Not only is Hollywood remaking and retelling the same fictional stories, but stories based in fact are also being retold because we keep repeating history. Exactly nothing has changed since Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was released in 1989 except, maybe, racial tensions becoming more tense. Black Americans are still being killed by racist cops and white supremacy groups are growing in numbers, getting mainstream support from the President of the United States and are killing way more Americans than Islamic Extremists. The Klan is back with a vengeance, and BlacKkKlansman isn't shy about sharing that fact.

BlacKkKlansman tells the true story of a black police officer in Colorado, new to the department and first of his kind, going “undercover” as a Ku Klux Klan supporter to investigate the “organization.” After cold-calling the Ku Klux Klan utilizing “white voice” not unlike black comedians Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Dave Chappelle, Ron Stallworth boasts to his precinct chief that he can speak both “the King’s English” and jive in order to infiltrate the local chapter of the Klan and determine the organization’s intentions and dangerousness while also getting an inside look at the college’s Black Student Union, who invited a Black Panther to speak in town.

The year is 1979 in Lee’s rendition of this true story, but the actual events occurred in 1972. Changing the date allowed Lee to reference then trendy blaxploitation movies and the KKK’s supposed support of President Richard Nixon’s re-election. It might look like 1979 on screen, but if you read just the script’s dialogue, you’d wonder whether it was 1979, 1989 or 2019.

Lee makes multiple references to current events throughout the film, making a comment on our time more so than a comment on the times in which it’s set. Stallworth is accused of naivety by a fellow officer when he says, “People would never elect a man like David Duke President.” Yet people elected Donald Trump, who called some white supremacists at Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally “good people.” Good people, however, don’t discriminate as to whom they are good.

Duke, satisfyingly portrayed by Topher Grace, has a gullibility and all-around lack of awareness about him that somehow makes him not only tolerable but hilariously cartoonish. Duke was obviously concerned with how the film portrayed him, afraid that he’d come off as stupid. Lee didn’t care even though Duke told the real-life Stallworth that he “always respected Spike Lee.”

Duke also delivers a line drawing from current events in one of his many phone conversations with Stallworth, saying he wants “America to achieve its greatness again,” another obvious reference to the President's popular, campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” I suspect Duke and Trump share the same idea as to what constitutes this country’s greatest greatness, and if it’s not pre-Civil War, it’s at least a time when white people didn’t have to share anything with black people except the air they breathe.

Do the Right Thing, like BlacKkKlansman, was inspired by actual events. Black kids were indeed chased out of a pizzeria in New York City. Whether the boycott of said pizzeria actually occurred and resulted in a riot destroying the pizzeria is unknown. What is known and is made abundantly clear in BlacKkKlansman, is that the hostility and contempt underlying race relations in America have persisted if not worsened since 1989 despite BlacKkKlansman taking place 10 years prior. BlacKkKlansman transcends time in that sense, but it doesn’t attempt to transcend race despite an obvious opportunity to do so.

Stallworth is portrayed by John David Washington, who does the character justice by conveying both the gumshoe’s greenness and opportunistic, entrepreneurial spirit despite an obvious internal struggle between the black cop walking the beat and the black man longing for and working toward justice for his black brothers and sisters being killed in the streets by racist cops.

Stallworth doesn’t let anything stop him from pursuing his passion project. He is not the easily distracted Mookie of Do the Right Thing. Stallworth is as motivated as they come, and to him, the fact he’s black doesn’t mean he can’t infiltrate the local KKK chapter. There are more than enough white officers to serve as his stand-in, but it would take the right kind of white officer to infiltrate the Klan. Sure, the Colorado Springs Police Department, like most American police departments at the time, had more than its fair share of racist cops. But a racist cop could still give himself away as a cop despite the depth of his racism.

Enter Flip Zimmerman, a Jewish detective who wasn’t raised Jewish. Zimmerman is aptly portrayed by Adam Driver, who is almost too cool when accused of being a Jew at gunpoint by a member of the local KKK chapter. The Klansman is so concerned over Zimmerman’s bloodlines that he demands he take a lie detector test, but Zimmerman’s partner comes to the rescue just in time. Or does he? Zimmerman later alludes to the fact that he’s never really given his Jewish heritage much thought until now, but that doesn’t mean he could pass a “Jew detector” test at gunpoint, even if he wasn’t raised Jewish.

Despite the engaging performances of Washington and Driver, Lee misses an opportunity to make BlacKkKlansman a little more enjoyable and, dare I say, feel-good, by focusing on growing relationships between characters at the expense of others, and that’s likely by design. Lee doesn’t make many feel-good films, but Do the Right Thing certainly does a better job developing the relationship between Mookie and Sal than BlacKkKlansman does for Ron and Flip. Washington and Driver give fine individual performances, but their time on screen together isn’t ample or dramatic enough for their characters’ relationship to grow throughout the film like Mookie and Sal’s relationship does in Do the Right Thing.

Besides length, there’s really no reason not to give Ron and Flip a few moments to convey the growth of their work relationship. Any good film requires a hero to overcome conflict and grow as a person. The same goes for the relationships between characters. They too need to grow and motivate the action and change of the characters, and the relationship between Ron and Flip leaves much to be desired.

Not once do I remember Flip irate despite the danger Ron’s created for him. He’s the one risking everything while the “Black Klansman” sits safely at the other end of a telephone making friends with the grand wizard of the KKK. In fact, the film should have been called BlacKkKlansmen, because Flip is one half of the Black Klansman and has more at risk than Ron.

At first, Stallworth is completely careless when it comes to his new partner’s life, and there’s never really a moment where Stallworth shares a realization of and appreciation for the white man taking all the risk while the black man remains safe on the other end of a telephone. Just because Zimmerman’s white doesn’t mean the Klan won’t kill him. This missed opportunity for Lee to display the dynamics influencing the relationship between Stallworth and Zimmerman is one that could have contributed to the film’s drama and the characters’ respective growths throughout the film.

But Driver seemed emotionally unavailable and barely vulnerable throughout the film, whether he was undercover or not. He had his guard up at all times, and that could be his interpretation of the character, as an undercover detective should probably have his guard up at all times. Or his lack of emotional range could be due to a lack of chemistry with Washington, which would explain Lee's limiting their relationship's screen time. Washington doesn't give Driver much to work with in Flip's most vulnerable moment, but if the scene in question is not ad-libbed, the script doesn't give Driver much to work off of either.

Driver might be a victim of pigeon-holing on a Napoleon Dynamite scale, where regardless of Driver's role in a film, he will always be Kylo Ren to some people, which isn't fair to him, but a role like that is sometimes inescapable and can be detrimental to any other performance at no fault to Driver except for being iconic. Driver's demeanor as Flip was almost as if he was inwardly lamenting his performance knowing audiences would disconnect themselves from the viewing experience at the shock of seeing a Star Wars character in a Spike Lee Joint.   

For whatever reason, and I'm leaning toward creative choice, Lee focuses our attention on the relationship between Stallworth and his love interest, Patrice Dumas, a militant, student leader he meets on his first day working undercover. Her disdain for “pigs” only grows that evening when she’s harassed by one of Stallworth’s peers while he waits for her to meet him at a bar. Stallworth doesn’t let his secret profession stop him from making a rookie mistake and getting personal.

