Monday, August 22, 2011

Republicans Switch Up Their Anti-Tax Philosophy

I'm convinced that the decision makers in the Republican Party do not have the majority of hard-working Americans' best interest at heart. It's impossible. 

I try not to take most GOP policies personally, and I usually succeed. But now they're hitting my paycheck.

At the bottom of your pay stub is a line for Social Security. 6.2% of your check is collected by the feds for Social Security. Your employer pays the other 6.2% and through this lovely arrangement, the government receives scrilla for Social Security. 

That was the case until last December when Obama forged a deal that lowered our contribution to 4.2%, saving every family an average of $1,000 a year. The employers' rate remained at 6.2%. In light of the continued blue state of our economy, President Obama would like to extend that tax for an additional year, allowing people like myself, and probably you as well, to keep our 2% every two weeks. 

Sounds good right? Well, the Republicans don't think so. And honestly, the government will lose about $120 billion if they extend this tax cut that we all benefit from, so I get it. We can't afford tax breaks. We have a deficit. 

My problem here is the inconsistency. The GOP is known for their anti-tax stance; their philosophy is that by allowing people to keep a good chunk of their paycheck, we boost the economy. For example, many in the Republican party oppose ending the tax cut that folks making over $250,000 (less than 1% of the population), benefit from. Some consider it disgusting to even insinuate that millionaires and billionaires should pay more in taxes. (And by more, I mean what they used to pay during the Clinton era, prior to the Bush Administration's tax cuts.) Despite Warren Buffett, the godzillionaire admitting via open letter to the New York Times that he pays less in taxes than every other person in his office and that he should pay MORE, the GOP is still stuck on giving him and his few peers tax breaks. BUT NOT US! (Note: if you are self-employed or if you make over 250,000 you are not included in "us." Sorry.)

Interested in seeing exactly how much you'd lose? 

In other words, the GOP believes we should cut our deficit on the backs of middleincomeonaires, but NOT on the backs of folks whose checks read like "oooooooooooooooooooo!" Pick a side; either you're for taxes or you're not for taxes. But don't decide to be for taxes when it affects the people who have the least versus those who have the most. Or go ahead and be that way. But if I accuse your party of being rife with unpatriotic slimy greed, you know where it comes from. 

Carry on. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't Be Rude to The Help

(A twist on More Words Wednesday, today’s post provides more light on the controversial book/film The Help.) 
When I first saw previews for The Help, I assumed this would be yet another movie where Hollywood took a marginalized group and capitalized on their pain. I pushed it to the back of my mind and carried on with life. Then, at the family reunion two weekends ago, my mother handed me the book. I figured, why not give it a whirl.

It. Was. Amazing.

The story was breathtaking, the characters were three dimensional and it was quite an inspirational piece of historical fiction. The authenticity of the story was enough to make you ball your fist in anger, laugh aloud, talk back to the characters (Magic Johnson Theater style), and stay up half the night until you finished the next chapter. Millions of readers and scores of book clubs agree with me. Meanwhile, several folks, including the Black Womens Historians, have hurled many serious allegations against the work. I can’t vouch for the movie since I haven’t seen it yet. However, I can address some of the criticisms lobbed against the novel. Below are a few, followed by my counterclaim:

1. Who is this white woman writing a book about black maids? Why can’t we tell our OWN stories? A few weeks ago, acclaimed Black author Terry McMillan tweeted, “When black authors write about black people, white folks don’t read them. When they write about us: bestsellers.” And with a few notable exceptions -her books being some of them- she’s right. Nevertheless, when Kathryn Stockett penned The Help it didn’t muzzle the voices of countless black authors, artists, storytellers, teachers, historians, etc. If anything, Stockett’s overwhelming success sparked an interest in domestic workers and race relations in a broader audience that may inspire them to read more from other authors on the topic, who are likely to be Black. Furthermore, the story had 3 narrators. Two of them were Black maids and one was a young White woman. Unless the book had been co-written by a Black and White person, someone was going to have write across race lines.  

