April 01, 2010
High School teacher acquitted in dirty dancing case
I wish this was about some teacher pretending to be Patrick Swayze in his classroom, or something.
Instead, Nathan Grigsby, a Georgia high school teacher, was on trial this week on five charges that he contributed to the delinquency of a minor by not moving quickly enough to stop a striptease-like dance routine performed by several male students in his classroom.
No one - not Grigsby, not the male students, not the students watching - denied the sexual nature of the dance routine.
At issue was how much of the routine Grigsby saw and whether he moved quickly enough to stop the dance. Prosecutors argued Grigsby saw plenty - maybe the whole dance - and that he let it continue too long before stopping it, and even condoned it by laughing and applauding along with his students. He says he didn't condone anything, and that he didn't see much 'cause he was distracted. And when he did see the dance, he stopped it.
The jury sided with Grigsby on Wednesday.
Maybe the prosecutors should've gone after the parents for allowing their kids to learn and apparently get good at stripper dance moves.
Oh wait. That wouldn't happen 'cause parents can't monitor their teenagers every second of the day.
Why didn't the teacher get at least that same consideration?
Incidentally, prosecutors are still moving forward with charges of indecency against the boys in the dance crew.
PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
Breaking News, Maybe? Tiger Woods Changes Nickname to Other Giant Feline
Eldrick "Tiger" Woods, in the tradition of John Mellencamp AKA Johnny Cougar AKA John Cougar Mellencamp, and Sean "Diddy" Combs, known at various times in history as Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, and Sean "Puffy" Combs," has decided that his adulturous affairs - revealed to the public over the past six months - warrant a name change in keeping with his rehabilitative efforts.
Woods believes "Tiger" will be forever tied to the guy who cheated on his spouse. But he still likes big cats. So in compromise and considering his infidelity, he's decided that "Cheetah" would be a more appropriate nickname. That's right, Eldrick 'Cheetah' Woods.
One more thing: April Fools!
Go ahead, laugh. You know you want to...unless you're my wife.
Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
Posted by James B. at 03:14 PM in Current Affairs, Humor, James Burnett is a know-it-all, Pop Culture, Romance, Sex, Sports, Stranger than fiction, Stupid celebrity tricks
Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
March 24, 2010
Obamacare stokes memories of Buckwheat? So says Congressional Candidate
So a South Florida Congressional candidate was making a campaign speech the other night and in the process of decrying Pres. Obama's new healthcare bill, he blurted out "Listen up, Buckwheat. That's not how it's done!"
Would you assume "Buckwheat" was a race-bating slap at Obama, for the most obvious reason?
I would. It's reasonable assumption, I think.
Now, the twist to the story: The candidate, Corey Poitier, is black. Not that it should matter, but he's running as a Republican.
Poitier says he was taken aback by criticism of his comment, and says "Buckwheat" was aimed at the healthcare reform plan itself, not at Obama. He says he meant to convey that the plan is "silly."
Otay, then! That makes sense. I don't like your plan, so I'm going to call it by the name of a harmless but buffoonish sitcom character from back in the day - not the whole show, but the very buffoonish character who shares some obvious physical characteristics with you!
Poitier completed his self-defense by arguing it's not logical that he could be racist toward another black person, being black himself.
If you read me with any regularity, you know one of my biggest pet peeves is hypersensitivity and hyper-Political Correctness.
But the criticism of Poitier falls into neither of those categories. What he said was stupid, and by virtue of the fact that it was an obvious race-related putdown, maybe racist.
Maybe. But not necessarily. It's possible Poitier really intended to convey an opinion of silliness. If so though, he took a round-about way to make the point. Whatever the case, one of his potential Democratic opponents - also a black man - downplayed suggestions of racism on Poitier's part and said instead that Poitier simply spoke before he thought and said something stupid.
Anyway, Mr. Poitier, if you're reading this, here are two free lessons from Politics 101 that informed supporters of your campaign should have given you:
- Don't take swipes at people over characteristics they don't control - like skin color, eye color, height, physical disability, etc...unless you're Sammy Sosa, who apparently has discovered how to control his skin color. But that's another story. Those types of knocks, no matter how you mean them are going to be interpreted in a bay way nine out of 10 times.
- And what determines an action of yours as racist or some other "ist" isn't the group to which you belong, but rather the group to which your target belongs, and your apparent intentions.
PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
March 17, 2010
In the double standards for us and them category: Wachovia launders drug dough
My colleague Jay Weaver at the Miami Herald reports this evening that federal authorities in Miami have busted Wachovia Bank for laundering $110 million for a Mexican drug cartel.
