The Innocent Blood on George Zimmerman’s Hands.

The killer returns to the scene of the crime while Detective Serino (sunglasses) looks on.

There were some Intriguing conclusions made public this week from reports filed by Chris Serino, a detective with the Sanford Police Department and the lead investigator in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.   Serino, who unsuccessfully argued there was sufficient evidence to arrest George Zimmerman for manslaughter,  placed the responsibility for the incident squarely on George Zimmerman’s shoulders.

Prosecutors released more documents, photos and audiovisual files on Tuesday afternoon from the case of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, accused of murder in the second degree in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26.

Zimmerman told police that he saw Martin walking, followed him in his vehicle, passed him without identifying himself, called the police non-emergency line, lost sight of Martin as Martin ran toward his father’s home, followed Martin on foot, and then was confronted by Martin, who attacked him when Zimmerman reached into his pocket for his cell phone to call 911.

The report shows that Zimmerman passed a “lie detector” test, called a computer voice stress analyzer. Such tests are popular with police departments but usually are not admissable as evidence in court.

The police detective concluded that Zimmerman’s actions were “inconsistent” with someone who was afraid of Martin, and that Zimmerman had several chances to end the encounter without violence.

“Investigative findings show that Zimmerman admitted avoiding a confrontation with Martin while Zimmerman was observing Martin from his vehicle, because, as he told investigators, was afraid of Martin,” Det. Chris Serino wrote. “Later in the encounter, Zimmerman exited his vehicle, in spite of his earlier admission to investigators that he was afraid of Martin, and followed Martin in an effort to maintain surveillance of him while Zimmerman awaited the arrival of law enforcement officers. His actions are inconsistent with those of a person who has stated he was in fear of another subject.

“Investigative findings show that George Michael Zimmerman had at least two opportunities to speak with Trayvon Benjamin Martin in order to defuse the circumstances surrounding their encounter. On at least two occasions, George Martin Zimmerman failed to identify himself as a concerned resident or a neighborhood watch member to Trayvon Benjamin Martin. Investigative findings show the physical dimension of Trayvon Benjamin Martin, and that of George Michael Zimmerman, coupled with the absence of any specialized training in hand to hand combat between either combatant, did not place George Michael Zimmerman in an extraordinary or exceptional disadvantage of apparent physical ability or defensive capacity.

“Investigative findings show the physical injuries displayed by George Michael Zimmerman are marginally consistent with a life-threatening violent episode as described by him, during which neither a deadly weapon nor deadly force was deployed by Trayvon Martin.”

Serino (right) was overruled by his superiors including former police chief Bill Lee.

The report continues:

“The encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement, or conversely if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialog in an effort to dispel each party’s concern. There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter. Zimmerman, by his statements made to the call taker and recorded for review, and his statements made to investigators following the shooting death of Martin, made it clear that he had already reached a faulty conclusion as to Martin’s purpose for being in the neighborhood.” (emphasis added)

Despite his self-serving account, the lead investigator concluded it was Zimmerman who initiated the tragic events of February 26, 2012 and he could have–SHOULD have—avoided the escalation that led to Martin’s death.

The events of that night were never in Trayvon Martin’s control. The responsibility for everything that occurred rests entirely with George Zimmerman.

Which is exactly what many of us have said all along.

In other news, Serino was skeptical of Zimmerman’s story that it was he, not Martin who was crying for help as was recorded during some of the 911 calls to police that night.

The only innocent. The only victim.

When Zimmerman returned to the crime scene to walk-thru the incident the cops also had him repeat the phrase “help, help” as some 911 callers had heard.

He sounded like a little dog yapping for a Milk-Bone. It was pathetic.  Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart points out the inconsistencies in Zimmerman version of the events and wondered why there are no sounds of Martin cursing and screaming at him.

Serino noted that during the yelling “nobody came out to help you and I can’t pinpoint where you were smothered. That’s the problem I’m having. And nobody’s sayin’ they saw him smothering you. People are sayin’ they saw him on top of you, but they didn’t see the smothering part.”

Singleton pointed out that the screaming is continuous and that if Zimmerman were being smothered it should stop. “[W]e don’t hear it stop.”

“We don’t hear him at all, either,” Serino added. “Is he being quiet? Is he whispering to you or something? Is he calm?”

“He’s angry,” Zimmerman said.

