so.

Contact Your Local Blue Dog

Here's a list of blue dogs who need to be pressured into supporting a public option. Which is NOT the same thing as government take over. During the campaign season, politicians ask volunteers to call and cajole people into voting for them. They even have computerized calling systems called robocalls. We need to call them and insist that they support legislation that speaks directly to the character of our country.

Jason Altmire (PA-4)
Mike Arcuri (NY-24)
Joe Baca (CA-43)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Melissa Bean (IL-8)
Marion Berry (AR-1)
Sanford Bishop (GA-2)
Dan Boren (OK-2)
Leonard Boswell (IA-3)
Allen Boyd (FL-2)
Bobby Bright (AL-2)
Dennis Cardoza (CA-18)
Christopher Carney (PA-10)
Ben Chandler (KY-6)
Travis Childers (MS-1)
Jim Cooper (TN-5)
Jim Costa (CA-20)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-3)
Lincoln Davis (TN-4)
Joe Donnelly (IN-2)
Brad Ellsworth (IN-8)
Bill Foster (IL-14)
Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8)
Bart Gordon (TN-6)
Parker Griffith (AL-5)
Jane Harman (CA-36)
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD-AL), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration
Baron Hill (IN-9), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy
Tim Holden (PA-17)
Frank Kratovil (MD-1)
Jim Marshall (GA-8)
Jim Matheson (UT-2)
Mike McIntyre (NC-7)
Charlie Melancon (LA-3), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications
Mike Michaud (ME-2)
Walt Minnick (ID-1)
Dennis Moore (KS-3)
Patrick Murphy (PA-8)
Glenn Nye (VA-2)
Collin Peterson (MN-7)
Earl Pomeroy (ND-AL)
Mike Ross (AR-4)
John Salazar (CO-3)
Loretta Sanchez (CA-47)
Adam Schiff (CA-29)
David Scott (GA-13)
Heath Shuler (NC-11), Blue Dog Whip
Zack Space (OH-18)
John Tanner (TN-8)
Gene Taylor (MS-4)
Mike Thompson (CA-1)
Charlie Wilson (OH-6)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rep. Joe Wilson - Unplugged

I was feeling badly for Republicans who seemed to have been invited to something akin to a Democratic pep rally. Republicans looked as uncomfortable as turkeys invited to Thanksgiving dinner. And rightly so, cause they got served. But then the "gentleman" from South Carolina called the President of the United States a liar from the well of that distinguished chamber. At that moment my sympathy vanished. That's when I remembered that health care reform is not the real problem. For many conservatives the election of Pres. Obama in November is the real source of the contention; and they simply will not support his presidency. The open hostility was not "you are telling a lie", in that in that it called into question the correctness of his information. It was both personal and angry. It was also erroneous, but apparently that is beside the point.

Rep. Wilson may have inadvertently united the fractured Democratic party tonight more than he knows. I am confident, now more than ever, that substantial health care reform will pass this year. If possible, by Democrats and Republicans sitting down and breaking bread together. If not, then I suspect Democrats will shove that bread right down the Republicans angry throats.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In Memoriam

Senator Edward Moore Kennedy (1932-2009) will be formally remembered today. All kinds of tributes have been rendered since his passing this week. I'm not going to repeat all his accolades and his failures here. But I would be remiss if I did not mention an aspect of his legacy that pulls at me personally. When I think of Sen. Kennedy I can not help but think of hope; and the phrase that comes to mind is "what a difference a day makes".

Sen. Kennedy was a deeply flawed man. But to be honest that's how I like my heroes. People who are too good and too close to perfection seem beyond me. He was the spoiled youngest child of a privileged family. He got expelled from Harvard for cheating. Then there was that business at Chappaquidick. Quite frankly Sen. Kennedy behaved like an ass to Jimmy Carter when Carter defeated him for the Democratic nomination for president in the 80's. He was a party boy of privilege trying to find his way. He rather awkwardly tried to fill some very big shoes. Many people would have given in to riotous living and gotten comfortable with being the black sheep of the family. They would have wrapped themselves in the familiar cloak of mediocrity and lived there lives in the shadows, with regrets about all the promises of life left unfulfilled. But not Ted Kennedy.

One day he looked destined to history's ashe can and the next he set his purpose on things higher than himself. And the next day he was on the right path. He didn't wallow in his failures. He looked around saw wrong and put his energy into righting those wrongs. He was not a hypocrite. He was human. Recognizing his on humanity, he tried to do more good than bad. And really that's what we all should expect of one another.

Senator Kennedy will be remembered as a friend to the poor and the under served. He will be remembered as a first rate legislator. He will be remembered as a family man and a lover of dogs and sailing. He will be remembered fondly because one day he decided to dedicate himself to what he believed passionately. One day he took stock of his life and decided to embrace his best self in order serve the public good.
Thank you Senator Kennedy.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Oh Boy!

