Tom Perkins and the Paranoia of the One Percent

“Greed is good, but it makes you dumb too.”

When men old some get wise with age.  Some just old and they show their age by what frightens them.  Others just cut to the chase and show not only how cowardly they are, but what paranoid fools they are.

Venture capitalist Tom Perkins is a billionaire.  And he’s very frightened that rich people like him are going to be dragged kicking and screaming from their penthouses, mansions, private jets and yachts and lynched in the streets for no other reason than they are rich.  Perkins dashed off a letter to The Wall Street Journal and one passage in particular set off the “WTF” palms to the forehead.

“Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich,'” he wrote, opening a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal.

“This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?” he concluded.

I don’t begrudge Perkins his millions or billions, but for heaven’s sake, stop bitching about how tough it is to be wealthy. It’s one thing to have more money than good sense or taste, but to equate the supposed “persecution” of our monied elites with those of the Jews under the heel of the Nazi jackboot  isn’t just insensitive and clueless.  It’s  straight-up STUPID.

It’s one thing to have the wealthy held up as the shining example of our best and brightest instead of the ones with the most toys. It’s quite another when they cop an attitude because everyone isn’t eagerly lining up to kiss their butts and tell them it smells like roses.

What shouldn’t be lost here is the unassailable fact that Tom Perkins is a flaming asshole. The Nazi/Kristallnacht analogy was absurd as is.  Taken in consideration along with some of his other remarks, Perkins cements his status as a entitled and arrogant dick.

Let the rich do what the rich do, which is get richer. But along the way, they bring everybody else with them when the system is working.

I certainly have enough arrogance to be royal, but I – I’m an old man.

I have members of my own family that are living in trailer parks.

Hitler gets the news.

Hitler gets the news.

It’s absurd to demonize the rich for being rich and for doing what the rich do, which is get richer by creating opportunity for others.

“Demonize the rich for being rich?”  What a total crock.  The rich are doing just fine.  It’s everyone else that’s catching hell.

The 85 Richest People In The World Have As Much Wealth As The 3.5 Billion Poorest.

  •         Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
  •         The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s    population.
  •         The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
  •         Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.
  •         The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.
  •         In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.

Let some rich prick whine how everyone isn’t bowing and adverting their eyes in due deference and it’s Pity Party Time. Suggest throwing a few lousy bucks to a fast-food worker to bump their poverty wage to $10.10 and its Anti-Capitalism Class Warfare in the Streets.

The super-rich have all the money they could ever want, but their money can’t buy what they crave most:  the fawning admiration from everybody else who isn’t rich.   The wealthy aren’t looking to add new members to their exclusive club.  They aren’t baking a bigger pie for the rest of us.

Tom Perkins deserves praise for saying out loud what others like him only say among themselves.  Add this to Mitt Romney’s notorious “48 percent” remark about the takers who were voting for President Obama because they “want stuff” as revealing examples how much contempt the rich have for those that aren’t.

It’s helpful to the rich to realize not everyone looks up to them with mindless adulation with big cow eyes. Toughens ’em up a bit.

The rich don’t need me to demonize them. The stupefying arrogance of jerks like Perkins do a far better job of that than anyone among the unwashed masses he’s so petrified of could ever hope to.

“…and after we finish terrorizing these Jews, let’s go visit Tom Perkins.”

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The Grammys, Pro Bowl and Super Bowl Week Are All Good Reasons to Read a Book.

Forget it kid. She’s WAY too old for you.

Sunday night.   It’s The Grammy Awards vs.the NFL Pro Bowl. Decisions, decisions…what should I not watch first?  It’s a movie night!  The Grammys vs. The Pro Bowl: Great Moments in Counter-Programming.

1.  I had more important things to do than to watch a show celebrating music I haven’t listened to made by “artists” I don’t care about.  Stuff like peeling a potato or clipping my toenails or something. I’m taking the Public Enemy stance on the Grammys: “Who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy?”

2.  Still trying to figure out why such an utterly ordinary song like “Royals” gets all this slobbery love for Lorde. Back in the day she would have been a one-hit wonder on Casey Kasem‘s America’s Top 40.

3.  For pure superficiality, pomp without circumstance and puerile insignificance, it’s hard to trump the Grammys, or as I prefer to call them, the awards show for the group sitting at the little kids table.

4.  But the NFL’s Pro Bowl (a.k.a. “Thanks for choosing me, but I’d rather stay home and watch The Grammy Awards than play in this bullshit game) comes close.   Roger Goodell has threatened to end this cluster fuck and the only questions are why not and who cares?   The worst part of the NFL is the pre-season where the fans are charged full-price tickets for games that don’t count and have no meaning beyond watching a starting player lost for the year with a blown-out MCL.    The Pro Bowl doesn’t count and what makes pro football great is every game counts.   This isn’t like the NBA or baseball where if you lose four or five games in a row it’s called a bad week.   Lose five games in a row in the NFL and your team will be looking for another coach soon.