“I don’t hear him, though,” Serino responded.

Singleton asked if Martin was showing anger. “He’s on top of me and he’s telling me, ‘Shut the [expletive] up! Shut the [expletive] up!”

Serino raised a good point. Why don’t we hear Trayvon? Why don’t we hear “Shut the [expletive] up!” as loudly as we hear the heart-wrenching screams for help?
This week Serino requested and was granted a transfer out of the investigative unit to the patrol division.   The reasons for Serino’s request were not disclosed.

Zimmerman was back in court on June 29 for another bail hearing.  The judge has not said when he will decide whether Zimmerman goes free again.

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Roberts and Obama: The Best of Frenemies

The future Chief Justice meets the future Commander-in-Chief in 2005.

When The Most Powerful Man in the World woke up the morning of June 28, he knew one thing for certain: the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder would be cited for contempt of Congress by a partisan, Tea Party controlled House of Representatives.

He also knew his most important accomplishment of his political career was on the verge of being undone and possibly signal the end of it.

What President Obama didn’t know is how the Supreme Court would rule on the constitutionality of his signature domestic policy accomplishment, healthcare reform, or “Obamacare.”

When the Court is about to hand down a critical decision, the president does not get any advance notification on which way the Supremes are going. He learns the same time the rest of us do. Obama knew the vote would probably go 5-4, but which way? Would the Court strike down the entire law or the individual mandate, the thread which once pulled would cause the entire plan to unravel.

Or would they throw out other provisions and let the rest stay intact. There were also better than even odds the justices would uphold the law. The question was who had the fifth vote? Otherwise know as TIME magazine’s “The Decider,” Anthony Kennedy who was on the majority side over 90 percent. Would he side with the four hardcore conservatives, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito or had Kennedy joined the Court’s moderates (there are no liberals on this Supreme Court) , Ginsberg, Kagan, Breyer and Sotomayor?

The Court would announce its decision at 10:00 a.m. as the press and their legion of experts stood ready to offer instant analysis. The Republicans had dispatched several members to pronounce the eulogy for Obamacare despite House Speaker John Boehner declaring there would be no “spiking of the football” if the Court slapped down the president. Democrats had begun to send out fundraising appeals the day before fully expecting the Roberts Court would hand them a devastating defeat.

The future looks a bit brighter for Obamacare.

After all, it was a forgone conclusion that Scalia, Thomas and Alito wouldn’t give the president the sweat off their balls if he were in the desert dying of thirst. As for Chief John Roberts, why should he feel inclined to do Obama any favors? Hadn’t Senator Obama been one of the 22 who voted against his confirmation in 2005? Three years later, Roberts embarrassed himself (and noticeably irked Obama) by botching the oath of office while swearing-in the new president thus forcing a “do over” ceremony the next day.

Relations between the Supreme Court and President Obama got even worse when after the Citizens United ruling that opened the door for corporations and wealthy individuals to spend however much they like on political campaigns, the president broke Washington protocol by directly chiding the decision while members of the Court were in attendance at the State of the Union address.

When Obama writes his autobiography of his presidential years, he may reveal what was going through his mind while he stood in the White House watching four televisions announcing the ruling. Initially, CNN and Fox News reported the individual mandate had been struck down. but a White House attorney cleared up the confusion with a thumbs-up to the president that the mandate had survived and the Affordable Care Act was still the law of the land.

The surprise came when it was learned the fifth vote to uphold had come not from Kennedy as expected, but Roberts. As it turns out Kennedy made it clear in the dissenting opinion he authored for Scalia, Thomas and Alito, he was firmly opposed to Obamacare writing, “in our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.”

So much for the media myth of Tony Kennedy the closet moderate.  This might be the moment to recall it was TIME that also called Jon Huntsman the Republican candidate Obama most feared.

“So you’re ‘The Decider’, huh? That’s pretty funny.”

Supreme Court watchers who were speculating how the justices would rule and which one would save Obamacare or sink it, have now turned to wondering aloud, why Roberts saved the president from a humiliating defeat in June that could have been the catalyst for a total meltdown in November.   Some theorize Roberts did not want a repeat of the scorn and contempt heaped on the Court as it was in 2000 when they stopped the recount in Florida and appointed George W. Bush as the president.   Others believe the Chief was looking down the road to the fall when Obama faces the voters for a second term.   If the Republicans are triumphant they may get the chance to gut healthcare reform themselves and spare the court from criticism of being right-wing  judicial activists (which by the way, they are).

