Donald Trump’s Cult of Personality

Cult of Personality (Wikipedia):

cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods to create an idealized, heroic, and at times worshipful image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.

With less than 30 days to go in the United States’ 2016 presidential elections, it finally occurred to me what’s really going on. While one candidate is a legitimate but flawed politician, the other has seriously and continuously appeared to be a lunatic that needs mental help and yet has some how managed to make it to the final round of the greatest and most grave stage.
For months, I’ve attributed Trump’s successes to the fringe of society that blindly support their favorite celebrities. These are the people that made Paris Hilton and the entire Kardashian family famous and keep them stuck in the headlines. Most people, I’d wager, don’t give a damn about these celebrities that are famous for nothing, yet none of us can fully escape hearing about them on a regular basis without seeming like lunatics ourselves.

But then along comes Donald Trump, who was given a platform to reinvigorate his celebrity status with The Apprentice. Because he’s been a businessman — successful or not depends on the eye of the beholder — this same fringe celebrity worshipping group takes him seriously and ignores what a terrible human being he is.

That is the textbook definition of a cult of personality. This is why so many Republican politicians got eliminated from the 2016 campaign for president. It had absolutely nothing to do with their qualifications, their platform, or outlook but had everything to do with essentially mass hysteria and the strengthening of the Trump Reality Distortion Field as the numbers in the cult swelled.

And you know what? That’s not even the worst part. In some tiny, unloved dark part of my soul, I actually kind of feel bad for Trump. He doesn’t see that he’s surrounded himself with Yes Men that tell him everything and only that he wants to hear. A Yes Man, as you might guess, only gives positive answers to their employers, they’re enablers in the worst sense of the word. A Yes Man would willingly lie to their boss or champion despite overwhelming facts because it’s their job on the line. As an example, Trump’s senior campaign staff refused to tell him that he lost the first debate for days afterwards, kept feeding him unscientific poll results that told him he won overwhelmingly, and then slowly started informing him otherwise as the week went on. Similarly, one of Trump’s own sons tweeted an electoral count map from Five Thirty Eight today showing him leading Clinton nation wide, when the truth of the map was that it was with a specific set of male only voters. (The map with all voters represented showed that Trump was losing by more than 100 electoral votes.)

The bottom line is that because Trump has been the rich boss literally for decades, he doesn’t have a soul around him to tell him the truth. That’s how he can go out and make bold statements that are completely false, or outright lie… He has no one to set him straight and make it mean something to him. If he doesn’t like what he hears, he fires the person and moves on. There’s no one that can hold him accountable so he has lost the ability to distinguish between fact and fiction. He has lost the ability to be ethical and to make moral decisions.

That’s why that tiny bit of my soul feels sorry for Donald Trump.

While I am a Democrat, I’m not voting for Hilary because I think she’s the perfect candidate. (My candidate was Bernie.) I’m voting for her because I don’t want to see what a country lead by a delusional, detached madman would look like. Hilary was not the best candidate for president, in my opinion, but she’s the best of what’s left. She and her husband have actively helped the black community of which I’m a part, and appreciatively the city of Detroit, which gave birth to me. I respect her ability and determination to do what’s right, and more importantly, she knows what it’s like to work hard for something and to watch as it falls apart due to no fault of her own. Donald Trump, on the other hand, only looks for advantages for himself, and when he fails, his Yes Men make everything alright for him so he doesn’t have to deal with the outcome of his failure.

I wonder how he’ll deal with his failure to become president. How will those Yes Men clean this up?

Water Issues at Detroit Central High School

In the name of improving my health, I’ve spent a fair number of mornings walking to the nearby track at Central High School, here in Detroit. Last week, I noticed that the school had been closed a number of days and only discovered over the weekend that it was due to water pressure issues at the school, as documented in this WDIV news story. The story also documents the disagreements between the high school/Michigan Education Achievement Authority, Great Lakes Water Authority, and the Detroit Department of Water and Sewage over where the problem lies, though it doesn’t seem to take into account a major part of the history of the site. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for over 30 of my 44 years, so I’m very familiar with the history, I hope that I can properly enlighten you about what I suspect is going on.

Central High School opened at its current location in 1926, along with Durfee Middle School and Roosevelt Elementary School (which was torn down a few decades ago and integrated into Durfee). At the time of the construction, and until sometime around 2004, the school complex had a steam plant that provided steam (and I believe electricity) to the three schools on the campus. The steam plant (and its long shadow) can be seen on the left side of this satellite photo from December 30, 2002 (courtesy of Google Earth):Central-Durfee Complex 30Dec2002

For documentation’s sake, Central High School is the large building at the top of the image, Durfee Elementary and Middle School is the large building at the bottom. During the improvements to the complex approximately 11-13 years ago, the plant was torn down and replaced with a plant integrated into Central High School. (Among other changes, the track and football field were relocated slightly, and one of the drive ways at the rear of the complex was removed.) The current complex can be seen in this satellite photo from April 11, 2015 (again courtesy of Google Earth):

Central-Durfee Complex 11April2015

What you can also see in this second photo, is evidence supporting my suspicion that the problem with water pressure at the schools has nothing to do with the water supplied to the complex by the Detroit Department of Water and Sewage, but water leaking into the old steam pipes from the steam plant.

Although I have only been walking at the track for a short time, I noticed on my very first visit and every visit since these standing pools of water:

In addition to these, there’s another pool I didn’t photograph next to the stands at the track. The photo below is the merged satellite photos with the locations marked in red.