2. This story has the oh-so-tired theme of White people coming to save Black people. I’m sick of it! This criticism has to come from someone who didn’t read the book. In the novel, black women and white women worked together to write a book about the domestic workers’ experience. In fact, one of the maids did a good chunk of the writing herself. Repeatedly, the novel references Black maids doing the bulk of the work, taking on the bulk of the risk, coming up with innovative ideas, and saving the day even after working in white people’s homes all day. There was no White savior in this story; the novel speaks of a true collaborative effort. 

3. The book left out major historical events and didn’t discuss the civil rights movement in enough detail. The Help is a work of fiction. It is a novel. It is not a textbook. It did not attempt to take on the task of detailing the civil rights movement or anything else. It did however discuss Medgar Evers and his assassination, the desegregation of Ole Miss, Jim Crow laws, the March on Washington, and the conflict in Vietnam. All in a book that wasn’t necessarily designed to educate.

4. One of the major issues that Black domestic workers faced in the 60’s was sexual harassment. The Help didn’t even touch that! The Help touched on many themes including race relations, friendship, societal pressures for women, and finding love. Stockett could have sneaked in a scene about one of the employers abusing his maid, but she didn’t. I’ll be honest, I kept waiting for it to appear, so I was a little relieved when it didn’t happen. Those women had enough issues going on without it. Furthermore, while over 15 maids are referenced in the book, only 2 maids’ lives were followed closely. Is it really fair to assume that at least 1 in every 2 maids in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960’s was sexually harassed? I don’t think so.

5. The Black dialect she wrote the maids’ perspective in was offensive. This criticism usually comes from college educated people who recoil at the fact that there was a time when Black women (our great aunts and grandmothers) said “Lawd”, “chile” and didn’t always make their subject and verb agree. I don’t particularly care to be reminded that women my grandmother’s age were uneducated and spoke like it; but it’s accurate. That’s really how they talked. I could often hear my grandmother’s voice coming off the page when I read Abileen’s perspective. The novel doesn’t make Blacks look dumb or like buffoons; if anything, it paints Whites as generally cruel and prejudiced. Black women who were around in the 1960’s, particularly domestic workers, would probably be amused or maybe even angered to know that we are ashamed of how they spoke. And I hate to admit it, but I’ve heard much worse grammar in parts of NE DC than I read in The Help.

6. There weren’t any positive Black men in The Help. Not true. Reverend Johnson, Abileen’s son Treelore, the man who offered to walk Abileen home, and a few others were all positive Black men in the story. It looks like this novel has charted more positive Black men than a Tyler Perry movie. *rimshot* Also, this book was primarily about women’s’ relations. People fail to realize that domestic workers worked at the home with the wives; they spent little time with the husbands whose socks they darned. There was more than enough material in discussing the complicated relationship between homemaker and maid.

7. Isn’t her family’s maid suing her for stealing the story? It is true. There was a woman whose name is similar to Abileen’s who use to work for the Stockett family. She was a maid who similarly to her almost namesake’s story, lost her son (although she lost her son to cancer, the fictional Abileen lost her son to a workplace accident). This is where the similarities stop. Ablene Cooper, who was attempting to sue Stockett, was about 10 years old when the fictional story took place, so she couldn’t have possibly been the inspiration for the story. In an interview, Katherine stated that in the 70’s, she grew up with a maid and that she included many of these experiences in the novel. This woman’s name was Demetrie, however she has passed away.  I can’t say with 100% certainty that Ms. Cooper’s lawsuit isn’t valid, but it certainly seems flimsy. Interestingly enough, the book was released in 2009, and the film was released this year. The lawsuit didn’t arrive until after the book became a national bestseller. Something to ponder. Update: The lawsuit has been thrown out because of the statute of limitations.

The short version: People expected The Help to do a lot more than it set out to do. People’s complaints surrounding The Help are based in what they think the author should have talked about, how they think she should have shared the story and on who they think is allowed to talk about race relations. When in reality, that’s utter nonsense. If you would prefer to read a story about black women by black women, there are countless options available to you. Buy them. But shunning and criticizing The Help isn’t going to help those Black authors sell any faster, so what’s your purpose?