It’s too soon to tell when Inauguration Day comes in January 2013 if it will be Barack Obama raising his right arm to take the oath of office for a second time or Willard Romney for the first, but regardless of which of the two it is, John Roberts will be there to administer it and that insincere smile he wears will be in part because how he ruled on Obamacare weighed heavily in reelecting the incumbent or electing his challenger.

Disunity: NABJ and UNITY Find Life Without Each Other.

Holy cow, there’s a lot of Black folks here!

There are two sorts of conventions I’ve attend: The yearly National Association of Black Journalists conventions which I enjoy and the UNITY Journalists of Color conventions held every four years and those I flat out love.   Last week, Vice-President Joe Biden was the featured guest at the NABJ gathering in New Orleans, a convention that under normal conditions shouldn’t have occurred the same year UNITY gathers.

But a not-so funny thing happened to UNITY ’12 in Las Vegas.  After an acrimonious fight last year between NABJ and UNITY Inc. over issues of money, power and respect that remain murky, the Black journalists organization left to hold their own convention in New Orleans.  The three remaining original partners in UNITY, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Asian-American Journalists Association and the Native Americans Journalism Association chose to replace NABJ with the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association (NLGJA), to go forth with their shared convention in Las Vegas this August.

Many NABJ members only learned about the split when they attended the convention in Philadelphia last year. The leadership did not do a good job of informing the membership of what the issues were that led to the decision and they were unhappy and confused by it. But I don’t think UNITY has done much better in explaining their side of the story either.

I passed on New Orleans for the NABJ convention and I won’t be at UNITY in Las Vegas either. In part because I simply can’t afford it this year, but more because I’m disgusted with BOTH parties and their inability to work out their differences.

Writing on his blog, Rafael Olmeda said, “NABJ is in a difficult position now: it must decide whether to rejoin a coalition that responded to its departure by making drastic changes that call attention to the very points of contention that led to the split. If NABJ comes back, it will be to a very different coalition. If NABJ stays away, it does permanent damage to a powerful message it helped craft [that when we join forces, we do not dilute our voices; we magnify them].

A UNITY founding father has disowned his child.

But at NABJ’s convention this year the popular sentiment was UNITY should go their own way.  A commission that was appointed to explore reconciliation advised NABJ should stay out of the coalition “at this time.”   Even members who were bullish on a return cooled on the idea after NLGJA accepted the invitation to join UNITY.

The longer NABJ stays out the less likely there will be any urgency to return to UNITY and that sentiment received a huge boost from Juan Gonzalez, of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and one of the founders of UNITY when he agreed the coalition had strayed from its original purpose.

“The great moral authority of UNITY was its role as the key organization advocating better coverage of race and equal opportunity for journalists of color. Its power came from being organized and led solely by journalists of color. So when UNITY rushed to incorporate NLGJA before properly addressing the departure of NABJ — the largest and most influential group within the alliance — it sent a clear signal, whether intended or not, that racial and ethnic equality was no longer its main mission,”  Gonzalez said

It will fall to those within the five organizations who really want UNITY to be something more than a happy memory to make negotiation and reconciliation a priority, not a hope.

This task was complicated when NLGJA came in and “journalists of color” went out. I understand the reasoning that UNITY was no longer exclusively an organization for journalists of color, but the perception is NLGJA threw their weight around and they were accommodated by abandoning a vital element for UNITY’s very existence.

That suspicion was confirmed when it was revealed NLGJA said they would not attend the Las Vegas convention if “journalists of color” remained as part of UNITY’s name.

That’s a bit like your new next door neighbor telling you to paint your house their favorite color because if you don’t it’s going to be hard for them to get along with you. NLGJA were the new kids on the block and already they were setting conditions before they would play. It only reinforced the hard-liners in NABJ who either never wanted to be part of UNITY or didn’t want to return to it.

The membership of the respective organizations who believe in the idea of UNITY should be willing to fight for it and if that means raising so much hell until the leadership of the five organizations lock themselves into a room and don’t come out until they’ve reconciled their differences, then that’s what should happen.

“Hey, nice logo.”