Caster Semenya (pictured here) is at the center of a 21st century international battle of the sexes. Her own. You see, the International Amateur Athletic Federation is questioning the gender of this world champion women's track star. Semenya won the women's 800 meter race last week with an astounding time of 1 minute 55.45 seconds. The 18 year old athlete's drastically improved time, deep voice and less than feminine features drew the attention of IAAF officials. They are launching and investigation to determine "her" gender. The results will take two weeks.

Maybe I skipped some crucial biology lectures in college. It takes two weeks to determine if a person is male of female? So you can't tell just by looking? Wow. I may have prematurely and possibly erroneously judged some folks. Seriously, I'm a little nervous.

Turns out that the IAAF is not accusing Semenya, the coach, or the family of any intentional wrong doing. They believe that she may appear to be a woman physically but may have sufficient genetic chromosomes to physiologically be a man, at some microscopic level. If Semenya turns out to be more man than woman, she...I mean he could be disqualified from competing in the Olympics.

The South African government is outraged. Some supporters are accusing the IAAF of both sexism and racism because the second place winner (the young lady Semenya beat the brakes off of) is European.

The family says Semenya is a girl. The IAAF alleges that Semenya is a boy. Speculation may abound for years to come even after the test results come back. I don't know what Semenya's gender is. I do know that male or female, that body is sick. And a 1 minute 55.45 second 800 meter run is fast, no matter who you are.

Friday, August 21, 2009

This Blood's For You

I'm a fan of the HBO original series True Blood. If you're a fan too, you might be interested to know that coming soon to a store near you is tru blood the beverage. Soon fans can enjoy the experience of drinking blood orange soda pacakaged as the blood substitute from the show. If you want to get some in time for the season finale you can order it on line @ before September 10th. A pack of four will run you about sixteen bucks. A case of twenty four is ninety-six dollars.

For those who like a drink with a little more bite, professional and amateur bartenders are busy experimenting with new cocktails that feature tru blood as the chaser. Tru blood cocktails may prove to be a little tricky from a commercial stand point. Afterall, part of the appeal of the beverage is the bottle itself.

My first impression was that the launch of tru blood was a piece of brilliant marketing. But when I think about it, there are a lot of weirdos for whom drinking faux blood might have some unintended consequences. Will the sale of tru blood be a hit or a disaster? Who can say for sure? But my prediction is that vodka and tru blood will be the drink of choice at any good Halloween party this year.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Alpha Kappa Alpha Behaving Badly

Alpha Kappa Alpha is the oldest female black greek letter organization. For over a century the members of this sorority have lived by the motto "By culture and by merit". But the embattled International President (Supreme Basileus), Barbara Mckinzie (pictured here), has described the law suit filed against her and the members of the board of directors (the directorate) as "without merit".

Eight members of the sorority filed a law suit in the Washington DC Superior court against the leaders of their own organization. They allege that Mckinizie spent $900,000 on wax statues of herself and founding member Nellie Quander, to be displayed in the Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. They accuse Mckinizie of using the sorority's American Express card to purchase personal clothing, jewelry, gym equipment and more. They further charge that Mckinzie, in violation of AKA rules, arranged with the board to be paid a "stipend" after her term of office is over in 2010. The payments in the amount of $4,000 a month, are to be paid over the next four years. Acoording to the "weeping ivy" Mckinzie has already received half a million dollars in "retirement" checks. The dissenters are raising money to pay legal expenses under the name Friends of the Weeping Ivy.

I don't know all the facts. For all I know Mckinizie could be as guilty of wrong doing as Bernie Maddoff. I am not defending her or the members of AKA' s board. But as a member of several fraternal, social and civic organizations I am certain that there are internal ways to handle these kinds of problems. One of them is called the annual convention. These kinds of conflicts should be addressed in the privacy of a hotel ball room. Redress for these kinds of complaints should only be aired on the convention floor with members in good standing and in possession of credentials and possibly a password.
This is an internal matter ladies. Please stop airing your dirty laundry in public. This public law suit tarnishes the legacy that you promised to perpetuate.

I hope that First Lady Michelle Obama, who accepted an invitation to join as an honorary member (there was not an active chapter on campus when she was an undergraduate at Princeton) does not change her mind about affiliating due to this scandal.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcome Back Whitney

September 1, 2009 Whitney Houston's 7th album will be released. This is her first album since that great career distraction, Bobby Brown. The leading single off the album has been out for a few weeks. I Look to You is number 20 on the R&B charts. Not a great showing for what Guinness Book of Records calls the most awarded female artists in the history of music.

The song, written by R. Kelly, is a melodic inspirational song that would have ranked higher than number 20 on the Gospel charts. It sounds heavily produced, but I look forward to hearing it performed live. It's hard to judge if her voice has sufficiently recovered from a riotous life style and the ravages of time. So far not so great. But it is a long awaited step in the right direction.

