Thursday, October 28, 2004

Review of Personal Justice by Richard D. Lee

Personal Justice is the story of retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant, William “Dutch” VandeDorff whose beloved daughter, Kate, is killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Dutch is overwhelmed with grief at the loss of his only child. That grief is further fueled by his guilt in choosing his duty as a Marine over his wife and daughter’s desire to live a “simple life.”

Dutch is aided by his friend and partner of twenty years, Muhammad, a shadowy Middle Eastern CIA operative who arranges the financing and logistics for this off-the-books operation, and a team of devoted former special ops students who he is reunited with during his time in New York City assisting with rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero.

Richard Lee uses his expertise as a retired U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran to craft a realistic story of a highly trained special operations team that makes its way from New York to Canada to the French Alps, then on to Pakistan and Afghanistan in search of the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, Osama Bin Laden. Lee’s experience allows him to tell this tale in a way that is realistic to fighting men, but at the same time, coherent for those who have not endured the rigors of battle. Although, lacking the intense background and history that one would find in a Tom Clancy spy thriller, Lee’s story is fresh and fast moving. The reader can feel the urgency of the Snake Eaters, Dutch’s team, and their quest for retribution. Overall, this was an invigorating read. I was in tears from the time the planes hit the twin towers until the Snake Eaters departed for Canada. Lee deals tenderly with the incredible loss of life, grief, suffering, and unthinking heroism. It was as real to me as it was on September 11th when I sat morbidly glued to my television watching it happen in real time. After that, the book is a reading frenzy to the finish as Dutch and the Snake Eaters risk it all to fulfill promises made a continent away and exact their own brand of Personal Justice. Books: Personal Justice

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Tamika Huston - Missing


Where is Tamika Huston? She’s been missing from her home in Spartanburg, SC for months, but Oct. 23 was the first time I heard about it. If she’s missing, why don’t I see her name on television every night like I see the names of Laci Peterson, Lori Hacking, Chandra Levy, Brooke Wilberger or Dru Sjodin? I can’t distinguish any significant differences in the women. The only one that is obvious is on the surface. Skin color. Tamika Huston is African-American.

Some might blame Tamika’s exclusion on a heavy news cycle when she went missing in late May or early June, but that doesn’t excuse the media’s neglect in not carrying her case since then.

The frustration level rises when you learn that Tamika’s aunt is a public relations executive and has made a Herculean effort to get her niece’s story to major media outlets with few results.

This young woman's story is heartbreaking, but what is even more compelling is that she is not the only one. Each year, hundreds of thousands of adults and juveniles are reported as missing and very few receive major media coverage.

I’m not suggesting that these women didn’t deserve to have their stories told. What I am suggesting is that they ALL deserve to have their stories told. The problem is there are so many stories and only so much coverage available. So, that logically leads to my second suggestion - that the media should focus on cases that they can actively aid in solving, not cases where the sole criteria appears to be that the missing person is young, white, female, middle to upper class, and therefore newsworthy. Let’s focus on helping and not participating in morbid voyeurism. There’s very little someone on the East Coast can do to help in a missing person’s case that occurred on the West Coast, but I’ll bet there is a lot of help that could be generated by regional media working together to saturate markets that are adjacent to areas where there are active missing persons cases.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Review of Miracle at St. Anna by James McBride

Rarely have I encountered a book that moved me as much as James McBride’s Miracle at St. Anna. Not only should it be declared an American classic, every college should make it part of their freshman reading list.

McBride engages the seldom mentioned subject of black combat soldiers in World War II. Four members of the famed 92nd Infantry Division (the Buffalo Soldiers), find themselves trapped behind enemy lines in Tuscany. Surrounded by Germans, the quartet rescues a small Italian boy who proves to be the catalyst in each man’s quest for courage, love, sacrifice, and honor. The poignancy of their battle is emphasized by the ambivalence they each experience over fighting for freedoms in Europe that they are not afforded in their own country. Each man accepts the challenge, albeit reluctantly at times, exhibiting a depth of character and humanity previously unknown to them.

McBride weaves a theme of invisibility into the story that translates into the moral invincibility of the main characters. McBride has studied and practiced his craft well. I can honestly say that I feel privileged to have read his work. I hope to see more novels from him in the future. Books: Miracle at St. Anna

Monday, October 18, 2004


If Jim DeMint (Rep.) is elected to the U.S. Senate and you're homosexual or a single mother, you'd better be worried. DeMint, currently running for the U.S. Senate seat being relinquished by the distinguished "Fritz" Hollings (D-SC), issued a statement that gay and lesbians should not be allowed to teach in the public schools. He also, in justification of that remark, stated that he felt the same way about a "single pregnant woman living with her boyfriend" teaching children. He believes that these individuals do not possess the morals or values needed to teach children.