And reinstate the “journalists of color” tag to UNITY. If NLGJA has a problem with that, they can grab their hat and step off. Journalists of Color isn’t just a motto. It’s a relevant fact and if NLGJA has a problem with that, maybe they need to figure out WHY it’s such a problem for them. When Leroy Aarons, the former president of NLGJA, was running around UNITY ’94 trying to get a seat at the table for NLGJA, I don’t remember him saying, “Okay, now that we’re in, that ‘journalists of color’ thing is out.”

It is insensitive and insulting for journalists of color to watch a predominantly White organization join an existing entity and immediately demand accommodations be made to make them feel comfortable.

It shouldn’t have come as a shock to NLGJA that the name of the umbrella organization was UNITY: Journalists of Color. When he was at the first convention in 1994, I don’t recall Leroy Aarons demanding UNITY change their name as a precondition to admitting the gay journalists group. He just wanted them to have a place at the table. Now that they have that place NLGJA seems to be saying it doesn’t like the seating arrangements and wants to be at the head of the table.

It smacks of White entitlement at its worst. Why does NLGJA want to be part of a group of minority journalists if it wants to assert majority rules?  Why do the journalists of color that make up NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA want to be ditch their individual uniqueness to blend into a bland stew dedicated to “diversity.”

It’s NLGJA who seemed to have a problem feeling they were being excluded because apparently they don’t see being a predominantly White organization as having any racial connotations. NLGJA wanted to be part of UNITY originally because when Aarons was running it he recognized gay and lesbian journalists had commonality with NABJ, AAJA, NAHJ, and NAJA based upon shared oppression and lack of power.

NLGJA was left out of UNITY for two reasons: One, was homophobia. Simple and plain. But two was a lot of Black, Asian, Hispanic and Native American members disagreed that gays and lesbians are discriminated in journalism the same way they are. A closeted lesbian and gay journalist can “pass” in a way journalists whose racial identity is apparent cannot.  The power move by NLGJA to drop “journalists of color” may make White gays and lesbians feel more comfortable, but as a Black journalist, I don’t.

What it comes down to is UNITY was left with a huge hole in the coalition with NABJ’s exit.  The largest of the four partners was out and someone had to step in.  There were hotel rooms in Vegas that needed to be filled and NLGJA was a logical choice.  Only thing was, NLGJA  had some conditions of their own they needed to have met.

The true value of UNITY was it was the only event I am aware of where professionals of color came together under such circumstances. If lawyers of color or doctors of color or auto mechanics of color do something similar I’ve never heard about it.

Maybe UNITY will be better with swapping out NLGJA for NABJ and maybe it will be worse, but it will never be what it was. It may never even be what it might have been.

It’s always the kids who suffer when mommy and daddy fight.

Goodbye to all that.

Having a “I Hope They Ain’t Black” Moment.

If you’re Black, have you ever heard about some awful crime and thought to yourself, “I hope they ain’t Black?”

But in your guts you know they probably are?

As I read  this story today even as my blood boiled, my heart sank:

DENVER — A Denver police officer trying to break up a confrontation was shot and killed Sunday at a city park where hundreds of families had gathered for a free weekly jazz concert before gunfire erupted and sent hundreds fleeing.

The officer, who was shot in the head, was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. The Denver Post reported that one person has been taken into custody but added they had not been confirmed as a suspect.

NBC News station KUSA reported that officers were seen searching a dumpster near a lake on Sunday night.

According to the newspaper, the slain officer was a single mother who was originally from Detroit. She was a seven-year veteran of the police force, the Post reported.

At least three shots were fired shortly after the jazz band playing on a lake-side pavilion stage finished, sending waves of people running through park grounds where some concert-goers who were initially unaware of the shooting remained seated on picnic blankets and lawn chairs.

That sick, sad feeling began to settle in. I’ve seen this movie before and it never has a happy ending.

(Goddammit, why do these gun-toting, mouth-breathing, loser assholes always have to mess up everything.)

That was my initial thought.

Then I read more through the story looking for hints of the race of the cop and the shooter. There were no names, but mentioning the slain officer was a single-mother from Detroit sent up red flares.

(Shit. I bet she’s Black.)

Nothing provided a  hint of the suspect’s race until I found a follow-up story in the Denver Post:

Officer Celena Hollis: died in the line of duty.

A 21-year-old man with a clean criminal record in Colorado on Monday was advised he is being investigated for the murder of Denver Police Officer Celena Hollis.

