DrMyers’s Blog

August 9, 2014

Jazz is Here to Stay

This blog was written in response to the opinion editorial “All that jazz isn’t all that great” written by Justin Moyer.

 

Jazz is (not) boring.

Jazz is (not) overrated.

Jazz is (not) washed up.

Anytime I see these words, without the added parentheses, starting off an opinion editorial, immediately I am reminded that our forefathers/mothers fought for the freedom of speech.  It is also my opinion that in there fighting, they would hope the generations that followed them would strive with even more ferver to have responsibility with this right.  Alas, I read the words chosen by Mr. Moyers as he begins a diatribe against a genre of music drenched in self expression…and I drop my head in shame.

The first Jazz album I heard came by accident.  While rummaging through some records at the home of my Grandparents, I stumbled upon a record that seemed different from the others.  It was thicker, visibly older, worn, and on one side simply read, “Gut Bucket Blues”  Little did I know, the sounds that I heard would evoke such emotion 70 years after it was first recorded, and leave such an impression on a 12 year old boy.

Since then my love of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Eubie Blake, Jack Teagrden has not only evolved, but aided me in my appreciation of musicians like Wynton Marsalis, Esperanza Spalding, Kris Bowers and Allyn Johnson.  Each person represents a snapshot of an era, and through their individual expression, a timeless, ageless story is told that transcends words and in some moments, demands change.

  1.  Jazz allows a story to be told in different forms

As a southerner, I appreciate a good story.  Some of the greatest stories I remember hearing were told over the Sunday dinner table.  Waiting in anticipation of a punch-line or a climax in a tale I had heard countless times from my Grandparents is still one of my fondest memories.  With that said, some of my soberest memories come from hearing the same tales, told by a family friend, my mother, or even when passing on the tale to other family members and friends for the first time.  Humans are unique, and even reading stories from a printed text, our voices, inflections, and tones differ adding a different flavor to the text.  Thus is Jazz.

How awesome it is to have heard Louis Armstrong’s version of “Stardust”!   You hear as he takes his trumpet and paints a picture for you with only tones from his instrument.  How equally touching is it to hear Mel Torme sing the lyrics of Stardust, in his twilight years, written by Hoagy Carmichael, some 60 years earlier.  Jazz gave freedom to artists of all genres to not be afraid to add their “flavor” to a song, not taking away any substance or meaning from the composer/lyricist.  If you don’t believe me, ask Aretha Franklin about her cover of “Respect” or Nikki Minaj about the work she put into her mixtapes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhLdBFGCkl4

         2. Improvisation encourages musicians to evolve

I am so thankful that the history of man did not stop with the discovery of fire.  With each generation, this concept was built upon.  Likewise it is with music.  When improvisation is captured, it allows other musicians to take one persons’ improvised expression, and to build upon it.

With improvisation, a new voice is given to the musician/composer to share his/her expression.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecyHa_lktnI

        3. Jazz Continues to Evolve

In the legal definition of “evolve” one finds that it also includes “preserving the good characteristics” and that change can be “random, generationally slow, good, bad or deadly.”  Evolution takes on different tones, in different times, to different people.

The expression of Jazz at one time was only regulated to speakeasies, gin joints, and back rooms.  Then, only in Dance Halls.  Festivals captured Jazz for a while, and then it stayed in school auditoriums or during special performances by Jazz originators.  Now you find Jazz, again, in small clubs and intimate venues, but this time with the invention of new instruments and tools to, again, express Jazz in a different or an “evolved” manor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_o2RS8WfcbY

        4.  Jazz is Radical

There were 8 recorded lynchings, not sure if there were others undocumented, in 1937 when the poem “Strange Fruit” was written.  When Billie Holiday recorded this with added music to the poem, the number of lynches had decreased to 3, but this terrible act was now introduced through the expression of Jazz to the world.  The honesty of the pain, disappointment and fear Holiday felt towards her country due to its lack of inaction and the continuation of the practice of lynching was, and is, overwhelming.  Her 1939 recording of this, in time, became her biggest selling record.

This courage has been adopted by other artists to use Jazz to speak up, out, and against injustice of people throughout the world.  “Mushy” is not the first or last word that comes to mind when I, and many others, try to describe Jazz.

