NBA Defenders and Pretenders, or the Saga of DeAndre Jordan

So DJ has changed his mind about leaving the Clippers, and the players are acting like The Church of Scientology refusing to leave his house till he can sign… Mark Cuban is the Biggest Loser.

This is such a fascinating story! DJ should have never had to even contemplate leaving LA. NEVER! Fact is, Doc Rivers’ lack of leadership in controlling the CP3 narrative wasting time trading for Lance Stephenson and bringing back 150 year old Paul Pierce shows his lack of competence as GM. Doc should have squashed this a long time ago. He let’s CP3 do whatever the hell he wants in spite of the fact that the dude has never made it past the second round of the playoffs.

So, DJ is courted by Cuban, Paul is on a banana boat with two cats who have rings and another that don’t, while his defensive player of the year/shot blocking/rim protector extraordinaire rides on horseback down the Rio Grande. Meanwhile, every hoop fan in America clearly understands that the underachieving Clippers are about to be the Indiana Pacers of the West; and it takes the only sane person in the organization, JJ Reddick to call Doc out saying that his off season performance as GM was an F- to get their attentions?

Perhaps Steve Ballmer had one of his aneurysms and Doc saw his rep flashing before his eyes. Lose DJ, ain’t nobody buying the Doc hype no more. Hell Blake will be out after a couple years and the Clips will be the 76ers tanking up looking for the next Danny Manning… and being the Lakers’ bitches just like the Sterling years.

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Now why in the hell do I know this and I’m just a dude on the keyboard?

I feel kinda bad for DJ. The man just needed a little love and he deserved it. If Paul were the leader he acts like he is, he would have balanced some of that bitchery with some tenderness knowing that DJ bust his ass every night and makes Paul’s life easier than it ever was in New Orleans. But naw instead of tending to his team’s business he out there riding Lebron’s jock. – Like ya’ll equals or something. Hell Lebron got his thing together in Cleveland. He got Kevin Love before he bolted. He got Tristian Thompson about to get paid! He got Mo Williams… he can ride the damn boat!

THIS is why the Clippers still won’t beat the Warriors or the Spurs. They are merely delaying the inevitable.

It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Right, or Selective Outrage is Impotent

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. – Frederick Douglass

Just a few thoughts regarding the latest in protest and violence in America post what strongly appears to be unchecked police brutality.

I’ve had conversations with friends, African-American friends in particular who voice either in word, social media and otherwise their frustrations and disdain for looters and folk who are burning buildings in Baltimore.  They’ve praised the mother who went Ronda Rousey on her son for participating in the riots.  They say, “I hate what I’m seeing on TV!  This is NOT the answer!”

What occurred to me was the history of the world, the history of this country.  Change from those in power to benefit those with less has rarely happened without violence and physical struggle.  I think of the Arab Springs in Syria, Egypt and Morocco to name a few over the last several years.  People had decided that they had enough of their oppressive and corrupt governments.  I think of the history of the civil rights movement during segregation and Jim Crow.  Hell, I think of the Boston Tea Party!  That struggle is glorified in history books.  My response to my friends has simply been to ask them, “Well what IS the answer?  What should they do?  Call the police?  (The same police who have one of THE worst documented reports of police brutality?) Write the police commissioner? What should they do to make the difference? None could give me any answers.  I sure as hell don’t have any either.

I saw President Obama this morning demonizing the looters.  But he can ‘miss me’ with that until he also demonizes the police who crushed a man’s spine and voice box while in their custody for simply running away from them.  Freddie Gray wasn’t wanted for any crime.  The knife he had in his pocket was of legal.  His downfall seems to be that he didn’t possess NFL first round wide receiver speed to escape his killers.  The President isn’t the only using all of his vitriol against those in rebellion.  Mass media and the direction or misdirection of narrative shaping is solely focused on the fallout from Gray’s death instead of the original sin of Gray’s death.  The truth of the matter is, I am not willing to listen to anyone who is not nuanced enough to have a real discussion regarding the cause and effect of what’s going on in Baltimore, what happened in New York, Ferguson and Oakland to facilitate community unrest.  I mean, how many times does this have to happen before there is a recognition of human nature; that if you keep putting a boot on people’s necks they are going to rise up?   It’s easy to tell people, “Keep on taking this ass whooping and burying your friends and kin to police brutality.  Organize and wait for the next election.  Have a church services, pray and forgive corrupt cops and the institutions that protect them.”  Historically that is not going to be a unified or sustained response.  Again, just check the history of anywhere in the world!  It ain’t gonna happen!