Police believe Rollen Oliver, 21, shot Hollis in the head when she responded to a report that two groups were fighting during the City Park Jazz concert Sunday night.

Monday morning he appeared at an advisement hearing.

He was escorted into the courtroom by six Denver deputies, all of whom had black and blue bands of mourning over their badges.

Oliver wore a red jail jumpsuit and had chains around his waist that were held by a deputy. He was handcuffed and shackled.

He is being held in the Denver jail without bond, facing first-degree murder charges.

Rollen Oliver. Yeah, he’s probably Black.

Dammit.

You look for the signs to figure out if it’s a White guy or Black guy.

Pedophile ring with thousands of images of kiddie porn on their computers? White guys.

Shooting between two groups at a concert/in the park/in a club/on the block? Black guys.

Guy goes into work and kills everyone he sees then shoots himself after a stand-off with cops? White guy.

Man walks into a inner city liquor store and puts two bullets in the head of the clerk and escapes with $50 bucks? Black guy.

Serial killer? White guy.

Deadbeat baby daddy who won’t take care of his ten kids with five different women? Black guy.

I tell myself nobody is responsible for the bad actors who shame themselves and by extension shame their entire race. I know in my rational and logical mind there is no reason to think this way. No one, no matter how noble or evil or foolish represents or reflects on every other member of a racial or ethnic group.

The journalist Carl T. Rowan sagely observed, A minority group has “arrived” only when it has the right to produce some fools and scoundrels without the entire group paying for it.

Logically, sure, I know this to be true, but the failures of Black people are so often shoved under my nose, I find myself actively craving and seeking the success stories just to remind myself we’re ALL not thugs, criminals, psychos and human garbage.

The Black race has produced philosophers, healers, entertainers, scientists, politicians, athletes and other men and women of distinction that have made the world a better place.

What would DuBois think about Black-on-Black crime?

It needs more like Celina Hollis and a lot less like Rollen Oliver because fools and scoundrels like him make us all look bad. We have to produce a hundred Martin Luther Kings to make up for one Rollen Oliver.

I shouldn’t feel embarrassed for every Black person, but when I know how this kind of tragedy will be seen (and spun) as Blacks killing, Blacks being violent, Blacks doing stupid shit, Blacks proving every horrible stereotype about us is true, I do feel embarrassed for every Black person who doesn’t kill, who isn’t violent, who do smart stuff and prove every horrible stereotype about us is false.

After all, do White people ever feel a sense of collective guilt that Adolf Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer and Lee Harvey Oswald and Jerry Sandusky are White? No such shame in their game.

W.E.B. DuBois said, “The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men (and women, I would amend).” DuBois was speaking of a “Talented Tenth” percent of the race that would rescue the rest of the race. It sounds a bit elitist, but DuBois was fundamentally correct it’s the exceptional people of a race that inspire and lead the rest of the race.

I don’t know if Celena Hollis was exceptional, but I’m certain Rollen Oliver was not.

I keep hoping they ain’t Black but I am seldom surprised and continually disappointed once I know they are.

Are White people embarrassed because Jeffrey Dahmer was White? Nope.

When Sade Says ‘Bring Me Home’ How Can I Refuse?

Bring her home? Okay, but she’ll have to sleep on the couch.

Whenever bands past their prime want to boost ticket sales they inevitably bill it as “The Last Tour.” Dinosaurs such as The Eagles and Kiss have played this card quite successfully.  It’s been a slick way to put butts in the seats despite having done next to nothing in recording any new material. There’s gold in cranking out the moldy oldies for the faithful one mo’ time.

Sade has no need to sucker the fans with this sort of cheap trick. The 2011 Once In A Lifetime tour started in April and ended in December with playing 106 shows in America, Canada, Europe, South America and Australia before 800,000 people and grossing over $53 million dollars. After a decade away from touring the devout fans of Sade know full well it might be another ten years gone before Sade steps back on stage.

The past two years have been unusually fertile ones for Sade with a new album, a new “best of” and a lengthy tour. This spurt of activity will probably be followed by another long hibernation as Sade slips back into another extended stay on the sidelines. Then again, Sade doesn’t play the game of making a record, touring to support it, take a breather then go back out on the road until time to do it all over again. As she always has, Sade Adu ignores what everyone else is doing to do exactly as she pleases.