 

       5.  Jazz is Re-emerging and Local

 

When I moved to Washington DC in 2008 I was surprised at the classic venues located here in the district that offered Jazz.  More venues have now opened their doors to Jazz.  The Capitol Jazz Festival now offers “Jazz in the Hood” showcasing the hundreds of local Jazz musicians in the District of Columbia.  You will find new festivals starting up every year across the country, and globe, to also showcase the growing number of jazz musicians, that bring with them the influence of their time along with new technology.

 

Trends  have been adopted and thrown away.  In the future we will view the fads and technology of today as we now view leisure suits, hoop-skirts, and the “View-Master”.  Jazz has not and shows no sign of being dead or on life support.  To borrow from Mark Twain, Rumors of its demise has been greatly exaggerated!

 

If you do not believe me, walk into a local restaurant or small venue and ask for their live music schedule.   You will be surprised just how “alive” Jazz is, and will continue to be!

 

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~Aaron Myers

Resident Artist

Black Fox Lounge

Washington DC

http://www.aaron2.me

@aaronmyers

June 10, 2014

1 year married 2 years Divorced, By Anttoni Lopez

Image

Anttoni Lopez

It is not often I run across a post on Facebook, or other social networks, that really captures my attention.  Today was a much different story!  As I scrolled through my newsfeed, I came across a post that not only captured my attention, but held my attention.  The story of self truth realized through a tough experience.  Letting his friends and followers into a personal journey that may be embarrassing for some to discuss, Actor, Best Selling Auther and founder of Natoni Cosmetics Anttoni Lopez shares the story of his personal relationship…and its end.

1 year married 2 years Divorced

By Anttoni Lopez

1 year married 2 years Divorced Written by Anttoni Lopez As I held the divorce papers in my hand all I could say was Did I fail? Did I try enough? Was it me? What happen? These are the questions I ask myself still till this day. This pain is a pain I never felt before. A feeling like your locked in a room and there is no way out. We started off dating March of 2011 I remember that day because that was the day you made your self known. You looked so handsome in your outfit and everytime I looked over my shoulder you was there. We didn’t exchange numbers that night, but I knew I would see you again.

Two weeks later we met at a mutual friends gathering and we hit it off. We talked for hours and forget everyone was there. We didn’t care because at that point we knew it was gonna be us. Before I left you that night you said to me “You know I’m going to marry you?” I laughed and said yea ok. By the 3rd week of March 2011 we officially became a couple. For the next 6 months everything was good and then we were selected to get married on the day the Same-Sex marriage bill was passed here in New York 7-24-11.

That day changed my life forever. All I ever dreamed about was being married, having a great career, and having my very own family. That changed! We would argue about anything and everything. At times it was just to much. Then 1 year later we had a big fall out and he packed his bags and moved out of our apartment. I was stuck and lost. I mean there was no cheating or lies on my part so why leave? For the next 4 months I tried everything and anything to win him back. I went to counseling and even tried to get marriage counseling for the both of us and it didn’t work. We went to one session and you told me I can’t do this no more.

I cried for so long because my life was falling apart. My career wasn’t going anywhere, my money was running low, my marriage was over, I lost friends I mean I didn’t have anyone. All I could do was turn to GOD and pray. What made it worst was that he was doing interviews and writing about me and our marriage calling it toxic and poisonous and I never mentioned anything about our marriage until now. I had to read all this from the man I say I do to and that made me feel like shit. It took me until March of 2014 to file for the divorce. I had to make the choice for me and my life.

The email I got from you after you got summoned for court was priceless. The part that hit me was this “THANK YOU for finally taking an initiative to resolve this broken union. I will be handling expeditiously. I am happy to be able to finally move on with my personal life and dedicate time to the person who has been by my side through this meandering transition of severing ties with you. If not for you, I would not have found my new relationship and real anchor in this journey of life.” Damn so you are still married and in a committed relationship? Sounds to me like adultery! Doesn’t it?

“I am very happy for you and your new found love” was what I said and it will be easier now for you to sign the divorce papers and for us to move on. In the past 2 years I have launched my own cosmetics line called Na~Toni cosmetics, I am working on my second book, and have been cast for some upcoming new films and projects, booking more photo shoots and fashion shows. Life couldn’t be better and I thank you for leaving me because I found a new me. All it took was 1 year of marriage and 2 years divorce for me to open my eyes.

 

What an amazing admission of self truth!  I do hope you too will find strength in this personal story shared with us.  It goes to prove that time stops for no person, and you determine what will be made of the time we all have left.