Although DeMint has apologized for the comment, he didn't rescind it as error. He's just sorry he said it aloud. Let's not allow bigots like this to take their place in the U.S. Senate. If you live somewhere other than S.C., I encourage you to ask these questions of the candidates in your area. I'm sure a few of you will be surprised at their response.

For those of you in S.C., DeMint will be debating Democratic candidate Inez Tenenbaum tonight on WIS-TV 10 in Columbia. Columbia, SC: DeMint apologizes for saying unwed, single mothers shouldn't teach in public schools

Thursday, October 14, 2004


Remember Nike's "Just Do It" campaign? Well, it seems President Bush has adopted the saying as part of his platform, but changed it a little - "Just Do Without!" That's the message I got last night watching the third and final debate.

When asked what his reaction was to the shortage of flu vaccine for the coming winter, Bush's response was for younger, healthier people to "just do without" a flu shot. Kerry, on the other hand, took his response as an opportunity to attack Bush's lack of a plan to provide comprehensive healthcare for our country, pointing out that we are the only industrialized nation without one.

And when Bush was asked what does he say to the person who has just lost his job to outsourcing, his response was that we're going to help that person with an educational benefit. Last time I checked, an education voucher won't pay your light bill or feed your family. So, in my opinion, he flunked that one too. Kerry went on to capitalize on Bush's failure by pointing out that while more and more jobs are being outsourced, the current administration has cut funding on job training programs and failed to extend or expand unemployment and medicaid benefits. Additionally, when Bush pointed out that more people were getting Pell grants, it only highlighted the fact that there are more Pell grants because more people don't have jobs, so more people qualify. He failed to mention that actual grant amounts have been reduced to allow for the additional eligible applicants.

So, what are we supposed to do? If Bush gets re-elected, I guess we'll have to "just do without."

Friday, October 08, 2004

Inclusion Still a Challenge

The NAACP is suing a Florida county election supervisor to open another early voting site in the eastern part of Volusia County where more minorites reside. The election supervisor is refusing claiming that opening the additional site in Daytona Beach would require her to open two others to make the availability of sites more evenly distributed. Although, the even distribution of sites is not required under state election law, it is recommended when possible.

This case reminded me of the challenges facing the NAACP in my own state. The Aiken County branch of the NAACP is hosting the SC State NAACP Convention Oct. 7-10. For those of you who are not aware, the NAACP has had a tourism boycott in place in South Carolina since 2000 because of the Confederate flag issue. Although the Confederate flag was removed from atop the state house, it still flies over a confederate war memorial on the state house grounds. As a result, the NAACP continues the boycott, and the state convention is being held in Augusta, Georgia.

The sad part about this situation is that some residents (I can only assume that they are caucasian) have made many ugly remarks about the work of the NAACP basically suggesting that if they don't like the way things are done in SC, they should just leave. Further, these same malcontents have extended their dissatisfaction to the creation of an African-American cultural center in our community. The association of these two issues can only lead me to believe that their dissatisfaction extends to African-Americans in general and not specifically to the boycott issue.

I lifted this quote from the Aiken Standard newspaper on July 17, 2004:

"The NAACP has boycotted South Carolina and took their convention out of state. Before our county and city leaders even think about this (lodging) tax the boycott must be lifted. With this boycott now in place the black leaders are asking the white travelers to pay for their center. Why don't we put it on the ballot in November?"

"Their center?" That is the worst part of the quote. So, is the local county museum the "white" museum? It's hard to believe that people are so internally programmed to be bigots. They don't understand that an African-American cultural center is there to benefit all citizens and to share African-American history and culture in our county that they might not otherwise be exposed to. That reader's quote suggests to me that we are in great need of an African-American cultural center because we still have a long way to go in making our community more inclusive and acknowledging that we all make valuable contributions and deserve recognition for those contributions.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Review of Pushkin and the Queen of Spades by Alice Randall

Alice Randall has created a modern literary classic. She mixes a spicy gumbo of Russian literature, Motown, and Hip-Hop that glides across the palate of the mind to rave culinary reviews. It’s funky, hip, and sexy, yet sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and romantic. Pushkin and the Queen of Spades : A Novel: Explore similar items

Review of Truth Be Told by Victoria Christopher Murray

Truth Be Told was this reader’s first experience with the Christian fiction genre. I was expecting something a little more preachy, but was pleasantly surprised by Ms. Murray’s aplomb in dealing with contemporary issues faced by many families today.