By agreeing to pay a $50 million fine and forfeit their Tony Montana money, Wachovia will avoid criminal prosecution.
I have just one thing to say about this deal: You try this. Go ahead. Times are tight. Try to launder your neighborhood drug dealer's loot through your Wachovia checking or savings accounts. And when you're caught, offer to pay a fine worth roughly 45.5% of the value of the dirty profits.
Let me know how that goes. And make sure to include the address of the federal prison where you'll be living for the next few years. I'll send flowers and ointment.
PS. Follow me at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
March 16, 2010
Mental Healthcare in Haiti
My article in today's Miami Herald about psych treatment in Haiti and changing attitudes about it:
BY JAMES H. BURNETT III
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- On a recent Friday morning, Marie Kettie Geolnarol-Archer, between appointments in the Champ de Mars neighborhood, stopped people in the street and on the sidewalk, gently squeezing shoulders and patting backs until they looked her in the eye.
``You are not crazy,'' she told them. ``Everything will be OK.''
Geolnarol-Archer is a psychologist, and while her sidewalk ``treatments'' may have been casual and unorthodox, the most unusual thing about them was the responses....
Go here to read the rest of the story.
March 15, 2010
A Little Humility for the Soul...
So I got comeuppance about 20 minutes ago. And it was pretty funny, at least by my twisted sense of humor.
If you've been reading this blog for more than a minute, you know that I am a reporter for The Miami Herald, as well as a columnist. Journalism 101 for those who don't know (though, I know most of you are aware): When wearing my reporter-only hat, I gather and relay facts and other people's informed opinions, never my own. And when I'm wearing my columnist hat I'm offering my (hopefully subtle) informed opinion on reported facts.
One of the cool things about writing a column is having my name and face above an opinion I feel passionately about.
I have no doubt that every columnist has a little bit of similar pride. It's human nature to look at your name and face and say I did that!, especially on those occasions - rare for me - when people recognize you in public. You know they're not recognizing you 'cause you're a super model, though I am pretty enough to be mistaken for one. It's that they recognize your face as the one from that newspaper or that Website, and so on. They know, even if they can't think of it right away, that you've written something that compelled them to think.
And any opinion writer who denies those feelings is either a robot or full of it.
So keeping all that in mind, about 30 minutes ago I stepped onto the people mover, known in Miami as the Metro Mover, also known in Miami as the mobile crack den and mobile shark tank, to ride from One Herald Plaza to the other side of downtown to briefly meet a source to get a document I need for a story I'm writing.
I bounded up the steps and ran onto the train like O.J. running from the cops through the airport in a Hertz commercial and made it just before the doors snapped shut, wheezing like I'd just run a marathon. Hey, to be fair, I have asthma. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.
Anyway, a group of elderly women were seated about six feet away from the pole I was leaning against as the train began to move and they were deeply engrossed in quiet but intense conversation. After two or three minutes, one of them looked me in the eye and squinted the way you do when you think you recognize someone. She stared for an uncomfortable moment and then leaned over and whispered to one of her companions, who then also stared for a moment. The second woman then gestured to the third, and she gave me a hard look too.
I admit, I began to think They recognize me! Cool! So I have a little bit of an ego. Sue me. If that's the worst you can say about me...
Meanwhile, across from this trio were two young men - homeless, based on their dress and conversation about ideal campsites in a nearby park and meal times possibly changing at a nearby soup kitchen. As the women spoke and stared quietly, the young men were loud and boisterous, swearing like sailors, cracking silly, sexual jokes, etc.
The women, as we drew closer to Bayside Village, an outdoor mall, on Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami, began to whisper and point to me more. The young men? They grew louder and more obnoxious.
We got to the stop closest to the mall, and one of the women stood and approached me smiling and pointing at the Miami Herald ID hanging around my neck. Here goes, I thought. She's gonna compliment me on my column! Instead, she said, "Excuse me. Can you tell us how many blocks we have to walk to get to Bayside from here?"
My ego deeply deflated, I pointed the group in the right direction and watched, secretly embarassed for a moment, as they walked away. The doors closed, I turned away to look out the windows on the other side of the train, and I noticed the two annoying young men had quieted down. And they were now staring at me too.
Great, I thought. What did I do to piss them off?
About 30 seconds later as we approached the next stop, one of the young men said in a questioning, almost accusatory tone, "James Burnett?"
"Yep," I responded.
"I like your column man. Good stuff. Me and my peeps over there (gestures toward a homeless camp in the park) read it every Friday."
And with that, both men patted me on the shoulder and got off the train.
Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
Monday Roundup: Rielle Hunter, Sweet, Sweet Detroit workers, Glenn Beck, Precious
Pleasant Monday to you, friends and frienemies.