To learn more about Anttoni Lopez find him on Instagram @Anttoni_lopez / Twitter @Anttonilopez / Facebook Anttoni Lopez –  Www.natonicosmetics.com

 

 

 

June 3, 2010

We’ve Lost a Golden Girl! Goodbye Rue McClanahan!

Rue McClanahan

At 1am this morning, Rue McClanahan, who was recovering from a stroke she had earlier this year, suffered a massive stroke and passed away at the age of 76.

A Oklahoma native, Rue moved quite often due to her fathers job (road builder).  Rue was the classic example of staying the course.  Success was not immediate for this Golden Girl, but she sacrificed, tried to be the best mother she could, and eventually…notariety followed!

Many remember Rue’s appearance on the show “All in the Family” as a wife of a “swinger” couple, but many in the 70’s remember her from her character portrayal of Vivian Harmon, a naive but lovable next door neighbor of Maude (played by Bea Arthur and later future costar of the Golden Girls).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGgeK1TzQZA

However, much of her cult following comes from her portrayal of Blanche Devereaux in the hit 80’s sitcom “The Golden Girls”.  With her sass, southern accent, and love for the opposite sex (or just sex period!), she spiced up our TV Sets and reminded America that you could be Sexy and over 50!

All who knew her, rather it through the TV or by working with her, respected her, loved her, and are truly at a loss for words on this day. 

We’ve lost a Golden Girl today…and we are so thankful that she shared her Golden Light with us for a time.  Rest in Peace.

June 2, 2009

Are you Sirius?? One Stock that will Shock you!

span>sirius-xm_mergerAfter the serious upset on Wall Street, questions began to be asked by many Americans! Just as his two predecessors did before him, President Hoover went to the Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon (who would be considered a modern day Warren Buffet) to no avail. It had been speculated that “Short Selling” (the anticipation of making a profit from declining prices…expecting a drop in price. Selling the stock and buying it back later at a lower price leaves the difference as the profit). On November 23, 1929, The Economist asked: “Can a very serious Stock Exchange collapse produce a serious setback to industry when industrial production is for the most part in a healthy and balanced condition? … Experts are agreed that there must be some setback, but there is not yet sufficient evidence to prove that it will be long or that it need go to the length of producing a general industrial depression.” History later revealed that the experts were wrong, and it would only be World War II that would bring us out of the depression caused to the improprieties of those on Wall Street.


 


Just as the Economist was misguided, or shall we say wrong, in its publication almost eighty years ago, on Feb. 10th, the New York Times Reported that Sirius XM was in danger of filing for bankruptcy (implying a dire situation). Coming from such a trusted source (with its own stock dropping at the time, and the next month laying off 100 employees, cutting the salaries for the rest of the year by 5 percent) many share holders were surprised to hear that the company they had bought stock (NASDAQ: SIRI) at inviting rates, were decreasing while the company itself could boast in growth with a successful merger and an increase in subscribers. Something just was not adding up!


While the New York Times was letting go of employee’s, a press release came from the Sirius XM, with this quote from its president, “In the fourth quarter 2008, the company’s first full quarter of combined operations, SIRIUS XM made remarkable financial progress…For the first time in company history, we reached positive pro forma adjusted income from operations of $32 million, as compared with a loss of $224 million one year ago. Fourth quarter 2008 revenue of $644 million grew 16% over the year ago quarter while total cash operating expenses declined by 22%, a clear demonstration of our focus on improving profitability. Despite challenges in the overall economy and in the auto sector, we look forward to continuing to deliver on the synergies of the merger.” Can anyone remember what was happening around the last quarter of 2008? I can tell you! 1. GM, Chrysler, and Ford stood before Congress requesting a “Bail Out” 2. Bernie Madoff caused Billions of Dollars worth of damage to the pockets of investors due to his Ponzie Scheme and 3. Lehman Brothers was liquidated! What FACT would cause The New York Times, MSNBC, and other news channels to predict the demise (or bankruptcy filing) of their “Competition”, resulting in apparent stock fluctuations in the market?

With GM and Chrysler both declaring bankruptcy, common shareholders within Sirius XM Radio are asking questions, demanding answers, and not allowing other media outlets determine their fate, and why would they? With subscription rates second only to Comcast, Sirius XM appears to be a “Leader” in the industry, with no signs of letting up and neither is Liberty Media. Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei stated, “We are excited to be investing in Sirius XM. We have been impressed with the company, its operations and management team…Sirius XM’s ability to grow subscribers and revenue in a difficult financial and auto market is indicative of how listeners view this as a ‘must have’ service.”


