Thursday, November 27, 2014

"....Where There's Smoke....There's Still Fire......Ninety Nine Dollar Flat Screen Or Not...."

What follows is a remarkably well intended, thoughtfully considered, very good idea.

That isn't going to work.

First, the what.

Then, the why not.

{Soledad O'Brien, CEO of Starfish Media Group, produced the CNN documentary "Black and Blue,"  Rose Arce is Starfish Media Group's executive producer. }

(CNN) -- Once again, the streets are electric with anger after a white police officer evades charges for fatally shooting a black man. Sirens screech and wood batons push back marchers protesting from Missouri to New York to Los Angeles. This time the cadence of "No Justice, No Peace" has been replaced with "Hand's Up. Don't Shoot."

But there was another sign raised above the crowd in a recent protest in New York: "Doing Nothing with Saying Nothing. Changes Nothing." The mathematics of this one are clear. Something's gotta give.
A loose network led by African Americans in the film and arts world has emerged from the fog of tear gas to call for a quiet riot in response: a boycott of Black Friday shopping.
Ryan Coogler, who directed the 2013 film about police brutality called "Fruitvale Station," told us he was confounded by the eruptions of "human rights violations committed by public servants."
"There are three ways you can express yourself," Coogler said. "You can vote. You can protest. You can choose how you spend your money that goes to America's corporations that hold a lot of power."
"We've got to fight the powers that be!" proclaimed Public Enemy's Chuck D in 1989. With the embers of Ferguson still smoldering, it is clear that the struggle continues. But by taking their purchasing power away on retailers' favorite day of the year, the voice of blacks in America, and their allies, may echo more loudly in its absence from shopping malls and big box stores.
Earning less than whites and unemployed at more than double the national average, African Americans still have $1 trillion in buying power, according to Nielsen. They spend more on media, watch more television, shop more frequently off and online and spend more on beauty products than any other ethnic group in the country. That is serious sway.
People who make movies also have sway -- people such as Ava DuVernay, director of the upcoming film "Selma" and actors Michael B. Jordan ("The Wire") and Nate Parker ("The Secret Life of Bees"). #BlackOutBlackFriday has even produced its own minifilms to fuel this modern version of the bus boycotts.
One of them features an interview with the daughter of Eric Garner, who describes losing her father to police violence. Garner was choked to death by police who suspected he might be selling "loosies" or loose cigarettes. In his grand jury testimony, Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson said the man he shot to death, Michael Brown, might have been suspected of stealing "cigarillos" at a convenience store.
The #BlackOutBlackFriday videos alone make the case for change.
"Social media and the technology, with respect to camera phones, empowers every single person who has access to a device," Parker told us. These are the kind of media people could be watching ahead of Black Friday, rather than falling prey to commercial plugs to shop.
The outcry over police brutality can't end with the Thanksgiving news cycle. President Barack Obama can't just promise to take a look -- yet another look -- at how the police interact with the public. Public frustration over policing didn't boil over only because of Michael Brown's death. It did because of the daily indignities that have become common for black people. These boycott organizers feel that helplessness as they watch the police violence spinning out of control and don't know how to stop it. It's not like you can dial 911.
To Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown "the whole thing started over 'will you just walk on the sidewalk.' " Then suddenly the man he called a "demon" was dead, he washed his hands of blood and stowed his gun. He faced no judicial accountability after 25 days of grand jury investigation.
A 2013 Pew Research Center survey showed that 7 of 10 blacks felt they were being treated less fairly than whites by police. A Gallup poll that same year found that nearly 25% of all black males from ages 18 to 34 reported being treated unfairly by police in the past 30 days.
"This is not a one-day thing," DuVernay told us. "What #blackoutblackfriday is trying to do is to create ongoing pressure to change the conversation among conscious people of all colors."
They might achieve more by opting out of the system than by opposing it. Your presence is sometimes felt by your absence.
In the effort to find some solution, any solution, that doesn't involve physical harm, property damage and/or further violence, the idea of an economic boycott is certainly, on its face, worthy of consideration.