- We start today with GQ Magazine not getting the memo that there is actual news happening...stuff that people - even its high-end readership - care about, and instead dedicating words and pictures to Rielle Hunter, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' mistress. Hunter uses her space to defend her affair with Edwards, insist she didn't pursue him, blame his terminally ill soon-to-be-ex-wife for his hankering for strange, and predict that they (Hunter and Edwards) would be in love with one another forever. And she took a really weird picture for someone begging to be taken serioulsy - posing pantsless with stuffed animals and cartoon characters, including a stuffed Dora the Explorer, and Barney the Dinosaur. Pants on the ground, pants on the ground, lookin' like a fool with your pants on the ground! Ahem, as a public service, I'm not including the link to the GQ article. I read it for you, so you could look up more important things on more important sites like MiamiHerald.com...You're welcome!
- A city worker in Detroit just won a $100,000 settlement against the city, because the worker successfully argued that a co-worker's too-strong perfume made it difficult to work, focus, breathe, etc. I hate frivolous lawsuits, but I'm not so sure this one's frivolous. I have fairly heavy allergies and asthma. So I feel this woman's pain. And if she asked her supervisors to help by moving her or the perfume wearer or by asking folks to tone down their scents, and they didn't help, then bully for her. Glad she won. I've had a couple of co-workers who smelled like goat farms. It was like working with Pigpen. Made my eyes water. And damned if I couldn't focus either. I was writing things that looked like hieroglyphics I was so dazed. Kidding about that last part. But seriously, I think this suit was just fine. The city's putting up placards now, asking other workers to not wear strong, smelly stuff, so as to avoid further suits.
- Glenn Beck is wrong about social justice having no place in church teachings. Last week the Fox News Channel commentator urged fans to leave their churches if their ministers preached "social justice," because such preaching/teaching pollutes the Gospel. The problem with Beck's argument though, is he interchanges kindness with politics. Every major religion and every Christian denomination - including Beck's Mormon religion - call on government to be fair to people. If you're athiest or agnostic or whatever, none of this means squat to you, 'cause good deeds are good deeds and bad are bad, and so on. But if you call yourself Christian, then you know - or should know - that your bible teaches that Christ fed the poor and encouraged his disciples to do so. He washed other people's feet as a demonstration of humility. He healed the blind and sick (even those without adequate health insurance). His actions were kind, and exhorted his followers to do practice similar acts. Same goes for pretty much every organized religion, and its deities, and prophets, and leaders. Beck'sproblem seems to be one of churches whose leaders try to influence government to set formal policy on social justice issues like poverty. Either way, he's wrong. A religious group can teach its parishioners to do all those kind things in the name of social justice and it can call on government or big business or both to be fair to Average Joe, without making the argument a partisan one and without arguing that individual rights be diminished.
- There's been a lot of outrage over the past few days, since Howard Stern ranted on-air that Gabourey Sidibe, who played the title character in the film Precious, was so fat she'd never work again in Hollywood and that she should treasure her Oscar nomination now 'cause it was the only time she'd get one. In fact, Stern was downright mean in his descriptions of Sidibe. But for all the distasteful nature of his style (and that of sidekick, Robin Whatshername), Stern alluded to a very, very valid point: Obesity is a major health problem in the United States. Obesity among African Americans is at scary levels. Obesity in general costs the already overburdened medical care system billions per year. If the source of our obesity problem was a mystery, this would be a different discussion. But much of it can be attributed to people eating crap and leading sedentary lifestyles. So, Stern argued that people who tell Sidibe to stay just the way she is and tell her that she can get plenty of roles in Hollywood just the way she is, are helping keep her at a dangeroulsy unhealthy weight/size by inadvertently telling her to stay obese. I think his argument warrants consideration. Again, there's no excuse for Stern's mean descriptions of Sidibe. But what do you expect - for him to be diplomatic? And his claim that she'll never work in Hollywood again have already been proven false. She co-stars with Zoe Kravitz in Yelling to the Sky, set for release later this year. The Oscar thing? Silly. How do you predict that someone will "never" be nominated again? Who would've thought Mickey Rourke would make a comeback? But I do agree with Stern's argument about Hollywood folks doing Sidibe a disservice by telling her she's fine just as she is, physically. If they mean to tell her she's an all-around beautiful person for having a radiant smile and confidence and smarts and an awesome personality, etc., they should. But they shouldn't encourage anyone to remain obese because it seems like the nice thing to say.
So that's all for me...for this morning, anyway. I've got an article to finish.
PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
Posted by James B. at 10:33 AM in Current Affairs, Ethics and Morals, Family, Fox News Channel, Health, History, Internet, James Burnett is a know-it-all, Media Industry, News, pets, Politics, Pop Culture, Stupid celebrity tricks
Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
March 09, 2010
In the stupid lawsuits category: Lindsay Lohan and some inmate
Person who lives in California, Lindsay Lohan is suing E-Trade, the online stock trading company, over what she says is an unauthorized portrayal of her in those sometimes funny TV commercials featuring talking babies.
Apparently one of those babies is named Lindsay - on TV, mind you, not necessarily in real life, and that baby happens to be a "milkaholic" in the commercials. And Lohan argues that she is a famous enough personality that as with Madonna, and Cher, when high profile given-name mentions are made to "Lindsay," it is safe to assume those are references to her.
Therefore she wants $100 million from E-Trade, $50 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in exemplary damages.
Hmmm. I've never read about anyone accusing Lohan of drinking too much milk.
Reminds me of this guy, in terms of just how stupid the idea behind the suit is.
In fact, I think I'm gonna sue the estate of the late James Dunn to compel them to share his Hockey Hall of Fame title with me. And then I'm going after James Gandolfini. I want some Sopranos royalties. Every time someone interviews him and calls him James, I believe they're thinking of me.
PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
Posted by James B. at 05:07 PM in Current Affairs, Ethics and Morals, Film, History, Humor, James Burnett is a know-it-all, News, Numbnuts and Morons, Pop Culture, Stranger than fiction, Stupid celebrity tricks, Television
Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
March 08, 2010
Monday Roundup: 24, Oscars, Ashburn, Burkett, Walt Baker, Haiti
What's crackin' friends and frienemies?
Just finished watching 24, 1 a.m. - 2 a.m., and I remain confused about something: How did charatcer Dana Walsh get a job at a federal counter-terrorism unit, with a criminal background as an armed robber (at least, I think it was armed robber)? I know a guy who couldn't get a gig at McDonald's 'cause he had a terrible driving history with a gut-load of unpaid tickets. Not like he was gonna be driving through the grill area at McD's. Of all the spy stuff that sometimes comes across as incredulous (though enough of it is scary enough to make you ponder) on this show, her making it through the background check process is the least believable thing to me.
I was happy for Sandra Bullock that she won the Oscar for "best actress" Sunday night. I thought The Blind Side was touching. But I can't lie. I'm still slightly put off by yet another movie about a needy, poor black kid, saved in the nick of time when a white family swoops in. Why does this bother me? It's not the acts of kindness. I laud them. I laud those acts from the Touhy family, portrayed in the film, and from any other family that helps a kid in need. My problem is really me - my paranoia that certain tiny-minded folks will read into the Touhy's good deeds and see a perpetuation of the stereotype of needy, helpless black folks. Shoot, my folks over the years have taken in a dozen ragamuffins of all stripes, particularly struggling younger black folks. And no one's making any movies about the Burnetts. I recommended to my mom they call the movie "The Dark Side" if it ever got made. Thought I was being clever. But she pointed out I could end up getting sued by George Lucas for swiping one of his Star Wars themes.
And speaking of Oscars, I wonder if Elinor Burkett, who pulled a Kanye West, by bum rushing the stage during Roger Ross Williams' acceptance speech will draw several days worth of condemnations for the act. There were people on Twitter calling for West's man parts to be lopped off when he interrupted singer Taylor Swift at an MTV awards ceremony a few months ago. I'm thinking the buzz about Burkett is gonna fade quickly. The difference between her and Man-West is he had a public track record of speaking out of turn. Plus, Taylor Swift is a kid, and thus more sympathetic than Williams, a grown man who could have put Burkett in a headlock till he was done saying thank you.
I believe in Karma. So before reading further, set aside your opinions on homosexuality and affirmative action - as in whether you believe either is right or wrong or good or bad or whatever. Now, with a level mind, tell me if you disagree that Karma has bitten California State Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Sacramento), who so vehemently spoke out against gay rights legislation in his state, but was caught last week driving drunk on his way home with a male hookerish guy from a gay bar. In that incident, Ashburn, who on Monday came out as gay, was exposed as a hypocrite. Ashburn's admission that he is gay makes him just as bad as those Baby Boomer beneficiaries of affirmative action legislation, who later got on soapboxes and poked fun of and placed guilt trips on people younger than them who stood to benefit from the same legislation. Again, this isn't a con/pro judgment of AA, any more than it is of Ashburn's lifestyle. It's a judgment against phonies. We can talk lifestyle in another post ;-)
Walt Baker is the latest example of a sufferer of Hoof-in-Mouth disease, who didn't quite get the problem with his most recent display of symptoms. Baker, was CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association, till he was fired on Monday, following an uproar over an email he circulated several days ago that compared First Lady Michelle Obama's looks to those of Cheetah, Tarzan's chimpanzee companion. Baker's initial reaction wasn't "Sorry for my tasteless attempt at a joke." It was This email was sent to me. I simply forwarded it!, followed by I forwarded it from a personal email account, not from work!, followed by It didn't occur to me that there might be a racist interpretation of the email. I meant it as political commentary! (so what do her looks have to do with her/her husband's politics?), followed by I'm sorry some people were offended by my joke! (never mind the content of the joke), followed by Oops!, followed by Guess I'll be cleaning out my desk now!
