Friday, August 22, 2014

Dear White People: Sharpton & Jackson Are Not Our Leaders.

Dear White People,

There are almost 40 Million Black People in America. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson but two of them, and both are media personalities. They are not our "leaders". Both have done some good things, and both have their flaws. We don't hate them, but we damn sure don't "follow" them to the outlandish degree that you seem to think we do. Neither has been of much relevance since the mid 1990's. Please update your Racial Boogeymen.

It's getting a little silly, and your continued fascination with these two guys just underscores how little of a clue you have about the Black community as a whole. Seriously, just quit it already, you're looking really stupid.

Contrary to popular belief, Black People can, and do, think for ourselves. You know, just like White People do. It's not a revelatory concept, it's called being human.


Black People

P.S. Go ahead and add Louis Farrakhan to this list, just in case you had some wise idea.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The President Needs To Get His A$$ To Ferguson, Already!!!

As the civil unrest in Ferguson carries into a second week with no end in sight, my patience with the President's lack of visibility on this situation is wearing thin. Check that, it wore thin last Wednesday.

Thus far, the President has issued a written statement and given short public remarks. That's about it. Yes, I know the Department of Justice is already involved here and is performing its own independent investigation. That's good, and quite honestly, it's the bare minimum I'd expect of any administration on a story garnering this level of public interest. But I'm not going to give him credit for sh*t he's supposed to do. Nope, I'm looking for more. Because he's the President.

As you might know, the President and basically everyone else on the Hill is on vacation right now. He's momentarily back in DC for a couple of days, before going back to Martha's Vineyard to resume his vacation?[1] Nobody begrudges the man for taking time off from arguably the toughest job in the world.[2] But come on, bruh, you've been on the links for a week already. How many more rounds of golf and fundraisers do you need to do before you take time away from your not-so-busy schedule and go see what's happening in Ferguson with your own eyes?

When an American suburb, full of actual Real Americans, is under siege and in a perpetual state of civil unrest that only intensifies by the day, it might be a good idea for the President to go there. Sure, let the people who can actually "fix" things do their job, but still go there. In times like this, people need to know that they matter, that you care. And if there's one thing the President has been really good at, it's speaking to and calming the American people during trying times.

He did it in Fort Hood.
He did it in Tucson.
He did it in Boston.
He did it in Newtown.
He did it in Aurora.
He did it in Washington.

Why in the hell hasn't he done it in Ferguson yet?

I'm sure someone's gonna mention George Bush and how it took him forever to go to New Orleans, post-Katrina. While that's all quite true, it has absolutely no bearing here. How about we stop judging Obama's actions versus those of his predecessor, a guy whom many consider to be The Most Inept President Of All Time. Saying "Sure, Obama did this, but what about Bush?" is setting an embarrassingly low bar for competence. It's like a guy who beats his wife telling her, "Sure, I gave you a busted lip, but your last husband gave you two black eyes!" So yeah, enough of that sh*t.

We've watched this President run from issues of race repeatedly during his 6 years in office. I understand that going to Missouri may not be a politically wise move. Many are already saying Obama's done too much by getting involved with a local issue, asking that the DoJ be involved, etc. But guess what? Sometimes you need to not worry about what your detractors are going to say and do what's right. The right thing is going to Ferguson right now. Speak with Mike Brown's family. Look the local officials in the eyes. Walk the streets and engage the community directly. And yes, give a speech. Let people there know that their aspirations, their fears, their concerns, their voices, their children, their lives matter.

History, for better or for worse, is being written by the minute in Ferguson, MO. This is a defining moment of the Obama presidency right now. And he's receiving an incomplete grade.

Question: Is the President doing enough about the situation in Ferguson? Do symbolic gestures like speeches even matter?

[1] Who does that?

[2] Well, they do, but I'm not one of them.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mike Brown Got Killed For (Allegedly) Stealing Some Swisher Sweets.

The "tarnish the victim" offensive in underway in Ferguson, MO. And based on the information that was just released, I'm going to make a very painful prediction: the policeman who killed Mike Brown won't see a day in jail, assuming he's even ever charged in the first place.
Police on Friday said that David Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown last weekend, confronted Brown after the teenager was identified as the main suspect in a convenience story robbery that occurred on Saturday morning. While police provided details for the first time on why they say Wilson wound up encountering Brown, they did not provide any additional information regarding the confrontation or why Brown was ultimately shot and killed.

Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson, who took no questions at a news conference Friday morning, described Wilson as a six-year veteran of the force with no disciplinary record. Wilson was publicly identified for the first time Friday, following many complaints from residents that the police had not named him.

Police handed out a 19-page document packet, in part as a response to a flurry of Freedom of Information Act requests they’ve received from media members this week. The documents related to an alleged robbery at a convenience store that took place prior to the shooting. According to the report, Ferguson police officers received a call at 11:51 a.m. about a robbery in progress at a convenience store and were given the description of a suspect.

The suspect was described as a black male in a white T-shirt walking north toward a QuickTrip convenience store. The officer wrote that the store clerk got the description of the suspect as wearing a white T-shirt, khaki shorts, yellow socks and a red St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap. The officer was also told that another black male was with him.

A witness report in the packet given to media – which was redacted and did not state if it was a store employee or customer providing the information – said that a woman inside of the store came out of the bathroom during the altercation. She told police she saw Brown tell the store employee that he and his companion wanted several boxes of cigars from behind the counter.

“As [redacted employee name] was placing the boxes on the counter, Brown grabbed a box of Swisher Sweet cigars and handed them to Johnson who was standing behind Brown,” the report stated.

The witness said that the store employee then told Brown he had to pay first, and then Brown reached over the counter to grab more packs of cigars and turned to leave the store. According to the witness account, the employee called 911 and attempted to block Brown from leaving by standing in front of the door.

“That is when Brown grabbed [redacted employee name] by the shirt and forcefully pushed him back in to a display rack,” the report said.

The police report goes on to state that surveillance video from the store shows Brown and Dorian Johnson, an eyewitness to Brown’s death, entering the store before Brown hands the pack of Swisher Sweets to Johnson.

Wilson, who had been responding to a different call shortly before noon on Saturday, left that area after the 911 call regarding the “strong-arm robbery” at the store was reported.

A description of a possible suspect and the suspect’s location was also given over the radio. Wilson left the call he had been responding to and encountered Brown on Canfield Drive at 12:01 p.m., Jackson said.
Conspicuously absent from all of the information the cops just released: what happened that lead to the cop firing 4-6 shots at Brown after eyewitnesses (other than Dorian Johnson, who has no credibility remaining) state that Brown turned with his hands up. I'm also not sure why this information was so hard to compile that it took the cops an entire week to release it. But whatever. Sprinkle some crack on him!!!

Let's face it: the cop won't be charged. There was no dash camera. No streetlamp cameras. Dorian Johnson isn't a credible witness anymore. None of those who witnessed the shooting have any proof that the Brown had his hands up. And if Brown (allegedly) engaged in any level of physical confrontation with the cop, the policeman can lawfully shoot him when/if he attempts to flee.

So yeah, prepare yourselves folks.

Question: What's your read on all of this? Is the cop going to walk?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The NCAA Has To Pay Its Student Athletes Now.

I've long advocated the NCAA paying its student athletes in revenue generating sports. If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you've seen me discuss this issue ad nauseum. Sharing some of the billions of profits generated with the actual people responsible for the profits makes sense in any other walk of life. Late last week, a judge (who obviously reads this site) ruled that the NCAA had to do just that.
College football and basketball players could be in line for paydays worth thousands of dollars once they leave school after a landmark ruling Friday that may change the way the NCAA does business.

A federal judge ruled that the NCAA can't stop players from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses, striking down NCAA regulations that prohibit them from getting anything other than scholarships and the cost of attendance at schools.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, Calif., ruled in favor of former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and 19 others in a lawsuit that challenged the NCAA's regulation of college athletics on antitrust grounds. The injunction she issued allows players at big schools to have money generated by television contracts put into a trust fund to pay them when they leave.

In a partial victory for the NCAA, though, Wilken said the body that governs college athletics could set a cap on the money paid to athletes, as long as it allows at least $5,000 per athlete per year of competition. Individual schools could offer less money, she said, but only if they don't unlawfully conspire among themselves to set those amounts.

That means FBS football players and Division I basketball players who are on rosters for four years could potentially get around $20,000 when they leave school. Wilken said she set the $5,000 annual threshold to balance the NCAA's fears about huge payments to players.

