Thursday, March 29, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

More Comments...

After recently listening to NPR's Trayvon Martin coverage , here's another dumb comment made by someone who seems to want to be considered "reasonable":

Commentor 1: What has happened to Trayvon is a true tragedy. I wish during the interview that NPR did this morning you would have asked that mother if she's ever considered that "the talk" she's had with her boys might be perhaps be part of the problem. Most of what is in "the talk" should be told to every young person, but what if we stopped adding the element of race, and just made it about respect for all people. Wouldn't that start to eliminate the feeling of prejudice? I just think it's a whole lot more about respect for your fellow man. The young man did not have to die, both he and the security guard should have respected each other. 
I've been white all my life and I would never EVER think of speaking to an officer in anything but a respectful manner. This isn't due to fear that I would be mistreated if I was rude (as may be the case with non white people) but because it is the PROPER way to interact with people, especially authority figures. 
Commenter 2: Who are the parents of those white friends and why didn't they have 'the talk' with their sons about how to treat people? I hope it is a very small minority of people of any race who think it is acceptable to be rude to a police officer. 
The "talk" is because young black men are ROUTINELY stopped for no reason.  That kind of persecution makes one angry after a while and sometimes that boy will want to react with anger.  That reaction can have dire consequences for black men that are not there for white men in the same age group.  Getting stopped once or twice is a nuisance.  Getting stopped, eyed, purses being clutched, regularly will tend to produce an anger response after a while.  Hence, the "talk".

And here is a bit of Steve Inskeep speaking to two a black teen, Darrell Britt-Gibson:

INSKEEP: Darrell, did you get the same kind of discussion from your mom? 
BRITT-GIBSON: The thing that I do remember the most with my mother, was when she told me about Uncle Darrell, who I'm named after, who was killed by the police. That just resonated so much to me. It's like that being said to me, sort of, just flipped the light switch on, that, OK, how I deal with cops is going to be different than how my friend who's white, Asian or whoever is going to deal with it.
INSKEEP: You know, I'm thinking of something of people of any race may hear in driver's education class as teenagers. They're told if you're pulled over by the police, keep your hands in plain sight. Don't cause the officer to think you might be reaching for something. People of all races are told that. Are there specific rules that you remember? 
BRITT-GIBSON: You know, I've been in the car with a friend of mine who's white and I've seen the way that he speaks to a cop is something I could never imagine talking to a cop like that. He raised his voice at him and he was very, like, he was very aggressive and terse, you know, very, like, short. 
BRITT-GIBSON: 'Cause I've been in a situation like that too in Beverly Hills, where a friend of mine was pulled over and I was in the car with him. And it's just sort of like you're sitting there going, don't, don't push it. 
BRITT-GIBSON: Yeah, but it's almost like they don't know the reality that we live. You know, we can't do that. You know, and I'm sitting there in the passenger's seat and I'm thinking to myself, all right, man. Well, remember, your black friend's sitting right here so might want to calm down just a little bit. 'Cause, you know, it's a different life, it's a different reality. 
BRITT-GIBSON: Because you're taught to be respectful, you want to be respectful, but when you know you're being pulled over for reasons that have nothing to do with any sort of violation other than their perceived, you know, sort of stereotypes, it's like, well, that's why we get angry.

Friday, March 23, 2012

More on Trayvon

I didn't want to stay on the topic of Trayvon Martin because there's so much else going on in the world, and so many others have spoken and written so eloquently on the issue, but I feel like I must add a bit more to my last blog post.  The comments section of an article rarely fails to burn me up because supposedly reasonable people just say stuff that can be outright stupid, if not insane.  In a Washington Post article this week, the writer speaks about the Trayvon Martin shooting as of a piece in the continuing saga of the civil rights movement.  The article's main point is that many young black males have been shot in similar non-sensical fashion, and people often become galvanized politically around such incidences. After the article, this comment came up.:

It is sad to see that race is still being exploited in this country. And it is just as sad to see people who should know better, jumping to conclusions about someone's intentions based on a perception of racial differences. As far as I know, so far there is no evidence that Zimmerman was "profiling" Martin based on Martin's race. We know he thought Martin looked suspicious; if that is profiling, then I suspect most of us do it, based on the context and a variety of factors, including sometimes race. Zimmerman might very well have been wrong about Martin, but If and until reputable evidence emerges that Zimmerman shot Martin because of his race, and for no other reason, then at that time -- and no sooner -- should this case move beyond being solely a question of whether Zimmerman properly acted in self-defense.