My prediction is that this particular single will find its greatest success among liturgical dance ministries on youth Sundays. I can just see chubby pre-teen girls, heads tilted back, in black leotards, stretching their white gloved hands skyward to a moving refrain from I Look to You.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Say No to Back Peddling Mr. President

President Obama muddled the health care debate even more this weekend by signaling that he would be willing to back off a push for legislation that would include a public option. I am hoping that a president with party control over both houses of Congress is not willing to back peddle before any of the five bills even makes it out their respective committees.

I encourage anyone who visits this page to write your legislators and let them know that a bill without a public option is not reform, its recycling. It's not something new and improved. It's just the same old trash, packaged differently.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Michael Vick and Forgiveness

Surprise, Michael Vick is going to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. He's essentially back in the NFL on a $1 million probationary trial. I've heard a lot of controversy about if he should play ball ever again. Many Eagle fans are apoplectic that a convicted animal abuser will be playing on their team.

Look, Vick committed a dastardly crime. He was convicted, sentenced and served his debt to society. He's shown remorse and committed to trying to help more dogs than he had a hand in hurting. He's asking for a second chance and he should get one. But let's say he wasn't remorseful, let's say he had not made that public plea for redemption. He would still deserve our forgiveness.

Forgiveness is something that, as a Christian, I believe we should hasten to give whether it's solicited or not. Ephesians 4:32 "Be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other." Michael Vick did a bad thing, a horrible thing. But he is not a bad person. Like the rest of us he is complicated. Some good in a terrific struggle against some bad. If faltering means the loss of any hope of ever being a positive member of society again, then we are all doomed (Think Moses or Malcolm X). I challenge people who count themselves as Christian to go beyond grudge holding. With glad hearts let us embrace forgiveness and wish our brother a bright future in Philly.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In Memoriam

Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver

Founder of the Special Olympics, Founder of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Founder of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring, Pro-Life Advocate, Political Campaigner, Presidential Medal of Freedom Honoree, Dame of the Order of St. Gregory The Great (knighted by Pope Benedict XVI), cherished daughter, loyal sister, dutiful wife, loving mother, adoring grandmother, respected advocate for children.


Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver was rich, well connected and had every advantage. She could have lived her whole life just that way. In the age of Paris Hilton and Kim Khardashian it may be hard to understand why Shriver didn't simply dedicate her life to maintaining her own celebrity. Instead she decided to live her life in the service of those less fortunate. She founded the Special Olympics and expanded the possibilities of children who rarely experienced high achievement. I have worked with children with special needs and volunteered with the Special Olympics. I have shared the smiles and the pride of children who dared to compete and achieve. The billions of smiles generated through the Special Olympics are because Mrs. Shriver did not see why every child should not have every advantage.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Not So Loyal Opposition

There is a long standing tradition among representative democracies called "the loyal opposition". It's the idea that the minority can oppose the actions of the ruling party without opposing the constitution of the political system. The shouting, sign carrying, conservative, malcontents dominating the town hall meetings aren't just being rude. They are being disloyal. Their actions do serious injury to our system of government. The government that the Republicans on the right proudly hail, when convenient.

If President Obama was a fascist (as he is portrayed on signs at these rallies) comparable to Hitler or a socialist like Hugo Chavez here's what he'd do. He would introduce a health care plan and declare it the law by executive order. He would then outlaw private insurance companies, also by executive order.

What the president in fact did was set a deadline for reform legislation to come from the peoples representatives. Congress then got busy drafting several bills from various committees that might become law. Then the representatives meant to spend their summer brakes discussing the bills with and getting input from their constituents about what they would like to see included in a final congressional bill. What could be more democratic than that? Instead of constructive input these members of congress were met by unruly mobs (most of whom have health care by the way). Disloyal citizens began throwing around terms they didn't even understand. They invoked everything from Hitler to the Louisiana Purchase to plead the case for the financially unsustainable status quo. My favorite was the irate man in South Carolina who didn't want the government messing with his Medicare. Good grief!

I understand why people are skeptical of reform. But disengaging from constructive communication is not American. Demonizing the opposition is not how democracies flourish. Manufacturing and spreading insidious lies about the government and characterizing the government as the enemy of the people is not only disloyal, but is an affront to those soldiers who live daily in the shadow of death to serve and protect that government.

The problem isn't health care. The anger and utter disdain of government advanced in these town hall meetings comes from the simple fact that Barack Obama is president. In the best instances it's just sour grapes because Republicans lost the election; and in the worst intances it's just good old fashion racism. The country has progressed so far and so fast from the way many Americans always thought it would be, that they think the government they no longer recognize must be against them. That is not true. This is still a government of and by the people.

The last line of The Pledge of Allegiance says "...with liberty and justice for all." I happen to believe that liberty and justice also means access to quality and affordable health care. There are millions of uninsured Americans who would actively seek out life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, if only they were well enough. If you disagree lets debate it. If you disagree about how to provide health care we can debate that too. But these mean spirted shouting matches do not serve the Republic. Neither does the notion that government is our enemy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

If you grew up in the 80's watching the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero cartoons; and collecting some or all of the 500 action figures with swivel arm battle grips, you will not be disappointed. This movie is true to the cartoon with only minor deviations. I don't mean to suggest that its a great epic, not by a long shot. Citzen Kane, it is not. But it is deserving of far more praise than the online reviews I've read have been giving.