5.  Media Day:  The biggest bag of bullshit in the whole bullshit week that is the run up to 6:25 pm on Super Bowl Sunday.  A herd of reporters sticking cameras and microphones in front of a bunch of guys who either have nothing to say or can only speak in jockspeak (It’s gonna be a tough game.  We respect those guys.  We have to play our game.  It’s gonna be a war, blah, blah and more blah).

Then you get someone like Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch who doesn’t want to play nice with others.

This is what I want to see repeated about a dozen times Sunday night.

The media-adverse Lynch only “spoke” to the press for six minutes on Media Day and dropped a “shit” on the NFL Network while speaking to Deion Sanders (well, that’s appropriate.  Neon Deion and the NFL Network is shit).   Oh golly, oh gee, oh gosh!  My Super Bowl viewing experience has been ruined by Marshawn blowing off the media.  Whatever shall I do?

Yawn.  Who cares a lot?  Breathes there a single, solitary soul that has ever found the Super Bowl’s Media Day to be anything but more hype of an already over-hyped game?   I’m sure there must be a reason I should care, but I can’t think of what that reason could be.

6.   On ESPN the big game is a possible NBA Finals preview between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.   Pass.  There are few things I care less about than the NBA until the playoffs when the players awake from their stupor and get interested.   CBS is striking back with the Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials.  Seriously?  An hour of 48 years worth of commercials? There must be a book somewhere I haven’t read.  Or need to re-read.

7.   Am I bitter that the 49ers aren’t in the Super Bowl?  Does their absence lessen my interest?  Would I be more into Super Bowl week if Jim Harbaugh was preparing for the game by practicing how he would meltdown on the sidelines at a perceived bad call?  Yes, yes, and yes.   Am I bad loser?  Yes, but I’m a worse winner.

8.   Oh, the President gave his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.   The State of the Union is there ain’t a damn thing getting done if the Republicans have their way and so far they’re having their way.

9.    I guess should make a Super Bowl prediction.   I predict a cold and boring game.  I predict Bruno Mars will be short.   I predict the fans of Bruno Mars will wonder who the hell The Red Hot Chili Peppers are.    I don’t even know why The Red Hot Chili Peppers are playing during the halftime show.  They’re old and when they were young, they still weren’t all that good.

10.   Broncos 31  Seawhores 20.   But I don’t give a damn if it happens the other way around.  It’s just another game.

Payton is pretty fast for a slow old White guy.

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Straight-Up Thuggin’ With Justin “WTF” Bieber

“Hey, Richard Sherman! You couldn’t LIVE in my world!”

We interrupt our moratorium on mindless celebrity news, because hey, I could use a laugh.

Much ado about nothing was made after Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went ham and scared a year off life out of sideline reporter Erin Andrews after making the play of the game that beat the San Francisco 49ers (sob) and sent his team to Super Bowl 48.

Sherman’s post-game rant ignited a Twitter firestorm where a lot of folks called him a “thug,” something he is far from being.

Sherman is a big, Black dude with dreads who looks like the Predator, but he’s not an idiot. He only sounded like one.

Now Justin BieberTHIS is a “thug,” playa.

A night after dropping $75,000 at a Miami strip club celebrating Martin Luther King Day, pop singer and wannabee thug Justin Bieber, 19 was busted for drag racing, driving with an expired license and resisting arrest. Bieber’s Lamborghini was doing 55-60 in a 30 mph zone.

The arrest report is the funniest read I’ve had this week.

I CAUGHT UP TO THE YELLOW LAMBORGINI AND INITIATED A TRAFFIC STOP AT THE 300 BLK OF 41ST. I APPROACHED THE VEHICLE ON THE DRIVER SIDE. I ASKED THE DRIVER TO PLACE THE VEHICLE IN PARK. AT THIS TIME, THE DRIVER. BEGAN TO STATE:“WHY DID YOU STOP ME”.

The cover photo for “Prison Sex,” the next Justin Bieber album.

I EXPLAINED TO THE DRIVER THAT HE WAS STOPPED BECAUSE HE WAS DRAG RACING WITH THE OTHER LAMBORGINI. I IMMEDIATELY SMELLED AN ODOR OF ALCOHOL EMINATING FROM THE DRIVERS BREATH AND BLOODSHOT EYES. THE DRIVER HAD SLOW DELIBERATE MOVEMENTS AND A STUPER LOOK ON HIS FACE. THESE ARE ALL INDICATORS OF AN IMPAIRED DRIVER. I ASKED THE DRIVER TO EXIT THE VEHICLE TO CONTINUE MY INVESTIGATION OF A POSSIBLE IMPAIRED DRIVER. THE DRIVER STATED:” WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING THIS”?

