I Went to a Nazi Concentration Camp on Saturday

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Crematorium at Majdanek concentration camp.

I really didn’t want to visit Majdanek, a former Nazi concentration camp in Lublin, Poland. Like most people, I found Schindler’s List pretty difficult to watch; I couldn’t finish my tour of the Holocaust Memorial in Washington D.C. And so, when I wound up in Poland for a very short visit with my band this past weekend, I was thinking more about beer and pierogi — not about confronting the worst evil that mankind has to offer. Read more »

Wrong-Sperm Suit Is Really About the Burden of Being Black

Jennifer Cramblett is interviewed at her attorney's home in Waite Hill, Ohio, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Cramblett has sued a Chicago-area sperm bank after she became pregnant with sperm donated by a black man instead of a white man as she'd intended.

Jennifer Cramblett is interviewed at her attorney’s home in Waite Hill, Ohio, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Cramblett has sued a Chicago-area sperm bank after she became pregnant with sperm donated by a black man instead of a white man as she’d intended.

A same-sex couple in Ohio is suing a Chicago-area sperm bank for wrongful birth and breach of warranty after receiving the wrong sperm, resulting in the birth of a mixed-race baby girl, Payton.

Payton’s mother, Jennifer Cramblett, has said that she and her partner will now have to relocate from their Uniontown, Ohio, farm town to a more diverse area in order to ensure that Payton is comfortable. Cramblett cites that their current community is mostly white and conservative, and notes racial intolerance in her own family.

Baby Payton is two years old. While it is admirable that her parents have noted their own shortcomings in their ability to care for a child of color (cultural understandings, or even more basic needs like hair care) the lawsuit is about a little more than negligence. And let us be clear, Midwest Sperm Bank certainly seems grossly negligent.

Payton’s parents want compensation for the inconvenience of living a black life. Read more »

Rihanna Was Right to Tell Off CBS Over Thursday Night Football Decision

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There is nothing that is — or perhaps can be — written about Rihanna without talking about the events that transpired on Grammy night in 2009. Similarly, there is rarely mention of Tina Turner without an acknowledgment of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband Ike. Domestic violence leaves a mark long after the bruises fade — and usually on the reputation of the abused.

The NFL’s reputation is taking its own beating, first with the release of the video capturing Ray Rice’s violent physical assault against his then-fiancée, next the child abuse allegations against Adrian Peterson. In efforts to demonstrate some long-absent self-awareness, CBS opted out of the network’s planned opening sequence, which included a song by Rihanna. It can be argued that the network opted to refit the opener with a more appropriately somber tone, though CBS executive Sean McManus did point to the singer’s previous bouts as a domestic violence victim as part of the deciding factor to pull the song last week.

True to form, Rihanna took to Twitter to express her displeasure:

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5 Myths About ISIS and Iraq

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Thousands of Americans were killed and trillions expended in Iraq over the last 11 years. Tragically, all of this was in vain since the situation is at its worst since Saddam Hussein was wrongfully deposed.  And one would think America would have learned its lesson.

But after President Obama’s pronouncement that more troops are headed back to Iraq, it’s abundantly clear that America prefers self-immolation.

Most shocking is how cavalierly the war hawks want to ship Americans to the Middle East, seemingly fine with the inevitable fact that many will return in body bags — if they return at all.

In a last-ditch effort to inject common sense into the debate, here’s a look at the truths, and myths, regarding America’s involvement in Iraq:

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Will President Obama Put American Soldiers in Iraq and Syria in Time?

Photograph by Jeff Fusco

Photograph by Jeff Fusco

When President Obama addresses the nation Wednesday night, on the event of the 13th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, the country faces its greatest threat from a terrorist organization since that fateful day.

After a long, sleepy summer of inaction by the President as ISIS grew and seized land, arms and treasure, the President finally does have a strategy and is ready to share it with the country. The President will look for national support in the face of his lowest approval numbers since he was first sworn in to office in 2008.

We should give it to him.

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Wait, People Are Still Victim Blaming Janay Rice?