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Furthermore, I am past the point of apologizing for the looters. Looting is something I have never done nor would I.  I was in Ferguson and it never crossed my mind.  It’s not my thing.  But why should I have to own the onus of those that do when my counterparts don’t own the burden of unarmed black boys and men being murdered by police?  Am I the only one (as an activist) that needs to make concessions here and take ownership?  If they want to isolate and tell me that all the facts aren’t in, then I will say the same thing.  Dammit we don’t know who burned down the buildings.  You got a name?  Have all the facts been gathered yet?  Has there been an investigation of who exactly started the fires?  What accelerant was used? At what point in each building was the fatal match thrown? …and by WHOM exactly?  Sound ridiculous?  I don’t know… Cause sure as hell we had Eric Garner’s death from start to finish on VIDEO and we saw how THAT turned out!  Mr. Scarface said it best, “Black men are being hunted!”

I have always been an ambassador of sorts.  I bridge gaps and intermediate many potentially explosive situations.  I’ve done it all my life.  It’s natural for me.  I love peace.  Thus I am a fan of Dr. King’s non-violent work.  Yet I have always understood the need for an armed movement like The Black Panthers too.  I don’t own a gun.  I don’t desire to own one.  But I do recognize that with non-violence it’s easy for the one oppressing you to get a little too comfortable believing no retribution is possible.  Having the thought that in the back of one’s mind that he can catch some hurt if he stepped to the wrong person or set of people is just smart negotiating.  In other words, Rosa Parks is going to sit on that bus, but Nat Turner may take a shovel to your dome!

Is that not how our own government deal with other countries?  It goes like this: “If you don’t act right, we may use economic sanctions. Or we may bomb the shit outta you!”

Finally let me bring this point home.  If something goes down at my house where I need help, I’m calling the police.  I have several friends who are police officers.  One is a high ranking member.  If I see one of those guys driving behind me, it wouldn’t phase me a bit.  As a matter of fact, I may try to flag them down and start a conversation.  Equally true, is that because of my own experiences with bad police, I am scared as hell when one gets behind me who I don’t know.  *Especially if he is white*  I’m on the road almost every day going to someone’s basketball gym, football field or baseball diamond.  Sometimes I am some very remote areas where there are rarely is any folk who look like me.  And the reality is this; On any given day I could be the next Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, Eric Garner or Oscar Grant.  That ain’t hyperbole.  That’s real!  Look, I was on a field last week working a baseball game.  I saw two cops approach and started watching the game. I hadn’t done anything wrong, yet I was scared.  I wondered if they were there for me.  At the time there was a baseball game and a track meet going on right next to the diamond.  I didn’t see any faces of color anywhere.  My tensions didn’t subside till the police vacated the property.  And it’s not as if I am afraid of any man in isolation. But I expect danger and conflict from police who I know mostly operate with impunity.  But this is my life.  And the fact of the matter is, if it IS me, if I am the next to be murdered by police many detractors will believe that I somehow provoked it or deserved it.  Yes some of my white friends will say, “Well, he is a fiery guy!  You ever see his Facebook page?  He must have went off or took a swing at them…went for his gun.”  And this is how they will live with the lie that they tell themselves in NOT getting involved or using their own voices to promote an end to this bullshit!   If I’m lucky, others will rally for me as I have rallied for them.  I shouldn’t have to live with this conflict of having a cognitive dissidence of respecting police and their duties and yet fearing the one in the badge that is supposed to represent service and protection from REAL criminals.

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So no I don’t pretend to know what black folk should do in reaction every time this happens to us.  But I do know that when white folk decide that enough is enough, things will change , and change in a hurry.  Folk like Baltimore Oriole’s COO John Angelos who said;

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

Jeering at protesters is low hanging fruit.  Going after bad police, digging into the policies of oppression, mass incarceration and the roots of class warfare and suffering is HONEST!  OWN THAT and then we can talk.  Otherwise… See you after the next police led murder and cover up in a city near you.

 

 

 

 

In Defense of Empire, Black Images and Nuance

Image matters!  I agree!  Race matters!  Absolutely! African-Americans don’t have much power in Hollywood. Check.

The images of black folk in television and film has been both marginalized and groundbreaking.  From Bert Williams, Bill Robinson, George Walker, Hattie McDaniel,  Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, to Ron O’Neal, Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, Diahanne Carroll, Richard Roundtree, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, our images have fit most every possible dynamic.  I am conscious of the image game.  I care about how black folk are portrayed.  If you can’t read any of the dozens of books available on the subject, Spike Lee’s somewhat satirical film, “Bamboozled,” covers the darker history and current struggles in how black images are portrayed.  It’s important to know this history. It is with this in mind that I approach the subject of critics like Dr. Boyce Watkins.  He’s been going in hard via social media and news shows like CNN to criticize Fox’s smash drama, Empire.  Watkins went as far as describing the performances of stars Terrance Howard and Taraji P Henson as ‘coonery.’  I can’t think of a harsher criticism for an African-American to receive from another.  As a social critic and an avid watcher of Empire,  I find his choice of words reprehensibly irresponsible.