Lee’s focus on the fragile relationship between Stallworth and Dumas instead of the underdeveloped relationship between Stallworth and Zimmerman robs viewers of a relationship that could have provided them a reason for hope, which is something Lee’s films tend to struggle conveying due to subject matter and history. Black Americans’ relationships with police, or lack thereof, have been and continue to be shaped by a very warranted lack of trust. Police have been and continue to be employed to further hinder black Americans, who in 2018 still feel the financial and social effects of slavery. That doesn’t scream hope, but neither do Spike Lee Joints. Spike Lee Joints mirror reality more so than most filmmakers in history.

Lee’s choice to focus on the relationship between black man and black woman and the struggles they experience despite sharing a skin color instead of focusing on the black man and white man and the struggles they experience working together in spite of their differing skin color might indicate that Lee believes black Americans still need to unify before all Americans unify. In Do the Right Thing, Mookie and Sal’s relationship isn’t cheated like Ron and Flip’s, but Mookie still pitches for his home team regardless of who’s signing his checks.

Mookie’s boss isn’t responsible for the death of Radio Raheem, but Sal’s already short and shrinking temper in the summer and pizza oven heat, and his growing defensiveness and displeasure with race-related questions posed as if he’s on trial for being racist because of the pictures of Italian-Americans he hangs in the pizzeria, escalate the incident to violence before white cops ever get their murdering hands on Raheem.

An argument over music and its volume in Do the Right Thing and the resulting response by police sounds eerily similar to recent smartphone videos taken of police brutalizing a minority amongst a crowd of minorities pleading for the police to stop. Again, not much has changed in 30 years except the number and quality of video cameras and camera operators and an increased means to share videos. The police beatings of minorities are just in high-definition and available to view from multiple angles almost immediately upon the completion of "principle photography." Lee's shot-for-shot videography of the riot in Do the Right Thing could probably be reproduced using smartphones, invoking an even more emotional response given the lifelike intimacy provided by the participants' cameras. 


The riot really begins when Mookie throws a trash can through the window of his employer’s storefront near the end of Do the Right Thing. But he does it because it’s the right thing to do—not because he's taking the side of his people over that of his provider—but because he gives his people and his provider exactly what they need: closure.

Mookie dispersing the crowd with a sentimental soliloquy apologizing for his employer and fellow employees works better on stage than on screen and wouldn’t likely work at all in reality. Would heartfelt words of a pizza delivery boy be enough to soothe you and disperse a riot after your community lost a friend, brother, son and neighbor because the pizza delivery boy’s employer couldn’t stand his “jungle” music? I thought not.

Mookie gave his community exactly what it needed to get over its collective grief in a healthy manner. While looting and destruction of property are crimes, both are a lot healthier than murder or assault of those perceived to be responsible for the tragic death of Radio Raheem. Mookie might have actually saved Sal’s life, but that, like the reasoning behind Mookie’s throwing of the trash can, is not immediately evident to viewers given the emotion-evoking destruction of the pizzeria.  

Like BlacKkKlansman, there was an obvious need for the end of Do the Right Thing to offer viewers a semblance of hope. Mookie coming back to Sal’s destroyed pizzeria the next day to collect his $250 salary and the two of them negotiating a settlement isn’t hope enough apparently. So Lee drops lines from both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. to reinforce the dangerousness of duality—the idea that contrasting concepts cannot both be correct simultaneously. But two different concepts can be true at the same time. Nonviolence is a good approach until someone attacks you, which is the message Lee sent at the end of Do the Right Thing.   

Lee has often echoed the words of Malcolm X and King, Jr. in his work, and BlacKkKlansman is no exception. Stallworth represents the teachings of King, Jr., and Dumas practices the teachings of X, putting them at odds as to which path is most likely to award “all the power to all the people.” In the end, of course, they realize the same things viewers of Do the Right Thing did: two contrasting concepts can be true at the same time, and if there’s to be hope for black Americans to ever overcome the persisting socioeconomic disadvantage resulting from slavery, it’s going to require both nonviolent and violent acts by a unified, black people.

The black community's dismissal of the Asian grocer across the street from Sal's pleading with them that he too is "black" like them so the rioters don't loot and destroy his shop is a great example of the message Lee sends in both Do the Right Thing and BlacKkKlansman. Black Americans can't climb out of the socioeconomic disadvantage resulting from slavery as a group inside another larger group of minorities. No other American minority started with the disadvantage black Americans did, so Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Irish-Americans, etc. can't relate and, therefore, can't help black Americans overcome their socioeconomic disadvantage. And judging from Lee's apparent choices in BlacKkKlansman, Lee doesn't think white Americans can help either. It's something that has to be done  solely by black Americans solely for black Americans.

So almost 30 years after people first saw a race riot explode on the big screen in a Spike Lee Joint, another Spike Lee Joint now shows people exactly how little has changed when it comes to race relations in America. If there’s one obvious changes between Lee’s films spanning almost 30 years, it’s that Do the Right Thing has a more hopeful ending than BlacKkKlansman, which tells me Spike thinks the future is more bleak for black Americans than it was in 1989. If you're looking for a hopeful, uplifting movie this week, see the relatively inconsequential Crazy Rich Asians. I haven't seen it, but I can tell you it will be an almost complete disconnect from reality that won't require your brain to enjoy. Romantic comedies are, by design, an escape. 

Spike Lee Joints, however, mirror reality and are meant to make you uncomfortable with their unrivaled realness and borderline neorealism, making you aware of things previously foreign and challenging your beliefs of what you thought it was like to be black in America, because if you're not black, you only know what you see, hear and read. And no one provides as accurate and unabridged imagery of black lives in America as Spike Lee. If you're looking for a thought-provoking, uncomfortable, cultural commentary of American race relations then and now, this Spike Lee Joint is educational and entertaining enough to be worth the price of admission. 


If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk radio shows: The Karel Show, Erskine Overnight, The Lounge, The Debbie Nigro Show

Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:18

Sleeping pill use linked to Alzheimer’s

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Researchers have found a link between Alzheimer’s and the use of sleeping pills such as benzodiazepines and “Z-drugs.”

“Z-drugs” refer to non-benzodiazepines or hypnotics such as zolpidem (brand name Ambien).

The study from the University of Finland looked at 70,700 individuals who had developed Alzheimer’s during the years 2005-2011. The researchers found regular use of benzodiazepines and Z-drugs increased one’s risk of the neurodegenerative disorder by 6%. Moreover the higher the dose used, the higher the risk.

Benzodiazepines and sleeping pills are being prescribed and used in epidemic proportions leading to more addiction and tolerance to controlled substances, poor timing as we fight the opioid crisis.

Sleeping Pill Use “Worse than Smoking”

 

Arizona State University researchers last year reported the use of use of sleeping pills is “worse than smoking” for one’s health.

Sleep researcher, Shawn Youngstedt, told CNN, “They are as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Not to mention they cause infections, falling and dementia in the elderly, and they lose their effectiveness after a few weeks.”

For years sleeping aids including antihistamines (ex. diphenhydramine), benzodiazepines (ex. lorazepam, alprazolam), non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic (ex. Ambien) have been studied and linked to side effects including

  • Sleep Walking
  • Insomnia
  • Numbness, tingling
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Memory loss
  • Dizziness
  • and more

In 2012, a study of 10,500 people found those who used sleeping pills were 4X as likely to die in the 2.5-year study than those who didn’t use medications for sleep.