I don't know who this person is, but I imagine that he speaks for a vast swath of people who want to seem "reasonable" but are frankly, naive or clueless at best, ignorant and willingly blind of reality, at worst.  Either one stinks. There is no other reason for Trayvon Martin to be shot and no one arrested, other than he is black.  What other explanation could there be?  This case is very close to the Rodney King beating in the 1990's by police.  The whole world saw the video and the vicious beating that King suffered.  And yet the officers were acquitted.  Trayvon Martin was stalked and shot, witnesses heard what happened, no investigation was made, and the shooter is free.  Even if precise details still remain murky, much like the King case, here too it seems fairly obvious what happened.  People of all races are now saying to me: Why should Trayvon have felt the need to respond about his actions to a person who had no uniform on and in no position of authority? If Trayvon was being threatening, why did the screams for help immediately cease when the shot rang out?  Trayvon was a 140 lbs teenager carrying only candy and a soda bottle and the shooter a grown man of over 200 lbs and carrying a gun; what could have Trayvon have possibly done that made the shooter reasonably fear for his life? Why did the police just take the word of the shooter without investigation?

One of my co-workers said to me that this case hits close to home for him because growing up as a black boy in a predominately white community in Washington State, he was constantly asked what he was doing in his own neighborhood. After saying he was going home and asking the officer why he was asking, he was told, every single time, there had been a rash of robberies in the neighborhood.  My co-worker lived there. He knew what was going on in the neighborhood.  The explanation got old. There was no other reason for him to be stopped other than the discomfort the officer had with his race.

Trayvon Martin was shot because he was a young black male. No other reason. Zimmerman could have black friends, he could have even been black himself.  He never had to call Trayvon a racial epithet.  A large swath of america has decided that young black men, in the standard teenage dress of a hooded sweatshirt and jeans walking around a non-black neighborhood, are a threat.  The non-investigation afterward verifies it. I personally know no one, of any ethnic or cultural background, who feels this shooting was just or handled correctly.  It's obvious as if it had been seen on youtube.  I cannot say things will change or what is going to happen in the future, but this is another make or break moment in american social and cultural history.  It is time for us all to release these dangerous cultural stereotypes and start looking not only with our eyes, but with our hearts, and truly with our heads.

Monday, March 19, 2012

To be young, (gifted) and black...

Black young boys just seem not to be able to win.  If they don't conform, they can be shot -- literally.  If they do conform to society, they are told that they are not "black enough".  Blacks have magical powers of turning wallets, candy, and in my husband's case, a saxophone case, into glocks and semi-automatic weapons ready to shoot somebody.  A young black man's presence is all too often perceived as menacing regardless of what he wears, how he speaks, or the way he walks.

The Trayvon Martin shooting was so vile as to make me just feel the need to stay silent for a while.  Such a reaction may seem like the opposite of what one might expect, but I just didn't want to feel the pain AGAIN of dealing with a young black male doing nothing being killed; shot dead for doing nothing.  The horrible part of this story is that we know the perpetrator and he has not been arrested.  But this is nothing new.  Perhaps the worst aspect of this shooting is the long term ramifications of this vigilante style killing.

Atty. Carolyn Edgar, in her blog made an excellent point: 

But the Trayvon Martin case is not simply a matter of black and white. This case isn’t a black issue or a civil rights issue, but a human rights issue. Trayvon Martin’s race made him suspicious, but what if someone decided that people with tattoos were suspicious? People with piercings? Shaved heads? Yarmulkes? Burqas? Coach bags? We can’t afford to let one man’s or one woman’s prejudice put our children’s lives at risk.
We also don’t want groups like Neighborhood Watch patrols becoming agents of vigilante justice. Neighborhood Watch patrols are a good thing, but the role of Neighborhood Watch is to do just that – watch, and call the police. Judging from the reports, George Zimmerman should have been relieved of his position as Neighborhood Watch captain some time ago. There have been several cases where unarmed black men were shot by the police, but if the immunity afforded police officers is extended to regular citizens, vigilantes would have a license to kill neighbors they dislike and deem “dangerous.” The rule of law and due process would become a joke. 