I admit that initially when I first saw previews of Empire before it premiered, I was skeptical.  The heavy rotation of promos weeks ahead focused on the glitz and glamour of the music industry, the debonair persona of Luscious Lyon, (Howard) and the powerful hurricane that is Cookie Lyon, (Henson).  My skepticism had everything to do with the history of the so called, “black drama” on network television and the recent phenomenon of other shows appearing on networks like BET.  I worried that Empire would be Fox”s version of a pseudo Kardashian-like program that focuses on the most simple minded of viewers.  It was the reputations of both Howard and Henson that convinced me to at least view the show before writing it off.  My respect for Henson in particular convinced me that she would not participate in a show that didn’t have substance just for a paycheck.  After a full season culminating in a special 2 hour finale, my gut reasoning was on point.

Surrounded by Henson and Howard, the cast is set around mostly unknown actors and actresses.  Astute viewers noticed how these newcomers’ performances improved as the season progressed under the direction of Lee Daniels.  While it’s premature to project the future for Bryshere Gray, (Hakeem Lyon)  Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) and Trai Byers (Andre Lyon) they’ve blended into a believably legitimate family to surround a television drama.  Adding veterans like Malik Yoba and later Derek Luke added more star power to balance the new talent.  Daniels was careful not to let veteran actors like Luke, outshine the rookies, which is genius.

It’s hard to comment on a man’s agenda, or where his heart is on a matter.  Watkins, the self described ‘people’s scholar‘ has been a cultural critic for years.  He seems to spend half his time attacking racism in mainstream America, and the other time criticizing other black folk and or black culture that he feels falls into dangerous stereotypes.  His visceral zeal against Empire seems to be more personal.  In an article he wrote for allhiphop.com, Watkins rants about Daniels’ homosexuality and Jamal’s homosexual character.

I also have a few things to say about Lee Daniels and his admitting that he’d like to use the show to “blow the lid off of homophobia in the black community.” I’m not sure why black people are always the target of this kind of propaganda, especially when there are millions of white conservatives who have their own issues with homosexuality as well.  Not to say that any of us should be forced into a position on gay rights or that we can even agree on what it means to be homophobic, but black people do not have a monopoly on homophobia, however it is defined.

But wait, there’s more…

Basically, “Empire” wasn’t created to entertain black people (although I’m sure it has black viewers).  It is instead selling an image of blackness to a predominantly white audience that has been long fed stereotypical messages about what blackness represents.  These thug-gangster-hoodrat images are the ones that are deeply embedded in the minds of police officers who shoot black men and potential employers who refuse to give black people jobs.  Just like animals in the zoo, the world loves to observe black people at our most ratchet, because ignorant negroes are simply fun to watch.

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I don’t know how to describe this throw up of hyperbole beyond ridiculous.  Perhaps Watkins believes every television show or movie with black people in them should be like NBC’s Cosby show. *Imagine the irony of THAT!  He talks about being fans of Howard’s and Henson’s work previously.  I’m trying to figure out whether he’s referring to when Howard played DJay, a Memphis pimp and aspiring rap star in Hustle and Flow, or Henson’s as one of his whores?  Perhaps it was when she played Yvette, a single mother with a convicted felon for an ex boyfriend in Baby Boy.  Both performances were some of their best work.

Chances are black people we will never have control of Hollywood.  Chris Rock detailed who has the power to ‘green light’ a show.  Still, each show should be judged based it’s content can bear the brunt of it’s own praise or criticism.  Judging a show with a lack of nuance as Watkins does is not only unintelligent, it’s dangerous.  Art, even black art’s purpose is not meant to change social thought and carry cultural burdens to save a people.  Second, police are not shooting unarmed black boys and men because of a television show.  If Paul Robeson and Sidney Poitier – two of the most positive and powerful actors in the history of film couldn’t stop lynchings, then how in the hell are Howard and Henson supposed to protect Michael Brown or Eric Garner by not starring in Empire?  Is Watkins that naive?  Or he just an old bitter black man?  Art is being able to enjoy Denzel Washington portraying Silas Tripp in Glory as well as Alonzo Harris in Training Day.

White folks can be as honorable or as ‘ratchet’ as they want to be on television.  They play cops, doctors, gangsters, idiots, bigots, whores and so forth.  No show is indicative of the entire Caucasian, Italian, or Chinese population.  Shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad aren’t apologizing about a damn thing; Nor should they. Equally true, black folk like myself, are nuanced enough to watch both Eyes On The Prize and Empire without expecting one to be the other.

There are shows, movies, and music that deserve our critique because of negativity, or more importantly lack of creativity.  Empire is not one of them.  It’s well written and wildly entertaining.  It doesn’t try to be what it’s not.  Watkins wouldn’t know that as he claims he doesn’t watch the show.  What kind of of ‘scholar’ comments so feverishly on a subject matter he has little knowledge of?