Lets face it the cartoon was implausible. Secret bunckers and high tech weapons. Then there are the schemes employed by Cobra Commander to take over the world to no particular end. So expecting the script to be seemlessly coherent is asking a bit much.

This movie is a delightful respite from more serious subjects like health care reform, recessions and real wars abroad. It is what it is. A well shot science fiction, action movie, with an admirable attractive cast. A mindless foray into fantasy. Star Wars meets Bad Boys. For me, I got to be 10 years old again for a full 118 minutes. And for that I am greatful to Hasbro.

Believe it or not, my only real problem with the movie was its attempt at diversity. I like the ethnic diversity but instead of being real American heroes, the Joes were more of an international league of super soldiers. But unlike most Hollywood movies, no black people were killed in the making of this movie. Yo Joe!

One special mention before I end this entry. Damon Wayans puts in a note worthy appearance as Ripcord. I would not have thought of casting him because of his super silly performances in...well just about everything. But his performance as an action hero was honestly good.
Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oh What a Mourning - The Michael Jackson Memorial

I had predicted privately to friends that the Michael Jackson Memorial was going to be a hot ghetto mess of epic proportions. I deduced that a family with all the cachet of a troupe of carnival side show freaks and ten thousand randomly picked grieving fans was a recipe for disaster. Throw Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton into that mix and you'd get the most classless event since...well the most recent BET Awards show. I based that assessment on how Daddy Joe plugged his new business interest at the BET Awards. And how brother Jermaine gave a tour of Never Land Ranch to Larry King before the arrangements were complete. The fact that Jackson’s dearest friends, Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor, Quincy Jones, and Diana Ross all declined to attend seemed to be further evidence of an anticipated fiasco. But what I didn’t know was that someone in the family had the idea to hire AEG Live and Kenny Ortega to produce the service. This was the single smartest decision the family could have made; and they should be applauded for turning the service over into competent hands.

I happily admit that I was wrong. It was a near flawless program. It wasn’t a traditional service, and for good reason. This was not a traditional honoree. Michael Jackson was arguably the most successful single entertainer of all time. That was reflected throughout the two-hour service. A rare combination of pomp, circumstance and dignity was on display at the Staples Center yesterday. Yet it had tinges of a simple gathering of family and friends. And the family set a tone of sober grandeur that I had not expected at all. The sisters (including Janet and Latoya pictured here with Michael's daughter Paris and his son Prince Michael II) were resplendent in solemn elegance. The brothers’ uniformity of attire was strikingly symbolic. I would have preferred gray cutaways but the black suits and gold ties seemed appropriately Hollywood. The children avoided that image of oppressive grief that children wearing black usually conveys. And Katherine Jackson was nothing less than regal. From the Rolls Royce motorcade to the spotlight on the unoccupied microphone at the end, the whole program was as classy as it could have been.

When Kenny Ortega was asked to help out he apparently took over. And on behalf of all the fans of the King of Pop I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you. Ortega is an Emmy Award-winning producer, director and choreographer. His list of credits include Xanadu with the legendary Gene Kelly, Dirty Dancing, Super Bowl XXX, the 1996 Summer Olympics (Atlanta), the 2002 Winter Olympics (Salt Lake City) the 72nd Annual Academy Awards, Madonna’s "Material Girl" video, High School Musical I and II, and most recently he was scheduled to do the alas-never-to-be This Is It tour for Michael Jackson.

I am now the self-proclaimed president of the Kenny Ortega fan club. It’s obvious that he took the family’s wishes into consideration. Otherwise, how would you explain Al Sharpton and those dreadful King children being included on the program? But he put together a memorial service that was worthy of Michael, the man, the myth, his music and his majesty.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Manuel Zelaya - Flight of the Reformer

Honduras has a constitutional problem. It all started with a the liberal cowboy-president, one Manuel Zelaya, who apparently tried to take political action to extend his term of office. When the parliament, supreme court and the attorney general deemed such action illegal, he fired the commander of the military for not enforcing his orders. The other branches of government found that action illegal too. Under orders from the supreme court the military arrested and deported President Zelaya at bayonet point. Now here’s the problem.

In defending the constitution, the supreme court also violated it by sending Zelaya out of the country. This constitutional connumbdrum has caused an international furor over which government is legitimate. Zelaya’s or the one formed by the head of parliament, Roberto Micheletti. The U.S. has condemned Zelaya’s removal of office as a coup d’etat. The United Nations has sent a resolution to insist on Zelaya’s return. Hugo Chavez, ever the bad ass, has threatened to invade Honduras.