FINALLY, THE DRIVER EXITED THE VEHICLE AS HE KEPT GOING INTO HIS PANTS POCKETS. I ASKED THE DRIVER TO NOT GO INTO HIS POCKETS FOR MY SAFETY AND HIS. FEARING THAT THE DRIVER MIGHT HAVE A WEAPON OR CONTRABAND, I ASKED THE DRIVER TO PLACE HIS HANDS ON HIS VEHICLE IN ORDER TO FACILITATE A CURSORY PATDOWN FOR WEAPONS. THE DRIVER STATED:“WHAT THE FUCK DID I DO, WHY DID YOU STOP ME.”

AGAIN I ASKED THE DRIVER TO PLACE HIS HANDS ON HIS VEHICLE. THE DRIVER COMPLIED BUT TOOK HIS HANDS OFF THE VEHICLE SOON AFTER AND TURNED AROUND TO FACE ME. AGAIN I ASKED THE DRIVER TO NOT TAKE HIS HANDS OFF HIS CAR AND TO LOOK FORWARD BECAUSE I WAS GOING TO PERFORM A CURSORY PATDOWN. THE DRIVER STATED:“I AINT GOT NO FUCKING WEAPONS, WHY DO YOU HAVE TO SEARCH ME,WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS ABOUT?”

I ADVISED THE DRIVER THAT IF HE CONTINUED TO TAKE HIS HANDS OFF HIS VEHICLE, HE WOULD BE SUBJECT TO ARREST. THE DRIVER AGAIN TURNED AROUND TO FACE ME. AT THIS TIME, I GRABBED HIS RIGHT HAND AND STATED TO HIM THAT HE WAS UNDER ARREST. THE DRIVER BEGAN TO RESIST ME BY PULLING HIS RIGHT ARM AWAY AS HE STATED:“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING”.

I ADVISED THE DRIVER NOT TO RESIST AND WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF OFC. MOLINA ID# 064 AND OFC. SOCARRAS#501 , WE PLACED HIM INTO CUSTODY WITH NO FURTHER INCIDENT. THE DEF.WAS TRANSPORTED TO THE MIAMI BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT BY OFFICER DIONNE. WHILE EN ROUTE TO THE STATION, DEF INQUIRED AS TO WHY HE’D BEEN ARRESTED. OFFICER DIONNE ADVISED HIM THAT HE BELIEVED HE WAS IMPAIRED. DEF ADVISED THAT HE WAS NOT DRUNK, AND THAT HE WAS COMING BACK FROM RECORDING MUSIC AT A STUDIO.

ONCE AT THE MBPD HOLDING FACILITY, OFFICER DIONNE OBSERVED DEF TO HAVE A FLUSHED FACE, BLOODSHOT EYES, AND THE ODOR OF AN ALC. BEV. ON HIS BREATH. DEF WAS OFFERED SFSTs ON A FLAT, DRY, SMOOTH, AND WELL LIT SURFACE (SEE DUI TEST REPORT FOR RESULTS). DEF DID NOT PERFORM TO STANDARDS. DEF LATER AGREED TO A BREATH TEST AS WELL AS A DRUG EVALUATION. IT WAS ALSO LEARNED THAT THE DEF. HAS AN EXPIRED GEORGIA DRIVERS LICENSE (06/24/2013). CHARGE ADDED.

As a foreign national, (Bieber is from Canada) who is spreading terror, chaos and shitty music in America, I am calling my congressman to demand the Beeb be immediately kicked out of this country as an undesirable element.

Let’s expand the definition of “thug” beyond the stereotype of scary Black men yelling in cameras to include disrespectful, entitled, little punks like Bieber who think the world should be kissing his sorry ass because he’s rich, White and privileged far beyond his minimal talent and meager accomplishments.

"Bieber, don't you EVER talk trash about me."

“Bieber, don’t you EVER talk trash about me.”

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The Death or Life of Jahi McMath

Nailah Alexander and her daughter Jahi McMath, in an undated photo

The tragic circumstances that left Jahi McMath brain-dead and in a coma following complications from surgery to treat sleep apnea created an ethical firestorm where the question became, who decides when dead is dead and whose definition of death is the binding one?