If you look at the April 2015 satellite photo, you can actually make out two of the pools in the access road from Linwood, which is an indicator that these pools of water have been present for at least a year. Given they haven’t changed much in size during the month or so that I’ve been walking at the complex, these pools must be getting fed by an underground water source that has saturated the land. I’m not an engineer, but I think it’s a short jump in logic to connect the water pressure issues at Central High School with these pools of water.

What I suspect is that the old steam pipes from the steam plant are still present underground, and are still connected to both Central and Durfee, and may even still run to the old location of Roosevelt which sat between the two schools. Durfee, on November 12-13, 2014, had heating issues as documented by another local television station, WXYZ in their news story. At that time, there was a small pit emitting steam near the northwest corner of the school; while that was probably a connecting pipe from the new steam/heating plant at Central, it still could be a sign that the old pipes are still in place and water might be leaking into them.

My final bit of supporting evidence is personal testimony; on several occasions while walking on the track, I saw the new steam plant venting large amounts of steam. I believe the date was Saturday April 30, 2016 when I witnessed it belching steam every 1-2 minutes while I walked around the track. Again, I’m no engineer or expert on steam boilers, but from experience with the boiler in my home,  they tend to build up a lot of pressure when the water level in the boiler is low. Releasing/venting steam might have been done automatically to prevent catastrophic failure of the system. (In other words, an explosion.)

Given the large amounts of water at and next to the track, I don’t believe that the Detroit Department of Water and Sewage is responsible for the low water pressure that Central experienced; I believe that the construction to build the new heating plant failed to secure the old pipes and is currently leaking water into the surrounding land. Given that Central is run by the Michigan Education Achievement Authority, which took it over from the Detroit Public Schools, I don’t believe there’s anyone employed at Central that would even be aware of the old steam plant, let alone suspect that there might be leaks to the old pipes.

Finally, given the sinkhole that opened up down the street at Linwood and Monterey on March 29, 2014, I would be surprised that there isn’t a very large sinkhole developing beneath this complex, and would recommend that the immediate area be given a thorough stability study in the near future.

LFRD: Looking for Religious Discussion

In the interest of self-education and enlightenment, I’d like to open a private discussion via email with people of other faiths. I identify as a Baptist Christian, primarily due to the religious beliefs I inherited from my parents, however I’ve adopted a viewpoint and certain beliefs that I think some Christian sects would consider heretical and/or blasphemous. Nonetheless, I have been curious about Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shinto, and other religions and would like to learn more about them. I’m not looking to convert to another religion, or attempt to convert anyone else. This is for my own selfish educational purposes, and I’m willing to help provide insights into Christianity as I see it in exchange. This shall be an intellectual, judgement free discussion; I’m not a very judgmental person to begin with and I have no desire or interest to  offend anyone. A few years ago, as part of my undergraduate studies, I took a class on interreligious discussions, and would like to follow up on it by actually participating in some. As I said before, these discussions will be private, one on one, and will not be shared with anyone without your express permission.

The religions I’m most interested in learning more about are Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Native American religions, though it wouldn’t hurt to learn more about Catholicism and other Christian sects as well. Frankly, I’m interested in learning a bit more about just about all religions, so if I didn’t expressly mention yours above and you’re interested, feel free to drop me a line.

Thank you!

Simple Mobile: What’s Up?

Short Story:

My Simple Mobile service is barely functional at the moment: phone calls drop, SMS/MMS partially works, no LTE/4G/3G/2G service at all. Get in touch with me with answers and/or a fix.


Long Story:

I heard about Simple Mobile about 18 months ago when I was looking for a contract free phone service. I’m not writing this article to complain about other networks, or my previous cell phone problems, though I would love to rant on that. I loved the option to provide my own phone rather than having to pay for it as part of a monthly bill. In August, 2013, I bought a LG/Google Nexus 4 to give Simple a try, and I liked what I saw: the service was consistently available everywhere in the Detroit area, unlimited text messaging and minutes, and reliable 4G service for about $50/month, literally half of what I had been paying. So I decided that once my contract terminated at the start of this year, I would make the switch official, and I did.

Porting my phone number over was flawless and quick, and I eventually purchased a nice new LG/Google Nexus 5 from the Google Play Store, and I have been happy ever since.

Until this weekend.

On Friday, I paid for my monthly service a couple days before my service would have expired, and I noticed on Saturday that my internet status indicator was flickering between 4G, 3G, H and just the phone signal strength bars which indicate no internet connection. As I was out and about, I didn’t think anything of it: I don’t expect perfect coverage everywhere, even on T-Mobile’s network. (For the uninformed, Simple Mobile operates on T-Mobile’s networks.) On Sunday, while out shopping, I needed to make a call to confirm some items on my shopping list, and the call dropped. Two attempts to call back failed; the call would drop within a few seconds of the ring tones, and the person I had been speaking with was only able to get to voice mail. I again noticed that the internet connection indicators were flickering at best, more frequently than not, the phone was indicating no service at all.

When I got home, I decided to try a live chat with Simple Mobile’s technical support department to see if there was a local problem. Although it’s rare, cell phone networks do occasionally have outages that could be caused by any number of things. The representative that I was chatting with confirmed that there were outages in several other states, but that there were none in Michigan at the time. Initially, the chat was courteous enough that I wasn’t particularly bothered by he implication that it was either a network capacity problem or a problem with my phone. Perhaps my phone needed to be restarted, I decided. The rep asked for a moment while he took a look at something; I have no idea what he might have been looking at because about 30 seconds later, he sent a canned answer that suggested that the problem was either network capacity at the time, my phone, or that there could be a problem with my service plan and that I should contact customer service. Before I could even read through the text, the rep left the chat so I didn’t even have the opportunity to ask any additional questions or provide any more information after I restarted my phone.