This “Must Have” service is being defended in the new documentary “STOCK SHOCK: The Short Selling of the American Dream” http://stockshockmovie.com/ . Directed by Sandra Mohr and Narrated by Richard Keane, it appears as if they are taking pieces of the puzzle from Stock holders, industry professionals, pages of history, a glimpse of the future, and are carefully putting them all together. This documentary expounds upon how easily the public can be, and has been fooled by propaganda initiated through the NYSE, profiting only a few while causing millions of others to lose countless hours of sleep and money!


This documentary reveals the not so obvious future that many, who are in competition with this service, would rather the people overlook; Sirius XM Radio will be around as long as the United States Government is backing automobile warranties and IPhones are giving subscribers the option to listen to this service outside of the car. It is the observation of this blogger that Sirius XM will be taken much more Seriously within the upcoming months. With both Michael Moor (Untitled production and currently filming) and Oliver Stone (“Money Never Sleeps” in Pre-Production) preparing to come out with films, also dealing with the American Financial system in some aspect, “Stock Shock” appears to be a precursor to many untold truths finally revealed this year!

Perhaps a President who silently guided America through the “Roaring 20’s” could share some basic truth upon our situation:

Former US President Calvin Coolidge

Former US President Calvin Coolidge

“After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.”

May 18, 2009

Dr. Obama…I Mean…Mr. President!

notre dameWith a cool breeze coming from the St. Joseph River, excitement filled the air in South Bend, Indiana.  South Bend has come a long way since its “Fur Trading” days and now supports a population of over 300,000, with steep economic ties to its main draw…The University of Notre Dame.  Not surprisingly, the “Fighting Irish” was first an all male institution, just like many in its’ day, but today its founders would not have imagined, that an intelligent young lady would be giving the valedictorian address and representing the class of 2009.  I am quite sure that there was another player in today’s ceremonies that the founders did not have in mind; a pro life, African-American, United States President, receiving a honorary doctorate from a university shrouded in Catholic Tradition.  As the crowd descended upon the campus, all were there for different reasons, but all could not deny that one common thread tied their purposes together…Dr. Obama.

The act of awarding Honoarary Doctorate’s is a tradition that has been in practice since the Middle Ages.  Within the United States, we can see the practice affecting even our forefathers (Ben Franklin received an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Andrews in 1759 and the University of Oxford in 1762 for his scientific accomplishments.) Controversies surrounding these awards have been also become somewhat of a custom, especially in America.  

Students seemed to be up in arms when the Southampton College decided to bestow an honorary doctorate to a figure that had reshaped the lives of children across the world…Kermit the Frog. Although some students objected to awarding a degree to a Muppet, Kermit delivered an enjoyable commencement address and the small college received considerable press coverage.  On the 300th commencement ceremony at Yale University, it was thought only fitting that the sitting President and also former Yale graduate George W. Bush, be awarded an honorary doctorate;  walking out of the ceremonies, some students and teachers did not agree with the University.

The year’s old debate of pro-choice and pro-life fueled the fire of some protestors who protested outside of Notre Dame University as the President received his Honorary Doctorate.  Being fully aware of their concern, Barack Obama stated “head on” his stance and feelings regarding the matter, “Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions.  So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women.”

Although disrupted twice by hecklers, his message was received by those in which the message was intended to reach…the graduates.  Little was said regarding the demeanor kept by the graduating class, when protests began around the campus this past week.  Although interviewed by pundits and news anchors, the students approached this matter in a very mature manner…by welcoming the voice of a person that, although not always in agreement with, they were willing to pull out the nuggets of truth and wisdom from the advice he was willing to share with them on this, their historic moment.  

One may ask; Are the students that took part in the ceremony today, examples of the kind of diplomacy that we can expect to see in our future?  If so, can peace at home be a tangible reality as well as peace in the Middle East?

Perhaps Dr. Kermit the Frog stated this situation best, and how we can approach it:

 kermit

“…you are no longer tadpoles. The time has come for you to drop your tails and leave this swamp. But I am sure that wherever I go as I travel around the world, I will find each and every one of you working your tails off to save other swamps and give those of us who live there a chance to survive. We love you for it.”

Dr. Kermit the Frog

May 12, 2009

He’s Just Doing His Thing!: Miss California Retains Her Crown

 

Carrie Prejean - Miss California USA

Carrie Prejean - Miss California USA

Contests typically draw controversy.  At the present moment, Al Franken and Norm Coleman are currently winding down a very closely run contest for the Minnesota Senate seat.  Some controversies can last for decades, while others can last for days.  There are even instances where the public will never be aware of the controversies surrounding some contests whose results are made public.  