The concept itself has, of course, been successful in the past for a number of causes, not the least of which was the public bus boycotts in Alabama in the 1960's that impacted the profitability of the segregated bus lines in such a dramatic matter that it, literally, resulted in the first domino being tipped ending in integration of not only the bus lines but many, and eventually, all things racially segregated in this country.
As a means of putting out the fire this time, though, not so much.
In the 1960's, the civil rights movement was all encompassing with every black person in the country invested in the outcome. Moreover, though, every black person in the country, at that time, was aware that they were invested in the outcome and the degree of endorsement and participation, critical to the success of any group effort, had reached critical mass.
But, as abhorrent as these incidents of racial conflict that result in whites shooting and blacks dying are, the blacks in this country have not yet reached that critical mass.
At least not en masse'.
And the complexion of the American culture, both literally and metaphorically, in the year 2014 is markedly different than it was in 1960's.
Though prejudice and racism have not been extinguished so as to be non-existent, blacks are no longer treated, in a wholesale fashion, as an oppressed people, an enslaved people, even a minority people.
The culture has accepted, if not invited, black contribution and participation on an unprecedented scale.
Black artists sell equal amounts of music, win equal amounts of awards, even fill stadiums with equal amounts of fans as their white counterparts.
Black culture in movies, television and the other arts are prolific and plentiful, their presence such an accepted part of the mainstream that mention is no longer made of their sharing as if it were some kind of anomaly.
The percentages might still rightly be labeled as works in progress, but blacks are routinely elected to, and hold , office at city, state and national levels, head corporations, own and or manage major league sports teams.
And, then, there's that black man who has been elected President of the United States.
Yet, with all of that evolution, hatred between the races continues to raise its ugly head in the forms of whites shooting and blacks dying and towns burning in the aftermath.
Best intentions not withstanding, convincing hundreds, let alone thousands or even millions, of blacks to refuse to shop at Wal Mart on Black Friday isn't going to stop the shooting.
Or the dying.
Or the burning.
This assuming, of course, that you could get hundreds, let alone thousands or even millions, of blacks to refuse to shop at Wal Mart on Black Friday in the first place.
Cold, even callous, as it may seem, those blacks whose children were not shot by a white police officer in the past year and are hoping for a 50" flat screen from Santa, are not going to disappoint their kids in favor of some attempt at the dollars and cents equivalent of "we shall overcome".
What happened in Ferguson was horrific.
And needs to be understood, confronted and prevented in future.
But Ferguson ain't Birmingham.
And this ain't 1961.
Here's a thought.
Maybe it's not about hatred at all.
Maybe it's about fear.
Maybe it's about black people in fear of their lives because of the incidents in the past few years that have given them every reason to fear, if not suspect, that white police officers have decided that the easiest way to deal with blacks who break the law is to simply shoot them.
Maybe it's about white police officers in fear of their lives because of a black culture that seems, even if it's only an incorrect perception, to have so little regard for simple, basic human values, regardless of color. A culture which not only permits but, from appearances, encourages its more militant role models to shove their way into the spot light, those whose anger is palpable, their contempt more than visible, their hostility, evidently and inevitably, bubbling just beneath the surface at all times. The Kanye Wests. The Al Sharptons. The Ray Rices. Pushing out of the spotlight the blacks whose sense of purpose and ambition seems to be about seeking solution as opposed to retribution. Redesign as opposed to revenge. The Julian Bonds. The Tyra Banks. The Condoleeza Rices.
Maybe it's about an atmosphere so poisoned with bad feeling and mistrust and resentment and misunderstanding and miscommunication that our white police officers are beginning to become jaded enough to assume the worst, see the glass as half empty and, because they are human and don't really want to die just to protect and serve, are growing more likely to shoot first and ask questions later.
An atmosphere so full of the smoke of venom and vitriol and hated and stored up passion that our black citizens simply assume that every white police officer is an assassin and that any encounter with a cop that results in them walking away alive should count as having beaten the odds.
Using bio degradable trash bags, however well intended, isn't going to make much of a dent in global warming.
Random, un-organized, essentially minor boycotting of the neighborhood Costco isn't going to do much to clear the air.
And the air is what needs to be cleared.
Not only the atmosphere.
But the atmosfear.