Perhaps the repressed and uptight scholar should eat some “Cookies” so he can smile and lighten up a bit.  Regardless, I can’t wait till next season!

 

 

 

 

Of Baseball, Boundaries, and Bitches *Lessons from Jackie Robinson West*

Let me be clear.  This is a subject matter I am very passionate about.  Baseball is a sport I grew up loving.  It was by far my favorite sport to play.  I’m old enough to remember when there was only a couple games on television per week.  There was Monday Night Baseball on ABC.  Then then there was the Game of the Week on NBC.  As an African-American male, I’m old enough to remember when boys like me wanted to be like Dave (Winfied), instead of Mike (Jordan). Dave Winfield is the only player to ever be drafted in four different major sports: The NBA, ABA, NFL and MLB.   Winfield chose baseball, and was inducted into both the college and MLB Halls of Fame.

Since I becoming a baseball umpire several years ago, I don’t see many black boys playing baseball.  I penned my initial thoughts a few years ago on this very subject.  When I do see it, the players tend to fall into a couple of categories.  Either there are one or two good players on mostly white little league teams, or it’s a predominately African-American school whose players participate because they don’t possess the tools to chase the basketball or football dream.  When I work a game, and I see a kid who looks like me when I was young, and has talent, my eyes get a twinkle.  When I see a team of boys who can pitch, field, catch and execute proper baseball strategies I am ecstatic!  Baseball is a beautiful game and I believe we can be great at it again, though MLB doesn’t seem to think so, shunning us for the more docile/thankful Latin born ballplayer.  *That’s another discussion.

I was stoked like much of the country this past August to see the likes of Mo’ne Davis pitch her way into America’s heart.  And I watched proudly as Jackie Robinson West (JRW) took on all comers with success till they ran into the buzz-saw that was team South Korea in the Little League World Series.  Though they lost the championship game 8-4, JRW’s journey was celebrated and the kids were touted around the nation.  They made numerous appearances, including national news shows and a presidential visit at the White House.  During the summer of 2014 Chicago made other headlines too.  Some black neighborhoods were experiencing a level of gun violence only comparable to Fallujah.  The JRW story gave us much needed relief and gave us an example of hope in the youth growing up in the third largest city in the nation.

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Now that ‘Boundary-Gate’ has caused The Little League International to revoke the United States title from JRW, their ‘all American’ narrative of inspiration, teamwork and overcoming the odds has been blemished.  People are choosing sides regarding the crime, the investigative process, the motives of the whistle-blower and the subsequent punishment. I understand defending the boys. They competed and achieved between the lines. Their on the field accomplishments, as well as their attitudes and sportsmanship are something all of us can be proud of. Unfortunately many of my African-American contemporaries are not viewing this situation with an eye towards nuance.

Being heavily involved in youth sports, some of the best people I know are coaches, managers and other volunteers to give kids a positive experience.  They use youth sports not only to teach competition, but to give life lessons regarding unselfishness, sacrifice and teamwork.  I also know of the adults who turn something that is supposed to be fun, innocent and pure into a very petty and muddy pile of manure. Rules are skirted all the time to gain advantages. Not just in baseball, but also in football and most notably in basketball.  There is so much corruption in youth sports including high school sports, it’s impossible to catch it all. I wouldn’t want the job of trying.  Most age or area restrictive tournaments have processes to eliminate as much of the shenanigans as possible. And yet most of it isn’t caught. In this case, JRW got caught and is suffering the consequences and shame.

Chris Janes, coach of Evergreen Park who was pulverized by JRW 44-5 went “Edward Snowden”, forcing a campaign of shade-throwing on Chicago’s boys of summer.

*I ran and played on an adult basketball team years ago that were defending champions. That following season we developed a rivalry with a new team. We met them in the playoffs.  Instead of using the men on their official roster, the one they used all season long, they brought in three additional athletic beast 6’6 and over.  We protested before the game but they refs didn’t act.  We lost to that team on a last second shot. My only protest was in not shaking their hands as I had lost respect for them as men. My team decided to play and we went for their throats.  I did not complain to the league after we lost to change the result.  

Was Chris Janes bitter?  Probably. Was race a matter? Rarely is race not a factor in this country. Was it a bitch move?  Absolutely, per my example above!

Neither of these is the larger point. Or are they? As a black male close to the age of 50, I know that in any given public situation, I am judged by a different standard than my white counterparts. I’ve never been employed in a corporate environment where I could get away with what white men are able to get away with and remain employed. The United States is fraught with examples of unequal justice and protection under the law. This is why Darold Butler should have known better. Did he not know success would bring envious eyes to JRW?  He did something that many teams do. He played fast and loose with residency boundaries and it eventually backfired.  As the kids’ accomplishments are being dismissed, Butler is silent and cowering in obscurity. This is where the blame should be placed. He, and any other coaches who knew the rules- and went forward in spite of them- have cost the JRW organization public humiliation.