It sounds a little like a romance novel at times, but the dignity of the story is redeemed by the raw emotion she evokes in situations that only God’s grace would carry many of us through. An excellent read for the modern Christian woman. Truth Be Told : A Novel: Explore similar items

Review of The Good Negress by A.J. Verdelle

A.J. Verdelle tells the compelling story of a young girl who is destined to become a working class drudge just like her mother until the intervention of an uncompromising educator who recognizes her brilliance. Miss Pearson inspires Denise to shrug off her country ways and don the mantle of the educated, but the task is not completed before an addition to the family threatens Denise’s further education.

The Good Negress is an earthy coming of age story whose realism took me back to some of my grandmother’s favorite saying and doings. The only disappointment was the disjointed flashbacks which make the story choppy at times. Still, the language is lyrical and the characters amazingly drawn. Books: The Good Negress

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Diversity in Representation

Articles have been touting the increase in diversity that will occur after this year's election. And although, diversity in general is a good thing, we have to be careful and choose our candidates based on their convictions. A classic case would be the Illinois Senate Race between Barak Obama (Dem.) and Alan Keyes (Rep.). Both are African-American men; however their politics are extremely different (and I mean beyond the normal Dem. vs. Rep. crap). Obama has a wide lead over Keyes for now, but Keyes certainly isn't helping himself. Recently, in a radio interview, he blasted gays saying they were all living in sin and were "self-hedonists" (his word, not mine). He went on to say that this statement included Vice-President Dick Cheney's daughter. What he neglected to say at the time was that it included his own daughter, Maya. It seems this young lady is an open lesbian and has discussed her role in her father's campaign on her own blog site. I'm hunting that down now. I want to see what the sista has to say about her father's intolerant views about her. The point here is that conservatism is one thing and there are many blacks living in suburbia who vote Republican. But we have to recognize intolerance for what it is - ignorance. Let's not foster this attitude in our communities. Sorry, Alan, you need to get a grip.


Everyday Heroes


Quiet acts of heroism occur everyday, I'm sure. It's just too bad that we don't know about them or don't recognize the courage and commitment it took to fulfill the assignment. This man's heroism wasn't recognized until after his death. Although Mr. McCright was a war hero, the lesson here is applicable in our everyday lives. Mr. McCright had no idea that keeping the ledgers he created safe would be an act of heroism. He just did it because it was his job. So, if there are people around you who do extraordinary things everyday in the course of their lives, tell them. Don't wait until it's too late for them to experience the pleasure of a simple thank you.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Bush to Sign 4th Tax Cut in 4 Years (just in time for the election, of course)

I must admit that tax cuts sound nice, especially when they are aimed at middle class families like mine. But I really am on the fence about this most recent one. John Kerry supports tax cuts that apply to middle class families, but opposes the ones that extend these cuts to families that earn over $200k per year. Regardless, I still don't feel right about it when I see the military struggling to armor humvees to protect our men and women in harm's way. I would gladly pay the marriage penalty tax and forego the child credit if I knew for sure that our soldiers and marines would have the equipment on the ground that they need.


U.S. Aid to Haiti

We have all watched for weeks as Tropical Storm (sometimes Hurricane) Jeanne cut a swath of devastation across the Caribbean and Southeast. I have especially watched the aftermath in Haiti. Discussions have erupted in some of the Yahoo groups I'm a member of as to why we aren't doing more or should we be doing anything for Haiti. After helping to deport it's last President, we have left a vacuum that the current Prime Minister has been unable to fill with peace. U.N. Peacekeepers are seriously undermanned and the damage left by the storm have totally set things on edge. Violence is breaking out everywhere and people are sick and dying. Death estimates from the storm alone are approaching 2000 (plus another 900 listed as missing and presumed dead) and doctors are performing surgery without anesthesia or electricity. What's worse is that many of the operations are amputations because the patients are unable to keep their wounds clean because of the lack of clean water.

Last week as part of the U.S.'s response to that disaster on our doorstep, the President sends Sec. of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson. Thompson announces that the President is asking Congress for $50 billion in aid for the Caribbean nations affected by the storm, with about half to go to Haiti. But in the meantime, he announced a donation of $235 thousand to restock supplies at one small hospital. We are talking about 300,000 people affected by that storm - that is only enough for band-aids and antiseptic.

