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.