To Play The King

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What is the role of the vice-president? If you really want the official definition, you can get it from the US Senate’s website. This might take a little while to sift through, so I’ll paraphrase as best possible from the section entitled Vice-Presidential Duties: The Vice-President acts a tie-breaker when the Senate is equally divided. If the President is unable to serve, the Vice-President takes over.

There’s got to be more. What does the Vice-President do when he goes to work each day? What is his day to day purpose?

In the opening of Frontline: Cheney’s Law, there was a retelling of a little encounter between Dan Qualye (Vice-President under George H.W. Bush) and Dick Cheney. Apparently, Qualye said to Cheney, “You’re going to have to go to a lot of fund-raisers, corporate events, and pressing palm ceremonies, stuff that the President doesn’t want to do.” Cheney just looked at Qualye and laughed, communicating “I don’t think so.” According to Frontline, Cheney believes that the Vice-President’s primary job is to ensure and protect the power of the President.

So what power does the President possess? Britannica online has a nice little summary. There’s a lot of information there, but I’ll boil down the two points that I’ll touch on today.

1. The President is responsible for upholding the laws of the Constitution.
This responsibility alone can be a pretty dicey area, considering how open to interpretation some sections of the Constitution remain. Add in the fact that there are so many amendments to this document, amendments to amendments… that this duty alone is quite a handful.

2. The President is Commander in Chief.
As I understand this, it means that the President has the power to mobilize the military. What he does not possess is the power to declare war. (There’s not going to be a hyperlink for ‘declaration of war’. If you can find a concrete definition of “declaration of war”, especially if it shows the differences between that and “mobilizing the military”, please drop a comment.) Only Congress can declare war.

So, to get back to Cheney, if he believes that his primary job is to ensure and protect the power of the Presidency, he believes that he should help his commander mobilize the military if the need arises, and he should assist in upholding Constitutional law. Right? Sounds reasonable?

Here is where the magic on interpretation comes in: What if the President is at odds with Congress? What if the President interprets a law in one respect, Congress another? What happens if the President mobilizes the military, but Congress does not feel he should and will not sign a formal declaration of war?

A few years ago, I saw a documentary called The Trials of Henry Kissinger. An interesting statement was something along the lines of, “Kissinger is a person that believes that power should be placed in the hands of those smart and strong enough to lead.” Imagine a President with the same mentality (not that running for President doesn’t involve an incredible self-fortitude). If you think about the course of the war in Iraq, the issues about prison detainment and human right violation, I think you can boil down the President’s feelings with the two duties listed above. Ultimately, he believes that he is working within the bounds of the Constitution, for the good of the nation, and as Commander in Chief, he believes he is doing his duly elected duty. Right?

The Frontline piece and a NPR interview with Lou Dubose, author of Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency, both mention the use (and possible overuse) of signing statements by George Bush. The signing statement is a sort of Presidential mulligan. Bush can sign a law, but he also adds a signing statement. This statement, in effect, says “I signed this law, but I don’t really believe it and it doesn’t really need to be followed.” WHAT?!?!? It seems a little crazy, but that’s the gist. Add this power to someone that believes he is working for the greater good, despite what everyone else around him is saying. Sounds like autonomy, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, depending on his interpretation of Duty 1, this is both his right and his duty.

Remember the issue with the definition of torture? What constitutes torture? A famous Bush signing statement was on Congress’s expanded definition of torture. There’s Duty 2. He is the Commander in Chief. He will tell the military what constitutes torture and what does not.

So why is this article about Cheney?

Let’s face it. George Bush has failed at every business venture he has undertaken. If you watch the documentary Journeys with George about the campaign trail with Bush during the 2000 election, he comes across as a bloody annoying human being. According to his Yale transcript, he’s not a dummy, but he’s certainly no genius. He likes to party. He may even be a poor sport. None of this screams LEADER OF MEN.

On the other hand, take a look through Dick Cheny’s political history. Sure, he also liked to have a few drinks and go for a ride, but that might be how he and GB bonded. Keep in mind that it’s Dick Cheney’s personal lawyer, David Addington who found the power of signing statements and brought it to Bush’s attention.

Who do you think is really running the White House?

Additional Links:
Differences between military tribunal and civilian trial

You, Me, Us, Them

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Do you ever see something that makes you shake your head? Ever feel embarrassment for someone else? Ever feel more embarrassed because you were somehow associated with that person? Remember when you had to do group projects in grade school, everyone would share the same grade, no matter what? If so, then you have some idea of what it is like to be black in America.

DeWayne Wickham’s article in USA Today strikes a fairly resonant cord. The subject is the appropriateness of black fashion, particularly jewel encrusted mouthpieces and low baggy pants. (Full disclosure: I’m not a fan. If you walk into my house, dittybopping, grillz in place, boxers showing, and you say, “Wuz up nigga?”, I’m hurling your ass out of my house.)