Dr. Kripke and his colleagues at Scripps also found a 35% increase risk of cancer, noting lymphoma, lung, colon and prostate cancer risk was worse than that of smoking.

Also in 2012, a study published in Thorax, found benzodiazepine use linked to the severe lung infection, pneumonia.

In 2014, a study from China Medical University in Taiwan found only four sleeping pills a year increased risk of heart attack by 20% and 60 tablets a year was linked to a 50% increase.

A separate study found an increased risk of aortic dissection with sleeping pill use.

 

Insomnia-Image_08.03.2016.jpg

 

What causes insomnia?

 

Insomnia is a disorder where one has difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep.  Many factors can cause insomnia. These include:

 

  • Caffeine
  • Medications
  • Alcohol
  • Stress, anxiety, depression
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Chronic pain
  • Neck and back arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory conditions (asthma, COPD)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Urinary frequency
  • Diarrhea
  • Neurological conditions
  • Sleep apnea
  • and of course environmental issues such as noise, temperature, and kitty cats.

Treatments for insomnia

 

Treating insomnia can be complex.  We begin by treating the underlying cause, such as any of those listed above.  Then we can try the following:

  • Lowering the room temperature to an average of 65 degrees F
  • Shut off artificial lights 1-2 hours before going to bed
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Dinner  including foods rich in tryptophan (fish, nuts, tofu, turkey, eggs and seeds)
  • Warm bath
  • Cognitive and/or behavioral therapy
  • Aromatherapy including lavender
  • Blackout curtains to keep out light
  • Daily exercise
  • to name a few.

Youngstedt also suggests exercise. He states its “healthier” than using sleeping aids and “research suggests those who are physically active have a lower risk of developing insomnia in the first place.”

Now it could be that those who suffer from certain medical conditions are more at risk of insomnia but more needs to be studied in terms of why these medications are linked to poor health outcomes.

----

 

Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

 

I just finished Netflix’s “The Keepers,” a seven-part, true crime docu-series about the unsolved 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik and the following abuse scandal at the Catholic school she taught at. The series is raw and harrowing and shocking.  The amount of women and boys that one priest was able to abuse and cover up for decades is almost unbelievable.

 

Almost.

 

Because we’ve seen this kind of scandal before. And we’ll see it again. The Spotlight abuse cover up as reported in the Boston Globe in 2002 and dramatised into an Academy Award winning movie of the same name.

 

And now comes the Pennsylvania cover up. A new 1356 grand jury report documents that more than 300 priests abused more than 1000 children.

 

From the opening paragraph of the grand jury report:

 

“We, the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this. We know some of you have heard some of it before. There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.”

 

Later, it reported:

 

“We were given the job of investigating child sex abuse in six dioceses .. We heard the testimony of dozens of witnesses concerning clergy sex abuse. We subpoenaed, and reviewed, half a million pages of internal diocesan documents … Most of the victims were boys; but there were girls too. Some were teens; many were prepubescent. Some were manipulated with alcohol or pornography. Some were made to masturbate their assailants, or were groped by them. Some were raped orally, some vaginally, some anally. But all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all.”

 

Wow. Protect the institution above all.  

 

But, of course - that’s how it’s always been. Or more importantly, “protect all the men.” Keep in mind, this report is only from a single state and covers the last 70 years. Multiply that by 50 states and then don’t forget to add in the previous four, five or ten centuries.

 

As usual it took the Vatican a few days to respond. Don’t ask me why it took them two bloody days to come up with the words, “Shame and sorrow” but there it is. The rest of us, within seconds of reading the news collectivilly had plenty to say and was probably more along the lines of, “Wow. The sick fucks running the Catholic Church covered up for another bunch of child raping male priest fuck heads! Just like they always do!”

 

Seriously, that took me all of twenty seconds to come up with. But as usual the Catholic Church waited to see if this recent abuse scandal would blow over and so they bit their tongue and said nothing. (Which is what they are good at).

 

Here is a video at MSNBC where survivors share their survival stories. One, an elderly man talks about his abuse in 1948 and flat out says incredulously (and correctly), “Who would believe me. A priest abused me? In 1948?”

 

He was right then. And he would have been right up to until … maybe two days ago when this grand jury report came out. I hate to be a cynic and assume that thing will go back to priests raping children because, after all - the Church has a lot of money to spend on PR and lawyers.

 

But that’s probably what will happen. Until the people at the top of the Church go to jail for this - things will only temporarily change at the bottom of the totem pole.

 

I mean, the Pope could do something about it. The Pope could, basically fire the shit out of all top brass involved. But, to be honest, he would have to probably get rid of the vast majority of the Church top brass all over the world. These scandals are just all too common and widespread for most top brass priests to not have their hands dirty at one point or another.

 

Actually, to be fair, I don’t know if the Pope can “fire” priests. Excommunicate them? Maybe that’s it. Maybe the Pope should just excommunicate 100 percent of all the priests above the level of OT V!

 

No, wait. That’s Scientology.

 

Well, whatever, The Pope can fire the shit out of them too.

 

I hope some justice happens and a lot of priestly heads will roll (metaphorically speaking). Alas, I just expect the Church to throw their endless cash reserves at the problem and it will all go away.

 

And then the Catholic priests will again, come out, come out from wherever they are.

 

And finally, does anyone else understand how Catholic priest sexual abuse would drop to about 0.0 percent if all priests were women?

 

Just sayin.    

A high-school-educated athlete who missed 83 days of school in fourth gradeserving as President of the United States isn’t as far-fetched as it might have been prior to the 2016 Presidential Election. If Donald Trump has instilled anyhope in the everyday American, it’s that they too can be President someday. George W. Bush had the same effect, but neither were self-made men.

LeBron James, however, is the American Dream incarnate. He went from rags to riches and didn’t even need a loan from his father to do so. In fact, he did it without his father entirely, and that is more representative of an upbringing in everyday America these days, making him more in tune with the everyday American than most politicians have ever been.

The question isn’t whether LeBron James is qualified to be President; it’s when he’ll run and win.

Schools Built: LeBron 1, Trump -1

Upon opening the “I Promise” public school James gifted to his hometown of Akron to serve at-risk youth in grades one through eight, James has been drawing the attention of the President and the support of a lot of people. As of this writing, more than 40,000 people have signed a Care2 petition calling for James to replace Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

While a select few have criticized James for leaving Ohio taxpayers with a $6 million annual tax bill to run the school, Ohio taxpayers aren’t actually paying an additional $6 million per year in taxes. They pay the annual budget for public schools regardless of James’s I Promise school being open or not. If anything, James is lowering their tax burden by $2 million annually and saved his hometown taxpayers from having to pass a school bond to fund the $2 million in repairs and renovations the school required.

Even if he wanted, James’s Family Foundation couldn’t lawfully pay the entirety of the public school’s $8-million annual budget without it becoming a private school, which wasn’t James’s intent. While James attended a private high school, it wasn’t because his mother could afford it. It was because LeBron could ball. James built a public school to serve his people — poor people.

Trump, on the other hand, “built” Trump University, a for-profit, education company that defrauded “students” of both money and an education, costing Trump $25 million to settle lawsuits brought against the “university.” Meanwhile, James spent $41.8 million to send 1,100 Akron students to college.