It seems to me that Zelaya started this mess by testing the limits to his power and he clearly found those limits. Micheletti’s government has threatened to arrest Zelaya if he returns to the country and somehow I believe them. The real problem is that Zelaya promotes plans that would empower poor and indigenous people. His great sin is in trying to disrupt drug trafficking in Honduras. And despite his support around the world, he lacks internal support sufficient to provide him with even the illusion of personal safety. Most of his government are elitist and corrupt. Given the penchant for violence his political enemies are know for he might want to abandoned going back home and just be grateful he got a ride to the airport.
Every few years or so good gangster movie comes along. The kind of movie that once made kids run around with imaginary tommy guns and pretend to be g-men or bank robbers. The kind of movie that that combine coolness and cruelty in a world where living to excess is the aim. Public Enemies is just such a movie. It’s not a new story and it’s not revolutionary but it is the best gangster movie since American Gangster (2007).

Every actor came with their a-game. Johnny Depp received top billing but he was not the only star. I really don’t know who the star was. Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, or Billie Holiday (the script could have been written around the sound track). The characters are so deep and multidimensional that Public Enemies could be as easily be billed as a love story as a gangster movie, or as a documentary on the origins of the FBI. Its so classic that for a minute or two I forgot it wasn't one the old black and white movies of which I'm so fond.

This is as much a guy movie as The Godfather yet romantic enough for a date night.

Sarah Palin’s reputation as a maverick is on the verge of becoming mythical. Her resignation as Alaska’s governor has left pundunts and politicos scratching their heads. Even the long time Republican stragegists are wondering what’s up.

If she was running for president you’d think she would finish her term as governor. Executive experience was her chief selling after all. Now she not even a first term governor. So what’s this really about? When is the other shoe going to drop?

Here’s my forecast. I say she’s realized that her hundred thousand dollar salary is not enough to pay for the five hundred thousand dollar legal fees associated with the state trooper scandal. My guess is that she has some kind of entertainment deal in her sights. Perhaps a show on Fox News or conservative radio show. She may find that she can make top dollar on the lecture circuit given her ability to draw a conservative crowd. I wouldn’t rule out soon-to-be former Governor Palin’s announcement that she has been called into some kind of evangelical ministries.

Whatever she decides to do for her next act, rest assured that it will be something that benefits her. Sarah Palin is an opportunist and she’s not concerned with the welfare of her constituents or the public good. I hope that people who were comfortable with the idea of Palin standing a heartbeat away from the presidency see what kind of executive she would really be. A self serving quitter.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

In Memoriam - Michael Jackson

Nothing else happened today. June 25, 2009 will always be the day that Michael Jackson died.

In the coming days you'll hear about the music he made, the videos he dazzled the world with, and the Guiness world records he set and broke. You will hear about Thriller, the biggest selling record of all time; and We Are The World, a record that tried to heal the land. You will hear about how on 6 out of 7 continents; over excited concert goers who spoke little or no English cried, fainted and had to be carried out of concerts. Concerts that they had paid good money to see from begining to end. They were overcome by being in the presence of unrefined raw genius. You'll hear the other stuff too, the personal stuff.

But nothing you will hear will compare to the sound, the vibration really, of that sonic boom that started in the emergency room at the UCLA Medical Center and sent ripples around the globe. An emotional tsunami of grief. It was the sound of the collective hearts of three generations breaking today. Our hearts didn't all break at once though. They broke one at a time, like falling dominoes as the word passed from one to another. "Did you hear...?"

He is gone, our only consolation is that he left us with a catalogue of music that will live as long as the children of the eighties do. His legacy will live on as long a people love good music. The king is dead. Long live the king.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

People of Iran Rise Up

I’ve changed my Facebook and Twitter profiles to green ribbons in support of the protestors in the Islamic Republic of Iran. I support people who choose to express their political views through non-violent protests. I am thrilled when people who have had their backs pressed against the wall stand up straight and say “The situation in which I find myself is intolerable.” But while I stand in awe of the courage of these protestors I have to question their raison d’ etre.

I know that ostensibly, the people want their votes to be counted fairly. But I submit to you, gentle readers, that a fair vote count is the least of their problems. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is, well as kindly as I can put it, off his rocker. But he’s not the people’s biggest problem. The solution to the people’s problem is not likely to be Mir-Hossein Mousavi either. While President Ahmadinejad is a largely unpopular figure in Iran and around the world, it is not clear to me that Mr. Mousavi would be any better. For better or worse, it is true that sometimes the devil you know beats the devil that you don’t know. The real problem is the country’s constitution. From that poison root, flourishes the strangling vines of the Grand Ayatollah Alik Khamenel aka The Supreme Leader. According to the constitution The Supreme Leader is the most powerful person in the government. He is the puppet master behind the scenes pulling all the political strings.

I have a natural mistrust of Popes, pontiffs, and potentates regardless of their religious affiliations. History shows that absolute power corrupts absolutely. And when that corruption is shrouded in religious dogma the poor and the ignorant suffer; while the bright and talented either yield to corruption themselves or face extermination.

The Koran, like the Torah and the Bible, was designed to be a light to guide individuals to a closer walk with God. The use of it to break a subjugate people is a perversion.