McMath was transported from Children’s Hospital Oakland to an undisclosed location in New York.   Nailah Alexander, Jahi’s mother, retained attorney Christopher Dolan to represent the family in their fight to forbid the hospital from removing Jahi from a respirator.    Dolan authored an editorial for the Los Angeles Times and defended the family’s  decision to defy the opinions of doctors and prolong Jahi’s life.

It has been amazing to see how many people think they have a right to an opinion about this child, this mother, this family and the issues in this case. Self-righteous commenters and commentators who have no firsthand knowledge of the facts or the people involved pretend they can somehow know not only what’s best for Jahi but what’s best for society in such situations. They take it upon themselves to proclaim what will relieve or prolong the family’s suffering, what will desecrate Jahi or honor her, and they feel justified in sharing it with the world in mean-spirited terms.

For the most part, those who have attacked Jahi’s family argue these simplistic, uninformed points: The family is either stupid, misled by their lawyer or trying to exploit the system. Why can’t they simply accept the doctors’ decrees? Why should they be different?

What happened to Jahi at Children’s Hospital Oakland will most likely be a matter of litigation. But if you were Jahi’s mother, would you want the doctors and hospital authorities you believed had contributed to — or even caused — your child to be declared “brain-dead” making final decisions about her?

The final decisions to terminate further care should be made by both the family and the doctors based upon the facts and the best medical advice.  The prognosis for Jahi is she is brain-dead.   While physically her body remains “alive”, whatever it is that made Jahi who she was perished along with her brain activity.   Medical professionals (who have not examined McMath) are grim about what will eventually follow.

“This is basically organ support; it’s not life support,” said Dr. Neal E. Slatkin, a neurologist and chief medical officer at San Jose’s Hospice Of The Valley. “Her organs are alive, but she’s not alive. Her organs are slowly dying. Her fate is written; it’s just a question of when everything fails.”

As the family’s spokesman, Dolan told a different tale on January 8,  “Doctors are optimistic that her condition has stabilized and that her health is improving from when she was taken from” Children’s Hospital Oakland .I can confirm the trach and g-tube procedure on Jahi McMath was a success and she is doing very well and now getting the treatment she should have gotten 28 days ago.”

I understand why the family is going to these extraordinary lengths for Jahi. In a similar situation I might do the same for my daughter or son.    But at  the Even IF Jahi were to waken from her coma, what of it? She will be dependent upon machines and 24-hour care for the rest of her life.   There  is no procedure, no process, no medicine and no cure that will resurrect her brain.  Jahi McMath is a limbo where she is not fully dead, but neither is she entirely alive.

A small dose of skepticism of the medical community is healthy because doctors are human and humans get things wrong, but skepticism combined with pure reactive emotion and cynicism does no good.   The experts are experts because they have the experience neither attorneys or families have.   This is why I have asked for and received the permission of Dr. Christopher Johnson, an expert in the field of pediatric intensive care  and the author of Your Critically Ill Child: Life and Death Decisions Parents Must Face  to share his insights on the sad case of Jahi McMath:

Jahi McMath

This sort of thing — pediatric intensive/critical care — is what I’ve done for 35 years. I’ve been in this situation, or similar ones, many times. I have a couple of comments about this case. Bear in mind that we probably don’t have all the relevant information.

Regarding the child’s cause of death, I’d lay odds she had sudden bleeding from the tonsilar bed, a well-known complication after tonsillectomy if the clots fall off. After that I think she probably lost her airway, either from obstruction from blood clots or some other reason. She was a large girl undergoing the procedure because of sleep apnea. Such people often have difficult upper airways to access and control with a breathing tube in a hurry, and that was what she needed. The back of the throat is also a mess immediately after this kind of surgery and a rebleeding tonsil site can look like the Mississippi River back there. I know this from experience. It’s a difficult situation to manage. I assume she went 4-5 minutes without an adequate airway, leading to brain damage and subsequent brain death. This is a common progression after anoxic brain injury from any cause.

So what is brain death? It means no function at the level of the brain stem or above. Function stops where the spinal cord joins the base of the brain. How do we know somebody is brain dead? There are a series of standard and relatively low-tech bedside tests to determine that. We first make sure the patient has a normal body temperature and has no sedating drugs in their system. There should be no purposeful response to any stimuli. The muscles are flaccid. Then we test for brain stem reflexes. One of these is response of the pupils to light — there should be none. There needs to be absence of normal movement of the eyes to motion of the head (called doll’s eyes) or no movement when we put cold water on the ear drum (called cold calorics); both of these measure the same reflex. There should be no blink reflex, called the corneal reflex, when a wisp of cotton is brushed on the eyeball. There should be no gag reflex when we stimulate the back of the throat with a wooden tongue depressor. Finally, the last test of brain stem function is the apnea test: we allow the blood carbon dioxide level to rise and look for any reflex to take a breath.