Being a technical support representative myself, I cut the guy some slack, didn’t get pissed off, and just restarted my phone, seeing that the problem didn’t go away. I decided that I would give it another day or two to see if the problem corrects itself, and kept an eye on my phone for the next 36 hours without complaint.

This morning, Tuesday, October 7, 2014, when the problem still wasn’t resolved, I called Simple Mobile to get some assistance *AFTER* going through the Simple Mobile Programming Guide and configuring the APN as instructed, just in case. My last attempt at fixing the issue myself failed, and I advised the telephone rep of the situation and that I had attempted to reprogram the APN without success. Despite my own impatience and hatred of following a scripted procedure to troubleshoot and fix technical problems, I listened to what she told me to do, and performed the steps as she requested them.  As my Nexus 5 is on Android 4.4.4 and the Simple Mobile instructions only cover up to Android 4.2, there were some minor differences in labeling of menu items, but we got through them, and I presume I was giving her the correct responses, even though my service continued to not function properly. Finally, it got to a point where she sent some commands to my phone, telling me that they should come in as SMS messages with instructions.

The problem is, as I originally mentioned, my SMS messages aren’t working 100% properly; I didn’t receive the first message or the second when she resent it. When I informed her that I still didn’t receive them, she grew a bit frustrated and told me that I should put my SIM in another phone to see if it works, and/or to buy a new SIM and have my service and number transferred over to it. She was completely out of troubleshooting steps and advice.

As I had loaned my Nexus 4 to a family member to see if she wanted to move into a smartphone (she’s been a hold-out for years), it was unavailable for me to test with, so I followed the latter advice and purchased a new SIM, and called to have my service moved over to it.

In the 5 hours since purchasing and activating that new SIM, I’ve continued to experience the exact same problem, even after turning the phone off and on multiple times, and checking the settings repeatedly. So, problem solved? It’s my Nexus 5, right? Wrong. A short time ago, I caught up with that family member and put the new SIM into the Nexus 4 and got the exact same thing with it: although the Nexus 4 doesn’t support LTE, it does support HSPA+ 4G, 3G, and 2G service, so if the SIM and service were in perfect condition, I should have had internet service on it even if the Nexus 5 was damaged. But I didn’t. This means that both phones are in proper working order; the problem is with either the SIMs, or more likely, the service.

Now, considering that I have ruled out the phone and the SIM (by purchasing a new SIM and getting the same result), I need Simple Mobile to get this fixed. I need answers, people. I’ve been patient, I’ve been open, and I need a working phone. If I can’t get that from Simple Mobile, and I really do want to stick with Simple, then I’m going to have to move on to another service, possibly back into a contract service. If I have to move on, Simple, I’m going to need a refund of the $53 dollars or so I paid last week for my service.

The ball is in your court, Simple Mobile. I’m following @SimpleMobile on Twitter, so send me a direct message if you’re interested in helping get this resolved,  AND SOON.

End of the Story (November 1, 2014):

Roughly two weeks ago, I called their tech support line yet again after calling them out on Twitter met with limited success. I got their attention enough to get a tech to pay more attention to my situation than they previously had, and the guy determined that there was “something” suspended on my account and he was going to email his supervisor about it and I should hear back within 24-48 hours, the same fucking thing I’d been told again and again. I said “fine,” and when I got done with the call, filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau about this whole situation. The 48 hour window elapsed without so much as a call and I called back again, and got the same party line, but this time I had additional information for them… I’ve had a mobile hotspot since roughly May of this year, and I used my original SIM that I experimented with Simple Mobile with it; I paid for 30 days worth of service on it, and confirmed that it was getting internet service, then I put that SIM in my phone. Voila! Internet access, though it was the wrong phone number, so I couldn’t just leave it that way. So when I told them about that, I again got the 24-48 hour party answer. After that period went by, I received a call from a woman named Heather stating that she’d received my BBB complaint and would be handling the situation; I responded to her voice mail with one of my own, giving her all the various tracking numbers  I’d been assigned.

I can’t say that she snapped her fingers and made the whole thing go away, though I also don’t want to say she was completely ineffective. The next day, while going through the troubleshooting procedures *YET AGAIN*, she decided that based on her information that the APN MMSC as seen on the Simple Mobile Phone Programming page was incorrect; her information listed “http://smpl.mms.msg.eng.t-mob…” (ellipsis included) as the URL, which I advised her appeared to be incomplete, but she insisted that it was correct. Because I was too irritated by the whole situation to argue, I complied and updated the MMSC to that and rebooted my phone. Suddenly, I had internet access on my phone again. Now, before you go changing your MMSC to match that, be aware that she had also had her people and the carrier digging into the situation again, and they were supposedly resetting things and sending signals to my phone. As you’ll see, it’s probably not the MMSC change that got things working. While I had LTE, 3G, and 2G internet on my phone again, my SMS and MMS messages weren’t working , and she and I decided that it might just be too soon after making the MMSC setting change (and other things going on) for it to have started working completely, so we decided to leave the BBB ticket open until this past Monday to see how things went.

Last Saturday, after still not being able to send or receive SMS and MMS messages, I received an email from Heather indicating that I was correct, the MMSC URL that she gave me was wrong, and the documentation throughout Simple Mobile’s site and Android app showed the correct MMSC. I immediately set the correct URL again and returned my “APN Type” field back to the setting I’d had it on since I switched to Simple Mobile: “default,supl,mms,admin”.  Suddenly, everything started working perfectly. So in summary, my phone’s configuration was right back to what it started out as when this whole situation began, and my service was once again working. So I told her as much.

