The Queen Is Dead: Long Live The Queen’s Music!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Today we observe the King of Pop’s 60thbirthday. I memorialized his transition in a blog post July 1, 2009. He died June 25, 2009, after having taken several drugs prescribed and/or administered by his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray. In the 12 months after his death, Jackson sold more than 8.2 million albums in the United States and 35 million albums worldwide, making him the best-selling albums artist of 2009. Even in death, he was still the King.

Twenty days ago, we observed Whitney Houston’s 55thbirthday. I memorialized her transition in a blog post February 15, 2012. She died February 11, 2012, having drowned in a bathtub. The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office reported that an autopsy of Ms. Houston’s body also showed that the “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use” contributed to her death.

This Friday, Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, will be funeralized in Detroit, Michigan, her hometown. Ms. Franklin died August 16, 2018 due to Pancreatic Cancer. She was 76 years old. Today is the second of two days that she will lie in state at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in the Motor City. Friday’s funeral will take place at Greater Grace Temple, also in Detroit.

Various reports note that long lines have been queued up for an opportunity to view the legendary singer’s remains. Her body is adorned in a red dress and heels, representing Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, of which the Queen of Soul is an Honorary Member. She is ensconced in a gold coffin.

Unlike Mr. Jackson or Ms. Houston, Ms. Franklin exceeded the Biblical longevity standard of three score years and ten. She was not only blessed with a relative abundance of years; she also enjoyed a musical career that spanned over six decades. Her successful musical portfolio includes numerous awards and nominations. Below is a list of a number of her awards:

  • Won18 Grammy Awards
  • Won 3 Grammy Special Awards (Legend Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, MusiCares Person of the Year)
  • Won 3 American Music Awards
  • Won 3 NAACP Image Awards
  • 1987 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (First Female Inductee)
  • 1994 Kennedy Center Honors
  • 1999 National Arts Medal
  • 2005 Presidential Freedom Medal
  • 2005 UK Music Hall of Fame Inductee
  • 2012 GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame Inductee
  • 2015 Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame Inductee
  • 2018 YouGov US Poll – Voted The Most Popular Female Artist in America

I could go on, of course, but instead of indulging myself and writing more about the Queen of Soul, I will instead leave you with a treat in the package of a compendium of her very best work: Queen Is Dead: Long Live The Queen’s Music!

I’m done; holla back!

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Trump, His Friends And Supporters Had A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

11th Anniversary Edition

It’s time to Break It Down!

There are millions of Americans who consider themselves patriots, and who believe Donald Trump is heroic. Michael Cohen used to be one of those people. He was so enthralled by The Donald that he spent years as his “fixer,” personal attorney, and on at least one occasion, he declared he would “take a bullet for Mr. Trump.” Yesterday, in a stark about-face, Cohen admitted he made illegal campaign contributions…at Donald Trump’s behest. Oh yeah, that was after he pled guilty to campaign finance violations.

As if Trump’s former personal attorney pleading guilty and implicating him in the process didn’t make for a bummer of a day, another one of Trump’s best people (he hires only the best people), Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager, was convicted in a Northern Virginia courtroom on 8 counts of financial crimes. The breakdown of the counts included:

  • 5 Charges of tax fraud
  • 1 Charge of hiding foreign bank accounts
  • 2 Charges of bank fraud

If maximum sentences for each charge were applied, it would yield Manafort, who is 70 years old, 80 years in prison. Sentencing experts say it’s unlikely he’ll receive the max, and that he could get as little as 10 years, which for a 70 year-old, is still no small matter. Federal sentencing guidelines require serving at least 85% of the term, which for a 10-year sentence would translate to 8 and half years. These numbers are not indicative of actual sentencing decisions; just an example of terms that might be applied in Manafort’s case. Of course, the reality is, Manafort may be banking, no pun intended, on a Presidential pardon.

In his best deflect, divert, and yes, deceive style, Donald Trump revels in calling any reporting he doesn’t like, especially reporting about himself, fake news, hoaxes, witch hunts, or as Kellyanne Conway said, alternative facts. Clearly that applied to virtually every story that emanated from any media source other than Fox News, if those stories covered Cohen, Manafort, and Trump’s relationship with either or both. The same truism was invoked regarding reports about George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, and Rick Gates. Just for the record, all five of those “President’s Men” have now either pleaded guilty, or been convicted of a variety of crimes that render them all felons.