Janay Rice, left, looks on as her husband, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, speaks to the media during a news conference in Owings Mills, Md. on May 23rd, 2014.

Janay Rice, left, looks on as her husband, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, speaks to the media during a news conference in Owings Mills, Md. on May 23rd, 2014.

In case you missed it, Janay Rice has already apologized.

At a May news conference, she sat next to her husband and said she regretted “the role that she played in that night” – that night being the one during which she was attacked in an elevator by a professional football player, knocked unconscious, and dragged away.

It was awkward then, when the simple assault charges against her had already been dropped and we only strongly suspected what the first half of that Revel Casino surveillance tape showed. Now that we know – now that we have seen what happened before Ray Rice dragged his then-fiancée’s body out of an elevator – do we really want her to explain herself again?

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Twitter Fury! Chuck Todd Debuts on Meet The Press

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The Chuck Todd era on Meet The Press has officially begun. How did he do in the debut show? It really depends on who you ask.

First a little background. Meet The Press, a perennial Sunday morning ratings powerhouse with the late Tim Russert as its host, has fallen to third place. Deborah Turness, from ITV news in Great Britain, was brought in as the new president of NBC News. She fired David Gregory, replaced him with Chuck Todd and announced that she wanted the show to be “edgier.”

Conservatives, who consider the network political chief a liberal hack, immediately attacked the ascension of Chuck Todd on Twitter before he even got to sit in the chair:
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Have We Entered the Era of Crowdsourced Hate-Funding?

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Lynching rose to prominence in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most notably in the Deep South during the dawn of Reconstruction. Lynching was extra-judicial, vigilante action used to intimidate African Americans — and sometimes sympathetic whites — to enforce racist Jim Crow law. Individuals who participated in lynch mobs were seldom convicted in a court of law, even if properly identified, meaning perpetrators were safe, generally anonymous, and rarely held accountable for their actions.

Perhaps more disgustingly, lynching was a public spectacle, often treated as a family-friendly community event. It was not uncommon for children to be brought to the sight of lynchings, as a victim’s body hung lifelessly from a tree. So agreeable were whites to the racial violence of lynching, many took photos gathered around the victim, united as one for the cause of a dead black man.

While lynching has occurred less frequently since the Civil Rights Movement, its legacy remains present in the modern era; the noose remains symbolic, and makes regular appearances at many universities. The mob mentality persists as well, now in the form of the digital campaign, where individual donors unite as one.

In the wake of the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, and allegations of first-degree rape and sexual battery of eight black women, lucrative crowdsourcing fundraisers were established for George Zimmerman, officer Darren Wilson and officer Daniel Holtzclaw, respectively.

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An Ice Bucket Challenge Backlash? Really!?

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Predictably, this summer’s ice bucket challenge, which has raised millions for ALS research and clued a new generation (including my own children) into issues surrounding ALS, has created a backlash. Articles in Time and Philadelphia magazine, among many others, have criticized the challenge as either shallow, wasteful or even (despite all the money raised) counterproductive.

There have always been scolds and fogies, but the rise of the Internet and social media has turned reflexive naysaying into something of a sub-genre of media commentary. I’ve decided to call this dull contrarianism, because these arguments are rarely more interesting or clever than the parent at the Slip’N Slide party who starts talking about kids losing eyes.

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3 Feel-Good Stories the Internet Has Ruined This Week

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Have you noticed how angry everyone online is lately? Taking a confluence of factors into consideration, this might have been the most furious Internet week of 2014, and it’s not even over yet. But I’m not talking the myriad of real issues we as a people are facing. Below, let’s quickly look at three topics that seem to be pissing everyone off, when there seem to be much more important things toward which to focus our animosity.

What We’re Mad About: The Little League World Series

Why We’re Mad: Philly’s the type of city that could always use something or someone to root for, but it’s rare that we actually land legitimate options. Now, our very own Taney Dragons, led by breakout star/wunderkind/Sports Illustrated covergirl Mo’ne Davis, is one W away from playing for a national championship. Go Taney! Everyone loves to see awesome local kids have fun and succeed, right? NO OF COURSE NOT STOP BEING HAPPY.

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