I have just accepted the resolution of this matter with the BBB indicating that as long as the extension of my service is honored and this does not reoccur.

A Possible Sequel?

That remains to be seen. The bottom line is I switched to Simple Mobile to get the hell away from the carrier’s contracts, but at the same time, this kind of support makes me want to go running back to them. My last few cellphones have all been in the Google Nexus series, which just started doing pre-orders on the Nexus 6. As I intend to get that phone, I’m currently weighing spending $650-$700 for the unlocked phone, which is an exceptionally high cost for me, or going back to the carriers where I can probably get it for about $200 or so for a two year contract. If I do go back with the carriers, it’ll probably be with T-Mobile… I have no desire to go back to Verizon after the bullshit they pulled with the Galaxy Nexus, I don’t like AT&T, and I like the idea of GSM service enough to eliminate Sprint. I have issues with T-Mobile, but they seem to be the best option at this point… But we’ll see what happens later this month (November), and I’ll make my decision then.

Something Wicked Yadda Yadda Yadda…

(Disclaimer: It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m hungry for success and a good Philly cheesesteak.)

April 28, 2012. That was the official date of my graduation from Oakland University. It was the date that I officially received my Bachelors of Arts in Cinema Studies (Criticism). It was and is a far cry from where I thought I’d be twenty three years ago. On this date precisely twenty two years ago, I was attending — flunking out of, really — Michigan State University, addicted to CNN’s coverage of the [first] Gulf War, eating Gumby’s Pizza, while trying to figure out how I could recover from the mess I was making of my life. I’d abandoned the Air Force R.O.T.C. as I felt the detachment never had its act together. I abandoned my major, because electrical engineering simply wasn’t what I wanted to do but there was no computer science program at MSU dedicated to churning out programmers, at least as far as I was able to discover at that time. In reality, while I was — and am — fascinated by programming, it ultimately wasn’t and isn’t what I really wanted to do with my life. As I told a friend recently, I only really got to be good with programming because when I was a kid with my Atari 800XL computer, I didn’t have a word processor nor did I know what one was for several years, and so I took to trying to create something that would just let me write.

Writing… In all honesty, it’s the only thing I’m truly good at. I personally don’t think that I have the vision of some of the greats; I don’t think I could write thirty or forty novels with the same characters like some authors have. I tend to think that my stories are simplistic and often immature, that there needs to be a moral that I’m failing to add.When I read my stories, I find them entertaining, but I often feel they’re missing something… Something to move them from good to great.

So when I finally gave up on the tech industry after it abandoned me yet again, I decided to shift gears and move from my logical, technical side to my more creative side, and hope to build a career in writing. When the film industry started picking up and all the stars aligned and the Cinema Studies program became available at Oakland University, to which my mother is an alumnus, I enrolled thinking about screenwriting as a potential career.

During my three years at Oakland University, I’ve had some truly great teachers, and I’m going to name names here for all of you out there. If you’re lucky, you’ll be fortunate enough to have one or all of them as your teacher one day. Dr. Kyle Edwards, head of the Cinema Studies program, accepted me in with open arms despite my technical background, and taught one hell of a class on Sound Era Films. Dr. Ross Melnick was only there for a single year, but I was fortunate enough to have him for three classes, and I’m astonished at how much film and theater history there is to learn courtesy of that man. I’ll never look at or think about a Roxy theater without thinking about the man behind the name now. Dr. Doris Plantus-Runey is an eccentric genius and I looked forward to every damned minute of her screenwriting and adaptations classes. Hunter Vaughan is not quite as eccentric but no less a genius, though I must confess that film theory beyond montage is not my forte. I must also thank him for exposing his students to Last Year at Marienbad and a few other esoteric films that really make you think, and don’t just entertain. Expect the unexpected! Dr. Heidi Kenaga is another slightly eccentric professor, but I don’t think there’s anyone that knows more about films. Name a film and she can discuss it in detail, and I was very fortunate to be taught by her in each of my three years at OU. There are others as well, including some outside the Cinema Studies program such as my Japanese teacher, Masae Yasuda — who moved on to the University of Michigan — that are more than worth noting. They’re worth thanking and appreciating. To all those I’ve left unmentioned, thank you!

I seem to have left the rails of my original train of thought… Or have I? Without these people, these classes I’ve taken, and the opportunity to sit and stew on all that I’ve learned, I don’t think that it would be remotely possible for me to embark upon a writing career, let alone do it successfully. Not that I’ve gotten there yet, mind you, but I needed to be shaped and honed. I certainly look at every television show and film with a more critical eye, identifying the things I like and dislike the most about them. I can now spot themes I never would’ve consciously noticed before, and I can question and appreciate the choices made in the writing phase more than I ever could before. I may have earned at BA of Cinema Studies, but what I really did is build a set of tools to help me achieve my goals. They can’t be given, they have to be developed. When combined with the skills I already possessed, I have no excuse for not succeeding. My stories may still lack something of a moral character, in my eyes, but that doesn’t mean they’re unacceptable. The point of many stories, like mine, is to entertain, and so that’s what I’ll do.

I have the tools, I just have to use them.