James showed just how smart and Presidential he is by not responding to the President’s not-so-Presidential tweets after opening the I Promise school. James’s disacknowledgement of Trump’s diss got a rave review from his contemporary in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers, calling it “absolutely beautiful.”Perhaps James is going to let his game and three-part, Showtime docu-series, Shut Up and Dribble serve as his response to the President’s “shut up and dribble” attitude in October.

Trump’s sentiment is a popular one amongst his base, who seemingly want their reality, television entertainment devoid of reality and their reality, television entertainers devoid of humanity. They want live-action, propagandic cartoons that let them ignore the injustices in their country and world, not documentaries drawing attention to those injustices. They and their President seem to be in the minority, though.

Approval Rating: LeBron 53, Trump 39

The President’s approval rating dropped from 41 to 39 percent in the week following his Twitter attack on LeBron, and while that decline could be a result of just about anything the President has said or done of failed to say or do, it’s worth noting because it’s the lowest Trump’s approval rating has been since April. Trump’s all-time low approval rating is 35 percent, and he’s never been approved of by a majority of Americans, according to Gallup. Trump entered office with an approval rating of 45 percent in 2017.

Back in 2016, a Seton Hall Sports Poll found that 53 percent of 762 adult respondents approved of James, and that was before he won a championship for Cleveland. So it’s apparent that Trump’s and James’ approval ratings are moving in opposite directions.

Electoral College: LeBron 279, Trump 259

To run for President, you must be born in the United States, retain a residence in the United States for 14 years and be at least 35 years of age. That’s it. An advanced degree nor any college degree is required of a Presidential candidate. The only college that matters is the Electoral College. On Dec. 30, 2019, LeBron James will be officially eligible to run for President, and everything he’s done has properly prepared him for running a successful campaign as a Democrat in 2020 or beyond.

Think about it. James is a native of Ohio, one of the most important swing states in the nation and one of the best predictors of the eventual winner of U.S. Presidential Elections. No Republican candidate has ever won the Presidency without winning Ohio, and no Republican is going to win Ohio in a race against King James. That’s 18 electoral votes that went to Trump going to James and the Democrats in 2020. If James wins the same states Hillary Clinton did in 2016, he would need just 20 electoral college votes to win the Presidency after Ohio, and he gets them in Florida.

James’s career in Miami, including back-to-back championships and four consecutive Finals appearances should swing the state and its 29 electoral votes from Trump to the Democrats in 2020. Boom, King James is President James in 2021. He’ll just be Presidenting while playing professional basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers instead of golfing alone. Or...

When We Could Reasonably Expect President LeBron

James has said he wants to play on a basketball team with his son, and unless the NCAA changes its rules regarding “amateurism” and college eligibility (or the NBA changes theirs), his son will have to be 19 years old or so. That’s in six years, when his dad will be 39. So if LeBron intends to play until he’s, say, 42, he’d be free to focus all his attention on the country in 2028 — an election year.

If James doesn’t have political aspirations, he’s got a funny way of showing it. Most of us can’t help but look into every little thing LeBron does as something leading to something bigger. His philanthropic choices are obviously representative of what’s in his heart, and that heart is proving to be Presidential in its size and stamina. If James wants the White House, he can have it whenever he’s willing. Let’s hope he’s willing, because he’s certainly capable of leading the free world.


This was originally published at Grandstand Central.

 

Thursday, 16 August 2018 15:39

Aretha Franklin Passes Away At Age 76

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The 76 year-old “Queen of Soul” has reportedly passed after a long bout with pancreatic cancer.

The AP News Tweeted early this morning the following:

Aretha Franklin, the long-reigning “Queen of Soul” who sang with matchless style on such classics as “Think” and her signature song, “Respect,” died Thursday at age 76, said her representative, Gwendolyn Quinn.  The cause was advanced pancreatic cancer.

Her last performance was for the Elton John Annual AIDS Foundation Gala in November.

In March the singer cancelled her upcoming performances due to an undisclosed illness.

aretha

For years Aretha Franklin has battled rumors about her health ranging from respiratory illnesses to pancreatic cancer.

In an interview with Access Hollywood she said, “I don’t know where ‘pancreatic cancer’ came from.

“I was sitting there reading the newspaper and it was saying someone in my family said that. No one in my family ever said that to anybody.”

The multi-Grammy award winner deserved a little “RESPECT” and the media honored her privacy requests, despite growing concern for her weight loss.

Diabetes May Be Related to Pancreatic Cancer

 

Ms. Franklin reportedly had diabetes.  Studies have found a correlation between the common blood sugar disease and the lethal cancer.  Once recent study found if one had a worsening of their diabetes it could be a sign of pancreatic cancer.  Since diabetes is a disease that affects the pancreas and its ability to produce and release insulin, its logical that there may be a correlation.

Pancreatic cancer has a high mortality rate and unfortunately it remains asymptomatic until it has progressed to an advanced stage.  So a worsening of diabetes (in the absence of poor diet and lack of compliance with medication) may be the only sign that pancreatic cancer is occurring. The earlier the cancer is caught, the better the prognosis.

She is a legend and has touched us all.  May she rest in peace.

Ten Great Performances by Aretha Franklin.

 

Aretha_Franklin.jpg

Her fellow musicians and friends react:

 

Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever. Love Paul

  • Paul McCartney

This morning my longest friend in this world went home to be with our Father. I will miss her so much but I know she’s at peace. #QueenOfSoul

  • Smokey Robinson

The greatest voice in American popular music has been stilled.  Our beloved #ArethaFranklin has gone.  For me, she was a musical lighthouse, guiding and inspiring with every note.  I loved her so and love her still.  Goodbye, Queen of Soul.

 

  • Bette Midler

 

One of the highlights of my career was singing with #ArethaFranklin at The Tony Awards. It was an out of body experience for me. One of greatest singers of all time. You will be missed by all. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=csm3A80M9qA …

 

  • Hugh Jackman

 

It is with a heavy heart that I write you today in confirmation of the recent passing of Paul Parent, host of The Paul Parent Garden Club here on our network.  Paul passed quietly in his sleep this past Monday, August 13th due to natural causes.  He leaves behind him a legacy of excellence in both broadcasting and his passion for gardening.  He will be sorely missed. His son, Patrick Parent will be taking over his show host duties sometime in the near future.

 

From Paul's obituary:

 

Paul Parent, 69

 

KENNEBUNK - On Aug. 13, 2018, Paul Parent left to tend a new garden with the angels, passing peacefully in his sleep, joining his Aunt Ruth Soucy, his mother, his father and his beloved dogs, Duncan, Sabrina Barkley, and Abby.

 

Paul lived an amazing life to say the least. Paul was born June 16, 1949, in Lewiston, Maine, the son of Rita and Roland Parent of Scituate, who predeceased him. He graduated from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture in 1970. The following year he met the love of his life, best friend, and partner, Christine Duncan Parent. They married June 24, 1972, surrounded by family and friends. Together they had three children and three grandchildren, whom they cherished greatly. Outside of family time, Paul's sanctuary was his garden. He spent countless hours tending his plants, getting his hands dirty and thinking of innovative designs. He channeled this love for gardening into his livelihood - The Paul Parent Garden Club. "Good Morning Gardeners and Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club" was his hearty welcome to listeners all over the world, engaging garden lovers of every age in discussion about his favorite subject for over 35 years. He loved all things New England sports.

