“We Just Wanna Give Gratitude…” by Charles L. Freeman, Jr

November 11, 2015

Gratitude Cover

Gratitude Inner Sleeve

Forty years ago today, on November 11, 1975, Columbia Records released what would become one of the finest live albums in the history of recorded music, Gratitude, by Earth, Wind & Fire.

Recorded during the band’s seminal summer USA tour in support of the #1 double-platinum, That’s The Way of the World (featuring the #1 gold single, Shining Star), the band’s first live album was released to fill the label’s demand for an immediate follow-up to That’s The Way of the World prior to EWF’s first European tour (as the opening act for label mates Santana).

Featuring three sides of live performance pulled from shows mainly on the East Coast and one side of material recorded in the studio (including the hit single Singasong,) Gratitude showcases a band rounding into peak form. Utilizing a horn section for the first time and featuring two drummers playing in tandem, Earth, Wind & Fire roared and soared in arenas and auditoriums across America along with opening acts Weather Report and Ramsey Lewis. (I saw the show in July at Moody Coliseum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX).

With illusions involving a rotating drum kit, a spinning piano and a levitating Verdine White, EWF took live concerts, particularly those by a black band, to a new level of creativity and performance presentation. Much of what is being done by current touring artists such as Janet Jackson, Madonna, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift has its genesis in EWF’s 1975 summer (and fall) tour.

To this day, one of the band’s concert highlights, night in and night out, is Reasons. Featuring the ethereal vocal performance of Philip Bailey and the late Don Myrick’s show-stopping saxophone solo, Reasons remains one of the band’s most enduring songs and I dare say, along with September, is one song that MUST be played at every performance, no matter what.

Here’s ‘Yearnin Learnin’ (frankly, I believe the version included on the subsequent Alive in ’75 is the superior track) which I think you’ll agree, showcases all the glory and power of a band at the start of its peak run on the charts and as a concert attraction.

The band:
Maurice White – Vocals, Timbales, Percussion
Philip Bailey – Vocals, Congas, Percussion
Verdine White – Bass, Vocals
Al McKay – Guitar, Vocals
Larry Dunn – Keyboards (Musical Director)
Andrew Woolfolk – Saxophones, Vocals
Johnny Graham – Guitar
Ralph Johnson – Drums
Fred White – Drums

The Phenix Horns:
Don Myrick – Saxophones
Louis Satterfield – Trombone
Michael Harris – Trumpet

The album:
Side One
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Introduction by MC Perry Jones” Perry Jones 0:21
2. “Africano/Power” Larry Dunn, Maurice White 5:56
3. “Yearnin’ Learnin'” P. Bailey, C. Stepney, M. White 4:16
4. “Devotion” Phillip Bailey, Maurice White 5:07

Side Two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. “Sun Goddess” Jon Lind, Maurice White 7:41
6. “Reasons” P. Bailey, C. Stepney, M. White 8:23
7. “Sing a Message to You” Maurice White 1:19

Side Three
No. Title Writer(s) Length
8. “Shining Star” P. Bailey, M. White, L. Dunn 4:55
9. “New World Symphony” Maurice White, Verdine White 9:28
10. “Musical Interlude #1*” 0:15
11. “Sunshine*” M. White, Bailey, A. McKay, L. Dunn 4:24

Side Four
No. Title Writer(s) Length
12. “Sing a Song*” Al McKay, Maurice White 3:23
13. “Gratitude*” Bailey, M. White, L.Dunn, V. White 3:23
14. “Celebrate*” P. Bailey, C. Stepney, M. White 3:06
15. “Musical Interlude #2*” 0:27
16. “Can’t Hide Love*” Skip Scarborough 4:10

The Importance of Work – June 06, 2015

June 6, 2015

There is a quiet dignity in meaningful work with a paycheck that allows one to provide a quality life for him or herself and any family they may have.

People need to have a sense of purpose and belief that they can take care of their daily needs beyond mere survival. Sitting around waiting for some government entity or someone else to take of an able-bodied person is not only demeaning for that person but a drain on society on several levels.