The ruling comes after a five-year battle by O'Bannon and others on behalf of college athletes to receive a share of the billions of dollars generated by college athletics by huge television contracts. O'Bannon, who was MVP of the 1995 UCLA national championship basketball team, said he signed on as lead plaintiff after seeing his image in a video game authorized by the NCAA that he was not paid for.

Any payments to athletes would not be immediate. The ruling said regulations on pay will not take effect until the start of the next FBS football and Division I basketball recruiting cycle. Wilken said they will not affect any prospective recruits before July 1, 2016. The NCAA could also appeal, and has said previously that it would take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court.

Former athletes will not be paid, because they gave up their right to damages in a pre-trial move so the case would be heard by a judge, not a jury.

As part of her ruling, Wilken rejected both the NCAA's definition of amateurism and its justification for not paying players. But she did not prohibit the NCAA from enforcing all of its other rules and regulations and said that some restrictions on paying players may still serve a limited purpose if they are necessary to maintain the popularity of major college football and basketball.

Several players testified during the trial that they viewed playing sports as their main occupation in college, saying the many hours they had to devote to the sport made it difficult -- if not impossible -- to function like regular students.

"I was an athlete masquerading as a student," O'Bannon said at trial. "I was there strictly to play basketball. I did basically the minimum to make sure I kept my eligibility academically so I could continue to play."

Witnesses called by the NCAA spoke of the education provided to athletes as payment for their services and said the college model has functioned well for more than a century. They contended that paying players would make college sports less popular and could force schools to cut other programs funded by the hundreds of millions of dollars taken in by big-time athletics.
Sorry, but the NCAA's assertion that people would suddenly lose interest in college athletics if the kids were paid is the dumbest sh*t I've ever heard. When you have no real argument, you resort to foolishness like that. Pay the damn kids.

Besides, I don't think giving student athletes around $20,000 to start their life after college is a terrible parting gift. You could argue that they're worth more, much more in fact.
A Washington Post article examined what the average value of a Division I men's basketball player could be using profit netted by the programs themselves after expenses paired with win shares per player. Not surprisingly, the total they came up with was much higher than $5,000 per player as their calculations yielded a result of $212,080 as the average value of an FBS-level men's basketball player during the 2013-14 season.

The Washington Post article uses Kentucky Wildcats one and done star Julius Randle as an example showing that he was worth $1.53 million to the Wildcats program this past season based off of their earnings from men's hoops and Randle's contributions on the offensive and defensive end.

For example, using college revenue data from the U.S. Department of Education, the 2011-12 Kentucky men’s basketball team generated $23.2 million in revenue and had $13.7 million in expenses attributable to intercollegiate athletic activities after a 38-2 season, which equates to $250,765 per win net of expenses. That would be equivalent to $260,320 in 2014 dollars.

During the 2013-14 season the Wildcats went 29-11, led by freshman Julius Randle, who was credited with 5.9 win shares, an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player because of his offense and defense. At $260,320 per win, that puts his value to the university at more than $1.53 million. By paying him $5,000, Kentucky gets full value after just four minutes of play.
Of course, that's an inexact figure, but it speaks to the value that a high caliber athlete brings to the bottom line of a school. That money goes to subsidize non-revenue generating sports (ie: tennis), to construct new buildings on campus, to fund general scholarships. Until now, the athletes responsible for generating that revenue saw none of that.

Soon, that will change. And that's a good thing.

Question: Is the ~$5,000 football and basketball players will get fair, or will this change the world of college athletics for the worse?

Monday, August 11, 2014

One Of My Nephews Was Murdered. The Other Is Heading To College.

[Editor's Note: I intended to write this about a year ago when the original incident happened. I couldn't then, today I am. If you need some insight into why I wrote what I did about the Mike Brown murder, I'd suggest you digest this.]

I had an 18 year old nephew.

Last summer, that 18 year old nephew (technically my second cousin) was gunned down while sitting on the back of a car in Ft. Myers, Florida. The assailant, who snuck up from behind the house and fired shots at the car, intended to shoot my nephew's friend. He accidentally squeezed the trigger at the wrong person, presumably because they both had the same hairstyle. I will not pretend that my nephew was a saint. He was not. He made some poor choices in life and hung with the wrong crowd. But he was attempting to turn his life around, get a job, and complete his GED when this happened.