 

Paul is lovingly remembered by his wife, Christine (Duncan); his son, Matthew Parent and his wife, Christina, of Ocklawaha, Fl.; his son, Jason Parent and partner, Peter Robbins, of South Portland; his son, Patrick Parent and wife, Kristen, of Lowell, Mass. His pride and joy were his grandchildren, Michael Parent, Katherine Parent, and Elizabeth Parent, who will always remember him as Grandpa.

 

All rise. The sports court of public opinion we call Foul Play-by-Play is now in session, the dishonorable Anthony Varriano presiding over this podcast providing play-by-play and color commentary on foul play in sports, on courts and in them. The attorney of record and my co-host is Michael Haase of McLarty and Haase Law in Glendive, Montana.

Headlines

Headline 1: Maryland Football Player Dies of Heat Exhaustion; Wrongful Death Lawsuit Likely Coming Against University

After 19-year-old Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair died of apparent heat stroke from performing 110-yard sprints according to ESPN, the university placed head coach D.J. Durkin, strength and conditioning coach Rick Court and some trainers on leave while it investigates whether the staff was negligent. The McNair’s have also hired an attorney, who says a lawsuit is likely and Durkin should be fired.

ESPN conducted its own investigation, speaking to two current Maryland football players, former players and football staffers and multiple people close to the program. Here’s what they shared about the football culture under Durkin and Court:

  • There is a coaching environment based on fear and intimidation. Small weights and other objects were thrown by Court in the direction of players when Court was angry.
  • The belittling, humiliation and embarrassment of players is common. A player whom coaches wanted to lose weight was forced to eat candy bars while watching teammates work out.
  • Extreme verbal abuse of players occurs often. One player was belittled verbally after passing out during a drill.
  • Coaches have endorsed unhealthy eating habits and used food punitively. One player said he was forced to eat until he threw up.

Durkin and Court’s coaching careers are certainly in jeopardy, but couldn’t they be charged with manslaughter at the very least, or is this just a wrongful death civil lawsuit?

Headline 2: UNC Suspends 13 Football Players for Selling Shoes

Thirteen North Carolina football players, including quarterback Chazz Surratt, were suspended between one and four games for selling school-issued shoes. The selling of the special edition Nike Jordan shoes is a secondary NCAA violation, and UNC self-reported the violation in January.

Since these shoes are uniquely manufactured for and distributed solely to UNC athletes, their rareness by His Airness can fetch upwards of $600 on Ebay, according to Joe Giglio.


Meanwhile, the NCAA changed rules to allow “elite” high school basketball prospects to hire agents and undergraduates to return to school if they enter the NBA Draft and aren’t selected. How hypocritical is it that a college basketball player can now hire an agent but not profit from his name, signature or shoes until he signs a contract and doesn’t need the money anymore?

These benefits for attending UNC don’t seem very beneficial. The NCAA has managed to make a benefit a burden. It’s often said possession is nine-tenths of the law. Well, what kind of possession is this if you can’t sell what you possess?

Headline 3: Former All-Star MLB Pitcher Esteban Loaiza Pleads Guilty to Federal Drug Charges

Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza pleaded guilty Friday to federal drug charges in California. Loaiza acknowledged that he possessed about 44 pounds, or 20 kilos of cocaine with the intent to distribute. He faces 10 years to life in prison when he’s sentenced on Nov. 2. Can we expect Loaiza to be granted leniency in this case since California prisons are still operating above capacity and at increased rates due to healthcare costs?

It might be difficult to imagine what would possess a man who made more than $43 million in Major League Baseball to risk his life trafficking cocaine, but Loaiza’s personal life is riddled with red flags. While few might remember Loaiza starting the 2003 MLB All-Star Game, Loaiza became a celebrity in Mexico after marrying Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera in 2010. This relationship likely granted Loaiza access to some of the most exclusive parties in Mexico, allowing him to experiment with drugs and meet some of the most powerful men in Mexico.

Those new relationships, both with the drugs and the drug dealers, likely persisted upon his wife filing for divorce in 2012 and then dying in a plane crash shortly after. As an addict myself, and someone who thinks we’re all addicts in some form, whether it be to drugs, alcohol, donuts or God, I can say with conviction that hard times make habits harder to break. For some people it takes a conviction to break those habits. 

What kind of sentence should Loaiza receive if the court has his best interests and the best interests of the state in mind?

Headline 4: LSU Suspends Linebacker who Allegedly Served as Getaway Driver in Burglary

Louisiana State University suspended sophomore linebacker Tyler Taylor indefinitely after being arrested for allegedly serving as getaway driver in a January burglary of a pawn shop. A months-long investigation resulted in Taylor’s arrest on May 31. He was charged with felony conspiracy to commit a crime, felony party to a crime and felony theft. He was released on $33,550 bond.

Taylor’s cell phone records indicated that he was at the pawn shop the morning of the burglary, another person arrested for the burglary gave him up, and Taylor’s mother apparently owns the getaway truck he was driving. Police also have surveillance footage of the burglary, so Taylor needs a legal miracle.

What kind of potential plea deal or sentence would allow Taylor to play football again, if not this season, someday?

Headline 5: NASCAR CEO Arrested for DUI, Oxycodone Possession

NASCAR, the sport of driving, had its CEO arrested for driving while intoxicated and possession of Oxycodone without a prescription. Brian France, grandson of NASCAR founder William France, was arrested at 7:30 p.m. last Sunday for failing to stop at a stop sign.

France was arraigned Monday morning and released on his own recognizance, having been charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated, a felony, and criminal possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor. The felony charge is a result of France having a blood-alcohol content of .18 percent or higher while behind the wheel in New York.

France could be suspended and required to complete a recovery program or be subject to drug testing under NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. Brian’s uncle, Jim, has taken over the duties of CEO during his nephew’s leave of absence.  

This isn’t the first time Brian France has been accused of foul play. Twelve years ago the Associated Press reported that a witness saw a silver Lexus owned by France traveling at a "very reckless speed" into a tree near his residence, and the driver "fell over his own feet" while exiting the car. France was never charged as a result, but “the incident did lead to the requirement that the highest-ranking supervisor on duty must be called to the scene of all DUI incidents and that no officer would report off-duty until his or her reports are complete,” according to Auto Week.

France has also been accused of checking into a Betty Ford Clinic for drug rehab by Jack Flowers in his book, The Dirt Under the Asphalt: An Underground History of Stock Car Racing.

How big a blow is this for NASCAR given its struggle to fill the stands lately? And should this motivate the France family to sell NASCAR despite their unwillingness to do so?

Headline 6: Wake Forest Assistant Basketball Coach on Leave after Punching Man who Died upon Impact with Ground

Wake Forest assistant basketball coach Jamill Jones was charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and was subsequently placed on leave by the university. Jones turned himself in on Thursday after punching a man in the face early Sunday. The man died from injuries sustained upon impact with the ground. Jones was released on his own recognizance.

Sandor Szabo was treated for fractures to the left side of his face and the rear of his skull, along with bleeding of the brain. He was taken off life support Tuesday afternoon. The confrontation in question might have been a result of Szabo drunkenly knocking on car windows in the early hours of the morning.    

There’s certainly another “wrongful death” lawsuit here, although I almost blame Jones less for the death of Szabo than I do Maryland’s Durkin and Court in the death of McNair. 