Both the video and companion CD accurately capture the dazzling audio-visual extravaganza of Sade’s lavish stage show. Adu along with director Sophie Mueller and lighting and production designer Baz Halpin have created a dynamic presentation featuring a jumbo LED screen projecting images while the band performs on a stage featuring hydraulic lifts that raise and lower Adu and the eight musicians and vocalists.

Visually dazzling and freed from wires and speakers the band run through 21 of Sade’s biggest hits while the Smooth Operator herself sings, struts, and dances barefoot for two hours. The concert draws heavily from Soldier of Love and songs that underwhelmed in the studio,  “Bring Me Home,” “Skin” and “Morning Bird” are improved in the live venue. Sade has never been a bona fide jazz act (remember: Sade is a band. Sade Adu is the singer) and “Love Is Found” answers the question, “Does Sade rock?” Yes, she does as the dual guitar attack led by Stuart Matthewman and Ryan Waters offers ample evidence.

There has been no drop off in Adu’s voice though it does get husky at points. Adu has always been more of a stylish stylist who doesn’t rely upon volume and vocal power to overwhelm the listener. The secret weapon is Matthewman’s greatly underrated saxophone stylings, though there isn’t a weak link among the instrumentalists.

Sophie Mueller’s direction is to keep the cameras on the stage where the action is. There are a few shots of the audience happily applauding and dancing, but the star is Adu. At 53, she is still graceful and poised and has no need to express herself the way Madonna desperately seeks validation she’s still sexy. Adu conserves her energy for the elaborate show and seldom engages the audience in patter.

The extras include a 20-minute documentary directed by Muller is the typical “behind the scenes” shots of Sade looking out the window of her tour bus, applying make-up, changing outfits between songs and singing a pretty version of “Amazing Grace” with her back-up singers. It might be worth a look once, but with no interview with Sade Adu herself, it feels unnecessary as if someone said, “Maybe we ought to throw in something as an extra.”

The obvious usage of backing tracks is a minor cheat as the military-style drumming launching “Soldier of Love” too precisely echoes the original recording and there is a string section that accompanies Adu on “Pearls” that is heard, but not seen.

That minor quibble aside, Bring Me Home does an exceptional job of capturing the sophisticated pleasures of the two words that delighted thousands of admiring fans around the world: “Sade Live.”

DVD: Soldier of Love; Your Love Is King; Skin; Kiss of Life; In Another Time; Smooth Operator; Jezebel; Bring Me Home; Is It A Crime; Love Is Stronger Than Pride; All About Our Love; Paradise; Nothing Can Come Between Us; Morning Bird; King of Sorrow; The Sweetest Taboo; The Moon and the Sky; Pearls; No Ordinary Love; By Your Side; Cherish the Day

CD: Soldier of Love; Skin; Kiss of Life; Love Is Found; In Another Time; Jezebel; All About Our Love; Paradise/Nothing Can Come Between Us; Morning Bird; The Moon and the Sky; No Ordinary Love; By Your Side; Cherish the Day

Sade Adu: vocals; Stuart Matthewman: guitar, saxophone; Andrew Hale: keyboards; Paul S. Denman: bass; Leroy Osbourne: vocals, guitar; Tony Momrelle: vocals; Pete Lewinson: drums; Ryan Waters: guitar; Karl Vanden Bossche: percussion

Running Time: 122 minutes Extras: 20 minute behind-the-scenes documentary; short technical documentary, crew outtakes.

A different version of this review appeared at All About Jazz.

When Sade says bring me home you bring her home.

No Punishment Will Ever Fit These Crimes

Scum of the earth

I’ll make this short if not necessarily sweet:  Former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 out of 48 counts related to the sexual abuse of boys over a 15-year period.   He will be sentenced within the next 90 days.   Barring a massive miscarriage of justice, he will never breathe air again as a free man.   Jerry Sandusky is finished.

No punishment can ever be severe enough for the hell Jerry Sandusky’s sick, sick, SICK mind inflicted on those innocent boys.

I hate pedophiles. Not “dislike” Not “prefer not to have anything to do with.” HATE. I hate those evil bastards and have no forgiveness in my heart for them.   I don’t necessarily want to give them the death penalty, but I’m willing to hear arguments to convince me otherwise.   There’s certainly a case to be made that these predators are as bad as murderers in that they don’t kill their victims as much as they rape and kill their innocence.

Scum like Sandusky leave their victims breathing, but scarred for life.