To that end, I’ll bore you for another few moments with a brief discussion of some of the things I’ve watched recently, and what drew me to them. First and foremost are the shows that I love because they simply make writers look cool, Castle and Californication. I watch both of these shows because of the writer connection, the fact that I’m living vicariously through each of the central writer characters which are wildly successful compared to myself, the humor, the writing, and the actors playing the writers in question: Nathan Fillion and David Duchovny. Perhaps I read too much into it when I draw a parallel between the two actors as both were on wildly popular if not successful sci-fi shows at some point before they took on these authorial personae, but given the “mundaneness” of their current characters’ career choices, I like to think there’s some hope for myself. Similarly, I watched Midnight in Paris earlier this evening, starring Owen Wilson as a screenwriter aspiring to be an author. Besides the obvious parallel to my own life, or desired life, this film was intriguing from many different points of view, even if you don’t like Owen. Frankly, it seems that Woody Allen might make me a fan if he keeps this up! Then there’s House of Lies starring Don Cheadle. There’s no good excuse for watching it other than I enjoy it, but there’s something that was done often in the first season that is so far largely missing from the second, and I hope it returns before they lose my viewership: breaking the fourth wall. Marty, Cheadle’s character, would regularly talk to the viewer, hold up cue cards, and do bizarre things that none of the other characters would notice during every episode, and I loved every single moment of it because he was an acknowledgment of the absurdity of his character’s situation. It’s been used sparingly so far this season, but I hope that’s because they’re saving it for something really good. The final thing I want to mention is House of Cards, a Netflix produced series available exclusively (for now at least) on their service. Like the other House I mentioned here, the main character — Francis Underwood played by Kevin Spacey (another one of my favorite actors, by the way) — frequently breaks the fourth wall, bringing a bit of levity and insight to the otherwise deep and heavy political angling and pressure of the show. I’m not saying I’m a fan after watching the first two episodes this evening, but I love what I see, and I have to admit that I am beyond fascinated with Underwood’s relationship with his wife. He may have the political power and ability to scheme like no one else, but he appears to be as deadly loyal to his wife as she is to him, though it is clear that she holds some measure of power over him. I think the thing that caught my attention in the first episode was when she said to him in no uncertain terms “My husband doesn’t apologize to anyone, not even me” which forced him to reevaluate his reactions to a political snub. There’s an oddness to their relationship that I can’t quite define yet, but it’s going to have me coming back episode after episode.

So I’ve rambled on for almost exactly fifteen hundred words. (Well, exactly that at “words.”) Why? Because I’m not where I thought I would be more than two decades ago. Because I have developed the tools to put me where I want to be two decades from now. Because I know what I like, what I want to capture, and what I’m going to give you. It’s time to stop delaying and panicking and start writing and crafting. I may not get there this year, but I will get there. I’m now putting forth the effort to get there, and if I fail, well, that’s fine too. But I’m not going out without trying. Clancy Brown, in his role as Kurgan in The Highlander, said “it’s better to burn out than to fade away.” I get that now. It’s better to give it my all and fail than to have never tried at all. Perhaps I’ll have a brief but brilliant career. Perhaps I’ll have a long and amazing career. Perhaps not. But if there’s no effort, I’ll never know. If I can’t put a moral in my stories, then I’m going to put sin in. Just know that something wicked this way comes!

Believe the World Ends This Month? Send Me Your Useless Money!!

I am not one of the people that believes that the world will be ending in a mere 20 days. I’m not, i just plain am not. In my humble opinion, December 21st will come and go like all other days in my life, and a new day will begin on December 22nd, just as they always have in my life.

However, I will not just arbitrarily dismiss others’ beliefs. In fact, I want to help you fine people. If you believe the world is ending on the 21st, I’ll be happy to take the soon to be useless cash off your hands. If you haven’t already begun preparing for the last day, then money is useless to you now: you’ll probably be dead in under a month, just like I will. So, you may as well get rid of your money, and I’ll gladly take it for you, in my vain hope that life will go on afterwards. I’m not talking about holding on to the money for you, so you can hedge your bets: if by some stroke of luck or the grace of God, December 22nd comes around as a normal day after all, I will not return your money. But as that’s a remote chance any way, why not send me your money?

To make things easier and safer for us both, I’ll accept either Bitcoins or Paypal. Send Bitcoins to 1EDVJJnv9AF6GZQYJwchWSZ4d1kjvZi7en . Use the form below to contact me to arrange a PayPal transfer.


Trayvon Martin, LZ Granderson & Police

I’m not going to recap the case because just about everyone on the planet has probably heard about it by now. In fact, I’m barely going to talk about it at all because it’s a tragedy that touches some very raw nerves. What I am going to address is LZ Granderson’s opinion piece on CNN entitled “Why black people don’t trust the police.” In his commentary, Granderson states his experiences with the police, including being handcuffed and harrassed by police for no reason, and generally makes the sweeping statement that blacks don’t like police. I respect Mr. Granderson’s work and opinions, and I understand that he wasn’t attempting to speak for everyone, but I want to point out that there are a lot of us that do like the police.

In my case, I’m a little biased. Although I grew up in and currently live within the city limits of the city of Detroit, my father was a police officer, my mother worked at the Detroit House of Corrections, an uncle was employed as an officer with the Wayne County sheriff, and my sister is currently an active duty sergeant with the Detroit Police Department. When I was a child, our house had been broken into a number of times, the thieves were never caught. Back in the 80s, a neighbor next door was shot while sitting in his living room because of something his grandson had done. I witnessed a drive-by shooting at the corner of my block in the early 90s, in which — thankfully — no one was apparently injured. I remember the Malice Green and Rodney King incidents clearly, as well as the whole O.J. Simpson affair. A young woman was accidentally killed by a handgun by her boyfriend just a year or so ago on my block a few houses down the street. And less than two weeks ago, a woman apparently defending herself from her boyfriend shot and wounded him across the street.

