Wednesday, December 14

Syriana: It ain't easy being greasy

I saw the George Clooney film Syriana a few days ago and deliberately haven't blogged about it. I just don't know what to say about it. I'm still completely unsure how I felt about it. So I'll keep writing now, stream of consciousness style, and see where I land.

Despite the movie being about one of my favorite subjects -- the marriage between big oil and politics and war -- I didn't leave the theater with these goodies top of mind. I left feeling on sensory overload. Because my overall impression was the movie was just too busy and crowded with characters. It had almost an uber montage style, with lots of longish, muscular vignettes strung together featuring the lives of four different Middle East-related players.

I've heard that one critic joked about needing a flow chart to keep up with Syriana. Agree. I don't want to work that hard when I'm taking in a flick. Gimme a cheat sheet next time, Mr. Clooney. Take it easy on my brain. I didn't miss the point, and there were excellent points made. I'm just having a hard time mentally embracing this octopus, whose many arms flailed non-stop.

That gripe aside, it was an important film. Syriana boldly goes where few flicks go on the geopolitical landscape. The film's replete with powerful, intimate glimpses into the lives and ideology of filthy rich oil sheiks, greasy corporate titans, the slick lawyers who represent them, and the CIA operative they'd all like to fry.

If you like the subject matter, then definitely go see. Just wear a hard hat. You will enter a dangerous and intriguing world, one where heavy mental lifting is job #1.

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like

Tuesday, December 13

Stanley "Tookie" Williams: The Last Sentence

Witnesses at the Stanley "Tookie" Williams trial said he boasted about the killings, stating "You should have heard the way he sounded when I shot him." Williams then made a growling noise and laughed for five to six minutes, according to the transcript that the Governor Schwarzenegger referenced in his denial of clemency.

Question: Who's laughing now, Mr. Williams?

Answer: Not a single soul. Because there's nothing humorous about being murdered. Not even when it's you.

This is a sad, sad day. The Street God is gone; the co-founder of the Crips is black history.

Let those who revered what the Street God stood for translate his life of words and deeds this way: Thou shall not kill, lest the System will surely take another son to crucify.

May God walk with the family and friends of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, and the countless people who've lost loved ones to gang violence. Perhaps Tookie's demise will be the very period ending the most important chapter, verse and sentence he wrote. Let his eternal silence send his disciples this most resounding message: The end.

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Thursday, December 8

C-Span's "Voices of Katrina Evacuees"

Did you catch the Hurricane Katrina evacuees's testimony before Congress on Tuesday on C-Span? It was a riveting, emotional, hours-long telling of the racist elements that lace (then and now) every aspect of the disaster.

Two groups presented to Congress. The first group was comprised of African American community activists, people who lived through the bizarre experience. The second group was comprised of African American lawyers and policymakers from other cities, whose opinions were to help assess the local, state and federal response.

Here are some of the highlights, if you missed this important broadcast:

  1. In the opening remarks, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (GA) recommended the committee adopt the Congressional Black Caucus's guidelines for adddressing poverty in America. Ms. McKinney was one of two African American Congress members who sat on the dais. The African American Congressman from New Orleans, Rep. Bill Jefferson, arrived late so made no remarks, acted aloof while there, and left the hearing after the community group presented. He didn't sit through the lawyer group's presentation, which looked odd. How is it that no black NOLA representative sat through their remarks? The lady from Georgia had to step up and in?
  2. Part 2 of the testimony included a stellar, absolutely fierce presentation by Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Ms. Arnwine was the last of five presenters to speak, but was well worth the wait. This sister came off like the next Barbara Jordan! She gave FEMA a royal beat down in her analysis of the disaster and included savvy measures the agency should consider. The Republicans in the room seemed flustered by her strong mannerisms, in pain in the membrane.
  3. Both groups spoke out forcefully about reports of having heard a double-boom right before the levee broke. One representative of the black lawyers group, Ishmael Muhammad of Mississippi's Advancement Project, raised the little-known fact that the government had blown up the levee before, in 1927. The Republicans clearly thought some of these people were nuts. (Perhaps this is why the New Orleans congressman left the room post haste, wanting nothing to do with this conspiracy theory drama.)
  4. One Jewish Republican on the dais grew fed up with the evacuees' repeated reference to Katrina's aftermath being similar to a "concentration camp." He asked the peoplez to please stop likening their experience to this. Some of the activists argued back that that was what it was like, so they'd continue to call it whatever the hell they wished.
  5. One of the community activists -- an eccentric, purple scarf-and-locs wearing Earth Mother named Dyan French -- I was sure would be carted out of the room by her armpits. A colorful, 60-year-old who is a former head of the NAACP, beautiful "Mama D" was the most contentious. (She is one of those fascinating older persons you love to chat with, but soon realize your "chat" is not supposed to be a real dialogue at all. Your role is really to just shut the hell up and listen. And listen. And listen. And if you don't, she may cuss your ass out.) At one point, one of the Republicans, Christopher Shays of Connecticut, rudely cupped his ears while Ms. French pontificated. (I must admit I understood why. lol.) But to be fair, he'd riled Mama D by insisting she answer "honestly" as to having actually eye-witnessed anyone bombing the levee. Upset from feeling he was calling her a liar, she'd only answer about what she heard -- a big boom-boom. She barked back to Rep. Shays that he needed to come to New Orleans and look at the levee himself. Her anger was warranted and palpable all the way here in Chicago.

Chaired by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), the committee said it would investigate all of the panelists's claims of the many ways that racism tainted the Katrina recovery effort -- from whites only being slipped out of the Superdome to the alleged military bombing of the levee to the fact that no one is investigating how people died (at the hands of an uncaring military, it is alleged) to the belief that 6,000 people are still missing.