Look, no one is more ‘fight the power’ than I am. There are times for protest, civil disobedience, and campaigns to address or change unjust laws and rules. Picking and choosing our battles carefully is important. In light of the current situation, I would rather the focus be on the JRW program’s ability to come back and make the best of the situation. The coaches should take responsibility and apologize to the players for putting them in this position. They should commit to better leadership and accountability in the future. They should remove the burden off the backs of the players, and give them recourse in preparing for the upcoming season. JRW was allowed to keep the monies they’ve raised. They can invest in the community and develop more ballplayers. The sport deserves it. The kids deserve it.  What I don’t need is for the kids to be twisted into carrying the martyred stained banner of being ‘moral’ Little League champions. Nor should they be exploited by apologists on television while wearing their uniforms forced to defend themselves.

 

Of Blackness, Presidents and Bald Headed Step Children With No Teeth!

So I have a bit of a rant.  Maybe it’s just a thought, a conundrum of sorts.  Walk with me a bit.

Yesterday I saw an interview with rapper Killer Mike on CNN.  The subject matter was Ferguson, with specifically his reaction to the grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who murdered unarmed teenager Mike Brown. Killer Mike (His rap name for killing the microphone) is intelligent, thoughtful and passionate as he cleverly orating a wide range of thought.  Then a question was asking of him by the reporter:  Should President Obama have visited Ferguson?

This was his response:  “He’s the president of the United States.  Not just 45 million Black people.”

He went on to say that as a black father he wished the president had visited Ferguson.  Then he elaborated, “He has to be hands off in the office of presidency in that way.  But as a Black father and as a Black man, I would hope that when he stepped away from that podium; when he went and sat on the bed next to his wife I would hope that he experiences the same feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that I felt.  Because those feelings are what invigorates you the next day to fight the better fight.” 

Now understand I am not at all offended by one thing that Mike said.  His theme is what many Black Americans have endorsed for the last 6 years.  The reality that in this day and age of psycho racial hatred towards The President because of his skin color, he has to be reticent to extend any sort of helping hand towards people who look like him for fear of being labeled a racist himself.  You see that’s the problem.

A question to ponder: Why would concerning himself with something effecting Black people be racist?  (I’ll get back to that.)

Let’s examine the first sentence: “He’s the president of the United States.  Not just 45 million Black people.”

Last I checked black people ARE a part of the United States.  Since Obama was elected the first time, most intelligent Black folk have given him some latitude understanding that he has to ride a fine line of not appearing too partial towards black struggle for fear of backlash and not getting a second term.  But we never thought that gave him a free pass to ignore us.  Yes there Obama sycophants who are so in love with the idea of a Black president that they don’t dare publicly express any displeasure in his shortcomings or mishaps.  I’ve challenged them often that any president has to be pushed in order to have him pay any attention to your issue.  President Johnson told Martin Luther King that he wanted to pass a civil rights bill, but that King would have to make him do it.  In other words, he needed the pressure in order for him to act.  This is so in President Obama’s case as well.  You actually honor the man and his position by holding him accountable to certain things that you find important enough.   And yet here we are less than two years away from a newly elected president and we are still asking this one to seek comfort in the arms of his wife in the secrecy of his bedroom so as to not offend White folks who disdain him anyway.

I’m not saying whether President Obama should have visited Ferguson or not.  (If not Obama, which president should or would?)  What I am saying is that I don’t believe he should have avoided Ferguson for fear of what his haters would say about it.  I don’t believe he should tip toe around a reality that is as much American as apple pie: racism, police brutality, police cover-ups, and a lack of justice when it comes to the Black lives that millions of Americans from New York to Seattle are boldly proclaiming matter.  To be blunt, Black folks should not have to be treated like bald headed step-children with no teeth.  We are just as American as any other group of people.

Getting back to my question; Why would concerning himself with something effecting Black people be racist?Recently the President signed an executive order on immigration.  This order affects the lives of millions of Latina children.  Some within their community applaud the order.  Some say it doesn’t go far enough in protecting the parents of the children. And yet he signed the order; an order benefiting a specific group of people who were not White.  He did this against the backdrop of the GOP threatening to impeach, prosecute, or shut down the government.  He’s not going to apologize for it either.

That far too many Black people don’t feel we deserve such attention when warranted, we are by default endorsing our own second class citizenship status!  “Sure Mr. President.  It’s OK.  You don’t have to look out for our interest.  We understand.”  I find that attitude seriously problematic.