I’ve seen crime and I’ve seen law enforcement.

What I have never seen is a police officer pull me, my family members or friends over for no reason. I have no tales of my black friends and family being unjustly accused of anything, either while I lived 29 of my 40 years in Detroit, or when I lived in various parts of California. I have lived in fear of being accused of breaking some law some where but have never actually experienced it. I have walked through predominantly white neighborhoods in California late at night by myself, where I could easily be considered a suspicious individual and I’ve driven around all parts of the Detroit area late at night, but never once have I been stopped and investigated beyond a speeding violation or a car accident. Even when I’ve been pulled over, without having car insurance, I was not taken out of my vehicle, searched, or had my identity checked for outstanding warrants. And believe me, my connections to law enforcement agencies haven’t had anything to do with this “fair” treatment.

There’s been a long standing fear in the black community that police officers are out to get black people. Some of that was reinforced by historical and suspected infiltration of the law enforcement agencies by members of the Ku Klux Klan decades ago, not to mention the struggles during the civil rights movement during the 50s and 60s. This fear has lingered, sometimes rightfully, sometimes not for decades. We tend to forget that there are a substantial number of black people working as police, sheriffs and deputies, FBI agents, secret service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and other law enforcement roles around the country. Blacks are just as much a part of the system that we supposedly don’t fear as non-blacks are.

I’m not going to say that black law enforcement agents don’t cause as many problems as white law enforcement agents sometimes do, or that they’re any more or less racist or difficult to deal with than any others, but the bottom line as I’ve seen it over the years is that enforcement officers are generally looking out for the best interests of everyone. We can’t forget that these officers are people too; they make mistakes and have bad days just like the rest of us. They sometimes hate their jobs, wish they could afford a better lifestyle, send their children to military school to keep them out of trouble, and wish there was more they could do to make their cities safer than they really are. They’re our neighbors, our friends, our families, the nice guys that let us have a parking spot, and occasionally the pains in the ass that cut us off on the freeway. What they aren’t, in the same sweeping generalization that Mr. Granderson used, is out to get us.

Getting back to the Trayvon Martin case, I’m really sorry that the boy was placed in the situation that he was, and that he died for no reason. I’m sorry that it took his death to bring a spotlight to that law, and make us question how its good intentions can be so woefully abused. But we can’t forget that the confessed shooter, whether we was right or wrong, murderer or not, is not a part of the local law enforcement community. We don’t know how his own injuries were sustained, but George Zimmerman did not work for the police department, and the officers on the scene did make some assumptions based on his injuries and statement that seemed to validate the local law. I’m not going to attack those officers for doing their job; they accumulated the statements and evidence as they saw it. They were not privy to the information the 911 calls gave the dispatchers. They could only see what looked like a man defending himself from an attacker. The officers responding to the scene, based on information they acquired from the shooter and his condition, made the only reasonable assumptions they could at the time: Zimmerman looked like the victim, not the attacker. It was and is up to the detectives that work the case at a later time to determine what really happened. With all the evidence that has come out as they worked the case, the evidence that has built the picture we’re now examining: it’s clear that Zimmerman should have been arrested. But that’s the advantage of 20/20 hindsight.

Should we — blacks, whites, Latinos, or Asians — trust the police? Only as much and as little as we trust anyone else. The police may be there to protect us, which generally means we should trust them, but they’re made of people. You should be questioning whether you trust people more than you should be questioning whether you trust the police.

Perhaps Verizon will open its eyes now

So, in my note last week chronicling the Verizon Wireless and the Galaxy Nexus Saga, I stated that the phone isn’t the iPhone. And clearly it isn’t. But, according to various reports, the Galaxy Nexus has sold out at some Verizon Wireless, Best Buy, and Radio Shack stores, and it was listed as backordered for 8-9 days on until this morning. For a while today, on Amazon, it’s was backordered for 1-2 months! (Having just checked it again, it’s back to 8-9 days, so someone at Amazon must have entered a huge order for them! ) No, it’s not an iPhone, but considering how badly Verizon was treating the phone maybe this will wake their asses up and perhaps, just perhaps, if Google gives them another exclusive on a Nexus phone in the future they’ll be a bit more responsible about its release.

Verizon Wireless and the Galaxy Nexus Saga

I haven’t posted on this subject yet because it hadn’t been a big enough pain in the ass to make it worthwhile and I was too busy writing papers for the classes I took this semester… But things have changed. I’m now out of school for the rest of the year, and though I thought I’d have been the hell off of T-Mobile’s crappy network by now, Verizon Wireless has become a major pain in my ass.

I suppose I should back up a bit and give you a little background information.

Until January, 2009, I had been a Verizon Wireless customer, but since they hadn’t announced any plans to allow Android based phones on their network at the time and my contract had just expired, I went to the only company that was offering Android phones: T-Mobile. From day 1, I wasn’t happy with T-Mobile, but I had little choice. The main reason I was dissatisfied with them was that I could sit completely still in my house in Detroit, Michigan, and watch my signal come and go for both voice and data. While I was (and believe it or not still am) reasonably happy with the G1 hardware and software T-Mobile’s service was and still is shit.

Fast forward a year and a lot of developments and improvements on Android, a lot of new models were released, including the first long rumored “Google Phone”: the Nexus One. I tried to get T-Mobile to give me an early upgrade in exchange for extending my contract another two years, but being the shitheads I think they are, they refused. So, I canceled my G1 contract, paying the early termination fee, and ordered the Nexus One which I’m still in love with to this day. Sadly, in the three years that I’ve been a T-Mobile customer, their service hasn’t improved here in the slightest, so I’ve been planning to go back to Verizon or maybe even switch to Sprint pretty much all year. My destination depended on one thing: who would be carrying the next Nexus.