 

The latest Controversy, was in part brought to an end today, but raises some very interesting questions, and could affect the progress related to the agenda of Human/Civil Rights Campaigns.  

Today in a Press Conference, Donald Trump (Owner of the Miss USA/Universe Contest) announced that regardless of the public comments made by Miss California and Miss USA Runner up, Carrie Prejean, that she would retain her crown.  This decision came not 24 hours after the administrators of the Miss California Contest “fired” Ms Prejean, due to “Violation of Contract”.

During the Miss USA Pageant, blogger Perez Hilton , who was described as “doing his thing” by Donald Trump, asked a question regarding her support of Gay Marriage.  She responded, predicated with her intent not to offend anyone,  that in “My America” marriage is defined between a man and a woman.  Today, she was encouraged to reiterate her belief, aligning herself with the current belief of the President and Secretary of State (who was also a Presidential Candidate).  Supported by Mr. Trump (who refused to answer questions regarding his own personal belief on the subject) , Ms Prejean proudly encouraged others to use her experience as inspiration when standing up for their beliefs, regardless of the negative backlash that might accompany it.

A very serious question must now be posed:  When does one’s opinion regarding the Definition of Marriage infringe on the obstruction of civil liberties?  And; will the denial of Same-Sex marriage be looked at in the same manner as we look at inter-racial marriage today (which is still looked upon negatively in certain parts of the country).

One must remember that it was a little over 40 years ago, that it was still illegal for interracial couples to be married.  Leon Brazile (who was a trial judge in the case) echoed the rhetoric of German Physician Johann Frierich Blumenbach who stated, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”  The pivotal vote taken by the DC City Council to recognized such marriages, sparked the legislation that was seen before the Supreme Court, which in turn descended that, “Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

During the Press Conference, the President’s view of marriage was touted by both Mr. Trump and Ms Prejean.  Another important question must be posed:  Will President Obama support legislation to legalize Gay Marriage?  If he does not, does this make him as bigoted as those who did not support his candidacy because of his color?

Today, the celebrated “opinion” of Miss California, has placed the Human Rights Campaign in an awkward position.  They could use this decision to press the Gay Marriage Debate to the forefront to gain definite results, or they could regroup and reanalyze their stance on the subject, which could result in the whole subject to be dropped all together.  What do you think?

Perhaps a voice from the past could help shed light on this subject:

 

 

 

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

 

 

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. 

~Thomas Jefferson

Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk: Rush is a Big Boy, he can take it!

1963-streisand-jfk-90For 89 years, the White House Correspondents Association has been hosting a dinner at the Washington Hilton. Some of the biggest names our time have played this event, singing, dancing, and roasting the President of the United States. Jimmy Durante (and his nose) made the crowds laugh, while Bob Hope’s criticism was always taken in stride…he usually golfed with the President. Yakov Smirnoff had a unique play on words that tickled the funny bones of correspondents, while Al Franken was busy making as many friends with the core as possible (he would need their assistance in the future). None of these legendary performances were talked about in the media on Monday, it was the comments of Wanda Sykes and President Obama that took the show.

 

Wanda Sykes made comments during her big night, that some considered a step too far, about one of the most outspoken conservative radio talk show hosts in America, Rush Limbaugh.  A reference to a remark made by Limbaugh at the beginning of the President’s term, caused Sykes to weight in on what sounded like a personal opinion of Rush Limbaugh.  While in a statement Limbaugh stated that he hoped the President fails, Sykes gave her remedy in the hopes that the radio host’s kidney’s would fail.  This joke received mixed reactions, but no one from the correspondence dinner left the event in protest, or even disgust.  Sykes was congratulated for giving a “stellar” performance, and the night went on.  

When does a joke go too far??  One may ask, if the word “joke” is replaced in that question, perhaps we could get to the bottom of a lot of problems.  For instance:

When does policy go too far?

When does bigatry go too far?

When does war go too far?

When does torture go too far?

There are many questions, once again I reiterate, that must be answered long before we question the seriousness of “Jokes” told about a man who is accused weekly of offending at least 1,000 people.  For an example;

On the October 23, 2006 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh imitated on the “Ditto Cam” (the webcam for website subscribers to see him on the air) the physical symptoms of actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease. He said “(Fox) is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He’s moving all around and shaking and it’s purely an act … This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn’t take his medication or he’s acting.”