The temptation, or perhaps in reality, self-centered rationalization of Trump supporters is always…it doesn’t have anything to do with Trump, or it has nothing to do with collusion, or there was no conspiracy with Russia…or it has nothing to do with the price of tea in China. OK, I threw in the last one for levity. Well, Mr. Cohen, who likely knows better than most where the various skeletons are hidden, has proffered a different possibility.

Oh, I know his word will not suffice for the denizens of TrumpWorld, at least one of whom admits he’d take Trump’s word over that of Jesus. Frankly, I’m not that concerned about the reticence of the Trumpophiles. I tend to believe over time, that the steady drumbeat of factual revelations will persuade a majority of reasonable Americans that “The Emperor Has No Clothes.”

The entire episode known as the Trump Presidency is a farce that will eventually implode and fall from the burden of its own weight. Granted that may take four, or even possibly 8 years. But by and by, the politicos and citizens who insist in supporting him, despite his corrupt tendencies, constant misstatements, cyber bullying, and uber casual belligerence, will find themselves on the wrong side of history. And lest anyone think this represents some kind of endpoint, I don’t know how to put it to you, other than to just come right out and say, it doesn’t. While prosecutors must decide whether to re-try Manafort on the 10 charges for which the jury couldn’t reach a verdict, he actually still faces a September trial in Washington, DC. There the charges include:

  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States
  • Failure to register as a foreign agent
  • Money laundering
  • Witness tampering
  • Making false statements

Early prognostications are that charges stemming from any possible D.C. Court convictions could be even lengthier than those from Alexandria. The array of charges and the way sentencing guidelines are applied will affect the final outcome.

Yesterday, at about the same time Manafort was learning his fate, i.e., that he was found guilty on 8 charges, in Alexandria, VA, Michael Cohen was pleading out in NYC on his own 8-pack of charges, including:

  • Tax fraud
  • False statements to a bank
  • Campaign finance violations

Cohen faces up to 65 years in jail. In light of Cohen’s decision to plead, he and the prosecution avoid the specter of a trial. Alternately, the deal creates a significant complication for Donald Trump. As part of Trump’s inner circle for more than a decade, Cohen served as Trump’s personal counsel at the Trump Organization, and continued to advise him after the election. The relationship began to fray after the FBI raided Cohen’s office, hotel room, and home in April. Earlier this summer, the man who once said he’d take a bullet for Trump told ABC news that his loyalty is to his family and country first, not the President.

It is worth noting that Cohen’s plea deal does not include cooperation with Mueller. Because of this, it is unclear whether he will follow through with previous assertions that he would talk to Mueller.

In the hours following their respective legal revelations, Mr. Trump had a lot to say about Paul Manafort, and zero, zilch, and zip to say about Michael Cohen. While it may be conceivable that Cohen will seek to repair his relationship with Trump in hopes of gaining a Presidential pardon of his own, it seems like a long shot. If, however, in the final analysis, it works for Donald Trump, in the view of Donald Trump, it is certainly still a possibility.

Some observers might consider yesterday the worst day of the Trump Presidency. In one news report, the contemporaneous Manafort/Cohen conviction/plea was characterized as the single worst hour of the Trump Presidency. Those things may or may not be true. Meanwhile, what is certain is that, yesterday, Trump, His Friends And Supporters Had A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!”

I’m done; holla back!

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Did He Really Write That? Yes He Did! Sad, Right?

In a tweet, the man who claims he hires only the best people called one of his former employees a crazed, crying lowlife. He didn’t stop there. More about that in a moment. The subject of those acerbic assertions is Omarose Onee Manigault-Newman, familiarly known as Omarosa. She served in the Trump White House, until last December, as one of Trump’s most highly paid staffers.

In one of the administration’s numerous media spectacles, Omarosa was fired by Chief of Staff John Kelly. She, in turn, has written a book, “Unhinged,” released, yesterday, that purports to reveal a number of details about the inner workings of Team Trump. Not surprisingly, many of the tell-all memoir’s assertions are gossip-filled and unflattering to Mr. Trump.