We need to get real. We say we're in Iraq to protect the human and civil rights of Iraqis (I'm not even going to address that crap about the connection with Al Qaida and the WMD's "cause it just ain't true"), yet we allow this bloodshed and abject poverty to exist on our doorstep. Then to add insult to injury, we allow the wet foot/dry foot policy for Cubans and pack every Haitian right back to Haiti (after an extended stay in a U.S. prison, of course).

We really have to examine our policy in the Caribbean. These people need our help and we are capable of giving it. Why aren't we doing more?


Poland Wants Out of Iraq (and after the President said they were his boys)

Imagine that. Poland is sick of the war in Iraq and wants to get out too. And after President Bush insisted that Poland was our staunch ally. But, then again, I'm sure the President knew this in advance and hoped to put the Polish government on the spot by expressly naming them during the debate last Thursday.


Sunday, October 03, 2004

Review of What You Owe Me by Bebe Moore Campbell

Los Angeles in 1948 marks a crossroads for both Hosanna Clark and Gilda Rosenstein. Both are running from violent pasts. Hosanna from the vicious mob that raped her sister and stole her family’s farm and Gilda from the death camps of Nazi Germany. Tapping their resilient inner strength, the two women manage to start a small cosmetics company catering to women of color. But their success doesn’t last long because one day Gilda simply disappears taking all of the small company’s assets with her.

Gilda’s defection plants a bitter seed of retribution inside Hosanna that lives even beyond the grave and continues to grow inside her youngest daughter, Matriece. Gilda has resurfaced many years later and heads one of the most successful cosmetics companies in the world. Now it’s time for Matriece to collect her dead mother’s due.

Bebe Moore Campbell skillfully revisits a period when black people were migrating to Los Angeles with little more than dreams. It is a story that spans fifty years and all the poignant drama of three dynamic women, their friends, children and lovers. It is tantalizing, edgy, and sexy at times; sure to keep you turning the pages to discover who comes out on top in this corporate drama. Books: What You Owe Me

Review of Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden

Bernice McFadden’s debut novel Sugar is a richly woven tapestry of black life and culture in the 1950’s South. From the steps of the one hundred year old Baptist church to the smoky late night stomping and wailing at the town’s only juke joint, Sugar holds you captive in the moment.

The story begins when Sugar, a platinum wig wearing, wanna-be singer turned prostitute, struts into Bigelow, Arkansas on stiletto heels to claim an inheritance. Not only does she claim the inheritance, she also claims the reluctant fascination of her next door neighbor, Pearl.

Pearl has been cocooned in grief for the past fifteen years because of the murder of her young daughter, and Sugar’s attempts to release her from that grief inspire a transformation in Pearl that the whole town can see. But, more surprisingly, it inspires a transformation in Sugar that gives her unexpected hope for her future. Books: Sugar

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Election 2004

Let's start with politics. Hopefully, everyone who is eligible has registered to vote. I believe today was the deadline in my state. Some states allow a few more days, so be sure and check with your local board of elections to determine your local deadline.

After watching the debate on Thursday, I am convinced that I will be voting for John Kerry for President. Local politics, however, may leave me a little more wiggle room for candidates. Don't get me wrong, national politics are extremely important and voting is crucial, especially after what happened in 2000. The local question, however, is a little more essential to our everyday. Whether it be school board, city council, zoning board or state legislature, these elections will affect us in equally important ways. Our local officials will decide where our children will attend public school, how much we will pay in property, ad valorem, and sales taxes, and whether we will have new sewer and water systems, road improvements, or a hotel or strip club in our backyard.

My point is, don't get so caught up in the hype of the national elections that you miss out on the local picture. Read you local newspaper, watch your local television news channels and talk shows (yes, turn off CNN, Headline, Fox News, and all those other cable news networks) to see what is happening in your own community. Talk to local candidates at "stump meets" (yes, that's what we call them here in the South - if you're not from here, you probably call them "forums" or something equally trendy) or talk to them when they show up at your door (and they might). Although party affiliation is very important on the national level, you will find that it means less and less in local elections, so don't assume a local candidate's position without doing the research. You may be members of different parties, but when it comes down to that strip club going up next to your property, you might have more in common with that candidate of the other party than you think.

Vote. I can't say it any more eloquently. It is a complete sentence with a subject and a predicate. Vote.

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