The broader american popular culture long ago ascribed a set of stereotypes and social cues to blackness.   It's so much easier to categorize people because then you don't have to think.  Sometimes the thoughtlessness is tragic and unjust, and other times the results are just unjust.  In the case of Jordan Shumante, a ninth-grader in Falls Church, VA, the results were unjust, eye-opening, and innocence destroying.  This young man was asked to read a Langston Hughes poem aloud to the class.  

"She told me, 'Blacker, Jordan -- c'mon, blacker. I thought you were black,'" Shumate told The Washington Post. 
When the 14-year-old student declined to continue reading the poem, Bart read it herself to demonstrate what she meant. 
"She read the poem like a slave, basically," Shumate told the Post. When he asked whether she thought all black people speak that way, he was reportedly told to take his seat and reprimanded for speaking out of turn.
Now, this child didn't get shot dead, only his innocence and manhood were shot down.  Why are these two stories linked?  Because in both cases young blacks were judged based off of outward, cultural stereotypes imposed upon them.  Apparently, from Shumante's perspective, he had been singled out for what he called "black issues and stereotypes" before.  He was the only black student in the classroom, and so of course had to speak for all black people when asked to explain why it was a stereotype that all black people love grape soda and rap music.  He's still alive, but from now on, he's likely to look with suspicion towards people who look like his teacher, who was white.  Will he be judged as respectful enough,  clean enough, ok-to-date-your-daughter enough, well spoken enough, well dressed enough, good-enough-to-get-the-job enough, intelligent enough, strong enough, meek enough, serious enough…by any white person that comes along his path? Of course not all white people will treat him the same way, but as a child, his world view is likely to be forever colored by these events.

As usual, I checked the comments section of the article.  Some want to find out what the teacher's response to the allegations are and what she actually did.  I think that's rational.  I always support teachers, but I tend to believe the child in this instance.  This is not because I'm black, but because nearly every black friend, relative, or classmate of mine who has been in an predominately white setting has a story EXACTLY like this one.  Insert different stereotypical items or music for the grape soda and rap.  There are the  "good" blacks and the "urban" blacks.  But when something is stolen, doesn't matter which type, the perception generally is one of the black kids did it.  When something is plagiarized, generally the black kid did it.  Both of these examples happened to people I know personally.  Both were black males in predominately white situations. 

Jordan was not physically shot.  But the type of behavior his teacher allegedly engaged in is a very small step toward someone getting killed.  These cultural norms make it easier for those who may not be "all together there", to justify their feelings of fear or anger.  In Trayvon's case, one person made a judgement call all on his own, even though police were telling the shooter to do nothing.  One person decided by just seeing a young black boy in a predominately white setting, that he was not enough of something and therefore, a threat.  And shot him. 

So for those of you who wonder why young black men, middle aged black men, old black men, may have a little chip on their shoulder or even a big ole brick sized chip…think about Trayvon and Jordan.  Both kids around the same age.  Both kids in a predominately white situation.  Both judged based off of their being black. Both were shot. One lost his innocence.  One is dead. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The drones are coming, the drones are coming!!

And now the robots can thinkThe robots can think.  In this Slate article, the best, and at the same time most creepy part is the flying robots playing the James Bond Theme.  They look disturbingly like the flying drones in the Terminator movies.  This is not science fiction; this is chillingly real.  The drones are becoming nimble.  They are able to build things.  They work as a unit, designed to figure out strategies to fulfill their missions whether as banal as playing a song to as utilitarian as constructing a building.  

You heard me! Constructing a building. Right now, the drone's building capacity is rudimentary, but that's not going to last long.  Think about the differences between the iPhone 4, 4s and the upcoming 5.  You can practically rule the world with an iPhone and soon, scientists will discover black holes in space and speak to the alien life on the other side; you will easily be able to have a conversation with them because you have a universal translator app.  The point is, the pace of technology is light blindingly fast. These robots will soon be everywhere, doing everything from immigration control to figuring out thru heat seeking sensors whether someone has weed growing in their house.  No -- seriously. It's already been done. They will be everywhere.