 With the boldness to criticize the disabled, I think Rush Limbaugh does not need the press to “stand-up” for him…he’s a big boy!

While journalists today debated whether or not Wanda Sykes took her jokes to far; U.S.-born journalist Roxana Saberi was set free today after an Iranian appeal court cut her eight-year jail sentence for spying to a suspended two-year term. Saberi, a former Miss North Dakota, looked thin and tired at Sunday’s hearing. Last week, her father said she had ended a two-week hunger strike and was “very weak.” The judiciary denied she had refused food, and said she was in good health.  

Althought correspondents had the chance today to reflect on a “risque” joke they heard while enjoying some fantasic food and being surrounded by celebrities, Saberi was in prison, refusing food, and listening to the daunting noise of imprisonment…my how our priorities have fallen.

Priorities in the media vary, but regardless of how far the envelope is pushed, comedy will still be comedy.  Perhaps that great comedian could shed some light on how to view the status of this situation:

Lenny Bruce

Lenny Bruce

 

 

 

“Satire is tragedy plus time. You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers will allow you to satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it”       ~Lenny Bruce

 

May 11, 2009

Where do we go from here: A Night of Laughs!

corrOnce again, Washington DC received many west coast visitors.  On Saturday Night, President Obama was given the opportunity to do give remarks in front of most of Hollywood’s A-list talent and correspondents from every network.  Followed by Wanda Sykes, both have been given very high marks in the media for their performances.  While the world took a breather from the whirlwind of H1N1 and torture talk, we sat back and heard a few good one-liners, and for a second, the sheer amusement of our government was remedy enough to calm the minds of few, and strike the funny bone of many.

In America, we have used the arts to mask, cope, and address problems that plague and threaten our way of life.  The surge of the movie industry occurred as people needed an escape from the everyday reality of the depression.  Rock & Roll articulated the “new & improved” outlook of the 1950’s youth in comparison to the conservative upbringing of their parents.  During the late 60’s R & B began to articulate the displeased views of America’s youth regarding Vietnam, and that administration’s handling of the conflict.   Studio 54 flourished in the 1970’s, as the old guard once again was cast aside, and many minorities were finding their place and voice in that disco filled society.  The Rock Music of the 1980’s described Generation X, and how society misread and/or misunderstood their wants, desires, and motivations.  With rap music making a significant imprint on the 90’s, teens and young adults alike began to describe their emotions through poetry spoken in sync to different rhythms of music.  As we have entered the new millennium, youtube and itunes being blasted from iphones and ipods.  The current trend of headphones coming from pocket sized devices are seen regularly,  as today’s modern man/woman can pick and choose what trend in music, movies, and comedy they would personally like to identify themselves with.

Although, the President and many others were able to, for just a night, look at the lighter sides of the current situation, one harsh reality will be facing Americans as Monday Morning rises in the distance.  The unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent from 8.5 percent in March, the highest in more than a quarter-century.  President Obama has recognized that this financial problem was indeed years in the making, and he is predicting that it could take months (even years) to come out of the current recession. 

Stress tests given to the 19 largest banking institutions, which the reports were less severe than some experts had been preparing for, revealed: (see link below)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124182311010302297.html#project%3DSTRESSTESTDOCS0905%26articleTabs%3Dinteractive

 The test results showed that the 19 banks faced a total of $599 billion in losses over the next two years under the government’s worst-case, Depression-like scenario. 

These tests has also brought about deadlines for banks, in which consequences for deadlines not met have not been laid out by congress as of yet.  Congress has directed the banks as follows:  Any tested bank needing to boost its capital buffer will have until June 8 to develop a detailed capital-raising plan and until November 9 to implement that plan.  Some banks have already begun this task, with Wells Fargo raising 7.5 billion dollars in stock through a public offering. Other banks have made plans to fill their capital holes by tapping public markets. 

One must keep in mind, that the banks have not been the only dire, important factor negatively impacted by the current turn of economic affairs.  The Baby Boomer Generation is chomping at the bit for ways to keep their homes, cars, and ways of life somewhat intact during the dreadful time.  Since December 2007, the number of Americans over 55’s in work has risen more than 800,000.  Many baby-boomers have been forced to re-enter the workforce after losing their retirement and/or pension funds.  One may ask, how has age discrimination played out in the competition for work since the start of this recession, and if Affirmative action will survive the backlash of this recession.