In the reflexive way that Trump does, naturally he fired back. Even had he stopped at crazed, crying lowlife (he did not), there are critics who would insist that this is yet another example of the Racial-Slurer-in-Chief spouting one more takedown of a prominent African American. And said critics would have a substantive argument. Did I mention, however, that he did not stop there? He went on to tie a bow of closure on the tweet by calling Mrs. Manigault-Newman a dog.

Just so you can see the tweet in its entirety for yourself, here it is:

Donald J. Trump

“When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”
7:31 AM – Aug 14, 2018


71.5K people are talking about this

This one is pretty basic and just as clear. Did Donald Trump just call a black female a dog? Let’s understand that there is specific nomenclature for female dogs. Before you suggest that may be reaching, fall back, and consider his calling black football players sons-of-bitches…who should be fired. So, am I implying that he, in effect, called Mrs. Manigault-Newman a black b___h? I’m not implying anything. However, if you infer that’s what he meant, I understand. You can decide for yourself what he meant when referring to Omarosa. I won’t even deign to debate the point.

Meanwhile, in a White House administration that we now know has never had even one African American with an office in the West Wing (Thanks for the clarification Parris Dennard), yesterday the press secretary was unable, or at the very least, unwilling, to assert that there are no recordings of Trump using the N-word. In the words of Childish Gambino, “This Is America!”

During the course of yesterday’s press briefing, Sarah Sanders was asked if any recordings exist on which Trump is recorded using the N-word? Sanders said Tuesday that she could not “guarantee” that there are no recordings of President Donald Trump using the N-word.

“I’ve never heard him use that term or anything similar,” Sanders said in response to a series of questions from NBC’s Kristen Welker about whether he’s ever used the racial slur. Asked if she could promise that Americans would never hear him say it on a recording, she declined. “I can’t guarantee anything, but I can tell you the president addressed this question directly,” she said, though she acknowledged that she had never asked him the question herself.

If you have watched many of Sanders’ press briefings, you might be surprised at the number of questions she acknowledges she has never asked Mr. Trump. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure whether that ritual is a function of a timely game of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” or more broadly, a question of both of them assuming a posture of “ignorance is bliss.” In either event, it’s a curious thing.

There are a great many people who support Donald Trump. Some of them support him enthusiastically, and many of those support him regardless of what he does, or says, and a sizable segment of those, when confronted with deeds and words even they cannot defend, just pivot, and adopt the Trump mantra, calling any such examples fake news, and or hoaxes. God bless America…and God help those people.

Did He Really Write That? Yes he did. Sad, Right? I’m done; holla back!
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Trump’s Peculiar Relationship With Race Matters: A Long Term Trend

It’s time to Break It Down!

American bigots, racists, and white nationalists have a long and storied history of attacking African Americans as lacking intelligence, having low I.Q., and in general, being dumb. A number of folks, including Charles Murray, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center has rebuked for “using racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor,” have gained substantial notoriety for their promotion of so-called “race science. ”Murray, a political scientist, co-authored a book in 1994, with psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life,” in which he claimed that poor people, blacks in particular, are inherently less intelligent than whites or Asians. Murray further claimed that people with low I.Q. are found more frequently in nonwhite communities.

In the mid-60’s, physicist William Shockley sparked controversy by arguing that there might be genetic reasons why black people in the United States often score lower on I.Q. tests than white people. In 1969, educational psychologist Arthur Jensen published a long article with the suggestion that compensatory education had failed to that date because of genetic group differences. Of course, such theories predate the 20th century. In the 18th century, philosophers and scientists, including VoltaireDavid HumeImmanuel Kant, and Carl Linnaeus, proposed the existence of different mental abilities among the races.

This post, however, is not intended to spike or debunk the likes of the theories espoused by Murray, or Jensen, or Voltaire, or Kant, or any of the others noted above. While socioeconomic factors, and patterns of socialization readily account for most if not all those distinctions, this blog focuses on a 21st century maven of misinformation, and more importantly, mischaracterization of race matters. Donald Trump has managed for nearly 50 years to distinguish himself as someone with a precarious grasp on appropriate and respectful racial engagement. Want examples? Here’s ten:

  • Maxine Waters – “very low IQ.”
  • Don Lemon – “Dumbest man on television
  • LeBron James – “He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!” (A twofer, denigrating both Lemon and James, and daring Michael Jordan to side with him…which actually would have been intellectually questionable).
  • Barack Obama – “Was a terrible student,” questioned how he could have been admitted to Columbia or Harvard, and suggested Obama release his school records to prove he was intelligent enough to get into these Ivy League schools.
  • White nationalists/people protesting white nationalists – “There were very fine people on both sides.”
  • African Countries and Haiti – S-hole countries
  • Early in his Real Estate career, Trump was sued by the federal government for refusing to rent apartments to blacks. He would eventually settle the suit (after fighting it for two years) without admitting guilt, but being required to place ads in newspapers saying he welcomed black applicants, and that he would familiarize himself with the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discrimination.
  • The Central Park 5 – Trump took out full page ads in 5 major NY newspapers calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty after four blacks and a Latino were convicted of raping a Central Park jogger. A subsequent confession by another man, in conjunction with DNA evidence proved conclusively that they did not do it. They were released from jail and awarded $41 million for time served. Trump persisted in insisting that their convictions should have stood.
  • His employees – The New Jersey Casino Control Commission fined the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino $200,000 in 1992 because managers would remove African American card dealers at the request of a certain big-spending gambler.
  • Birther-in-Chief – Trump was the leading proponent of the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in America

In evaluating how Donald Trump approaches race, his supporters are adamant about one thing. They aver with great conviction, he is no racist. At first blush, it appears they view him as a proxy for themselves. In such a context, it is impossible for them to concede that he is a racist…without admitting that they too are racist. While no such nexus was suggested, it’s as if they are playing chess, and thinking and visualizing several moves ahead. The assertion may not have been made, but, as sure as they drop their guard, they seem certain that they are next in line.

This is always a conversation with which I find great humor. Watching an individual twist him or herself into contortions as they try to explain why “I should not believe my lying eyes and ears” is just plain entertaining, at a very high level. Interestingly, many of his supporters have stopped saying he doesn’t lie. Frequently! That one, I suppose, has simply become too high a standard to achieve. Fact checkers at the New York Times have calculated that his lying quotient is around 7 per day, and actually numbers in the thousands. I guess that says even they find lying more acceptable than racism.

In conclusion, regarding the question of whether Donald Trump is an unreconstructed racist, I’m perfectly comfortable encouraging readers to review the bulleted evidence above, and draw your own conclusion. Please understand that those ten items do not represent a Top 10, or the definitive most egregious, or a priority ordered list, and are absolutely, positively not an exhaustive collection. Nope, they are just ten examples spanning 45 years (and parts of 5 different and consecutive decades) illuminating the words and behaviors of the guy who describes himself as a stable genius. Be he a genius or a simpleton, this is a brief summary of Trump’s Peculiar Relationship With Race Matters: A Long Term Trend!”

I’m done; holla back!

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Ghost Guns: Next Level Weaponry

It’s time to Break It Down!

I have written on numerous occasions about the improvidence associated with the positions of the NRA and the gun lobby regarding the ease of access in acquiring firearms. After virtually every time there is a mass shooting, a vicious cycle ensues. First there is a great hue and cry against the shooter, usually followed by an assertion that the individual(s) was troubled, and or suffered from mental illness, which is then buttressed by a fervent pushback courtesy of the NRA, and gun & second amendment enthusiasts.

There is a certain rinse and repeat nature to it all. Well, don’t look now, but certain interests have endeavored to elevate the vicious cycle to hyper drive. Beginning today, thanks to the Trump Administration striking a court deal, individual citizens were on track to start producing Do-It-Yourself (DIY) 3D-printed guns. That’s right, effective August 1st, a commercially available software blueprint could enable people to make their own guns using ABS plastic resin and a 3D printer. The process was green-lighted via a court settlement between the blueprint designer and the U.S. State department. Not surprisingly, gun rights advocates celebrated the decision.

Alan Gottlieb, Second Amendment Foundation Founder and Executive Vice-President, said:

“Not only is this a first amendment victory for free speech, it also is an end to the gun prohibition lobby.”

Defense Distributed, the company backing the blueprint crowed:

“The age of the downloaded gun lobby formally begins.”

Conversely, gun control advocates were alarmed. Nick Suplina, managing director of law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety stated:

“The settlement was incredibly dangerous.” He further implored the State Department to continue to block the publication of deadly information. This settlement would enable convicted felons and domestic abusers to download schematics online and print their own illegal and untraceable guns.”