Over the last few months, as drones have become easier to make and to buy, they’ve raised privacy alarms. People are using them to monitor traffic, spy on celebrities, take aerial real estate photos, and—thanks to a new federal law that legalizes their flight—almost certainly in a variety of law enforcement missions. The nano drones’ two key features—extreme agility and instant swarming—would seem to raise the stakes in this debate.

After I saw this article, it just so happened that the NPR show, Fresh Air had a show on…you guessed it: drones, and most importantly, how their use will alter the laws of the land.  The guest, John Villasenor, a senior fellow at the Brookings institute, postulates a similar theory: that soon these drones will be everywhere, used for everything. The implications for the law are astonishing.  Here's the part about the weed for all my hemp loving friends out there.

"Now if you take that ruling [the Supreme Court ruled that police officers who used a small single-engine airplane to spot hidden marijuana plants in someone's backyard in California did not violate the Fourth Amendment because they were in "public navigable airspace in a physically non-intrusive manner] and apply it to a world in which there are hundreds or thousands of drones, that obviously gives rise to some very significant concerns," says Villasenor. "If you interpret that ruling by itself, as things stand today, that would certainly suggest that people would have a fair amount of latitude to make observations using drones."
But several rulings involving what can be observed from outside a property to look inside a property may also apply, says Villasenor. He points to the 2001 case Kyllo v. United States, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the use of a thermal imaging device to monitor heat radiated from inside someone's home without a search warrant violated the Fourth Amendment.

"There's a very interesting piece of language in that ruling that when you map it to drones is really interesting," he says. "[It says] 'Where, as here, the government uses a device that is not in general public use to explore details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a search.' One of the interesting phrases in that language is 'not in general public use.' If we fast-forward two or three years from now, when drones are in public use, does that change the legal foundation for what you can and can't observe from the outside of a home that would have been previously unknowable without physical intrusion?"

So not to sound like a broken record but -- again, drones will most likely be hovering EVERYWHERE. Doing EVERYTHING.  You may not see them because they may be too high in the atmosphere to spot, or they will be flying around in SWARMS, doing whatever job we have for them to do.  The laws concerning privacy and habius corpus will change because they will be in continuous use.  Robots that are either flown by a person controlling them in an office or eventually, drones assigned to do tasks that they complete with no human intervention what so ever will be the first choice of photographers, law enforcement, military…shoot, maybe a drone can take my clothes to the dry cleaners.  Drones are already fighting our military and security conflicts. But people are flying and controlling them.  All too soon, they will not need a human to guide them.  And at that point, we might as well give up 'cause we're not talking about I-wanna-be-a-human Isaac Asimov three Robot Laws which protect humanity Data from Star Trek TNG.  We're talking about robots in the image of Terminator's Skynet program.  A program that looks pretty similar, from the outside looking in, to what the military is doing right now.  Bow to our robot overlords everyone. It's only a matter of time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Terminator Dogs

My brother sent me the video below a while ago.  The future is now, y'all.  I watch and read a lot of science fiction.  I also read a lot of comic books in my youth (who am I fooling?  If comics were still $1.75, I'd be buying them now.  The baby's shoes can wait.  Must find out what happened to Storm and Black Panther).  In some of my other posts, I've talked about the optimistic side of the future: Star Trek.  This is a future where whatever you desire can come to be. Play whatever music you like, translate all foreign languages into something you can understand, set up colonies on Mars, and range across the universe and explore new worlds, new civilizations…to boldly go…well, you know the rest.

There's another sci-fi version of the future that had just as much impact on future technology as ST: The Terminator.  That movie scared the crap outta me. You just couldn't kill the robot.  It kept coming.  It was intelligent and clever; it could think, plan, strategize.  It could track you down and move as fast or faster than you and any other vehicle around you.  The machines wanted the planet, and frankly…they won, we lost.