"....R-E-S-P-E-C-T....Actually, Not So Much......"

Lesley McSpadden is absolutely right.

No respect.

(CNN) -- Michael Brown's mother says hearing that a grand jury had decided not to indict the officer who killed her son felt like getting shot.

"We heard this and it was just like, like I had been shot. Like you shoot me now -- just no respect, no sympathy, nothing," Lesley McSpadden told CNN's Sunny Hostin on Wednesday. "This could be your child. This could be anybody's child."
A New York Times video captured the moments after McSpadden heard about the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the white officer who killed her son, Michael Brown, a black teen. She stood with protesters outside the Ferguson police department, sobbing uncontrollably.
McSpadden's husband, her son's stepfather, wrapped her in his arms before turning to the crowd, screaming: "Burn this bitch down."
"He just spoke out of anger. It's one thing to speak and it's a different thing to act. He did not act. He just spoke out of anger," McSpadden said about her husband, Louis Head.
"When you're that hurt and the system has did you this wrong, you may say some things as well. We've all spoke out of anger before," she told CNN.
Both McSpadden and Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., sat down with Hostin. Neither believes Wilson's version of events, saying their son would never have taunted the officer, nor reached for his weapon.
They remembered their son as humble, silly and soft spoken. He could fix almost anything and loved animals, his siblings and being a grandson.
"He was different, but he still was like any other teenager -- wanted to explore different things, do different things, be around different people," McSpadden said. "He's young. He's growing up. He's finding himself."
Brown's father didn't mince words when he spoke about Wilson: "He's a murderer."
"He understood his actions. He understood exactly what he was doing. You know, he didn't have a second thought, a pushback thought, or nothing. He was intending to kill someone. That's how I look at it," Brown said. "He was going to kill someone at that point."
Earlier, he'd said the grand jury's decision changed his view of America.
"I was upset. I didn't understand," Brown said in a conversation with the Rev. Al Sharpton on Tuesday on MSNBC. "It just let me know that where we live is not what we thought, or what I thought. It's what people have been saying all the time, for a nice little minute: that this was a racist state."
Sharpton accused Prosecutor Robert McCulloch of trying to disparage Michael Brown Jr. He asked Michael Brown Sr. how he felt about the prosecutor attacking "the character of the victim."
"They crucified his character," Brown said.
Whatever else is true or not true in this case, one thing is irrefutable.
No respect.
A black kid with no respect for the law whose encounter with Darren Wilson began only as a result of his act of theft in a local convenience store and the assault of the store's proprietor while, if not incapacitatingly stoned, then certainly, at least, under the influence .
No respect for the authority of a police officer that, whatever else did or did not take place after that, did NOT begin with the young man's following the directions and instructions given him by that police officer in order to peacefully resolve the confrontation and either be found free to go or to be held accountable for his actions and activity.
No respect for the common sense of anyone being asked, by his mother, to believe that her son was  "....humble, silly and soft spoken. He could fix almost anything and loved animals, his siblings and being a grandson...."  given that, even allowing those were, in fact, some of his qualities, all evidence and information suggests that was not the Michael Brown that Darren Wilson encountered that night.
No respect for a stepfather who, regardless of his personal pain and/or anger, cried out in a crowd already ready to explode his wish that they "burn" the town down.
No respect for the memory of a dead kid, let alone simple, human values, from the hundreds of "protestors" who leapt at the chance to cash in on the atmosphere of anger and hurt and confusion and express their indignation at the legal system by burning, smashing, breaking, injuring and even killing while filling their arms, shopping carts and even their vehicles with the contents, products and property of every local business whose windows were sacrificed first in the "cause of justice and freedom" 
No respect for a situation from a prosecutor and town officials who, inexplicably and tragically, chose to pass on an opportunity to make what was guaranteed to be a violently controversial announcement in the clear light of day as soon as the decision was made and opted, for reasons, defying logic, to announce later that night, allowing light to fade, crowds to gather, emotional momentum to build and darkness to provide cover for the aforementioned guaranteed violence.
No respect for the intelligence of any reasonable person who was, and is still being, asked to believe that a police officer with no record of impropriety would suddenly put six bullets into someone, in full knowledge that accountability would immediately follow, motivated by absolutely nothing more than the color of someone's skin.
No respect from bottom feeders like Sunny Hostin and Al Sharpton, among dozens, even hundreds of other second guessers, commentators and/or "experts", who recognize an opportunity for self aggrandizing and agenda pushing a thousand miles away.
And no respect for the process of law, in this instance in the form of a grand jury, made up of an economically, educationally, sexually and, more critically, racially diverse cross section of citizens whose time spent and efforts put forth give every indication that pain staking care was taken to investigate the incident and come to the fairest conclusion that logic and law provided.
Lesley McSpadden lost her son.
And, regardless of Michael Brown's character, or even his actions on that night, it's understandable that, as a mother, she would be blinded by the tears, anguish and pain of that loss.
But there's one thing she saw with an almost crystal clarity.
No respect.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"...As In ..'It Ain't The School...It's The Principal Of The Thing..."