Vincent Holloman, a ten year old, was awarded with some grillz for examplary academic performance. No, they were not given out by the school board. These grillz were cemented in place by a dentist. A school guidance counselor found them inappropriate and tried to forcibly removed them from Vincent’s mouth, cause gum damage. (Read more here.)

According to Wickham, some states are looking to institute public dress codes to prevent exposure due to low riding shorts. Before anyone starts to cheer, remember, this would also ban the visible thong. Take that, White America.

Here’s the thing that everyone seems to have forgotten in all this talk about the appropriateness of black fashion. It’s fashion. It changes. It goes away. Give it time. Deplorable as you may find it, eventually, it’s gone. The Jheri Curl went away. You don’t see anyone rocking much kente cloth or Africa medallions anymore, and there was a time when those were the “must haves” of black fashion. Sad as the fashion statement may seem, and believe me, I can’t stand it, it’s going to run its natural course which eventually ends in termination.

There is a very poignant line at the end of Wickham’s article, “When blacks demean themselves, we give other license to do the same.” It hurts because it’s an unavoidable truth. I’ve said for a long time, “If you’re black and you do something exceptional, you’re special. If you’re black and you do something stupid, you’re a statistic.” Don’t take my word for it, pick up your local paper. Next time an incident involving a black perpetrator is reported, see if there is any reference to a “systemic problem”. See if the incident is “common in such areas”. Check if the words “ongoing”, “troublesome trend”, or “yet another” are used. Really do your homework. See if the same sort of crime is perpetrated by white people, and see if the incident is reported on in the same manner.

It’s a sad reality, if you’re black, and you do something stupid, it embarrasses us all. However, is the current fashion trend really so bad? As I admitted, I’m not a fan. If I had a child that walked into the house with his underwear showing and talked like his mouth was filled with marbles and punctuated every sentence with, “Knamean?” I’d beat him within an inch of his life. Nevertheless, that’s just my own personal taste and proclivity. Where is the harm in wearing a mouthpiece (in the appropriate circles, granted)? Are we making too big a deal about something that will eventually fade away?

The Face of the City

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“Why are they always picking on New York?” A friend asked me this question when we were discussing disaster movies. Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact. Whenever world disaster struck, New York City was always hit. Why?

New York has more recognizable structures than many other American cities. Think about it. Hollywood may be the movie mecca, but what structures to you see in Los Angeles that immediately identify the locale? The Hollywood sign? The Capitol Records Building? What about St. Louis? You’ve got an arch, but then what? Seattle? A needle? Boston? (Nothing for Boston is really springing to mind for me, so I think you get my point.) New York has the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Chrysler Building, we had the Twin Towers, Grand Central Station, etc…

What defines the face of NYC outside of these structures, at least visually? What is the face of “the real” NYC, outside of tourist destinations? In the seventies and early eighties, we would have probably said, “Times Square”. Pretzel vendors, XXX theaters, checkered taxi cabs, and guys hustling watches on the street corners. Times Square is very different now, looking more like a Long Island mall than the centers of the most urban of urban locations.

Maybe the face of the city lies further south, in the areas like Soho, Noho, Tribeca, etc… It seems like all that is there anymore is designer boutique after designer boutique with the occasional pop music princess going from store to store.

There is hardly a dilapidated building in site, as everything is being renovated, rebuilt, or remodeled. Graffiti is almost a thing of the past, like 8-track cassettes. When you ride the subways, you won’t hear a live human voice announcing the next stop, that’s now pre-recorded. Maybe that’s the only thing that hasn’t really changed for a long time, the subway stations themselves.

Then again, much of the subway has changed. The turnstiles and booths are completely different, and is now an almost human-less enterprise, with the advent of the MetroCard. Remodeling the platforms, specifically the underground ones would be a monumental undertaking. It may be done someday. The elevated platforms are currently undergoing renovation, complete with new stained glass, new signs, etc… I’m not quite sure what the purpose is, but it’s happening all over the Bronx and Queens. Come to think of it, this project excludes Manhattan, as I don’t think there are any elevated subway lines.

So… if I was going to shoot a film tomorrow, and I wanted a shot that established NYC as the location, but I did not want to use one of the “tourist traps”, would the NYC subway be my only option? Does Central Park work? How about Battery Park?

Sort-of-Siesta

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Sorry for the long delay without a post. I’ve been getting acclimated to new jobs and projects (all good), which will be discussed at greater length in the future. In the meantime, this is just a quick update post with some shout-outs.

Link:
Excellent article on getting sacked.
Do things like this happen? You better damn well believe it. Notice that very little of it has to do with the quality or quantity of your work. Almost every item on that list has to do with personalities, emotions, feelings, and status.

Shout-Outs:
I wanted to get some public “Thank You”‘s in print to a few particular people who have helped me tremendously in my new career ventures.
John Packes
Rick Donato

Stephanie Strazza
You are all good friends, and I can’t thank you enough.

Stay tuned. More to come.