Sigh…that future is here my friend.  The future is now:

FYI, this video was made in 2008. Four years ago.  Besides the annoying buzzing sound, the robot is relatively agile and cannot fall down.  What other reason would there be to have this robot except to track people down. What other use could there be? Again, this video is ancient by modern technological advancement standards.  Development of technology must be fast paced in order to effectively compete in the marketplace. Someone is going to want this robot, or at least the capabilities that it represents.  Well at least the robots can't actually think…yet.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Universal Translator soon come

Again my geekdom is rewarded.  As a life long Star Trek fan, I always look at how much ST has changed the way we think about so many things, from culture to technology.  And here it is again! Not only can we say,"Computer?" like Scotty in Star Trek 4 and it actually answers, i.e. siri in iPhone 4s, but now the Universal Translator is on it's way to becoming a reality as well. Next thing you know we'll be ordering our meals from the moons of Antaries in Klingon.

Researchers at Microsoft have made software that can learn the sound of your voice, and then use it to speak a language that you don't. The system could be used to make language tutoring software more personal, or to make tools for travelers. 
In a demonstration at Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, campus on Tuesday, Microsoft research scientist Frank Soong showed how his software could read out text in Spanish using the voice of his boss, Rick Rashid, who leads Microsoft's research efforts. In a second demonstration, Soong used his software to grant Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, the ability to speak Mandarin. 
In English, a synthetic version of Mundie's voice welcomed the audience to an open day held by Microsoft Research, concluding, "With the help of this system, now I can speak Mandarin." The phrase was repeated in Mandarin Chinese, in what was still recognizably Mundie's voice. 
…."For a monolingual speaker traveling in a foreign country, we'll do speech recognition followed by translation, followed by the final text to speech output [in] a different language, but still in his own voice," said Soong.

Nice try FOX News, but we have youtube

I saw this video on Facebook, so I'm assuming many people have already seen it, BUT…it's something that needs to be repeated to the masses that think that any president at any time can affect market forces with significance.  They can't. The video is a reminder to all players of the political game: We have youtube.  All we have to do is type in what we want and we can find literally everything you have said in the public eye, and sometimes stuff you said in private.  No more having short memories...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rush Revisited

As an addendum to my take on the Rush Limbaugh controversy yesterday,  here is why I believe liberals are sometimes outrageous in their rhetoric.

I was listening to Rush Limbaugh this afternoon while I was in my car.  Yes, I actually do listen to him occasionally. He actually had some interesting analysis of the Super Tuesday results.  He was speaking about two media perspectives on Mitt Romney's wins. One, Rush believes the media is choosing to ignore the basic fact that Romney achieved significant wins in places he needed, like Ohio; to paint those accomplishments as lackluster is unfair to Romney as they clearly demonstrate his ability to win primaries and delegates.  But then Limbaugh continued on to elucidate what he sees as the other media angle, which is that the manner by which Romney won these contests shows the electorate that he is a weak candidate…but I digress.

Limbaugh also spoke about energy independence and how we cannot count on solar energy because the reason Solyndra failed was because there's no market for solar panels in America.  This, of course, is not true.  China is just able to sell the panels for a lot less because their industry is government subsidized and they can undercut the price on American made solar panels. He then went on to say we need to drill for more oil in this country so we are not at the whim of the instability that has gone on since the dawn of time in the middle east. Again, a blatant mischaracterization, in this instance of the middle east's history.  But anyway…directly after that statement Limbaugh said that "Barak Hussein Obama" doesn't want America to have it's own oil, that's why he's not allowing drilling to happen. 

After hearing this I wanted to kick him in the nuts.  This type of code has been used against black people for centuries and now liberals of all colors, who are getting hip to the code, are responding in a similarly angry way.  First Limbaugh greatly distorts the facts.  This gets the blood boiling. Then, by using the President's full name right after he mentions the problems in the middle east,  he insinuates that President Obama is not REALLY an American or at the very least, that his interests lay more towards his "arabic" or "muslim" roots, hence the middle name drop.  The smoke that is likely erupting from a liberal leaning person's ears is deftly deflected by Limbaugh innocently admonishing, "I repeated the president's name.  What's the problem?! You're just too sensitive."  But his real message has gotten across and Limbaugh can disavow any premeditation of derogatory language usage. 

These type of tactics make people on the left go ape-sh*t.  They start saying things that, frankly, just shouldn't come out of their mouths because Limbaugh uses such blatant dirty tricks. I don't condone incendiary or vulgar language from anyone, but I have an understanding of why it can happen.