What difference does it make?
More then you think.
Been a lot of back and forth in recent times about the correct use, or lack, as the case may be, of grammar.
And/or punctuation.
But that's a other topic for an different time.
Judging from some of the pushback on social media, a lot of people take exception to having it pointed out to them that they are guilty of incorrect usage.
The cutesy (and meant to be denigrating) term "Grammar Police" popped up pretty quickly as if those who were inclined to not use correctly were ready to compare those who pointed out said incorrect usage to some Orwellian Big Brother bunch, storm trooping through the streets, torches ablaze, a copy of Mein Kampf under one arm and the Oxford Dictionary under the other, ready to kick your door down and drag you away into the night to some dark, damp dungeon.
Or a seat, front and center, in the closest university level English course.
(They'll probably want to take your guns away from you, two, but that's to be expected from some wild eyed group who thinks it matters a hoot in hell that your not crazy about the fact they don't do things you're way..)
Those who are perfectly okay with there use of there in place of their seem to be pretty sensitive to any enlightenment shined in their direction.
They can't be faulted. After all, nobody likes to have their ignorance pointed out to them.
Sheldon's wise mama Mary explained it best.
"Shelly, I've been telling you since you were five years old that it's okay to be smarter than everybody, you just can't go around telling them."
"Well, why not?"
"Because they don't like it."
Jokes, and irrational, satirical fears of being imprisoned for a spell for failure to spell, aside, the refusal, or inability, of so many to use correct grammar, punctuation, et al, is so much more than just an intellectual burr put under the saddle of those less sophisticated.
But, let's be fair here.
There was a time in this nation's history when "ignorance" did not necessarily equate to a lack of intelligence.
Our first settlers and those who lived in rural areas, those who did not have access to organized schools and good old fashioned book learnin' were probably atrocious spellers, folks who wouldn't know an apostrophe from an antelope, a participle from a plow.
But that didn't prevent those who possessed wisdom from expressing it, those who were savvy from sharing it, those who were, simply, smart from passing it on from elders to youngers in a perpetual circle of the life educational.
That said, we simply do not live that life anymore.
Education, knowledge, information that wasn't available at all to those who plowed those fields and built those houses and essentially laid the foundation for the country as it exists today is now not only available through long established fine institutions of higher learning.....'s available to every and all, at any time, with no more than the click of a button, or mouse as it were, on the very screen where you are reading the words I am typing.
Or the phone that you will almost certainly check at least once before you finishing reading what I have typed.
And while that aforementioned inability, or refusal, to use proper grammar, correct punctuation, etc. is not a disease, it most certainly is a symptom.
Of the more malignant malady.
American Dumb Down.
Spreading like a virus from sea to shining sea, already permeating the culture, our television programming, our movie production, even our popular music.
Rampant and feverish in our political parties and governing bodies.
Each and every day, the energy put into raising our bars higher is replaced by the "anti-energy", a minimum amount of effort resulting in a maximum output of apathy, indifference, casual, even sloppy, attention to quality and/or detail.
A growing population of citizens less inclined to put shoulders to the wheel of progress and advancement than to use said shoulders for nothing more than a lah-dee-dah shrug and a "whatever" when it comes to more traditional values and not only a willingness to settle for less than best, but an almost automatic deference to whatever requires less energy, commitment, devotion, effort.
Not just acting fat and lazy.
But actually becoming more fat and more lazy.
"For want of a nail", the classic tale begins.
Or want of the correct use of a single word.
What difference does it make?
All the difference in the world.
Because knowledge is power.
And power drives the engine.
The engine essential to us ever again getting anywhere.
Unless, of course, your one of those people who could care less.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"...Try To Imagine Uncle Sam Hanging From A Pole Saying "And, Of Course, Some People Do Go BOTH Ways'..."

Every now and then, no matter how rare a find it might be, one can, if diligent, stumble across a perspective that actually turns out to be both measured and reasonable.
In this age of "pick one side or the other, people" extremism, such a discovery is a little like seeing something genuinely shiny in the bottom of the pan.
Editor's note: Paul Waldman is a senior writer with The American Prospect magazine and a blogger for The Washington Post. He is also the author of "Being Right Is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success." Follow him on his blog and on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN) -- If you were observing American elections from the outside, you might be asking yourself the following:

Can't these people make up their minds? Four out of the last five elections (2006, 2008, 2010 and now 2014) were "wave" elections in which one party won a sweeping victory. They elect a president of one party, then two years later almost inevitably give the other party a huge victory in the midterm election. Why do they expect things to change?