Historically Foul Play

It’s time for Historically Foul Play, when we go back in time and examine foul play of the past, when DNA evidence made nothing evident because DNA hadn’t been discovered yet.

On August 9, 1905, Ty Cobb’s mother, Amanda Cobb, was arrested on charges of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Cobb’s father, William Herschel Cobb. Amanda said she thought her husband was an intruder trying to enter their home through the bedroom window when she shot him twice. But there had been rumors in town that William suspected his wife of infidelity and had unexpectedly returned home late that evening when she believed him to be out of town.

Cobb would make his Major League debut three weeks later, appearing in 41 games and hitting just .240 with a .588 OPS at the age of 18. It was the only season Cobb would hit below .300 in his 24-year career. His mother was ultimately acquitted in 1906, and in 1907, Cobb went on to lead the majors in hits, runs batted in, stolen bases, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, obviously, OPS+ and total bases. Seems that was a big weight of Cobb’s shoulders, eh Mike?

Statistically Significant Foul Play

Alright, let’s get statistical and make some informed inferences in a segment we call Statistically Significant Foul Play, where we do an analysis of statistics indicative of foul play.

Foul Play-by-Play, its hosts, nor its partners practice nor condone the accusatory promulgation of foul play by athletes for the sake of the hot take. Cheats are innocent until proven guilty. That said, in this case of statistically significant foul play, I’d like to admit into evidence the following significant statistics indicating foul play.

Amongst the top 10 players in Major League Baseball when it comes to being hit by pitches, the Tampa Bay Rays have three, including the league leader, Carlos Gomez, with 18. C.J. Cron has been plunked 14 times and Daniel Robertson has taken 13 for the team.

The Rays’ 74 hit batters is seven more than the second-place Texas Rangers and 51 more than the last-place Minnesota Twins. 

I’m not calling the defendants cheats. I’m just sayin’ the statistics are significant indicators of foul play. I trust the jurors will make the right decision and find the defendant guilty of foul play given the evidence. I rest my case.

Worst Instances of Foul Play in Films Linked to Sports

Mike and I have each ranked films featuring both foul play and sports, with the highest ranked film featuring the most foul play in a film featuring sports. These aren’t sports movies featuring foul play, mind you. These are movies with instances of foul play that have a link to sports, however flimsy that link may be.

For instance, the Matt Damon trifecta would be:

3) Good Will Hunting, in which Matt Damon and the late, great Robin Williams reenact Carlton Fisk’s home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. The foul play, of course, is Will Hunting assaulting a police officer, with the most foul play being Will’s pushing away of Skylar.

2) Stuck On You, in which Damon’s Bob Tenor and Greg Kinnear’s Walt Tenor play goalie in an adult hockey league as conjoined twins. They’re also a good golfer and caddy combo, a switch-pitching pitcher in baseball, a terror in a boxing ring, and not bad on the tennis court, either. They’re also Martha’s Vineyard legends for their high school football legacies. The foul play in this one is Bob’s DUI resulting from Greg’s excessive drinking in order to convince his brother to have a surgery to separate them.

1) The Rainmaker, in which a softball bat is the preferred weapon of Kelly Riker’s abusive husband, whom Damon kills with said bat in self defense.

Anthony’s Top Three Films featuring Foul Play and Sports

3) The Naked Gun: Ricardo Montalban brainwashes a baseball player to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II, but Leslie Nielsen goes undercover as an umpire with a generous strike zone and emphatic third-strike calls to “get his man.”

2) A Few Good Men: Tom Cruise thinks better with his bat, and he plays softball while negotiating a plea deal with Kevin Bacon. The most foul play is Jack Nicholson covering up his involvement in the death of a Marine.

1) The Fan: A San Francisco Giants superfan and knife salesman played by Robert De Niro is thrilled to have Wesley Snipes join the team, but his early performance leaves much to be desired. So the fan solves the problem by murdering the Giants’ player wearing Snipes’s lucky number 11. While stalking Snipes, De Niro saves his son from drowning, only to kidnap him and hold him hostage until he gets some appreciation, despite Snipes being unaware of the fan’s criminal contributions. 

On Wednesday, Academy President John Bailey and C.E.O. Dawn Hudson announced three “key changes” - a shorter show with a three hour hard limit, an earlier date for the ceremony and a new “Popular Film” category.

Um. Okay. Well, key changes is usually code for, “We’ve noticed our ratings dropping and we’re panicking - quick, let’s make some key changes!

Let’s break down their panic!

Three Hour Limit

The Academy Awards is a long show. It usually runs three to four hours. Everyone knows this. It doesn’t stop people from watching. And it’s been that way for multiple decades. Sure, some folks  have mild grumbles about that fact but ultimately - the exact same people will have the exact same complaint no matter how many hours the show runs. Cutting the show from 3.5 hours to 3 hours is fairly meaningless. Those same people will complain if it’s two hours or ninty minutes.  

And the Academy ideas for how to cut the show is this - some “lesser” awards will happen during the commercial break and viewers will be updated in shortly edited clips during the broadcast.

Sheesh. Some of these folks are random crew members who will never be nominated and / or win another Oscar again. Just let them have their bloody five minutes on TV, for Pete’s sake!

“Change” conclusion: Unnecessary. And certainly not a “key” change.

Earlier Telecast Time

They want the show to broadcast 2-3 weeks earlier than its usual “last week in February” timeslot. I guess they think that the Oscars two weeks earlier will increase ratings. Or something. The next Oscar, the 90th Ceremony is moving to early March to avoid competing against the Winter Olympics. Which seems fair to move the telecast for that one year. But, in general - moving the ceremony two weeks earlier doesn’t seem as it if it will increase viewers. I just don’t know what they are thinking here.

Let’s test this. Ask a friend. Go to someone you know who doesn’t watch the Oscars at all.

Say to them, “Hi friend! Are you going to watch the Oscars this year?”  

They will respond, “No, of course not. I hate that show. I’ll never watch it.”

Catch them with, “But what if it was broadcast two weeks earlier than usual?”

Watch their cold eye roll of indifference burn into your soul!

“Change” conclusion: Ridiculous and unnecessary.  And totally not a “key change.

New Category: Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film

And the “We don’t think your film is good enough to be nominated for an Academy Award but because it made a lot of $$$, we’ll throw you a bone” Oscar, goes to …

This is the “key change” drawing the most negative press. Celebrity reactions have been mixed with (usually) the old folks saying, “I hate change” and the young folks saying, “I love change.”

Well, I’m all for change. As many have pointed out the Oscars have not added a new category since “Animated Feature” in 2002 so it’s certainly time for some change. I am happy to hear that a new category is in the works. For the last two decades I have oft said there is glaring missing category from the Oscars, the “Outstanding Achievement is Stunt Coordination.” Once I say that outloud aren’t you like, “Oh, yeah. They totally need that category.”

The fine folks over at Vox.com thought the same thing with their: Forget Best Popular Film. Here are 6 new categories the Oscars actually need. (Although, I disagree with their “Best Casting” idea).

Alas, no. It is not any of those fine ideas. The Oscars will now give an Award to the film that made a ton of money but wasn’t quite good enough to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Of course, we already have those exact awards coming from both the Golden Globes and on a more comedic level - the MTV Movie awards. The Oscars is supposed to be the Award show with gravitas. It shouldn’t be handing out awards to movies because they are popular.