The lawsuit was the result of a software file developed by a University of Texas law student, Cody Wilson. The blueprint was that of a single-shot 3D printed handgun, code named “The Liberator.” The State department initially ordered Wilson to cease and desist his work, arguing that making the blueprint available would be a violation of arms export statutes.

Wilson, a libertarian at heart, quickly evolved from seeing himself as a hobbyist to adopting the mind set of a full-fledged crusader. As he described it:

“All I tried to do in law school was print a pistol and put it on the Internet (he told the Guardian in 2016). Now I’m on a ride I can’t get off.”

Wilson sued on the grounds that his design was protected by the first amendment. He founded a non-profit, Defense Distributed. To celebrate the settlement, he tweeted an image of flowers laid at a plaque in memory of “American gun control.”

Just when it looked as though insanity might reign, a court stepped in and blocked this irresponsible action. But before I get to the good news, there are a few points about the DIY gun that I’d like to share.

• Wilson principally funded his legal battle with proceeds from the sale of products which allow for DIY production of metal framed “ghost guns,” which do not have serial numbers and are not subject to traditional gun control laws.

• Defense Distributed sells users an “80% lower” – a piece of metal the government deems is only 80% of a gun – and a milling machine that can, with a PC and the right software, bring the gun into completion.

• The company describes the milling on its website as a way to “legally manufacture unserialized rifles and pistols in the comfort and privacy of home.

• With The Liberator and other 3D printed guns, including AR-15 style rifles, users will not need a prefabricated “80% lower.” They will be able instead to construct virtually an entire gun with any 3D printer and enough ABS plastic resin.

• The gun does require a metal firing pin to operate. An additional piece of metal is included in the blueprint, to ensure compliance with the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act.

The Obama Administration, out of an abundance of concern about making it easier to produce plastic guns, had used export laws to ban the foreign distribution of firearms to prevent publication of the blueprints. However, in true Trump fashion, the current administration’s State Department, in its reflexive drive to undo all things Obama, cleared the way for Wilson to usher in what his website calls “the age of the downloadable gun.”

That age was scheduled to begin today, when he would start uploading instructions. Enter a Seattle federal judge, who yesterday granted a temporary nationwide injunction blocking Mr. Wilson from executing his plan. Judge Robert S. Lasnik, a United States District Court Judge, faced with dire warnings about an imminent risk to public safety from alarmed public officials across the country, acted to block Wilson.

Attorneys general from eight states and the District of Columbia filed a joint lawsuit to stop the ghost guns. After hearing arguments from both sides, Judge Lasnik said the lawyers bringing the suit had established “a likelihood of irreparable harm” and of success on the merits. He set a follow-up hearing for August 10 in his Seattle courtroom.

Clearly, this is not the end of the conversation. DIY ghost guns may still make their way onto the scene in just a matter of days. In addition to the injunction, there was an unexpected opinion on the matter that could be a factor in the ultimate decision. Donald Trump tweeted yesterday morning saying he’s looking into the matter, he’s spoken to the NRA, and that it doesn’t seem to make much sense. It will be interesting to see if that is his final world, and if so, how the NRA, the gun lobby, and the Trumpire will respond to this very un-Trump-like position.

Donald J. Trump


“I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!” 8:03 AM – Jul 31, 2018 
44.4K 28K people are talking about this”

Remember that vicious cycle? The one where the NRA, the gun lobby, and the ardent second amendment defenders harp on and insist that the real problem is we have not prevented people with mental illnesses from securing weapons…yeah, that one. Well what will they say when someone downloads an AR-15 and goes and kills children at a school, or shoppers at a mall, or anybody anywhere? At what point should they have been stopped? Before the download? While reading the instructions? At the computer store? Of course, keep in mind, that anyone with access to a computer and a suitable printer will be able to obtain a gun. I would say, let that sink in, but I’m pretty sure, all the folks who favor this have already done so, and still think it’s a good idea. You should all find that a scary proposition. “Ghost Guns: Next Level Weaponry!”

P.S. While the final decision regarding these weapons is being deliberated, it’s worth noting that based on the original suit, some guns started being downloaded last Friday. At least 2,500 have been received, in addition a pending backlog…just so you know. Wilson has said hi goal is to ensure that every gun in production is available in a downloadable format.

I’m done; holla back!

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