My hope is that this protest against a perceived injustice will develop into a real revolution that strikes at the heart of the real infringements to justice and freedom.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cristiano Ronaldo The 130 Million Dollar Man

Real Spain just paid Manchester United a record $130 million dollars for footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo the 24 year old Portuguese winger is in Los Angeles and not getting much love in the press. TMZ calls him a “greasy euro douche”. Most of the twitter responses say that England fans are glad to be rid of him. There is no end to the negative comments on the web about his over prossesed hair, his orange tan, his too tight shirts, his short shorts and his over rated skills on the football field. It all looks to me like a big steaming pile of hate.

Come on, the kid looks like a machine built with blue prints drawn from Leonardo DaVinci's design of man, he is ubber talented on the soccer field, young, and rich. Sure he was born under one of the luckiest stars. But he also works hard, has strict diet and plays brilliantly. So I say this to all the haters; hit the gym, find a tailor, and figure out a way to make a profit doing whatever it is YOU do best. That will leave you personally fulfilled. And it will leave you with a lot less hate to spew.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gay Marriage in DC

District of Columbia Councilman Marion Barry voted against legislation that would recognize the marriages of gays and lesbians from states that allow gay marriage. He voted against it for admittedly religious reasons.

A man who committed adultery and has been married four times is taking a stance on religious principle. Outrageous. Jesus never denounced homosexuality specifically but he had a great deal to say about divorce and adultery. Barry, who smoked crack on national television with a prostitute in a hotel room has set a new gold standard for hypocrisy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mayor of Detroit

Dave Bing was elected to fulfill the rest of Kwame Kilpatrick's term as mayor of Detroit. The 65 year-old former NBA player and hall of fame hero turned business man, will serve for at least the next seven months. Bing has no experience in politics so I hope he's a quick study.

But I don't think he was elected for his ability to handle the city's deficit or keeping the World Auto Show in Detroit. In a corrupt system he is a turn toward integrity. He ran on a platform of change. But that change will need to be as much a change in moral direction as it is economic.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pig Flu

This weekend I was talking with a friend who is an educator. He mentioned that in the wake of the swine flu he had stopped eating pork. I was shocked that he really thought he could catch the flu from eating pork. Then I found out that in Cairo the government ordered the slaughter of all pigs.

The flu in all its forms is a virus. It’s transferred through contact with a live virus. There are plenty of reasons to restrict your pork intake but fear of the flu’s not one of them.

I think the media is causing people to freak out a little. There have been about 900 deaths from the swine flu. That’s a lot of people, but the regular flu kills 30,000 people a year. We should be cautious but not crazy. The mania surrounding this strain of flu is as ridiculous as flying pigs.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Justice David Souter

President Obama will get to appoint his first justice to the Supreme Court. David Souter, the 69 year-old associate justice, announced his retirement yesterday. Justice Souter was appointed by President George H. W. Bush.

This just keeps getting better. The Obama legacy is growing by leaps and bounds right before our eyes. He's fixing the economy, reforming health care, education, and the environment. He was faced with pirates and a faltering government on the U.S. southern border. He's been faced with a possible pandemic. Now he has to see a nominee through to confirmation on the Supreme Court. This is all in the first 101 days. All I can say is...go Obama go, go Obama go, go Obama go!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Specter Defected

First Colin Powell endorsed then candidate Barack Obama. Now Sen. Arlen Specter decides to join the Democratic Party. Hey look, I'm running out of Republicans to like.

Olympia Snow come on down your the next contest on This Party is Right.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The 1st 100 Days

Some say President Obama is restoring Americas greatness, bringing us back from the brink of the abyss. Some say he’s taxing and spending the country into oblivion. Most experts agree that it’s too early to tell one way or the other.

All I know for sure is that I'll take advantage of any occasion to celebrate the victory of hope and change. I look at the 1st 100 days the same way a young newlywed might look at his first three months of marriage. It might not be an accurate measure of the whole relationship, but so far it sure is mighty sweet.


Fighting is a movie about, wait for it ….fighting. I went to see it because I think Terrence Howard is a versatile and entertaining actor. To bad his performance is something of a distraction in this movie. Overall the movie is dull.

The movie seemed rushed. The characters were one dimensional and their connections with one another were tenuous at best. The fight scenes were brief and few and too far apart to make the movie interesting overall. The fight sequences were as predictable as a Rocky sequels. The rise of the hero Shawn McArthur, played by Channing Tatum, was unrealistic. His subway workout was ridiculous. The back story was seriously flawed. Then there was his romantic interest. I haven’t seen a more contrived and ill conceived romance since the Titanic. There was one lone attempt to deliver a plot twist, but it was stillborn.

There was one pleasant surprise. Brian J. White (pictured here) gave the only believable performance in the movie. I really found myself hating his character Evan Hailey. That means White did his job. I didn’t care at all if the hero had a happy ending. I just wanted White’s character to get what was coming to him. Interestingly enough, the best performance in this movie was given by an actor who got something like fifth billing in the credits. Most public relations material says "Brian White plays opposite the star Channing Tatum". But that’s like saying Darth Vader played opposite Jar Jar Binks.