What happens after the bedside brain death determination varies a little from hospital to hospital. Many hospitals require 2 tests 24 hours apart; if both show no brainstem function, the patient is legally dead at the conclusion of the second test. As an alternative, we can do the bedside test followed by a simple scan to determine of there is any blood flowing to the brain; that gives us an immediate answer, and many hospitals require this for children. If the bedside examination shows no brainstem function and the flow study shows no blood flow to the brain, the patient is legally dead. I write the time of death on the death certificate as the time of the scan.

Dr. Christopher Johnson

When I do these things I always want the family with me and watching what I do as I explain what is happening.

That all seems straightforward. As with this case, sometimes it’s not. For one thing, not all cultural traditions recognize brain death as real if the heart is still beating. I’ve been in that situation. For another, sometimes there are reflexes at the spinal cord level that look as if the patient is alive. That’s a difficult thing to watch.

The upshot is that I have continued support — mechanical ventilation, often medicines to support heart and other organ function — on a brain-dead patient for some time. Usually this is because the family wants some time to cope with things, or else there is a family member traveling to the hospital. I’m always OK with that, up to a point. A key principle here is that a family cannot force me to behave unethically, and continuing organ support of a dead person is disrespectful of the dead — mutilating to the body. Many ethical traditions, including my own, refuse to do that.

The longest I have ever continued organ support on a dead person was 6 weeks. We had a huge court battle similar to this case, with the court ultimately allowing us to withdraw support. A family member then attempted to enter the hospital with a gun. It was ugly.

The bottom line is that, with the exception of the one case above, I have always been able to mediate the situation by listening to families, being frank about my own duties (both legal and ethical), and allowing them time to grieve. I have always regarded caring for dying people and participating in their death as an honor granted me by the family.

I think there is more going on in this case than we know. Why this case became so adversarial is probably a complicated issue, and these complexities do not translate well to the evening news.

There are some directly antagonistic ethical issues in play here. Patients, and their families, are in charge of medical decision-making. But they don’t have the right to demand whatever they want. This can be as simple as requesting a test that is not medically indicated or as complicated as this case. Futile care is unethical, particularly if it causes pain to the patient. Of course in this case the patient is already dead, so one could argue that there is no harm in persisting. But there is ethical harm, I think.

Nailah Alexander and family members.

I have been in the situation once or twice of requesting, on behalf of a family, transfer to another facility when we have reached an impasse regarding what is appropriate treatment. That is my obligation. But no facility I have ever dealt with would accept transfer of a dead person, which is what is being pursued here.

At any rate, nature has a way of deciding these things no matter what we do.

Dr. Christopher Johnson has practiced pediatric critical care for over 30 years and is the author of several books including Your Critically Ill Child: Life and Death Choices Parents Must Face.   His website is http://www.chrisjohnsonmd.com/

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Blacked Out in White Hollywood

fruitvale_1

There can only be one Black movie at a time and its not your time.

2013 was trumpeted as “the year of the Black film” but nobody told the Academy Awards that.  12 Years A Slave received nine nominations including Best Picture, Director and Actor, but The Butler, Mandela, 42 and most glaringly, Fruitvale Station, were overlooked.   This is not a surprise, but it is a disgrace.

In horror flicks, it is an accepted cliche where if there’s two Black characters one of them is guaranteed to bite it before the end. This apparently holds true for Academy Awards  and explains the snub of Fruitvale Station. Just how many Black movies do you expect these good little liberals are supposed to honor anyway?  You got your one in 12 Years so shut up and be happy.

I don’t really sweat the Academy Awards.  When Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won in 2001 that was the last time I watched more than a minute of  this three-hour self-congratulatory circle jerk.   Let’s be blunt:  The Academy Awards are a reflection of they White men who make up the majority of members and they can and will choose whomever they like.   They play by their own rules for their own game.

It is a given Frutivale Station deserves to be considered for Best Picture of the Year. Why not? There were nine films nominated this year and in the past there have been as many as ten.  But if they didn’t want to add one, I’d drop the crusty old folks flicks  Philomena or Nebraska.  No, I didn’t see them but then most audiences didn’t see Fruitvale Station and 12 Years A Slave, so we’re even.   I absolutely would have given Michael B. Jordan a Best Actor nod for his portrayal of Oscar Grant and the last night of his life.