Either allow yourself to be entertained by The Help. Or don’t. But don’t create a scandal, controversy, or problem out of thin air. You’re only helping her sell books with every angry blog post you write. Meanwhile, we’ve got actual problems to handle; like tax breaks for billionaires that are so ridiculously unfair even Warren Buffet had to speak out against it.  

    Have you read The Help? Have you seen The Help? Are you a fan, a critic or a little of both? Please share!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What a Man... What A Mighty Mighty Good Man

A little while ago, Hot Biscuits And Gravy wrote a piece on women defining men's standards and the short version is as follows:
“Woman: I have a degree and a good job, so why don’t you like me? I’m attracted to men with degrees and good jobs!”

What a silly thing for women to say/believe! While I understand that it's human to engage in this flawed thinking, I agree with the author of the post; women using their own standards to justify why someone else should be attracted to them makes little to no sense.

But I’ve noticed a parallel phenomenon among men. Many have an attitude that says, “I have my degree, my own car, my own house, no kids [or I take care of the ones I have], and I’ve never been to jail… how dare you not be humbled in my presence?! How dare you not recognize me for the mighty blessing that I am to you females!?” ( calls these men “diva dudes.”)

Let me make something clear.

Earning a degree is no easy feat. It’s quite an accomplishment to be proud of. Financial independence is also admirable. The fact that you’ve avoided to succumb to the evils of the world and become Prisoner #991234-01 l is also respectable. But to me, none of those things make you a man or an absolute catch. Here’s why.

Degrees and possessions are valuable accomplishments. Character and principles, on the other hand, represent something much more significant.

For those of you that have had the pleasure of being in a healthy relationship, what are some of the characteristics or attributes of your significant other that made you really appreciate them? I can toss out some examples for me. I really appreciate someone who:
  • puts others before self,
  • holds our relationship to a Biblical standard,
  • is willing to listen,
  • will be honest, even if he knows I won’t like what he’s saying,
  • will laugh at my horrible jokes in a crowd so I save face, and then gently tell me in the car not to ever get my material from Laffy Taffy wrappers again,
  • someone who will trust me and present himself as trustworthy.
I doubt that many of you will call to mind that bachelor’s degree or their sporty car when considering the value of your loved one. And if you do, well that’s a whole different blog topic altogether.

Men, do you really want a woman that loves you because of your education and “stuff”? This recession has proved that stuff can easily be repossessed and that often, an education won’t save you either. I know folks with JDs who are unemployed. Plus, what happens when she meets someone with more degrees and more stuff?! You’ve lost your trump card.

Women, I challenge you to be observant of characteristics that will hold steady over time, tribulations, recessions, surpluses and other transient circumstances. If you’re searching out a man who meets qualifications based on a surface resume, it’s likely that he’s searching out a woman based on a surface resume as well. And as we all know --Stacey Dash, my mother and Phylicia Rashad excluded-- our surface stock plummets much faster than men.

Men, I challenge you to place your best foot forward, which when dealing with a “good woman” isn’t your Wharton degree; it’s your kindness, your modesty, your contagious laughter, and your consistency. You may be surprised at the caliber of women who take an interest in you.

What do you say? Am I giving men with stacks of education and accomplishments a hard time? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To Snoop or Not to Snoop

About a year ago, a girlfriend of mine called me mid-rage asking me and another friend to come over to check out some “evidence.” We headed over and crowded around her Macbook where her boyfriend had left his Gmail (and chats) up, just waiting to be searched. And boy. Did we uncover a treasure trove. I have to admit, while the language was strong and the content wasn’t all that surprising to any of us (we’d suspected it for months), seeing those exchanges in black and white might have been one of the most difficult things she’d ever experienced. We hit her with all the clich├ęs (“He just wasn’t ready for a real woman like you… You need to throw his stuff outside!”). However, after we shattered his character, we went home and she was left staring at the computer screen reading the harmful words over and over again. I’m sure she still remembers most of it and doesn’t feel any better knowing that someone she trusted embarked on filthy conquests with such a cavalier attitude about their relationship. Nevertheless, she gained valuable information that she needed to make the right decision about how to proceed with their relationship.