Sandusky will spend the rest of his rotten life in prison and die there–and die he will in a nasty way if he ever reaches the general population of the prison.  The only way he stays behind bars breathing is if he’s confined in segregated housing wearing a red jumpsuit and locked up 23 out of 24 hours.

However, his victims will never be truly free.   They need whatever help the state of Pennsylvania can offer them, but they should consider suing Penn State for their complicity in Sandusky’s depravity.    The officials there should pay a steep price for turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the screams and cries of the boys Sandusky manipulated and molested for years.

There are two words I don’t want to hear being bandied about in the aftermath of Sandusky being found guilty.  Don’t want to hear anything about “justice” or “closure.”   Justice moved far too slowly and came far too late.   There’s no such thing as “closure.”  All the boys that are now young men can do is try to live whatever part of their life was not befouled by the evil that men like Jerry Sandusky do.

As satisfying as it is to conjure up horrific scenarios where Sandusky suffers the tortures of the damned, it’s a futile pursuit.   Physical pain does not traumatize the way mental anguish does.   Sandusky needs to suffer in a way that lingers and endures.   He deserves no quick  easy outs.   He should not be put to death.  He should not be left to the not-so ender mercies of his fellow prisoners.   He should not be allowed the cowardly out of taking his own miserable, worthless life.

Getting Jerry Sandusky away from children does not stop all the others like him.   They continue to destroy innocents and they think Sandusky got sloppy and that’s how he got caught.  Until they are stopped, Sandusky must be an example for them to observe and learn THIS is what will happen when you are caught molesting children.

He must become intimate with pain.  A pain far worse than flaying the flesh from his body or breaking his bones or penetrating him with foreign objects.  Sandusky’s got it coming all right, but he doesn’t deserve the kindness of a quick end.

No redemption, no sorrow, no pity, no mercy.

Go to hell, Jerry Sandusky. If the devil will have you..

Prepare Thyself to Hail the King

The NBA Finals resume Thursday evening, but they ended last night.   For all intents and purposes it’s all over.   Lebron James and his Miami Heat have no intentions of going back to Oklahoma City until next season.   They want to put an end to the series on their own court before their own fans.

Barring an unforeseeable miracle, that’s exactly what they will do by 11:30 Eastern Standard Time.

The Heat’s 104-98 win over the Thunder was the difference between a two-man game and a team.   Going into the series, it was assumed it was Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden who were the new “Big 3” and James along with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were three superstars trying to learn how to play as teammates.

Oh, what a difference ripping off three straight wins makes.   The Thunder hasn’t played bad, but the Heat has played lights out.  When OKC ripped off a lead in the first quarter that stretched to 17 points, the Heat played it cool.   Beyond their own Big 3, they got major contributions from point guards Mario Chalmers (25 points) and Norris Cole who came off the bench to knock down two three-pointers that chipped away at the Thunder’s lead.

Durant scored 28 points and Westbrook led all scorers with 43.   Westbrook is a score first-pass second point guard who trusts his own abilities more than he trusts any teammate not named Durant.  With good reason as it turns out.  Harden has been more bust than bad-ass in the Finals.  He was 2 of 10 shooting in Game Four including an embarrassingly botched breakaway(slam? lay up?).   Harden is stinking up the series with his lousy play.

It was supposed to be a showdown, not a beatdown.

The rest of the Thunder scored a total of 19 points.  Derek Fisher is old, slow, and simply can’t play anymore.  Fisher’s stats for the game: 22 minutes, no assists, no points, no rebounds, no turnovers, one steal and the one shot he yoked up was a bricked three-pointed that only served to waste a fast break opportunity.

For all the criticism of Westbrook for not being a distributor as the point guard, Fisher, 37 years old with 15 years experience, has been absolute garbage.   The biggest favor he could do for the team is to retire today and let somebody play tomorrow who looks like they belong on the court instead of an assisted living facility.

But this is less about the Thunder blowing it than it is the Heat winning it.  James is playing fiercely.   There’s none of the dancing, joking and playing around with a mock camera as he did in his last season with the Cavaliers.   He’s dialed in completely and whatever it takes for him to win his first championship James is willing to do.  He’s rebounding, scoring, distributing, playing lockdown “d” and making the rest of his teammates step up their game.   James is on a mission and he will not be denied.

The Thunder certainly has shown they have no idea how to do it.   Lebron is too strong for Durant, too big for Harden, too fast for any of the useless Thunder big men.