I don't feel any sympathy for Baker, but the most honest, stand-up thing he could have done (or what he should have done if he had good PR people) would have been to issue an immediate statement saying "Look, I forwarded that email 'cause I thought it was funny. I know it was tasteless. And that's why I only sent it to a few people. The sentiment in the email was mean-spirited, and arguably racist, two attitudes I'd say I've never had, though I know my actions with this email say otherwise. So I'm sorry. I'm first sorry for getting caught, 'cause I admit if I hadn't gotten caught I'd have never felt sorry. But now that I am caught the uproar over this incident is giving me pause to examine my own heart and sense of humor. I'll be seeking counseling from my minister. And I'll be meeting with a diverse set of community leaders to discuss ways I might open my mind and better learn the common sense differences between humor and poor taste." No way that statement was gonna happen. Still...
Friends have been asking me what was the most disturbing thing I saw in Haiti a couple weeks ago. Answer? Classism. It's a given that all the death and destruction were horrible. Difficult stuff to describe and it bothered me to see it all day everyday, especially knowing that folks in Port-au-Prince would have to live in it for years to come. But what bothered me most was the blatant classism on display. Yeah we have it in the U.S. too. But here it's often tied in with race or skin color...though not always. It couldn't be blamed on skin color in Haiti, just status. My last day in the city, the driver who took me to the airport wasn't my regular guy. This driver was from Petionville, a nice (in some parts downright fancy) neighborhood in the hills above Port-au-Prince. As we drove through destroyed poor 'hoods on the way to the airport, we passed an old guy limping with a cane, dressed in rags, walking his dog through a pile of garbage, looking for scraps. My driver honked at them, gestured wildly for them to get out of the way, cursed at the pair, though there was plenty of room for us to get by without all the drama, and then turned to me with a dumb grin and said "Eh, I almost mixed them up, boss! They look to me like two dogs, instead of one." He thought he was funny. I won't be hiring that driver when I go back.
Posted by James B. at 11:29 PM in Current Affairs, Environment, Film, Haterade, History, James Burnett is a know-it-all, Manners, News, Numbnuts and Morons, pets, Politics, Pop Culture, Public Relations, Race and Race Relations, Surprisingly sensible celebrities, Travel, Urban Living
Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
February 18, 2010
News from Haiti: Two Idaho Missionaries Might Be In Jail For A While
What's crackin', friends? I haven't posted much in the past week or so 'cause I was first prepping to go, then en route, and for the past few days on site in Haiti.
I won't be melodramatic, but suffice it to say that as good as the Miami Herald's coverage has been - and some of the TV coverage too (my favorite on this story has been CNN; very thorough) - photos and video don't begin to bring to life all the death and destruction down here.
I think our folks have gotten as close as you can get, but till you see it, feel it, smell it, etc., you can't fully grasp the emotional explosion the Haitian people have dealt with.
Anywho, among the stories I've been working on is the one about the missionaries from Idaho. You may know eight of 'em were released on Wednesday. Two more - the two authorities in Haiti considered "ringleaders" - were kept in custody. They'd hoped to get out on Thursday. Didn't happen. I wrote a short piece for the Miami Herald that didn't make into the paper's schedule for tomorrow. So I'm just posting it here for your consumption. Following the short story, a few pics from Port-au-Prince - apologies in advance if you've already seen the pics on my Facebook page or through my Tweets. More to come over the next few days:
The next several pics I took while out reporting on political rallies led by young Haitians. They were gathered in the streets outside the semi-collapsed presidential palace. The helicopter pics were of French Pres. Sarkozy's chopper arriving at the palace to pick him up and take him away. The other pics are just general shots of the devestation and crowds. The giant pile of rubble in the third pic from the bottom was the Tax Ministry building AKA Haitian IRS. If this wasn't such a tragedy, no doubt there'd be jokes in the irony of the tax office collapsing.