Back before the the Galaxy Nexus was officially announced, it was rumored to be exclusive to T-Mobile or Sprint and eventually, and accurately, Verizon, at least for a limited time. Given the service that I had gotten from Verizon in the past, I was really hoping for them to get it at just the right time to allow me to switch back when my T-Mobile contract expired, or perhaps even a month or two before. The only thing that was negative in my mind at all was that Verizon had just killed their unlimited data packages. In all honesty, I considered signing up with them in early July to get “grandfathered” into their unlimited data plans, but I decided to wait and see how things played out: after all, it was possible that Verizon wouldn’t get the new Nexus at all, let alone as any kind of exclusive. After all, if Sprint picked it up, I could probably get unlimited data for less than I could get 2 GB/month from Verizon. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted Verizon, but I wanted to be smart about this…

October 18th rolled around, the Galaxy Nexus was officially announced, but was not confirmed for any U.S. carrier. Rumor held, however, and appeared to be verified shortly thereafter that the phone would have a limited time exclusivity deal with Verizon! This was great news for me! Better yet, rumor held that the release date was only a few weeks away, November 10th to be exact! Perfect! But Verizon never said anything.

In fact, they still haven’t said anything about it. While there’s an ad for the Galaxy Nexus running on the Verizon Wireless site whenever you search for “Galaxy Nexus”, there’s no official information, no announcement, barely any references to the phone at all.

The rumors started flying, of course, especially with release dates. For the last month, the release date was always just another few days away, and Verizon said nothing. People blamed Google, thought that there must be flaws in the software that prevented the release, but Google said nothing as well. I think my theory probably is the most valid for the delay for all of November: Google had just released the Motorola Droid Razr during the week that we suspected the GNex would come our way, so it seemed and seems probable to me that they delayed the GNex so that the Razr would have some reasonable chance at selling considering it’s coming with a older version of Android than the new Nexus. (Android 2.3.x versus 4.x on the Nexus.)

The Razr is a nice phone I’m sure, but without some of the key features in the Nexus line (NFC in particular since the Nexus S came out last year, and of course the new version of Android) it would’ve been buried by the Galaxy Nexus. As much as I hate bullshit like that, I accepted it because it made sense from an economic viewpoint for Verizon. Besides, if they had a 2 month exclusivity deal with Google, they could hold back the Galaxy Nexus a month to get sales of the Razr, then still sell the Galaxy Nexus as an exclusive for a month.

And this seemed to be exactly what Verizon was doing… As December 9th approached, there seemed to be more and more activity going on with the Galaxy Nexus at Verizon. The number of leaked emails and information started to skyrocket, there were even photos of the phones being stocked at Verizon Wireless and Best Buy stores in preparation for a launch today…  Most of us didn’t care a whole hell of a lot that Verizon got their way with the phone a bit to add some of their software. I prefer plain vanilla Android, but I can tolerate two unobtrusive apps being added to the phone’s image, but apparently Verizon decided to fuck around a bit more than that…

Despite the fact that Google Wallet has been around for months, and is installed by default on the Sprint version of the Nexus S, and also the fact that Verizon execs have had God knows how many builds of Android 4.0 on various Galaxy Nexus sample units, they decided in their infinite fucking wisdom to wait until the launch was imminent to tell Google to pull Wallet. Never mind that the firmware image was already updated to fix some bugs before the release here in the United States, at which point they could have told Google to pull Wallet, but they decided to wait until the proverbial last second to start causing some problems over Wallet.

So what’s the big deal? Well, Verizon is claiming that Google Wallet will require additional hardware in the phone as well as infrastructure changes that they aren’t prepared for in order to properly handle security and secure transactions with Google Wallet, and thus they want it pulled from the phone. The problem with that request is that it’s software based: data encryption is already being done between the app and Google’s servers where I’m sure the actual credit card information is being stored. There’s no need to have any additional hardware in the phone, but for the sake of argument, let’s say there was. Doesn’t Verizon think that Google and Samsung would’ve already thought of this considering the Samsung Nexus S on Sprint’s network has the very same NFC technology and the very same application? Does Verizon think that Google and Samsung missed something?

I seriously doubt it. You see, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are partners in a mobile payments software company called Isis, which will be making a product that pretty much competes directly with Google Wallet using NFC to initiate the transactions. The problem? Isis isn’t complete yet, and rumor has it they won’t have their software ready for nearly a year. So rather than give Google Wallet a full year to establish itself on the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon’s networks, Verizon is digging up technical mumbo jumbo bullshit to say that the phone isn’t properly secure for this purpose nor do they have the infrastructure. This is bullshit because if they can transmit and receive data to and from the phone, then they have the infrastructure; Google is already handling the encryption and security for the transactions.

Why am I saying this instead of Google? Well, they’re just too fucking polite to state the obvious, but I think I know a few engineers over there would be screaming “fuck yeah!” if they ever read this. Google has to maintain a cordial relationship with the carriers in order to get their phones on to their networks. If Google had already put out 20 different phones, that sold millions on the release date, Verizon wouldn’t be trying to push them around. The Nexus phones aren’t iPhones, even if me and half million other buyers think they’re better… Apple sure as hell wouldn’t be getting this kind of treatment from Verizon…

So what’s the logical answer given this hubbub? I say Verizon should NOT block Google Wallet in any way shape or form, and Google shouldn’t pre-install it either. Google should put Wallet in the Market and make it available for download for phones with NFC. Why? So that we the users, the people paying or will be paying Verizon a monthly bill have the choice. This should be our choice because we’re the ones that may or may not use Wallet or Isis. It should be up to us to decide who we trust and how we pay for goods, not Verizon.