I try not to let the Academy Awards get in my head. I already know Frutivale Station is one of the best movies of the year and Michael B. Jordan gave a sterling performance. I don’t need the imprimatur of the overwhelming old, White and affluent Academy voters to confirm for me what I already know.  The omission of the 2013 best picture winner of the Sundance Film Festival merely confirms my belief that hoping the Oscars will validate your own good taste is a pointless waste of time.

There is a straight line that can be drawn from Solomon Northrup to Oscar Grant. Both were Black men doomed to cruel fates for no crime other than the color of their skin. But I’m not surprised the Academy can only focus on one and not the other. According to a Los Angeles Times story, the profile of the average Academy voter is White, male and over 62 years old.

fruitvale_02

The cast and director of Fruitvale Station won’t have to walk the red carpet on Oscar night.

This is not the target demographic for a Fruitvale Station, but it provides a clue as to why Jonah Hill and Bad Grandpa are Oscar nominees and a film about a young Black man shot in the back by a White transit cop isn’t even a blip on their radar.

“I don’t see any reason why the academy should represent the entire American population. That’s what the People’s Choice Awards are for,” said Frank Pierson, a former academy president still  on the board of governors. “We represent the professional filmmakers, and if that doesn’t reflect the general population, so be it.”

Pierson’s blase “let them watch The People Choice Awards” attitude is countered by two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington radical suggestion to open up the academy to people of color in representative numbers.  “If the country is 12% black, make the academy 12% black,” Washington said. “If the nation is 15% Hispanic, make the academy 15% Hispanic. Why not?”

The stories behind Fruitvale and 12 Years are human stories of people suffering horrible acts of racism and injustice.   That is a stinging reminder that as much progress that has been made since the lynchings, whippings, and tortures endured by millions of Black men, women and children just like Solomon Northrup we haven’t progressed enough that a Black man minding his own business can’t find his world turned upside down on the whim of an overseer or an officer.   None of this bodes well for 12 Years winning Best Picture over Gravity or American Hustle.

There’s a place for serious movies that prompt serious thinking.   But don’t go looking for it this year on Oscar night.  I don’t think you’ll find it there.

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Ugly Realities vs. Ridiculous Fantasies

12_years1

An ugly reality will lose out…

Not that it matters, but 12 Years A Slave was awarded Best Movie of the Year at Sunday’s Golden Globes awards.   That’s nice if  you care about that sort of thing.   It was even nicer Armond White didn’t show up to drop any F-bombs and pull off his pee-pee and take a whiz in public.   Probably too busy licking his wounds over being expelled from the NY Film Critics Circle and that matters even less.

In the 18th century, William Wilberforce said of slavery, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

In 19 words Wilberforce hits on what makes 12 Years A Slave must viewing for any conscious human being who wants a realistic, unflinchingly honest and terrifying brutal two-hour trip through the American Holocaust.    You may have to watch it peeking through the fingers of your hand in front of you face, but you can never say again that you did not know.

The story of Solomon Northrup is based on fact. Django is nothing more than an Italian spaghetti western relocated to America so Quentin Tarantino can film his fetishes and fantasies about slave-fights, Black bounty hunters roaming the South killing Whites with impunity and his desire to say “nigger” as many times as he damn well pleases.

12 Years A Slave is a movie. Django Unchained is a cartoon.

...vs fantasy.

…to a ridiculous fantasy.

12 Years A Slave was the best movie of 2013. Period. End of sentence. I do not need the official stamp of awards and I don’t need the consensus of the crowd who line up like lemmings for a Tarantino masturbatory fantasy but go mental when a Black director and a Black screenwriter tell the true story of a Black man taken and held against his will by a vicious slave owner.

If others prefer cartoons like Django Unchained, fine. I ain’t mad atcha and where you spend your movie-going money doesn’t phase me in the slightest.  It’s fine by me if anyone really believes a Black bounty-hunter could wander around the antebellum South shooting and killing as many White men he wants with impunity and without punishment.   It didn’t happen and it’s a joke, but Tarantino is quite the joker.   He made his best film with Pulp Fiction  20 years ago and has floundered since trying to follow-up with a second act he doesn’t seem to have.   Say what you will about Jackie Brown, Kill Bill 1 and 2, Inglorious Basterds, and Django Unchained (we’ll forget Death Proof because even Q.T. wants to), but you can’t say Tarantino is challenging himself as a filmmaker or the public as an audience anymore.

12years2

Steve McQueen, Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor may have Oscar gold in their future.

But don’t get all up in my grill telling me I don’t know my history and that I’ve been brainwashed by Whites and I’m some sort of self-hating dupe because I prefer movies that challenge me and force me to think and not simply sit there like a spastic drooling in my popcorn at the stylized and vulgar bullshit of a race pimp like Tarantino. Comparing Django to 12 Years is like comparing a Bugs Bunny cartoon to The Godfather.  It’s not a serious comparison and we can’t’ have a serious conversation about it.   Seriously.