We'll be keeping an eye on all of this, for sure.

Voices of Katrina Evacuees - The Activists (part 1)

Voices of Katrina Evacuees - The Lawyers (part 2) - Comments about the proceedings

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Wednesday, December 7

Stanley "Tookie" Williams

I've been told that I sometimes take things too personally. And such is the circumstance surrounding my position in the Stanley "Tookie" Williams death sentence debate. I can sort of "feel" the dispair of those he allegedly murdered, and of their devastated family members who will never fully recover from those losses. I can too easily imagine these being my loved ones gunned down.

None of the well-intentioned children's books Mr. Williams wrote can bring back the dead, nor can they probably lift the spirits of the walking-dead relatives whose hearts long to hear their laughter again. So the writing of those books doesn't amount to much in my mind. Want to absolutely convince kiddies not to engage in gang violence? Perhaps a field trip to Mr. Williams' "services" would do the trick. Maybe his most tangible contribution to humanity will be martyrdom.

That said, I do have doubts about the death sentence -- particularly prior to the era of DNA testing. One of the worst circumstances on the planet was the wrongful imprisonment of innocent people. Unlike cloning and microwaves, this DNA science is one of the few true, unquestionable blessings that modern advancements have brought us. Because Mr. Williams maintains his innocence of those murders, I hope his is a situation where the science can swoop down and prove his accusers wrong. If there's really reasonable doubt, the man's sentence ought to be commuted.

So I would support a re-trial for Tookie Williams, whose original jury was all white after the dismissal of a number of blacks. This happened amidst the hysteria of gang violence, so there very likely were imbalances and unfair racial nuances surrounding his trial. Again, I'd be down with taking another look at what really happened. But if that nor DNA evidence proves anything different, I'd be okay with the death sentence standing.

One key reason why death sentencing was legalized was to send a resounding message to all of us who are pissed with our disloyal mates, tired of not having money so conk somebody on the head, or "go postal" on our ignorant bosses. The message is that there are severe, deadly consequences for losing control and disregarding the lives and well being of others. And in a day in time when being imprisoned sells more CDs, gets us two TV shows and million-dollar book and movie deals, I'm okay with the stakes being upped. The idea of rotting in jail just isn't the horrible thing it used to be; too many of us have become immuned to it. Hey, you can sex celebrities in some of these jails! What fun. And for some poor folks, here's a definite way to keep a roof over your head and daily meal. One might argue that for some, living on this side of bars is the real hell.

So how do we put ourselves in check, prevent petty hotheads from killing us just because we stepped on their Nikes or they simply like our Corolla better than they like riding the bus? Here's how: you increase the stakes with the threat of receiving a death penalty.

I'd just like us to have unquestionable scientific proof first that the correct person has been fingered. But then again, there was "unequivocal proof" of WMD in Iraq, wasn't there? Does this mean the U.S. will restore Saddam Hussein to power now, give him back his many palaces and oil? Oops, mea culpa! Does this mean that whomever started the war in Iraq, causing the deaths of thousands of Iraqi freedom fighters and American troops should meet Mr. Executioner, too? Hell, someone's done a lot more than merely stepped on Saddam's Nikes. Who's going to do the time? If you do the math based on a body count in Iraq, someone "up there" makes Tookie Williams and Saddam Hussein look just about like angels.

I'm just seeking some consistency in the rules here. That, and an end to all this devaluing of lives.

The thugs in D.C. deserve the same treatment as those in Compton. If God gave his only begotten son to serve as an example, perhaps he'd also turn over Tookie Williams and whomever started the most bizarre war of our time. Conversely, God could step in with DNA evidence for "Tookie" Williams and WMD evidence for "Tookie" Bush. At the moment, I just don't see much difference between the two.

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like

Saturday, December 3

I'm black, and too damned power-full

Yo, MAJOR props to my new computer technician, Walter, for getting me back on online with system upgraded and err'thing!!! I have missed blogging and missed all of my blogging brothers and sisters more than you know (that means YOU! ;-) Thanks to all who've emailed, wondering if I fell off the face.

In other news, I'm delighted to have a house guest. One of my best friends from high school, Miss D, lived in New Orleans. That is, up until Hurricane Katrina threw that diva fit. So Miss D is spending the month of December with me -- and both of our birthdays are this month! Mine was on the 1st; hers is on the 11th. Lord, I may never be sober again. lol There's so much tasty wine and laughter flowing through the spot, it's a little like Mardi Gras up in here.

Anyway, point is I'm living a blessed life, connecting with my friend again on a daily basis.

But I got ish on my mind. For instance: Bush? Stanley "Tookie" Williams? Is there really that much of a difference?

To me, the Tookie Williams situation is like that blonde slut teacher, Debra Lafave, who seduced her 14-year-old male student in Florida. I'm not really feelin' this feel sorry for the criminal crap and let 'em go.

I watched the Tavis Smiley show with Williams, where he denied having killed those four people. But this claim doesn't seem to be treated seriously by anyone; I heard no mention of an ongoing investigation to clear his name. Plus, I watch Judge Mathis so I've been to the puppet show and have seen the damned strings. People lie like rugs. I mean, people can be cold-blooded BUSTED and still lie straight-faced to your face.

So I'm not so sure this alleged murderer should be let off the hook. As they say in Jersey, "allz" I know is that if that mofo had killed one of my loved ones, he would have to die. And since I probably couldn't get my hands on him in prison, I would count on my Governator to get the job done for me.

I am also counting on my Governators and Congress-ators to handle those other lying murderers. The ones behind the deaths of over 2,000 Americans in Iraq.

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like

Thursday, December 1

Almost back at'cha

Nuts! Computer's been down since Thanksgiving. Back at'cha all very soon. Love and kisses!

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like