Good question. It's always dangerous to speak of a country of 319 million as having a singular will, or of an election expressing that will. That's particularly true when only about 40% of eligible voters show up for midterm elections. Like every party that wins, the GOP will claim that "the American people" have endorsed its agenda in full, and therefore if President Barack Obama stands in its way, then he's thwarting the public's desires.
We've established that the public is fed up with a Congress seemingly incapable of getting anything done. The trouble is that the voters -- unanimous in their abhorrence of gridlock -- just delivered a result almost guaranteed to produce more gridlock.
To be fair, there was one party assuring them that their votes would do just the opposite. Republican candidates promised voters that they'd stand in Obama's way, and also promised that they'd "get things done," sometimes in the same sentence. As The Atlantic's Molly Ball reported last week, "these two seemingly contradictory messages are at the heart of Republican Senate campaigns across the country. I've heard them from candidate after candidate.
It's one thing to vote Republican because it's the party that reflects your beliefs. But if you're voting Republican because you want to see Congress become more conciliatory and productive, you really should have been paying closer attention the last six years.
That's because obstructionism hasn't been an accident, or a reaction to moves on Obama's part that Republicans found objectionable. It was a strategy they employed from the outset. Literally on the day Obama was inaugurated, Republican leaders gathered over dinner and made a decision to oppose everything he proposed, to deny him both substantive progress and whatever political benefits might accrue to a president who looks like he's accomplishing things.
In 2010, Mitch McConnell explained to The New York Times how important it was to present a unified front of opposition to the President's proposals, because then the public would dismiss the debate as just partisan bickering. "Mr. McConnell spent hours listening to the worries and ideas of Republicans," the paper reported, "urging them not to be seduced by the attention-grabbing possibilities of cutting a bipartisan deal."
As political strategy, it was extremely astute and executed to near perfection. McConnell understood well that the President gets credit when Washington works and blame when it doesn't -- whether he deserves it in either case. So Republicans could pour sand in the gears of government and watch Obama suffer for it.
And it worked. What was the result of six years of unprecedented filibusters, debt ceiling crises, a government shutdown, 50 futile Affordable Care Act repeal votes, endless conspiracy theorizing and a dramatic increase in general buffoonery? Republicans took back the House in 2010, and have now taken the Senate.
And now politicians in both parties are saying they want to come together to accomplish things for the public. The problem is that they don't agree on the things they'd like to accomplish. The argument isn't over means; it's over ends. That'll be even truer when the new Congress is inaugurated in January than it is now.
The new class of freshman Republicans in both the House and Senate is even more conservative than the existing GOP caucus (if you thought such a thing was possible), and to them, "getting things done" means slashing environmental protections, taking away health coverage from the millions who have obtained it through the Affordable Care Act and cutting taxes on the wealthy.
If those new representatives actually managed to turn those beliefs into law, the public would say, "Hey, we didn't vote for that!" And they didn't, even in this Republican-leaning year.
Voters in four deep-red states -- Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota -- used ballot initiatives to approve one of the Democratic Party's highest economic priorities, increasing the minimum wage. "Personhood" initiatives that would ban abortion failed, not only in the swing state of Colorado but in conservative North Dakota as well.
In other words, where voters had the chance to decide policy issues, they chose the Democratic position even as they were voting for Republican candidates.
So what do the American people want? They want to have their cake and eat it, too. As political scientists have known for decades, Americans are "symbolic conservatives" but "operational liberals" -- they like things like small government in the abstract, but they also like all the things government does.
They elect Democrats who try to accomplish complex policy goals, then turn around and elect Republicans when things don't work perfectly. They say they hate gridlock, then elect people who will give them more of it.
And two years from now, a whole new crop of candidates will barnstorm the country, saying, "Elect me, and we'll clean up this mess." And the voters (or at least enough of them) will, despite all evidence and experience, actually buy it.
Couple of random impressions......
First.... wow, Paul Waldman, you got some kind of balls and/or nerve, spreading around vicious and obviously outrageously logical common sense like that. I'd lay low for a while if I were you because the snap back is gonna be a bitch.
Second...reminded of a little truism I heard somewhere along the way in the just completed "campaign" I think applies to the logic applied here:
"People hate Congress.....and love their Congressman/woman".
Finally, and certainly qualifying as comic, yet appropriate, irony, I'm reminded of something the comic Gallagher offered a long time ago that I think further underscores Waldman's assessment of the American voter and their "push/pull" proclivities.
"what is the deal with iced tea in this country?.......first we boil it to make it hot, then we put ice in it to make it cold, then we put lemon in it to make it sour and then we put sugar in it to make it sweet...."
One could read either Gallagher's or Waldman's words and, the case could be successfully made, respond with pretty much the same question.
Not to mention that politics, at least in this country at this time in history, seems to be exhibiting at least one of the major symptoms of that wacky, zany personality quirk.....
...shiny thing syndrome.