All and all this movie is worth seeing. On cable. If you're suffering from insomnia.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Memoriam

Ernie Barnes
Ernnie Barnes was an African-American artists who graduated from North Central University. His most well known work was, Sugar Shack (pictured above), which was an album cover for Marvin Gaye. His paintings were featured in the popular 70's sitcom Good Times.

In Memoriam

Bea Arthur
Whoever said "timing is everything" was talking about Bea Arthur. No line ever written for her was as funny as the arresting looks she could give. Anyone can recite a funny line. It takes a comic genius like Bea Arthur to master the silent moment, the pause pregnant with innuendo. As Vera Charles, Maude, and Dorothy her acid tongue burned deep; but her sharp piercing glare cut to the bone. The funny bone that is.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Legacy of George Bush: Invasion, Torture, Occupation

President G. W. Bush invaded a sovereign nation, deposed their leader, occupied the country and set up a puppet government of his choosing. That ought to be grounds for a trail at The Hague. Whether or not his operatives sanctioned torture seems to be a minor point. He ordered U.S. troops to violate international law on a trumped up charge. Every other abuse of power flows from this illegal fount. Every subsequent action was illegal including torture. To investigate and hunt down every decision maker might mean bringing to trial every member of the Bush administration plus half the Congress.

I understand that many people feel duped. We should. We were. And the costs of Bush’s not so merry prank are still mounting. The state of the world is dire. There are pressing issues at hand. President Obama has wisely stopped the violations of the Geneva Convention. In a spirit of transparency the Atty. General declassified files that we might learn from the mistakes of the past. Sometimes that's all we get. History shows that sometimes a president’s reach regrettably exceeds his grasp. Would we file legal action against Lincoln for suspending habeas corpus during the War of Northern Aggression, Andrew Jackson for the Trail of Tears, Kennedy for the Bay of Pigs, or Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson for Vietnam?

The prosecution of any of these previous administrations would be just. But given the current state of the world I doubt it would be an expedient use of the countries time and resources; as much as I hate to admit it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

President Hugo Chavez: Man of The People

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela gets a bad rap in the U.S. media. I’m not saying he’s a role model. But I don’t think he’s the villain lots of conservatives think he is. Like most people in the world he’s not good or bad. He’s complicated. Chavez, born to black Indian parents, is one of the few Latin American leaders whose look is distinctly non-European. Since the days of Columbus the descendants of Spaniards have governed Latin America and excluded native people. I don’t agree with all his tactics; but I also fail to completely understand what native people in Latin America suffer as a result of colonialism.

Centuries of European and Western (i.e.United States) influence in Latin American have lead to a series of social ills that are reminiscent of post colonial Africa. Corruption, classicism, and racism have left indigenous people sick, poor, and ignorant. Think what you will about his brand of populism, you can not ignore that his policies on the redistribution of wealth combat disease, illiteracy and malnutrition among people who have been exploited by the ruling classes (i.e. Europeans, Creoles and U.S capitalists).

The book President Chavez gave President Obama is called The Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano. I hope he reads it. It explains the history and exploitation of Latin America. I believe that an understanding of what kind of world created a man like Chavez is crucial to creating better relations between the two countries. Colonialism has had costly consequences in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. In order to lead the world to a brighter and more amiable future in the community of nations, U.S. policy makers must begin to reflect a fundamental understanding of the points of view of nations struggling still to recover from their pasts.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Most world religions agree that we have a relationship with the Earth. The Judeo-Christian religions teach that God gave man “dominion over the Earth”. That implies a certain stewardship. It implies a responsibility to take care of the Earth and use it responsibily.

Other religions believe some version the notion that Gaia Earth is our mother. She provides the resources we need to survive. We are under obligation to be grateful and use those resources gently and wisely.

Even some people with no particular religious affiliation believe intellectually that we can not continue to use the resources of the Earth with brutal disregard for our own impact on the future availability of those resources.

Today is a day to consider how to be more thoughtful about our impact on the world. Listed below are my own green resolutions that I’m trying to include in my lifestyle. I encourage you to think about how to be greener. What’s good for Earth is good for us.

  • Avoid single use plastic and Styrofoam (I use a travel mug at work and avoid disposable plates and forks, spoons, knives, even coffee stirrers)

  • Buy local or regional products if given a choice (I actively seek a choice)

  • Use a lap top at home and at work. They use less energy than desk tops

  • Use cold water to wash clothes. It saves 80% of the energy required to wash clothes.

  • Eat less beef. Cattle requires large amounts of land and water. Plus the gas they release is toxic to the atmosphere. (This by far is the hardest thing)

  • Use a canvas bag that can be used over and over again when I go grocery shopping

  • Reduce my consumption. Live more simply and starkly so that I don’t require so much stuff.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Republican Party's Problem

Here’s what happened. Republicans stopped choosing leaders who were smarter than average. For reasons unbeknown to me, Republicans like to follow the average Joe. While Democrats look for above average intelligence in their leadership.