 

 

 

 

 

In Defense of Religion…

You know it’s bad when I have to start a blog off with this title.  And yet here I am.  Those that know me well know that I don’t claim any brand of religion.  I grew up in various forms of the Christian church.  I’ve had some awesome times while in church focusing on my spiritual life.  I’ve met some life long friends.  I wouldn’t trade my experiences for a life void of it.  And yet I had my reasons for leaving.  I don’t see myself going back.  But my faith and recognition of a supreme being, an architect of this universe has not wavered.  In my view, we are what the rock band The Police called, “Spirits in a Material World.”

Religion has taken some hits as of late.  Comedian and self described atheist Bill Maher makes it his business to go after religion on just about every HBO broadcast show that bears his name.  I agree with probably 90% of what he says about certain religious doctrines, whether it be from Judaism, Christianity or Islam.  (The main three in America)  It’s the other 10% that I don’t agree with that bothers me.

Reza Aslan was right when he said that Maher lacks ‘religious sophistication.’  He tend to lump all ‘religious people’ into a mixing bowl defining them as lunatics and fairy tale believers.  He leaves no room for nuance and complexities.  As Aslan mentioned recently during a commentary from CBS Sunday Morning,

“…But if we’re going to have an honest discussion about religion, let’s first begin by understanding what we’re even talking about when we say the word “religion.  … religion is not just about the things you believe or the rituals you follow. It’s about who you are as a human being — how you see the world and your place in it. …Consider this: around 70 percent of Americans describe themselves as Christian. Now, does that mean 70 percent of Americans go to church on Sundays? Or that 70 percent of Americans read the Bible regularly? Or that 70 percent of Americans could tell you much about Jesus Christ other than he was born in a manger and died on a cross?  … for a great many of that 70 percent, the phrase “I am Christian” is synonymous with “I am American.” In other words, it is a statement of identity, as much as it is a statement of belief.”

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This isn’t just Maher’s shortcoming.  It’s the problem with many atheist who go on the offensive slandering people of differing faiths.

I have been arguing Aslan’s point for years, even when I was in church!   Christianity in action is as vast as the planet we live on.  Christian sects and denominations both emphasize and de-emphasize differing parts of the bible in a way that suits their preferences.  Biblical scriptures have been used as a means to free slaves and justify slavery.  I once stood up in church and said, “There are two different Jesus’ in America. Ones a progressive and the other a white supremacist.”  It’s the same with Muslims and the Koran.  Differing sects value and dismiss aspects of their holy book in a way that is satisfactory to their own internal ethics.  Therefore, it is unsophisticated and indeed pointless to argue religion and religious philosophies as a world view, as opposed to targeted discrimination, crimes,  and ‘human’ atrocities.

As an example of targeting and respect, I take religious folk to task often when I believe they use their religious doctrine to oppress others.  And yet there are times as a sports official that I work in Christian environments.  When I go to a school that happens to pray before sporting events, I don’t have to bow my head.  But I do.  Every prayer in this case revolves around being thankful, praying for the safety of the participants, (children) and often attitudes during competition.  I am for all of these.  I respect the spirit of that prayer.

Religions are neither good nor bad.  It’s people that build or destroy.  Religion is often a justification for either.  I have yet to see a Koran behead a man.   The bible never enslaved anyone.  These are books, whether one believes the words within to be sacred text or not.  Blaming religion for crimes and injustices is like blaming Facebook when a spouse cheats.  If many atheist had their way they would eliminate all religions yesterday.  But that wouldn’t take away the tendency of man to separate, discriminate or oppress one another based on other factors such as class, ethnic background, eye color, height and any other difference we have between one another.  It’s just how we roll.  Humans tend to want to be a part of something. Being a part of a group makes people feel significant and validated.  That’s neither good nor bad. It’s benign.  The issue is a lack of respect for others; dismissing other faiths/beliefs with an, ‘I’m right you’re wrong’ attitude.

People have used religion to justify and execute their own prejudices for thousands of years.  Religion is used as a method  to get rich by many of it’s leaders.  But so are politics.  I’m reticent to curse religion by definition.  Simply because as much that can be said against it, equally true people are religiously motivated to serve humanity and better our world. They feed the poor, visit the sick, fund worthy projects that serve the least of us, and so forth. They pray for others as means of offering comfort and support.

This brings me back to the atheist and the original point of this blog.  They should not be put in a box either.  Some tend to their own business and leave religious folk alone.  But far too many lately have turned into a vicious gang of bullies looking to defame and crush any and everyone who chooses to have faith in something beyond themselves.  Just like a religious zealot, these god-less zealots stand on high pointing a ‘superior’ finger at entire groups who don’t share their views. Their jokes, condescension and ridicule are no more refined as the religious bigots they abhor.