So, should you check your significant other’s phone, email, Facebook account, odometer, etc? Many men and women say no. People often insist that the mere search for dirt ensures that you’ll find something. Others say, “If they’re not hiding anything, then it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Going through someone’s email, phone and other communication tools indicates a level of distrust that may make your significant other defensive, resentful, or suspicious of you. You may just find some inside joke that you don’t know all the details to. Or maybe you’ll find a photo (possibly unsolicited) that was sent to your man or woman. And now what? It could be a lot more innocent than you think, but all you see is red (panties). Even after he or she explains themselves, you’re now suspicious, and may even use it as a personal justification for some dirt you got caught up in. (Our mind is sneaky like that; it will use anything it can to justify our own selfish behavior.)

So on the question of snooping, I say NO, don't do it. Unless….
There’s reasonable cause.

You may be scratching your head and saying “Come again?” Let me explain.

God equipped humans with 5 senses which can be used to detect fine brunette hairs that couldn’t have possibly grown from your head, the sound of a Quiet Storm playlist, and yes… the scent of another woman, all up on your man. So while most men and women are smart enough to avoid major mistakes, we eventually slip up and leave a trail #tigerwoods. Despite the dramatic reactions depicted in film and television, few people are rarely completely caught off guard when confronted with evidence that their significant other is cheating. When you get that feeling that something isn’t right (based on very legitimate concerns) I say it’s ok to check and here’s why:

1. Time is precious. No one wants to waste their time in a relationship where only one party is committed.  
2. HIV and other venereal diseases are real. I wholeheartedly support abstinence until marriage. However, I’m realistic and I know everyone reading this hasn’t chosen that path. So, I’ll say this: if you and your partner don’t take precautions to protect yourself from diseases and you suspect that your partner may be stepping out, your health is at risk. In order to minimize this risk, if you have a strong logical inclination that your spouse is cheating, you need to get to the bottom of it. 
3. It will bother you until you do. Let’s face it; you see all the signs that your boo is cheating, but you have no evidence; you just know he disappears from the dinner table frequently and keeps his phone locked down harder than Guantanamo Bay. So before you get yourself all in a tizzy, find out the truth. 
4. If your suspicions are wrong, you still win and you can begin to build trust. You notice that she’s always staring at the computer and that she’s always texting someone on the sly. You approach her about your concern, ask if you can look through the phone together, and discover she has an addiction to online poker and has been texting her bookie. See? That wasn’t so bad.

I know many of you say snooping is wrong no matter what the circumstances. Do what works for you. Just realize that life doesn’t come at you in such absolutes. I suggest the following “snooping*” rules:

1. Have a discussion with your partner (sans the accusatory tone) and let him/her know that you are worried that you could be hurt. You may find out that the reason they’re acting funny is because of all the Sonic commercials airing throughout DC although a Sonic is NOWHERE TO BE FOUND! 
2. Don’t do it behind your partner’s back. Either ask them if you can check yourself or go through the device together. This may seem odd, but give it a try.  
3. Whatever you ask your significant other to do, be willing to do yourself. 
4. Before you begin, decide what you’re going to do based on what you find (or don’t find.) If you don’t find anything, then come up with a plan for building mutual trust and create checks and balances that eliminate cause for concern. If you do find something, decide if you want to work it out or dissolve the relationship. 
5. Don’t assume the worst. 

What are your thoughts? Is snooping ok? Should there be exceptions to this rule?

*snooping – I know that the term implies looking behind someone’s back for information, but I merely mean doing research.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why the NFL Lockout Was a Great Accidental Moment

I've only allowed one other person to guest write on this blog and that was a ghostwriter, so you know that this must be good. I'm not a sports expert myself, but my good friend known as ManoftheHour, knows EVERYTHING about sports. I asked him to deliver something of interest to a sports reader who makes his or her way over to my blog. Even I, a sports nitwit, could follow it. Enjoy!