Nonetheless, in this American Culture, we have coined the phrase, “Laughter is the Best Medicine”; but will Laughter be enough to treat the American Economy and the effects it is having on its citizens…only time will tell.

I have always learned that it’s best to learn from people who have lived through situations such as this before, and a little wisdom just may share a little light to us from our Allies across the Atlantic.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.    

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt

 


 

 

May 8, 2009

“Let Me Make Myself Perfectly Clear”: I’ll never tell!

 

Nancy Pelosi - Speaker of the United States House of Representatives

Nancy Pelosi - Speaker of the United States House of Representatives

The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is a coveted position by many politicians. Landmarks around Washington and the United States have been built to honor these great politicians of old. Hailed for their abilities to turn ideas into law, to craft and implement policies, to keep their party’s in check and voting along the proper lines; this role is an important and influential role that can influence the laws that are passed, and the policies that are implemented. Third in line for the presidency if anything unfortunate happens, one must be careful of who fills this position, and parties select as carefully as possible when electing the Speaker to articulate their voices.

 

In years past, we have had some Mice (Howell Cobb, who led the secessionist movement, and is considered to be one of the founders of the Confederacy) and Titans (Joseph Cannon, who was on the first cover of Time Magazine on his last day in office) who have banged that powerful gavel. A little unknown fact about this position is that one does not have to be serving in the House of Representatives to be elected to this position (which I at times believe would be a commodity). Also, it is not often seen, that one is elected to this position within his/her first session; but this has happened before in the past, and the gentleman who filled this position partly crafted the role as Speaker into what it is known to be today. Henry Clay laid the framework to this the role as Speaker of the House as we know it. Followed by Joseph Cannon and Sam Rayburn, the Capitol now boasts a speaker who is a first for this generation, and regardless of politics or party; The First Female Speaker of the House will open doors for many others to follow through.

Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is serving as the Speaker for the 111th Congress of the United States, and as of late, her integrity (along with many others) has been in question. On April 23, Ms. Pelosi told reporters “we were not, and I repeat, were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation techniques were used.” Rather, she said, she recalled being told by the CIA that the techniques “could be used, but not that they would.” With the growing public’s distaste towards the government’s use of “Water boarding”, fingers have been pointed towards, who knew what, when, and why they not spoke up against it. When asked if they were informed, some members of congress (including Speaker Pelosi) stated that they knew about it, but did no know it was in

use.http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/WSJ_JusticeMemo_090507.pdf

In a report released by the CIA, Congressional leaders were briefed in detail about techniques used in the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation program. This report displays the most thorough
information the CIA has on dates, locations, and names of all Members of Congress who were briefed by the CIA on enhanced interrogation techniques. According to these documents, Speaker Pelosi (who was, at that time, the highest ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee) was one of the first to know about the techniques.

One question that should be asked now, is if this “Change” and “Transparency” heralded by these representatives towards President Obama, will spill over to the Capitol Building, and into the halls of congress. Regardless of party, the American People, in my mind, are tired of the finger pointing which only covers the truth behind the misdeeds performed by those sent to represent us. When and where will this be stopped.

 
 While, in this case, Republican members of congress have taken this opportunity to pounce on the Speaker, and stated last month that congress was informed early on about these techniques; these same Republicans were unable to go further on and state that these techniques were not procedures that adequately or respectively represent the United States of America…all except one (and it wasn’t Arlen Specter).

John McCain and Barack Obama DO agree on this statement….Torture (in any form) is Wrong! As he stated in Newsweek, “Our commitment to basic humanitarian values affects–in part–the willingness of other nations to do the same. Mistreatment of enemy prisoners endangers our own troops who might someday be held captive. “Barack Obama has deemed Water boarding as an unacceptable form of interrogation (or in other words Torture). It is for the safety of our soldiers, currently engaged in battle on foreign soils, and it is to uphold our agreement with the UN, that we do not torture. Regardless of how we feel the “enemy” would deal with Americans as captives; The American Government gave its word to the United Nations and to its people that it would not engage in torture. To utilize these vile techniques, will further ruin the integrity of this country…in which faith is currently being restored day by day.

Still waiting for the Republican Party to find its voice, and waiting for the Democrats in Congress to show bi-partisanship; The American People need a CLEAR answer from both parties, and these answers should be congruent with the agreement we signed with the United Nations.