Super Tuesday quick thoughts

Seems like Mitt Romney should have made more of an impact last night with all that money behind him.  Money can't buy you love though.  Santorum should have been wiped out yet remains a strong contender. And will Gingrich's billionaire Super PAC donor keep on funding what is turning out to be a "spoiler" candidate? Barbara Bush said that this is the worst primary she has ever seen. It sure ain't pretty.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Limbaugh isn't alone when it comes to public crudeness towards women

Before reading this article  in USA Today I had this whole paragraph ready, talking about how horrible Rush Limbaugh is and how there is no comparison between him and his horrific comments toward Sandra Fluke and the comments of Bill Maher toward republican women. Well… Rush is still bad.  I was going to say that Bill Maher is a comic similar in nature to Kathy Griffen.  He says outrageous things to make a point.  Some progressive politicians may like him and his show but are not necessarily beholden to him for votes -- just cool factor; Maher's show being IMHO just underneath a visit on the Daily Show.  Rush Limbaugh, though,  is a conservative commentator who greatly influences the voting proclivities of an entire section of the republican party.  He calls himself an entertainer, but that's just a smoke screen for his role as outspoken political boss.  I don't care that some Republican strategists denounced Limbaugh's attack on Fluke, no presidential candidate said one word against his crass comments.  Having said all that, I had not actually heard what Bill Maher said about Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann.  

Now, first things first, it ought to be noted that Sandra Fluke was not a public figure when Limbaugh called her a slut and a prostitute, as opposed to Palin and Bachmann who were very public and controversial figures.  I had not heard the original comments from Bill Maher because I don't have HBO (something my brother bemoans me about regularly…Game of Thrones anyone?)  During this firestorm, I have noticed that, again, comments after the articles really tell what the real arguments/issues are often better the actual article.  Commenters are talking about a double standard between liberals and republicans.  As a matter a fact, in Rush's "apology" he notes that he went to the level of liberals.  I asked myself, what's that all about?  

This comment from an article in the Atlantic essentially typifies what was said:

Why does Bill Maher get away with calling Sarah Palin a cunt and Barack Obama gets to keep his $1 million in money from this misogynist of the Left and the foulest of anti-Christian bigots ever, whose attitude toward people of faith is indistinguishable from a KKK member's towards blacks? 

… Why do liberals who are up in arms about Limbaugh supposedly being mean to women, then close ranks behind the sordid legacy of JFK's misogyny and denounce a woman for telling the truth about how JFK demeaned her and treated her in effect like a slut? 
Why do liberals who react in horror to Limbaugh's use of a particular word, end up being the same one who cheered and made an icon of George Carlin for making that one of the seven words you can never say on television (when the idea was so he could say it!)? 
Answer all of that, and we can have a serious conversation.    Ignore them and the Left stands exposed on this issue for the despicable hypocrites they are with thier (sic) Gestapo attitude about the First Amendment.

Lets back up a little bit. Andrew Breithbart passed recently and a fellow blogger, AverageBro, put out the following comment:

I'm really hoping liberals behave and try to show some decency here. You may not like the man, but he does leave a family behind. #Breitbart

The same decency we'd expect if something happened to a political personality we like should be afford this guy upon his death. #bebigger

This blogger leans to the left.  Unfortunately, these words fell on deaf ears because all hell broke loose in about 30 seconds after that on twitter. Liberal tweets called this guy all sorts of names, saying that he was despicable, and stupid, and a horrible human being.  Now, I know that Whitney Houston smoked and shot up all sorts of drugs, just like another one of my musical idols,  Sarah Vaughn (y'all didn't think that sweat was just from singing hard did ya? If you sweat after singing a few notes…that's a clue).  But I objected strenuously to all the coverage that showed Whitney looking awful because she was a mother and a superstar and beloved by millions.  Andrew Breithbart may not have been as beloved by some, but he was by a certain group of people.  Upon his death, he deserved as a human being to be recognized positively for who he was.  My momma said if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. I kept my mouth shut and silently said a prayer for his family. There was not a lot of blow back on the twitter-sphere about how this man was being talked about.  Maybe I missed it, but it doesn't seem to me that the media picked up and ran with this side of the story.