So another rumored release date has come and gone, this time with the phones in stock at retailers… They’re not allowed to sell the phones yet because Verizon is apparently waiting for Google to pull Wallet… Well, Google, I hope one of your managers reads this blog entry… Pull Wallet exactly as the fuckers at Verizon want you to do… Then release it in Android Market once the phone has gone on sale exactly as I suggested above… You’re the application developer, and Verizon claims that they don’t block any app… So, do what you want to do… Grow some balls, and do what’s right for your customers… If Verizon wants to be a whiny baby and decide not to carry the next Nexus after this one, fine… fuck them. You’ve got Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile customers drooling over your phones already, and I’m sure that if necessary, I’ll find a happy home with Sprint after my Verizon contract ends…

Update 12/14/2011: Verizon’s finally gotten around to announcing that the Galaxy Nexus will be released tomorrow… About time…! I’m not saying all is forgiven, but at least we can start getting this mess behind us…

Kwame Kilpatrick: Not An Evil Genius

As you may or may not begin to guess, I have been assigned to the South Eastern Michigan region for the boss’ domination inquisition, so I tend to notice a lot of what’s going on in and around Detroit. It’s not necessarily fair, but I’m suffering as much as you are…

Anyways, Detroiters are well aware of the Kwame Kilpatrick Saga, and while I sometimes think that he’s being treated unfairly, the bottom line is this: Kwame Kilpatrick is no evil genius. For that matter, Kwame Kilpatrick is no genius. Evil remains to be seen, but the bottom line is that the path to hell is paved with good intentions and bad ideas, and I’m sure Mr. Kilpatrick has had plenty of both of those.

Going back several years, Kilpatrick plead guilty to various perjury charges stemming from his attempts to cover-up an affair he had been having with his aide. Cheating is one thing, but misusing city assets to cover it up is just plain stupid: there’s going to be accountability at some point. I’m going to decline the opportunity to rant on that at this time, but the bottom line is he eventually admitted his guilt, accepted the terms of a plea bargain which included a minimal jail term of 120 days, and $1 million in reparations. He did his time, and he even got permission to move out of state to work for a Detroit based company’s location in Texas. Fine, whatever.

Then he began to shoot himself in the foot.

The first key to being an evil genius is to be low key: avoid drawing attention to yourself.

Early in his post jail days, Kwame stopped paying the $6,000 per month reparations, claiming that he could only pay $6 per month after his bills, legal fees, and other expenses. He filed paperwork requesting that the amount be lowered so that he could make ends meet. This is reasonable.

Let me amend that: This is reasonable if:

  1. You aren’t making $200,000 per year in your new job.
  2. You didn’t move into a large exclusive home in a gated community.
  3. You and your spouse aren’t driving new expensive sport utility vehicles.
  4. You aren’t paying for your spouse’s expensive cosmetic surgery procedures.
  5. You didn’t accept loans and gifts from businessmen you were associated with in excess of $200,000.

By these things, it is completely unreasonable to state that you can only afford to pay $6 per month for your restitution. The only thing that Kwame did is draw attention to himself by complaining and filing the paperwork stating that he couldn’t afford to make those payments properly. But it didn’t end there…!

Having put himself in the spotlight, Kwame then tried to hide his financial status by not cooperating with the courts while they were trying to properly determine his financial status. No court in the world would make a ruling without evidence or information to weigh with regards to a legal motion. Kwame stated he could only pay $6, the court needed to confirm that. He had to have known from the moment he filed the motion that the court was going to request the information, so why did he refuse to cooperate?

The second key to being an evil genius is that if attention does get focused on you, make the attention go away as quickly as possible.

If Kwame had fully cooperated at the start of his quest to get his restitution lowered, the motion might have been denied, but it wouldn’t have snowballed. The denial might have stirred the waters a bit, but ultimately the status quo might not have changed at all. No one would have cared, the media wouldn’t have made a big deal, the spotlight would have moved on. Instead, Kwame kept fighting the fact finding investigations and requests for financial information, and attempted to conceal his family’s finances. In court he feigned ignorance of details he should reasonably know. The only thing these actions did is draw more attention to himself, and his refusal to cooperate with terms that he previously agreed to.

Bad move. No sign of intelligence there.  At all. With leadership like that, it’s no wonder Detroit fell to the lows it’s now trying to climb out of. Great work, Kwame!

The only time that a lie might have actually have helped him, Kwame told the truth! In today’s sentencing hearing, Kwame made an impassioned plea to the judge to let him continue with his probation, saying that he wasn’t thinking about his commitments when he got out of jail, only how he could buy his family’s love and respect back. In my estimation, he should have told the judge that he was a compulsive liar, and that he needs to get treatment. This would have forced the judge to order a psych evaluation prior to sentencing, which no doubt would have determined that Kwame is not of sound mind, and needs regular psychiatric care he couldn’t reasonably get in prison. Result: Kwame would have court ordered treatment while on parole in the care and presence of his friends and family.

My verdict: Kwame Kilpatrick is not an evil genius.

By the way, to all those that claim that there’s a racist conspiracy working to “break Kwame down”: wake up. Kwame did this to himself. If he had just kept his mouth shut, paid his $6,000 per month like the court ordered, he could have continued living the high life without anyone in the courts ever raising an eyebrow. He brought this upon himself, foolishly. No racism was involved. You don’t have to have a conspiracy against you to be stupid.