Ever had something awful happen, and it turn out to be pretty cool? Something that, at the time the event occurred, you were sure it would be an awful blight on your life and then it turned out that it was exactly what needed to happen? For me, it was when I forgot to apply to John W. Ligon Middle School (formerly the best academic middle school in Raleigh) and wound up getting sent to Fred J. Carnage Middle School. Greatest. School. Ever.

The NFL just went through its own accidental greatness moment (I want to dub it a Carnage Catastrophe, what do you guys think?), with the 18-week lockout (the first work stoppage in over 20 years) officially over, look what has happened. The usual lukewarm offseason of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and flaccid trades has been replaced by a magma-hot Free Agency signings that have elicited twitter rants, screaming TV talking heads, and blogs waxing poetic about the joys of having America’s favorite game back.

During the past 72 hours perennial pro bowlers have been traded (Donovan McNabb, Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Matt Hasselbeck—with 17 pro bowl selections between them) , teams have changed their QBs (Arizona, Minnesota, Seattle, Tennessee, and Washington will all have new starting signal callers next year), and Carolina has added a pass-catching Tight End (this really isn’t a league-wide trend, but we haven’t had one since Wesley Walls in the mid 90s and now we have Jeremy Shockey AND Greg Olsen and I’m excited). This lockout has spurred the interest of everyone. There is a combination of relief and jubilation. It is almost like all of the blah, mediocre, mind-numbing dreck of the months of offseason, was condensed into a turbo, microwave dinner version of itself. It was fantastic.

This is great right? Over the course of the lockout, there have been several players to intimate (or tweet) that while they were interested in playing this year (and, obviously, getting paid) that they would now have the opportunity to heal from nagging injuries. Without the break, the injuries would have been re-aggravated and not allowed to mend because of the nearly endless season of conditioning and “voluntary” mini-camps that plague the mythical offseason of professional sports. Cutting down the offseason activities would mean little in the grand scheme of things. Players take better care of themselves than ever before, and so the rigorous offseason of conditioning is largely no longer necessary.

The Charlotte Observer reported that indeed, in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement the NFL has agreed with the NFLPA (National Football League’s Player’s Association) that there will no longer be two-a-days (the particulars of the CBA indicate that while teams are allowed to conduct two practices in a day, one will have to be without the use of pads). In addition, there will be more days off once the teams head to camp (which will also be later in the offseason, per the new CBA). In summation, even the NFL has acknowledged a need to scale down its activities.

The exhilaration of a new system would not come without its drawbacks. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (a player set to become the highest paid player in the league when he signs his new contract) was unable to get proper care after his neck surgery. Because of the delicacy of the procedure, and the fact that it is the second one he has had done in the past year and a half, Manning wanted to work with the Colts training staff. The staff was intimately familiar with his injuries and medical history, and had done all of his rehab since he became a professional. In addition to the player health issues that presented themselves as a result of the shortened offseason football activities, General Managers are having to make tough financial decisions in a very short period of time. Rookies have been unable to get playbooks in a timely manner are at a decided disadvantage to the veterans. The undrafted rookies could face more of an up-hill climb to make the teams than in previous years.

Still, the problems created by the new shortened offseason could be dealt with easily enough. The only reason that the players didn’t get treated by the team medical staff was because the lockout prevented management (and their other employees) from engaging in any conduct with the players. Without a labor dispute, team medical staffs would be free to treat players regardless of the duration of the offseason. As it concerns the rookies, undrafted rookies may take the brunt of the effects of the change. As viewers, however, we would experience very little drop-off in quality of play.

I just hope that the NFL takes this Carnage Catastrophe and makes the most of it.

If you liked this post, let ManoftheHour know in the comments so he'll be encouraged to write again. You can contact him directly here:
Twitter: Follow ManoftheHour
Facebook: Friend ManoftheHour