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To those I say:

What makes you so great?  What gives you moral authority?  You who had no say whatsoever in your own existence, when you were born, what family you were born into, or what country.  Neil Degrass Tyson speeches may challenge the life span of the earth as compared to the bible, but they have not nor will they conclude beyond reasonable doubt that there is no supreme being behind what is seen and unseen.   Science is not an enemy to origin, only towards certain dogma.  You can’t explain the origins of LIFE…or why if life reproduces after life, (reproduction) what are the origins of original life. Can you explain intuition if it’s not spiritual?  What is the point of natural life as we know it?  I don’t know and you sure as hell don’t either!  In essence you have FAITH that there is no supreme being.  Scientific discoveries are ever expanding.  But it merely explains what was already there before ‘discovery.’ What is understood today will be expanded upon further or even refuted 25 years from now. And yet you stand unwavering not just against religious dogma, (which I happen to stand with you on) but the existence of supreme altogether. Sorry, you are not exempt in this faith game.

The most effective way to oppose the degradation of people in the name of religion is to target our attacks.  There is no ambiguity when it comes to ISIS for instance.  They are a bunch of rag tag psychopaths. Just because they claim to be Muslim doesn’t mean there is a Muslim problem.  It’s an ISIS problem.  I don’t care what Christians, Muslims or Jews think of homosexuals, black folk and many other issues in society. I do care about actions that hurt, harm or discriminate against people.

For the rest of what is left of civilization as we know it, people are going to believe different things.  Blaming their beliefs solely for their actions is not going to cut it.  I suggest non believers start from where you are and ‘evolve’ in learning to find commonalities.  Educate without all the personal hate.  Enough with your high horse already!  If your dogma can’t handle this, then your atheism is too a religion.

Several Reasons Fidel Goodell Has to Go

They say the cover up is always worst than the crime.  Roger Goodell’s malfeasance and subsequent cover up of his handling of the Ray Rice incident puts him square in the middle of the chopping block as NFL commissioner.

1) When the initial video came out of Rice dragging and unconscious Janay Palmer out of a casino elevator, part of his ‘investigation’ was to interview both Ray and Janay in the same room at the same time.  She married Ray so what in the hell did Goodell think she was going to say?  I wonder what Ray Rice told Goodell, as the commissioner made a huge deal of Michael Vick telling the complete truth to him regarding his dog fighting allegations.  Did he admit that he struck her?  Did he lie?  My educated guess he is told the truth.  Rice never said once publicly that he didn’t strike Palmer.  Janay went on national television and claimed she contributed to the left hook that sent her down for the count.  Goodell decided that two games was enough of a suspension.  FAIL

2) When the backlash of the two game suspension hit, the commissioner was M.I.A.  Instead of defending or explaining it himself, he waited days before rolling out NFL Sr. VP Adolpho Birch via a call to ESPN’s Mike & Mike In The Morning Show.  Said Birch, “The discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only discipline that occurred with respect to Mr. Rice in this case. Were he not an NFL player, I don’t know that he would have received punishment from any other source … We believe that the discipline we issued is appropriate — it’s multiple games, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. It doesn’t reflect that we condone the behavior.”   Weeks later during Hall of Fame Weekend, Goodell having no other choice defended himself.  “We have a very firm policy that domestic violence is not acceptable in the NFL, and there are consequences for that.  Obviously, when we are going through the process of evaluating an issue and whether there will be discipline, you look at all of the facts that are available to us.”… “”We have to remain consistent,” he said. “We can’t just make up the discipline. It has to be consistent with other cases, and it was in this matter. … I take into account all of the information before I make a decision on what the discipline will be,”    More outrage ensued and on yet a few weeks later on August 28th, Goodell announced a new policy for stiffer penalties regarding domestic abuse; six games for a first time offense and a lifetime ban for a second.   While some applauded Goodell for changing his stance, I was reticent to do so.  Goodell has never been transparent with the public nor had he ever changed his mind about a policy he’d put in place.  There was something else to this.

Birch NFL VP Adolpho Birch

3) On Monday morning we all found out what the something else was.  TMZ released the video explicitly showing how Janay Palmer ended up on the floor of the elevator.  From the moment I saw that announcement in the wee hours of the morning while watching the aforementioned Mike and Mike show, I said to my wife, “This is why they changed the policy.  They knew this video was going to surface.”  Initially again there is no comment from the NFL to the media.  The Baltimore Ravens did a u-turn cutting ties with Rice altogether terminating his contract.  Soon afterwards, Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely.  Speaking of lack of leadership, how about the Ravens rolling head football coach John Harbaugh out to speak to the media while owner Steve Bisciotti and GM Ozzie Newsome, adamant supporters of Rice and their own sources of what really happened were noticeably missing.  Talk about cowards?  Neither of them have my respect.  But I digress.  The issue now with the commissioner’s office is, 1) Did the league see the video.  2) If not why not.  Goodell claimed that not only had the league not received the video, but that they were rebuffed by the New Jersey State Police.  (NJSP)  It only took minutes for the NJSP to respond that not only was that a lie, but that they were not the ones handling the investigation in the first place.  The NFL issued a follow up statement attempting to wiggle their way out of being previously busted in the first lie.  Goodell appeared on CBS Tuesday evening with the following statements:

On why he made a decision without seeing the tape: “That’s why we asked for it on several occasions. Because when we make a decision we want to have all the information that’s available. And obviously that was the — that when we met with Ray Rice and his representatives, it was ambiguous about what actually happened.”