On the other hand - the Oscars originally, had two “best movie” categories. That’s right! The very first Academy Awards gave out two “best film” winners in two separate categories: Wings won “Outstanding Picture” and Sunrise won “Unique and Artistic Picture.”

Of course that was Academy Awards 1. By Academy Awards 2 the “Unique and Artistic Picture” category was gone - never to return. Because, “fuck those unique and artistic pictures!” #amiright

 

I kid. But seriously, in 2009 the Academy tried to address the “popular films not being nominated” problem by increasing the number of nominated “Best Films” from five to ten. Probably because The Dark Knight, a movie that was critically acclaimed and widely popular didn’t receive a “Best Film” nomination much to the chagrin of fans.

BUT THEN - just two years later the Academy was like, “Um, it’s really hard to find ten films we want to nominate for Best Film - every single year!” and changed the ruling from “ten films will be nominated” to “a number no less than five and no more than ten films” will be nominated for Best Film.

So, change happens fast because folks don’t seem to think things through enough. And then change happens again to fix the changes that were hastily made. I suspect something along those lines is what’s in store for this “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film” idea.

I mean, if it’s an “outstanding achievement” - just nominate it for Best Film! Why wouldn’t you do that? The movie is an outstanding achievement!

Right?

It doesn’t seem like rocket science to me, folks.

Update September 7th: Due to overwhelming negative press and insider backlash the Academy has nixed the "Popular Film" category. Well, at least for now. Ratings were down 20% from the previous year so I'm sure they'll come up with an equally stupid ideas as Popular Film in a desperate bid to up ratings.

Transcript of the Academy’s full press release:

* * *

Dear Member,

Last night, the Board of Governors met to elect new board officers, and discuss and approve significant changes to the Oscars telecast.

The Board of Governors, staff, Academy members, and various working groups spent the last several months discussing improvements to the show.

Tonight, the Board approved three key changes:

1. A three-hour Oscars telecast

We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.

To honor all 24 award categories, we will present select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined). The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.

2. New award category

We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.

3. Earlier airdate for 92nd Oscars

The date of the 92nd Oscars telecast will move to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The date change will not affect awards eligibility dates or the voting process.

The 91st Oscars telecast remains as announced on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.

We are excited about these steps, and look forward to sharing more details with you.

John Bailey and Dawn Hudson

The Academy later issued an addendum:

While the details for a popular film category are still being finalized, a single film is eligible for an Oscar in both categories — Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film and the Academy Award for Best Picture. The new category will be introduced this coming year, at the 91st Oscars. In creating this award, the Board of Governors supports broad-based consideration of excellence in all films.

 

As a new Minnesotan, I thought I should familiarize myself with the political process in my new state. I was politically active in Montana, but never attended a caucus or convention because they aren’t held in Montana. Back in 2010, the Republican Party scrapped its caucus after just two years, citing its unpopularity as the reason. The Republican Party and I finally found something upon which we agree completely.

Firstly, caucuses and conventions are never representative of an entire community. They are representative of the people in the community who don’t have to work when the caucuses and conventions are held. Those who work weekends aren’t even available to cast a vote at an organizing unit convention or city convention let alone drive three hours roundtrip on their own dime and pay for a hotel for three nights in order to attend a state party convention.

The lack of minority representation was blatant at my very first precinct caucus and even more so at the organizing unit convention and city convention. Despite my neighborhood being 41 percent black, the attendance at all the caucuses and conventions was probably three-fourths white or so. If that’s not reason enough to scrap party caucuses and conventions, here’s some more.

Precinct Caucus

My first Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party precinct caucus gave me some hope for this thing we call democracy that isn’t actually democracy. I met people in my community who cared for my community as much as me, and while the turnout was a bit discouraging, I vowed to do something about it. I volunteered to call my DFL neighbors to remind them to attend the next precinct caucus so my community wasn’t underrepresented.

While caucus agenda items were accomplished slowly to start, the pace picked up as everyone got the hang of things. We conducted a relatively efficient meeting. I submitted two resolutions to be considered for adoption by the party: one to legalize cannabis, and another calling for an independent redistricting commission to draw district boundaries instead of allowing politicians to employ partisan gerrymandering to make district races less competitive. Both were accepted as written to be considered at the upcoming organizing unit convention, and both were voted to be included in the DFL platform at the state convention.  

I wanted to see the ugly innards of Minnesota politics, so I volunteered to serve as a voting delegate at the organizing unit convention as well as the city convention. I got exactly what I wanted, but it I didn’t want it for very long.

Organizing Unit Convention

The organizing unit convention, again, started slowly. Technical difficulties with audio and video equipment resulted in a late start. Once we were underway, however, I appreciated the speeches delivered by DFL candidates running for various offices, including governor and sheriff. I got a sense of who I liked and collected some reading materials on the candidates.

Then the agenda was slowed to a crawl as something called “sub-caucusing” took place. Sub-caucusing is like a first-grade, organization activity and musical chairs combined. Poster-sized sheets of paper were distributed to delegates looking to start a sub-caucus and recruit enough delegates to earn a vote or more at the DFL state convention. A sub-caucus is an organizing unit. Delegates starting a sub-caucus would write their candidate or cause of choice on the poster paper and announce it to the crowd, hoping to recruit enough delegates to earn a vote or more at the DFL state convention.

Of course, with so many people in one place, there were more than 20 sub-caucuses, each of which was directed to a certain area of the high school auditorium. Delegates then seek out the sub-caucus they prefer and take a seat with the rest of the delegates in their organizing unit. That’s not the end of the game, though. Sub-caucuses who fail to recruit enough delegates to earn a vote at the state convention can merge with other sub-caucuses. The more than 20 sub-caucuses were whittled down to about half that in a half hour or so, combining the names of sometimes three or four sub-caucuses.

I kept it simple and joined the Cannabis Caucus, and we attracted enough delegates to earn a vote at the DFL state convention, I think for the first time. Two members of our organizing unit had experience as either a state delegate or an alternate, and one of them was already planning to attend the convention in Rochester, so we elected them to vote on our behalf at the DFL state convention.

City Convention

The DFL city convention was a mess from the start. We started almost two hours late because of technical difficulties when one loud voice could have kicked off the agenda. Instead we waited for someone to troubleshoot the audio system in the gym at North High School in Minneapolis.

Since we were seated by district and precinct, I struck up conversations with my neighbors, some of whom I remembered from the precinct caucus and organizing unit convention. I asked them for whom they intended to vote, and we were mostly in agreement. I familiarized myself with the candidates for school board and spoke to a few of them. Then I sat around for hours until the school board candidates gave their speeches, which actually influenced my vote.

The rest of the nearly eight-hour day was spent either arguing over the rules, procedure or order of the agenda items. Most people left immediately after the winners of the DFL endorsement for school board were announced. I stuck around after to elect people to city DFL positions to make sure a fiasco like that never happened again. Frankly, I could do without caucuses and conventions entirely if we just put everyone on the primary ballot. Most who don’t receive the endorsement end up running anyway.

In Minnesota, we have five pairs of DFL candidates running for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The DFL state convention is supposed to weed out the competition prior to the primary election. Party conventions are designed for political parties to unite behind specific candidates, and specifically, candidates the majority of party delegates like most. But when everyone runs anyway, there isn’t much unification occurring.