As I flew to Florida for the funeral, I had to confront a lot of previously unprocessed feelings. I had last spoken with my nephew a few weeks earlier, not long after he'd finished a 6 month stint in the county jail for a crime he actually didn't commit (he was released and his record was expunged after the alleged victim changed his story). He seemed genuine in his goal to move forward, even as the bitterness of a lost half year of his life lingered. He asked me for money to get a driver's license. I said I would, then I got busy with my life and I never got back to him. I felt guilty about this. I felt guilty about a lot of things, actually.

My nephew was my spitting image as a child. He was smart, witty, funny, maybe a little too mischievous, but still, he was my buddy. When I'd take him out with me, people always assumed he was my kid, even though he was my cousin's, by a man I'd only met a couple of times and who bore no resemblance to me. As the years passed, I moved away from NC and saw him less often. His mom moved him to Florida, and I saw him even less. Between the time he was in my wedding as ring bearer (around 5-6 years of age) and the time I last saw him alive (he was maybe a preteen at this point) there wasn't much contact. The occasional phone call (usually for "I got a good report card!" money, which I gave when I could) was about it, until I found out he was in jail. From there, we reconnected, sending smail mail letters back and forth. I tried to encourage him, convince him to change his lifestyle. He gave me a the typical "I got this" brushoff that 17 years olds are apt to give, but some of it sunk in, I'm sure. Or at least I hoped it did.

Reality is, I couldn't do much for him. Physical distance aside, there were other rifts that were too large to bridge. He briefly lived by my brother and his family in Boston, but became such a disruption to the household that they sent him back. In Florida, he had chosen friends unwisely, made typical teenage decisions. The juvie stint wasn't warranted, but he'd done plenty else already to make himself familiar to those in local law enforcement. I would have loved to help my nephew. To get him out of Central Florida and move him to DC. To get him in better schools, with better support, and help him achieve a better outcome. But I have a life of my own, with demands of my own, a family of my own, problems of my own. I could have found time to get him the money for the driver's license. Maybe it would have helped him find a better job, an education, a way out. That, of course, never happened.

When I saw my nephew, in a casket, I barely recognized him. The bright, cheeky kid I'd last seen as a tween was gone. In his place, was someone I didn't recognize. At all. Survivor's remorse enveloped me like a wool blanket. Reality is, I didn't do more to help him. I'm not sure anything I could have done would have helped. But I didn't do enough.

Neither did the local cops, who in an ironic twist of fate, helped the person whom the bullets were intended for flee town for safety, then escorted him back into town for the funeral. And before you ask, yes, the guy whom the bullets were intended for knew who the shooter was. And no, he wasn't talking. And the cops also knew, but because the intended victim (and the others present when this happened) wasn't talking, they couldn't bring in the guy who did it. So I watched, in suspended disbelief, as the nigga who should have been in the casket, got police protection to come to my nephew's funeral. From a logical standpoint, this made sense. If the shooter came back to their original target, you'd want cops there. From any other standpoint, this was fucking insane.

And I couldn't take it. I left the burial, skipped the repast, and went back to my hotel. I couldn't bear the thought that the man who should have been dead (and who could help get the shooter locked up) was going to live, while my nephew's casket was being covered with dirt. Something about that reality was perverse. Disgusting. It made me feel both vengeful and depressed at the same time. It made me hate myself for not trying to do more to help my nephew, even while acknowledging that he was so deep in the lifestyle, so far gone, that nothing I did would I likely spared him the fate he met. Delayed, maybe. Prevent? unlikely.

I have an 18 year old nephew.

He is smart, witty, funny. On rare occasions when he was younger and my wife and I had him out in public, people would often mistake him for my child, which is kinda silly because we are related by marriage. He was also a ring bearer in my wedding, along with the aforementioned nephew.

Some days, when I sit alone with my thoughts, I am absolutely dumbfounded by how much their lives diverged since the only time the two of them met, some 13 years ago. While one nephew is in a grave, the other leaves for college, at my alma mater, to pursue the same degree as his uncle later this week. And I couldn't be prouder of him.

This nephew had advantages my other didn't. A two parent household. A safe neighborhood. Good schools. Constant reinforcement from those around him. I cannot pretend that I had any bearing in how he turned out. I was just his uncle, a guy helped a little at the end, with college applications and visits. That was about it. But in many ways, I feel like it's my son headed to AggieLand this weekend.

I just wish there were two of them.