So back to Bill Maher and Rush.  When I looked at what Bill Maher had said about Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, I was frankly astonished.  Though there were some who had spoken out, there has been no letter writing campaign to get rid of him for his distasteful comments. NOW (National Organization of Women) did speak out against the comments -- eventually, but there was no big debate about it in the public.  Frankly, because Sarah Palin ain't the sharpest pencil in the stack and she arguably holds some strange views, a lot of people wanted to make fun of her.  Michelle Bachmann has been looking crazy since she and her bugged out eyes were on the Larry King show.  But stupid and crazy are not c**ts and tw**ts.  That's not ok. They have daughters too. They are mothers too. 

This is why the right feels there is a double standard and there is some merit to that argument. That those women are public figures does make a difference, but if liberals want to own the high ground on political correctness and respect of people, they can't say one thing and do another just because they're mad at the tactics of the other guy. It's the same reason people get mad when republicans cheat on their wives because they often hypocritically hold up the banner of family values.  There is a place for comedy, even harsh and ultra-sexual comedy, and potty mouths (I love a good potty joke - - South Park anyone?). But women should not be spoken about in such a filthy and abhorrent manner. Period.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Barbie gets a 'fro

Here it is again.  I found this article literally the same day that I was looking for a present for a young girl. I asked my Facebook friends what they thought I should choose and found, low and behold! A black Barbie with a 'fro! 
Now, that barbie looks like she just stepped off the set of Bad Girls, but at least her hair was not straight...well it's not straight in the back.  She had a curly perm or something.  I was told a few years ago when they started this "sistah" line of Barbies that Mattel didn't make the doll's hair curly because girls wanted to comb the hair and curly hair would not facilitate easy combing.  Uh huh…So Barbie's gonna yell, "Ouch! Ow, stop that! I can't stay still, this hurts" while she turns her head or tap dances on the floor so she doesn't say yell out, or try to run away…Oh wait, that's right: Barbie is an inanimate object and can't move and you, or better yet your child, can do whatever you like with her.  Hmmm….

Like the women in the article who decided to change Barbie's straight hair to natural so that girls could have Barbies that looked more like them, it's a challenge as an artist, educator, and a mom to look a certain way that denotes beauty, professionalism, and divadom all at the same time. My 'fro accomplishes this very well, I think.

As usual, comments after the article bring out views I didn't expect:
GeorgeMost black women that I see have their hair straight like the Barbie dolls. From Michelle Obama to Oprah, they all have straight hair and not frizzy afros.
So what is the issue here? The dolls are just looking like the real people...
Until I see most black women with afros, I would say that this issue is pure bunk.
Well I will grant this commenter has made a  good point. (I'll eat my hat if he's not caucasian)  Most Black women do straighten their hair. But mothers want their children to have role models that demonstrate that their children are beautiful as well; it doesn't matter whether they straighten their own hair or not. So I challenge women who ONLY have straightened her to go natural for a few months. Show you're kids that you think your hair is beautiful naturally, as it is.  Then, as I did, you may realize that it's just hair and you can style whatever way you like. But the pressure valve could be released on young girls HAVING to have a long, shiny, STRAIGHT, head of hair in order to be beautiful.  It's just one aspect of beauty.

But I must say that certain americans would be shouting even louder about how much Michelle Obama hates this country if she ever came out in a fro.  That's for sure.  But she'd look might fly if she did it!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Talkin' like they know update: Jon Stewart once again hits the nail on the head

I watch the Daily Show pretty much every night that I have available.  After the primaries in Arizona and Michigan this past Tuesday, Jon Stewart had an absolutely spot on take on the cable news coverage.  I watched CNN for as long as I could take and then I just had to stop.  I watch because  I'm a political junkie.  However, on this night, they just killed time with one inane news shtick after another.

One of my new songs, "Talking Like You Know" from my upcoming album "Mommy, What's A Depression?" was actually inspired by this type of cable news shenanigans.  In the above instance, CNN kept killing time with various round table discussions and moving from a sophisticated computer board to "the cube" when all they essentially were saying was…we don't know exactly how the Michigan race is going to turn out.  But they had to make it seem like they knew something insightful; they needed to fill airspace.  I wrote the song this past summer during the debt ceiling fight because it felt like the pundits, especially those on networks that have an obvious political agenda, were talking about matters that had little to no relevance to my life or the lives of anyone else around me; more importantly, they acted like they knew EVERYTHING  about whatever subject they were speaking on and could not possibly be wrong in their opinions.  