I knew who I liked for Governor the moment she opened her mouth. Erin Murphy was my candidate after delivering a two-minute speech at the organizing unit convention. She sounded most adamant and passionate about the changes she would attempt to make, and I agreed with those changes. But she wasn’t the candidate with the most progressive stance on cannabis, which is a big issue for me.

Of the three candidates most likely to win the primary, Tim Walz is most supportive of legal cannabis, going so far as to say all those incarcerated for cannabis should be released. Murphy isn’t willing to go that far, nor is she willing to allow home cultivation of cannabis. Walz is, but he doesn’t seem to me like a candidate with the enthusiasm to win a swing-state election for an office as high as Governor, and that seems to be a sentiment shared by DFL voters.

Murphy, with her support from the nurses union, secured the DFL endorsement at the state convention, but she was running third in the latest poll conducted. According to NBC News and Marist, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson had a four-point lead on Walz and led Murphy by 17 points as of July 19. The very next day her running mate, U.S. Representative Rick Nolan, was accused of allowing a top congressional aide resign quietly in 2015 after being alleged of harassing young, female staffers.

The Minnesota DFL primary election for Governor is effectively a three-way race, and since ranked-choice voting isn’t employed in Minnesota primaries (it was in Maine for the first time and Mainers voted to keep it that way), DFL voters won’t have the luxury of choosing the candidate they like best. They’ll have to choose the candidate they think has the best chance against a Republican challenger.

Luckily for the Democrats, the Republican Party is experiencing the same problem. The GOP endorsement went to Jeff Johnson and Donna Bergstrom, but former Governor Tim Pawlenty is still running and could very well win the primary despite losing his party’s endorsement. What was the point of these conventions again? I say forget caucuses and conventions and just put everyone on the primary ballot. Political parties would save some money, we’d all save some time, and the primary election is the best means we have to include as many people as possible in the democratic process, or whatever you want to call it.


If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

Ugh. Level 3 of the Runtastic Six Pack App gave me my first wake up call during my pursuit of six-pack abs that started in January of this year and was slowed by a broken foot shortly after. Going from Level 2 to Level 3 on the Runtastic Six Pack App is like going from a comfortable, at-home workout to a blood-sweat-and-tears workout worthy of a Rocky montage.

I knew MyPlate’s 10-minute abs workout wasn’t cutting it, and since purchasing my Fitbit Alta, I’ve tried stacking the MyPlate workouts, doing three in one sitting, combining the MyPlate workout with Fitbit Coach workouts, and lately, I’ve strictly completed my training plan on the Runtastic Six Pack app. Upon reaching Level 3 of the Runtastic Six Pack app training plan, I can confidently say that it is the best workout regimen for those in pursuit of six-pack abs.

Level 3 Hurts

I must have been in pretty good shape considering how easily I completed the Runtastic Six Pack app’s workouts at Levels 1 and 2. After completing 30 days of workouts increasing in difficulty, I entered Level 3 with confidence. All that confidence was undermined by Day 1 of my Level 3 training, but only by one exercise in the workout.

I completed three sets of scissor kicks without pausing or adding 30 seconds of recovery time in between sets. Even tabletop crunches came relatively easily, although I added 30 seconds of recovery time between sets two and three. I really felt my abs burning after this exercise, and that burn intensified during scissor legs, which required me to pause about halfway through each set and add 30 seconds of recovery time between sets.

Then I was taken aback by my personal trainer demanding three sets of 26 mountain climbers, but not your typical mountain climbers. Every mountain climber I know plants their foot to climb the mountain, but the Runtastic Six Pack app calls for you to suspend your front foot in midair to increase the difficulty of the exercise by reducing your balance, working your core even harder than the typical mountain climber. By the end of the workout there wasn’t a dry section of my t-shirt left for sweat, and the workout that had taken me 25 minutes or less to complete took 37 minutes at Level 3.

Level 3 Gets Easier, then Harder

By Day 5 of my Level 3 training regimen, I was back down to completing my workout in 27 minutes. I had cut out a considerable amount of recovery time between sets and was pausing my workout less and less. The harder exercises were coming more easily, and then Runtastic changed it up.

The change-up was actually easier for me than the first week of Level 3 training. Three of the four exercises were some variation of crunches, and crunches seem to be much easier for me than any plank exercises. That’s likely a result of me “cheating” myself of slow, controlled repetitions.

Plank exercises demand a controlled completion by design. The plank position is not one in which you can complete any movement very quickly. Crunches, however, can be completed quickly and form can go ignored at times, especially when you’re exhausted. Well, the pace at which I completed my crunches didn’t do me any favors when Runtastic changed up Level 3 again.

Day 11 of Level 3 training included three plank exercises and two types of crunches. This was the day I thought the app was broken or at least limited by its design. Day 11 of Level 3 training includes two sets of Thread the Needles going both to the right and left, but instead of alternating the sets and going to the right and then the left, the workout calls for two sets to the right then two more to the left. I found this to be painful for my forearms and elbows having to support my upper body weight in consecutive sets and felt I'd be better served alternating between right and left. I never did alternate the sets as to complete the training as indicated, but I asked Runtastic blog writer Hana Medvesek if this was a limitation of the app or included by design to work the same muscle groups consecutively, pain be damned. A reply was not provided as of this writing.

Runtastic Six Pack App Thread the Needle Left Part 1

Breaking up the right and left exercises would require the app to play different videos between sets, requiring a more complex design. But while alternating thread the needle exercises might be more comfortable for elbows and forearms, it might not have the same effect as working the same muscle groups consecutively. My suggestion would be to put some sort of padding under your forearm to ease the pain if you don’t have spongy carpet or a yoga mat.

The Second Half of Level 3 Tests Your Resolve

The 30-second recovery time between sets is cut in half on Day 16 of Level 3 training in the Runtastic Six Pack app, and the exercises are harder, too. As I was approaching the end of the Runtastic Six Pack app’s training regimen, I must admit I dreaded doing my workout. What was once a 25-minute workout had ballooned to a 47-minute workout that actually resulted in blood and sweat but no tears – just moans and groans from intense pain. The plank knee-to-elbow crunch exercises resulted in rug burns that made it difficult to complete workouts in consecutive days.

I actually took two days between workouts come Day 16 of Level 3 training because I was sore from my knees to my chest for two days. Obviously, cheating myself of slow, controlled completion of exercises had taken its toll. I was pausing regularly during sets and adding 30 seconds of recovery time between sets, especially for the plank knee-to-elbow crunch exercises.

By the third day of completing these exercises, though, I was down to adding the 30 seconds of recovery time solely after the second set of each exercise and between each set of the plank knee-to-elbow crunches. I had shortened my completion time from 47 minutes to 40 minutes, and was really starting to notice results.

Level 3 is not the End of the Game

Upon completion of workouts in the second half of Level 3, I could actually feel the definition of my six-pack abs with my hands when massaging my abs. I couldn’t see much more than a two-pack, but I could tell my goal of six-pack abs only required a bit more cardiovascular work to be realized.

According to the Runtastic Six Pack app’s body fat visualization, my 10-percent body fat should be low enough for my six-pack abs to be visible, and I’m confident they will be upon completion of Level 3 training on the Runtastic Six Pack app, and I’ll continue completing Level 3 workouts to make sure my six-pack abs remain defined and visible.


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