Given a choice between a harsh reality and an amusing fantasy on slavery, I’m not at all surprised most opt for the fantasy. Just a bit disgusted.  There may be an intelligent, reasonable and rational argument to be made that Django Unchained is a superior and more honest depiction of slavery than 12 Years A Slave.   I just haven’t found an intelligent, reasonable and rational person make it yet.

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Throw Off the Chains and Shake Off the Haters.

“12 Years” director Steve McQueen is congratulated by actor and activist Harry Belafonte (photo credit: Star Pix)

Personal matters have prevented me from updating the blog as frequently as I would like.  Hey, that’s the the way of the world, y’know?

In 2013 there may be better movies than 12 Years A Slave. There are certainly far more “entertaining” movies than 12 Years A Slave.

With few exceptions such as Fruitvale Station, there are no movies in 2013 that mean something more than 12 Years A Slave.

Django Unchained is entertainment. 12 Years A Slave is edutainmentHarry Belafonte noted the historical significance of the film in his address to the New York Film Critics Circle Awards honoring director Steve McQueen’s monumental cinematic accomplishment.  Unfortunately, the news that came out of the awards was the asshole actions of Armond White, the barely professional curmudgeon, contrarian, and crank who passes himself off as a film critic.   White proved his trolling tendencies by going all the way off as soon as Belafonte finished speaking as Variety reported.

Armond White, film critic

“I am not a contrarian; everyone else is a conformist.”

As soon as McQueen took the stage, White started shouting from his table at the back of the room. “You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man,” White boomed. “Fuck you. Kiss my ass.”

White hated 12 Years A Slave as he hates any movie widely acclaimed by other critics.   But disagreeing is never enough for White.  He also has to prove his taste is vastly superior to yours.   This sort of bad behavior is nothing new for White who goes out of his way to be a dick.  If we all acted like Armond White we should commit mass suicide for being such raging douchebags.   There’s nothing to admire about a hack and troll who screams abuse and drops F-bombs on better men than himself. I think for myself, I decide for myself and I don’t need a damn fool like White to do either for me.

White has denied he screamed the insults, but it fits his pattern of crude behavior.    If he ever directed a movie it would be called 50 Years An Asshole. 

I’m bored talking about a troll and a hack like White. Lost in his b.s. is what Harry Belafonte, someone who has done more for Black culture by accident than White has done on purpose, said about 12 Years A Slave and Steve McQueen. The squeaky wheel shouldn’t always get the grease nor snatch all the headlines.

Belafonte said in part:

A lot’s gone on with Hollywood. A lot could be said about it. But at this moment, I think what is redeeming, what is transformative, is the fact that a genius, an artist, is of African descent, although he’s not from America, he is of America, and he is of that America which is part of his own heritage; [he] made a film called 12 Years a Slave, which is stunning in the most emperial way. So it’s a stage that enters a charge made by The Birth of a Nation, that we were not a people, we were evil, rapists, abusers, absent of intelligence, absent of soul, heart, inside. In this film, 12 Years a Slave, Steve steps in and shows us, in an overt way, that the depth and power of cinema is there for now the world to see us in another way. I was five when I saw Tarzan of the Apes, and the one thing I never wanted to be, after seeing that film, was an African. I didn’t want to be associated with anybody that could have been depicted as so useless and meaningless. And yet, life in New York led me to other horizons, other experiences. And now I can say, in my 87th year of life, that I am joyed, I am overjoyed, that I should have lived long enough to see Steve McQueen step into this space and for the first time in the history of cinema, give us a work, a film, that touches the depths of who we are as a people, touches the depths of what America is as a country, and gives us a sense of understanding more deeply what our past has been, how glorious our future will be, and could be.

I think that the Circle Award made a wise decision picking you as the director of the year. I think we look forward in anticipation to what you do in the future. But even if you never do anything else, many in your tribe, many in the world, are deeply grateful of the time and genius it took to show us a way that it should be. Forever and eternally grateful to say that we are of African descent. Thank you.

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Hating Melissa Harris-Perry is More Fun Than Forgiving Her

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“Look, I SAID I was sorry. Now back off.”

A lot of people found 2013 to be a bad year. MSBNC had a really bad year.

The ratings have been in the toilet. They moved Ed Schultz out of prime-time to a Saturday afternoon (!) dead zone and then back to just-out of prime time though his show wasn’t getting clobbered as badly as the hapless Chris Hayes is by the invincible O’Reilly Factor.