Last year when he was being humiliated by the Dallas Mavericks, James was the best player in the NBA with the worst reputation.   People were pulling for him to lose, including me.  He made himself easy to root against after his awful kiss-off to Cleveland with the brain-dead debacle that was “The Decision”  After that farce he went from King James to “LeGone James” and why not?  What was he supposed to be king of anyway?

I’m still a little frosty by the graceless way he left, but I can’t deny Lebron his due.  He is the best player in the NBA and has proven it by his play throughout the playoffs.   Now that he is standing on the verge of finally winning his first championship, only the most hardcore of Lebron haters can refuse to recognize the grandeur of his reign over the basketball world.

Ready or not, it’s time to hail the King.

The Thunder don’t need a miracle. They need a win.

The Unfortunate Life and Unsurprising Death of Rodney King

Welcome to L.A. Are you ready for your beat down?

Some people become famous–or infamous–by being a hero, a villain or a victim.

Rodney King was all three. By any yardstick, his life was one, long, hot mess. There was a play back in the Seventies called, Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death and it could have been subtitled “The Rough Life and Hard Times of Rodney King.”

Just think; if one man with a video camera had not filmed the L.A.P.D. beating, kicking and clubbing King senseless, it would have as if it had never happened.  Blacks would cynically shrug their shoulders and say that’s just what happens when you cross the cops.  Whites would remain blissfully ignorant in their confidence that police officers treat all citizens the same and besides, King was an ex-con and high when the cops beat him up.

The aftermath of King’s beating was a trial of four of the officers, a “not guilty” verdict, and America’s last race riot leaving Los Angeles aflame, 55 dead, millions in damages and a sober realization of how deep the fault lines remain between the races.    There’s been nothing like the uprising in L.A. since 1992, but there are enough unsettling similarities between Rodney King and the Trayvon Martin case to ask, “Could it happen again?”

Driving while Black is simply an assumed risk in Urban America and encounters with the police take on different meanings for different communities.  For Whites, the sight of a police officer holds the promise of help.  For Blacks, police are often a brutal, occupying force.

Rodney King was a sad and pitiful man.  Despite his endlessly quoted plea, “Can’t we all get all along”, King was not a hero, a cause to be celebrated or a figure to rally around.   Was he a flawed human being.  Oh, heavens, yes.  Perhaps more so than most.    Addictions to drugs and alcohol and minor brushes with the law plagued King to the end.  There are reports emerging that he had been drinking before drowning in a swimming pool.

America learns what police brutality looks like

The word that best sums up King is “tragic.”  There are thousands of Black men just like him.  It’s a tragedy how hopelessly a human being can spiral downward, but it seemed King never fully recovered from the beating Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Rolando Solano inflicted on him.

King’s Wikipedia entry is a litany to a man who often seemed incapable of getting out of his own way.

In 1993, King entered an alcohol rehabilitation program and was placed on probation after crashing his vehicle into a block wall in downtown Los Angeles. In July 1995, he was arrested by Alhambra police, who alleged that he hit his wife with his car, knocking her to the ground. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail after being convicted of hit and run.  On August 27, 2003, King was arrested again for speeding and running a red light while under the influence of alcohol. He failed to yield to police officers and slammed his vehicle into a house, breaking his pelvis.  On November 29, 2007, while riding home on his bicycle, King was shot in the face, arms, and back with pellets from a shotgun. He reported that it was done by a man and a woman who demanded his bicycle and shot him when he rode away.  Police described the wounds as looking like they came from birdshot, and said King offered few details about the suspects.

Even when King tried to avoid trouble, trouble found him.   The ability to cash in on being a victim is extremely limited.  King lacked the smarts or sophistication to turn his victimization into celebrity.  If he had been beaten up by the cops now he’d show up on cable news and The View to yak about it, write a book, and maybe angle for a movie.  He did receive $3.8 million from the city as part of a civil suit settlement, but money didn’t change King.  He remained a vaguely sad and lost man who found himself forever associated with racism and rioting.

His earnest, but almost childlike plea, “Can’t we all just get along?” was as touching in its innocence as it seems clear the answer has remained a cold and flat, “no.”

Hopefully, this troubled soul will find a degree of peace in death it never seemed to have in life.

King healed outwardly, but internally seemed to made of broken glass.