George W. Bush barely graduated from college and ruined every business he ever had, then he ruined the country. John McCain crashed half a dozen military plans before finally getting captured. He got a job in government because his father was an admiral. He then married into one of the wealthiest and well connected families in Arizona and ran for public office. Sarah Palin who finally graduated from college after trying out three of four different ones, was touted as the future of the party. This Republican heroine went from the mayor of a small town who tried to ban books from the public library to the governor of a state with more grizzly bears than people. Michael Steele was elected to head the party. The fact that he was almost expelled from college because of poor grades didn’t seem to matter. It also didn’t matter that he got his law degree in night school and failed the Maryland bar. It was also immaterial that the company he started, The Steele Group, made so little money that he almost lost his house. Then there is the voice of the party, Rush Limbaugh. He became a conservative political commentator and the titular head of the party. He rose to national fame despite his two semesters of college in which he flunked everything including a modern ball room dancing class.

When you consider the roster of Rhodes Scholars, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, and Harvard Law Review presidents on the Democrats team, the Republican problem is clear. The Republicans are trying to win major league games with minor league players.

The Happy President

President Obama seems to genuinely revel in the presidency in a way that hasn’t been seen in a generation. In fact very few of our presidents have really enjoyed the office. The second president, John Adams, wrote to his son John Quincy Adams when he heard he had been elected president that “No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.” The presidency was left off Thomas Jefferson’s list of accomplishments on the tombstone that he designed. Presidents, with few exceptions, have seemed overburdened and frustrated during their terms of office.

Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt seemed to enjoy their terms and be up to the challenges of their times. Obama seems to meeting the challenges of the present day with an optimism and enthusiasm that is reminiscent of the Roosevelt models. He sees crisis as opportunity, and it shows.

I’m encouraged because some of our most productive presidents were the ones who approached their duty with cheerful optimism and seemingly boundless energy. Move over Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. Barack Obama is on his way to greatness. And more to the point, seems to be enjoying the ride.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Susan Boyle Is Younger Than Madonna

If you haven't heard of Susan Boyle...well I don't know where you've been. I've watched her sing that song from Les Mis all week. On stage she sang it. On television she sang it. Anytime she's asked to sing she belts out that particular auria. But is anyone besides me wondering if that's the only song she knows? What if that's it? Will she be the most famous one hit wonder in cyber space?

By the way, I'm in full support of an immediate make-over. I realize it's part of her charm that she's an example for not judging a book by its cover. But a make-over isn't about becoming someone else. With a little help she could be her best self. And I want that for everyone. And it makes me angry to hear glamours television celebrities who spend hours in hair and make-up suggesting that Susan Boyle should not have the same advantages. Very few people reach their full potential without an army of personal trainers, yoga instructors, nutrionists, hairdressers, make-up artists, tailors, eye brow pluckers, manicurists, dermotologists, dentists, stylists, fashion and style magazines, etc. It takes a team effort in most cases. Not that you could tell by looking but Susan Boyle is 3 years younger than Madonna. Why should Susan Boyle be less worthy of that kind of effort from a beauty team?

Don't Fear the Light

I had separate conversations with three friends (all in their thirties) this weekend all of whom refuse outright to try any kind of social networking technology. No Facebook, no Myspace, no Twitter. They all gave a similar litany of reasons. But, their objections boiled down to the simple fact that they don’t understand social networking. They only think they do. And without ever trying any of the sites they all managed to make very superior sounding arguments against social networking.

It’s like the American gentleman who’s decided that he has no interest in trying Chinese food, for no other reason than because he’s never tried it before. And since he’s never tried it and managed to survive to maturity, he assumes that his life is better off without it. He can't imagine liking food with a foreign name, unfamiliar ingredients, or under any kind of circumstance where the use of chop sticks might encouraged. He thinks even trying Chinese food would be a pointless exercise. That may indeed be true. But the decision isn’t an informed one, it’s a decision rooted in ignorance. And if he tried it, he might find that he’s really very fond of Chinese food. Or he won’t like it, but at least he’ll no specifically why he doesn’t like it. He wouldn't have to rely on an inaccurate notion plucked from the ether of his own prejudices.

This world is getting more globally interconnected by the day. My friends have computers. So they have everything they need to try out all this newness; and its all free to try. The social network sites may also prove more convenient and less invasive than they think. If not they could abandon them. There’s no obligation to continue using them after you're registered. But at least the decision not to use it would be an informed one; and not based on ignorance and a disdain for something too new and shockingly different. Having new technologies available and not trying them out is like having electricity in your house and preferring to live by gaslight.

In 1891 electricity was installed in the White House. Benjamin Harrison (pictured above) was the 23rd president at the time. But President and Mrs. Harrison were both afraid to use the elecrtic lights and refused to touch the switches. Sounds silly huh?