During the debt ceiling fiasco, no one was talking about the home mortgage crisis even as I was fighting to refinance my underwater mortgage.  No one was talking about jobs, as one friend after another lost theirs or were holding on to the one they had by a thin thread.  All the press was talking about was a manufactured crisis and the merits of Obama's "leading from behind" strategy in Libya. "Experts" were filling in the blanks, many times incorrectly.  The pundits and "experts" chosen by Fox and MSNBC seemed to be on just to elucidate the party line.  I find this immensely frustrating when all I want is to understand the news of the day from people who study it.  I don't just want editorial and the networks mentioned often appear to be little more than giant Op-ed pages.  

Then there is 24 hour-a-day conservative radio.  All they speak about is politics from their perspective.  There is no news, just editorialized commentary.  And what did Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck do in their lives before radio that makes their opinion any more worthy than anyone else? Did they have a position in Government or business or foreign service that gives them a fuller knowledge of the issues more so than a guy off the street who reads a lot?  It's political and economic gossip run amok.  I might as well watch the Braxtons. 

Congress finally throws musicians a bone

HALLELUJAH! Finally musicians no longer have to have their livelihoods literally endangered when they travel.  Congress has passed within the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Bill the right for musicians to carry their instruments on the plane with them.  Can I get an AMEN from the band?!  How many times have I been on the road with my musicians and have to fight with everyone from the person at the ticket counter to the airline stewardess to allow my musicians and I to carry our keyboards, guitars, electric basses, and horns onto the plane so they don't get destroyed?!  How much money do we have to spend to get cases that are sturdy enough to withstand burly men hurling our delicate electronics and handmade instruments over and under copious amounts of heavy luggage?  Afterwards, they hurtle through the air in sub zero temperatures.  This is literally our livelihoods.  We make our money through our instruments.  If those instruments are destroyed…it's a terrifying thought. It's about time that we get the respect that our profession deserves from the airline industry. states:

Under the new rules, travelers who want to avoid having their Stratocaster wind up under a pile of Samsonite will now get their wish. Guitar-sized instruments or smaller will be allowed on board at no extra charge, as long as the instrument can be safely stowed in a baggage compartment or under the passenger’s seat (hence, Strat carriers may want to consider using a gig bag rather than a Fender-sized hard case). Instruments that are too large to be safely stored overhead/under a seat but do not weigh in excess of 165 pounds (including case) may still be carried on board; however, the owner will have to purchase a separate seat in order to accommodate the instrument. Owners that want to transport larger instruments as checked baggage will be allowed to do so assuming the instrument weighs 165 pounds or less and the circumference of the instrument (with case) does not exceed 150 inches. 
Professional music organizations including BMI and the AFM have been pressing lawmakers to adopt a single standard for air carriers in order to better serve musicians traveling with large, valuable and or sensitive vintage instruments. To date, airlines have maintained divergent policies governing in-flight instrument storage, and rule enforcement has often been inconsistent and arbitrary. Passengers report being denied carry-on privileges by the same carrier that had previously granted such access. These issues have sometimes resulted in missed flights and canceled engagements, according to musicians’ rights advocates.


Thursday, March 1, 2012


I think Maureen Dowd of the New York Times says it all.  There's nothing more I could add:

Mitt Romney needs to be left alone to limp across the finish line, so he can devote his full time and attention to losing to President Obama. 
Robo-Romney, who pulled out victories in his home state and in Arizona, and Sanctorum are still in a race to the bottom. Yet the once ruthless Republican Party seems to have pretty much decided to cave on 2012 and start planning for a post-Obama world. 
Not even because Obama is so strong; simply because their field is so ridiculously weak and wacky. 
John McCain has Aeschylated it to “a Greek tragedy.” And he should know from Greek tragedy. 
“It’s the negative campaigning and the increasingly personal attacks,” he told The Boston Herald, adding, “the likes of which we have never seen.” When a man who was accused of having an illegitimate black child in the 2000 South Carolina primary thinks this is the worst ever, the G.O.P. is really in trouble.