Nonetheless, we as a nation can make it through this period, and the words from a former Speaker of the House might just help us see the way:

 

Our country–whether bounded by the St. John’s and the Sabine, or however otherwise bounded or described, and be the measurements more or less;–still our country, to be cherished in all our hearts, and to be defended by all our hands. 

Robert Charles Winthrop

Robert Charles Winthrop

May 7, 2009

Bad Advice to the President: Will Lawyers Pay the Piper?

 

Velma Sanders (My Grandmother) b.1917

Velma Sanders (My Grandmother) b.1917

I can remember running and playing with friends in the country.  Growing up in a small town (Goodlow, Texas; population 312) neighbors and family were plenty, and dirt roads were vast.  Sometimes I can remember climbing down in the creek bed, and following it all the way out by my Aunt Emma’s house (1912- 2002), after which the journey home would began, and there was always a tough decision to make.  We could go straight home or we could go home…but with detours.  Now this individual decision was made with deep thought and consultations with the guys, which eventually lead to mischief, causing something memorable to happen and we would then go home.

 

 

On one occasion, I was with my cousin, and we planned to do the usual, but Aunt Emma instructed us differently.  I will never forget it; Aunt Emma was from the “old-school” and she was about 5’0 (if she was an inch), and always wore an apron.  She made it perfectly clear, that if we were to go away from the house that we wouldn’t stop by Uncle Jay’s her brother (1908-2000).   See, Uncle Jay and Aunt Carrie (Married 1935) were great cooks from the good old days!  Typically, when us kids would stop by there, we would fill up on fresh cake and a big glass of milk, which consequently would ruin us for dinner.   Well, my cousin and I set out, and as we were headed back, we decided (after much deliberation) to just pay a little visit to Uncle Jay and Aunt Carrie.  Sure enough, we ate to our hearts content, and then walked back to Aunt Emma’s.  On the way home, I told him to make sure that he didn’t mention the whole “dropping by Uncle Jay’s” and he stated with a grin, “You know I won’t say nothing!”.  Now, little did we know, Trey had left an article of clothing there at Uncle Jay’s, and Aunt Carrie thought it would be responsible to call Aunt Emma, and let her know!  Aunt Carrie told Aunt Emma, “ not to scold Trey for losing the article of clothing, that it was safe with her.”

This reminds me of the current status in which the Bush Administration and their lawyers are in.  Being aware of torture as a means of interrogation used by governments to attain information from Prisoners, the US signed an agreement with the United Nations stating that we would not engage in torture; after consulting with their lawyers, the Bush Administration used a technique called Water boarding ( which was used during WWII on our soldiers, and a technique we deemed as torture at that time) and, according to Condaleeza Rice, if the President approved…it wasn’t breaking the Law (just like Nixon).  When asked by the American Public, we were told the truth…but not the whole truth.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, at the center of the frenzy are four detailed legal analyses, “The memos, written by Justice Department lawyers in 2002 and 2005 and recently declassified and released, read as you would expect them to. The individuals writing them were reflecting their own interpretation of the law, their own policy views, and quite possibly the policy preferences of their bosses.”  

This problem is a clear representation of what happens when one branch of government, tries to act without proper checks and balances.  Clearly, this method of interrogation was not to be decided upon by just lawyers who were advising the president, or interpreting the law (which is the job of the Supreme Court).  As a result, being that the Executive Branch took it upon their selves to act independently, our reputation was tarnished both at home and abroad.  The question which is now being asked by many, is if the lawyers who gave this advice to the administration, will be prosecuted; or will anyone else from the Bush Administration pay some sort of price if they are found to have broken the law.  

Well, to answer that question, I should finish my story from earlier. .. 

As we walked into the 6 room house, the questions began, and we played it cool.  We told her everything that we did, save the whole Uncle Jay thing.  As I began to walk out, Aunt Emma grabbed me, and said a simple phrase (after giving me a good pop)…,”I’m going to call Velma (my grandmother b.1917) and tell her what you did.”  Now I knew Granny (as I called her) did not want me going over to Uncle Jay’s, and at this point, I was simply scared to walk home.

When I stepped onto the porch, my Grandmother met me there, and she didn’t just talk to me.  She whooped my behind, and told me that “grown folk” make rules for good reasons.  And if I decided to break those rules, I’d have to “Pay the Piper”, just as I did by taking the spanking.

The UN made rules, we broke them knowingly (especially sine we hired lawyers to help us go around the agreement) and those responsible must pay the consequences.  

 

As stated by a great American General:

 

 

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

~ Dwight D Eisenhower  

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