Let’s examine that statement for a moment.  Basically he’s saying that Ray Rice and his people gave the NFL the runaround and he realized that when they were in his office.  Rice’s lawyer had the tape.  Goodell didn’t press?  So he’s saying he was punked into giving him a minimum suspension of two games.  Does that sound like Fidel Goodell to you?

You can see the rest of that foolishness in the interview, especially in his BS explanation about how TMZ got the video but the NFL offices couldn’t.

But let me tell you something about NFL security.  They are pretty much second to Homeland Security in terms of resources and connections.  Many of their personnel are former FBI, military and other government workers.   There isn’t a player who is drafted who has not had an in-depth background check right on down to the friends they hang with as well as their family interactions.   As an example we can look at former Miami Dolphins executive  Jeff Ireland’s asking then draft prospect Dez Bryant if his mother had been a prostitute.  The NFL can get their hands on any tape or information they choose to.

Ray and Janay Ray and Janay Rice

There may be a few folk who believe Goodell when he says he didn’t see the video.  For him to say that he suspected there was a second video (in a casino no doubt) insults all of our intelligence.  He also said he was made aware of the video from his staff after he got in the office on Monday.  This is the final straw to me.  As I said before, I suspected he not only saw the video, but he new the video was coming out, which is why he changed the policy.  Furthermore, if I’m in my bedroom getting this news from ESPN shortly after 6 am EST. you mean to tell me Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL didn’t receive a call from ANYONE before he got in the office regarding the video’s release?

Now we have word that the NFL had the tape in April.  I mean how incompetent and arrogant can this dude be?  The ass covering operation is an epic fail.  I guess next he will go Ronald Reagan on us and say, “Well apparently we HAD the video in the office, but I didn’t see it.  They kept it from me.”  Maybe the female on the tape who answering the phone will be the NFL’s Oliver North.

4) Roger Goodell’s salary for last year was $44.2 million per year.  Many fans talk about the worth of players and whether they should make the money they make.  The same people don’t even consider a salary like Goodell’s when they pay for tickets, a hot dog and a beer at a game.  This is because most of us can toss a football around so we think we can relate.  The same people cannot fathom owning or running a team.  Like the players, I couldn’t care less about what Goodell makes.  That’s between he and his NFL bosses.  That being said, from his handling of Spy Gate, Bounty Gate, and this latest fiasco, it’s clear that this job is too big for him to handle.  It’s clear though he said he couldn’t ‘make up discipline’ in earlier interviews, he did just that in suspending Rice indefinitely after the second video became public.  He didn’t act because he saw the video, he acted because WE ALL saw the video.

Finally, the NFL had been soft on domestic violence for years.  For the first time there was an incident that got national exposure because of the initial surveillance video.  If the commissioner had done his job and suspended Ray Rice to 8 games, 12 games, or an entire season without pay nothing happening this week would have made a difference to the NFL.  A harsh penalty befitting the first video evidence, people would shown Goodell to be a great leader.  Rice could have had a chance to make amends with his wife, get some help, perhaps become an advocate against domestic violence and appeal to the public for a second chance.  Donte’ Stallworth and Josh Brent killed people driving drunk.  Stallworth played again and Brent will soon play again.  Instead, he handled the investigation like Barney Fife, gave Rice a slap on the wrist knowing Rice knocked Janay unconscious, defended it several times over,  and then once the second video became public re-sentenced Rice to lifetime penalties while acting pompously indignant.  I don’t see how the collective bargaining agreement with the players union would allow a second sentence to slide by.  Think about it, even if Goodell wanted to make some additional show of Rice, what happened to his second plan for first time offenders of 6 games?  He just skipped that.  If Rice doesn’t get back in the league, seeing how all of this fallout is on Goodell in the first place, Rice is in a position for a helluva lawsuit against the NFL… especially since he had been forthright with Goodell in telling him he struck Janay in the first place.  That doesn’t make Rice a hero, its just not his job to punish himself.  The commissioner should have laid the hammer down on Rice that he deserved in the first place.  There is no excuse.  Roger Goodell has failed miserably and there is no CEO of any company that would survive such a salacious scandal brought on by pure arrogance and stupidity.

Where’s Donald Trump when you need him?