MSBNC gave Alec Baldwin a “talk” show. At least, I guess it was. It got yanked off the air so fast over Baldwin’s bad temper and big mouth that it’s hard to remember what kind of show it was supposed to be.

Martin Bashir lost his afternoon show for suggesting someone should defecate in Sarah Palin’s mouth.

Just to wrap things up in a big red bow, on the Melissa Harris-Perry show, the panel had a big tee-hee over Mitt Romney welcoming a new grandson, an adopted Black baby named Kieran Romney, to the family and hilarity ensued on the show.

“Everybody loves a baby picture,” Harris-Perry said, “and this was one that really, a lot of people had emotions about this baby picture this year. This is the Romney family. And, of course, there on Governor Romney’s knee is his adopted grandson, who is an African-American, adopted African-American child, Kieran Romney.”

As Harris-Perry made the introduction, panelist Pia Glenn sang “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same,” a tune whose original lyrics read “one of these things doesn’t belong.”

“And that little baby, front and center, would be the one,” she added.

“And isn’t he the most gorgeous?” Harris-Perry said. “My goal is that in 2040, the biggest thing of the year will be the wedding between Kieran Romney and North West. Can you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?”

Comedian Dean Obeidallah chimed in by reducing the baby to a token. “I think this picture is great,” he said. “It really sums up the diversity of the Republican party, the RNC. At the convention, they find the one black person.”

There goes the neighborhood.

There goes the neighborhood.

I don’t like Mitt Romney and he would have been a lousy president, but while he is rich elitist and exhibits no particular concern for other races it doesn’t by default mean he’s overtly hostile to them either.  But even if he was that’s no reason to make fun of his Black grandson.

Harris-Perry quickly issued an apology on Twitter and her MSNBC page, but it was too late.  She had handed her critics a sword and they pounced to impale her with it accusing her of reverse-racism against the Romneys.

At the beginning of her Saturday program Harris-Perry issued another apology to Governor Romney’s family and those she offended with her failed attempt at humor, but  didn’t make it though the segment before breaking down tearfully.

Romney was scheduled to appear on Fox News the next day where he was certain to be asked about the controversy, but the blogosphere wasn’t about to wait for him as one critic sneered, “She’s only sorry because her producer/ station caught so much backlash, they knew they needed to apologize. I seriously doubt it’s heartfelt. Even abusers can turn on the tears when apologizing. Not buying into her act.”

I’ve met Melissa Harris-Perry. She’s an academic, not an actress.

When someone says they’re sorry and it’s them saying it and not a spokesperson, agent or some crisis manager, it should be accepted as genuine and heartfelt until proven otherwise. Everyone screws up. It’s how you handle the screw-up and move past it that matters.

Some folks insist on having their pound of flesh and will keep carving until they get it.

She fucked up. She apologized multiple times. The object of the insult accepted the apology.

On her Right flank, MHP is taking flak for an apology judged insincere. On her Left flank, MHP is catching hell for apologizing at all.   They’re both full of it.  Only the blindest partisans and the terminally cynical would doubt the sincerity of the apology.

Romney didn’t seem to as he said on Fox, “I think people recognize, and the folks at MSNBC who have apologized recognize, people like me are fair targets: If you get in the political game, you can expect incoming. For children, that’s beyond the line. I think they understand that and feel that as well. I think it’s a heartfelt apology, and I think for that reason we hold no ill will whatsoever.”

That should be it.  Of course it’s not.

Mitt Romney didn’t have to accept Harris-Perry’s apology as being sincere. That he did speaks  to his compassion and understanding that human beings–even ones on MSNBC–fail and when they try to do the right thing after doing the wrong thing, they should be forgiven.

Nothing has changed how I feel about Harris-Perry and her guests heavy-handed and dim-witted attempt at humor at a child’s expense. But let’s not overreact here, okay? This isn’t the first person in the media to screw up and go after a kid or any other soft target. MHP used poor judgment and she got rightfully called out for it.

I hope she learns from her mistakes and grows from the experience. Too often others in the same position haven’t apologized. Not sincerely, not insincere or at all.

For every one Harris-Perry royally effing up there are dozens of examples of a Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Bill Maher, Al Sharpton or Alec Baldwin saying something simultaneously stupid and horrific and any apology, if one is offered at all, comes grudgingly and delivered with a smirk, a snicker and a wink.

I didn’t see any of that in Harris-Perry’s apology. I guess her haters did.

In the depressingly vast sea of Whiteness of cable TV talking heads, Melissa Harris-Perry provides a shot of not only much needed racial diversity, but a degree of intelligence, wit and class to a medium conspicuously short of all the above.

It’s time to forgive and forget and mostly forget.

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The Unforgiven?