We once had a strong manufacturing base in America that allowed those with just a high school diploma access to a decidedly middle-class life. They were able to marry, raise a family in a home they bought in a nice neighborhood, have a car or two, take a family vacation and trips, and even more importantly, send their children to college so that they would have better opportunities in their lives. We will never fully rebuild our economy until we once again make what we buy here at home.

Sadly, for a growing segment of America, particularly among young African-American men, that dream/idea is quickly dying out. Education changes lives – I’m a living testament/witness to that stark fact – in a positive manner. But, it all starts at home and unless you grow up seeing your parents getting up each and every day and going to work, it’s often difficult to understand the concept of getting and keeping a job.

W.O.R.K. isn’t just a four-letter word – it’s life fulfilling, life sustaining and a key factor in one’s self-esteem and ability to contribute to society.

I thank God for the example my father – a 23 year US Navy petty officer – and late mother – 18 years with the City of San Diego before her passing in 1982 – set for my siblings and I. Also, my grandparents, uncles and aunts, family friends and the adults in my neighborhood who did the same for their families which I also saw and admired.

To quote the late, great James Brown: I don’t want nobody to give me nothin’, just open the door and I’ll get it myself.

2016 Presidential Campaign – #3 – March 15, 2015

March 15, 2015

Note from the author: from time to time during the upcoming presidential election, I’ll be sharing articles and my thoughts about it here. For those hardcore political junkies among you, here’s a link to a very good non-partisan website, 2016 Election Central, which will keep you up to date over the next two years of campaigning http://www.uspresidentialelectionnews.com/. Charles

White House frets return of ‘Clinton way’

To sum up the feelings, all the way up to the highest levels: What. The. Hell.

By Edward-Isaac Dovere

Can the Hillary Clinton Email “Scandal” Derail Her 2016 Presidential Campaign Before It Even Gets Started?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again today: the biggest problem I’ve always had with Bill and Hillary Clinton is that they keep on giving ammunition to their enemies. As the writer in the article above says the feeling in the White House is: “What. The. Hell.”? What the hell possesses the Clintons to continue making the same types of missteps over and over again? Is their paranoia of the media in general and the right-wing media in particular so deeply ingrained that it’s impossible for them to think and act in any other manner? How could running all of Hillary’s emails while serving as Secretary of State through a personally-owned server at the Clinton home in New York state be anything but a dumb idea? And, why wasn’t there more oversight from the White House and State Department IT security?

Here’s the bigger question I have: does Hillary Clinton really want to run for president again? Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that she wants to be president, but I’m not 100% certain that at her age and now with her first grandchild, that she actually wants to run again.

A modern presidential campaign, even for someone with Clinton’s previous experience eight years ago and as of today, no real primary opponent, is an 18-24 months long slog across America. Day after day of public appearances, stump speeches and an endless appeal for money from both well-heeled and smaller donors is what candidates must endure today. Once you become an “official” candidate, you’re seldom ever at home and your life becomes captive to an endless schedule. And no one knows that better than Hillary Clinton and that’s probably one of the reasons for her delaying her announcement.

Then add in the advent of the Super-Pac as allowed by the notorious Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010 that unleashed millionaires and billionaires to give as much money as they want, the increased 24/7 Twitter-fed digital age and the fact that other than Barack Obama, no one stirs hatred from the Right more than Hillary Clinton, it’s easy to see why she’s taking her time to publicly decide if she really wants to hit the trail again.

But, here’s the Catch-22 that Hillary Clinton, as loyal as Democrat as there’s ever been, finds herself in: by delaying her announcement for so long, she’s pretty much left the party and any potential candidates in limbo and if she doesn’t run, she’s left the party in a bind to find an alternative candidate. And that’s not the coda to her career and legacy that she, Bill or Chelsea want.

Will Hillary run? She probably will because behind the scenes, she’s been hard at work assembling a campaign apparatus that includes many key players from the successful Obama campaigns. But I won’t be surprised one bit if she decides that being a retired politician giving paid speeches and enjoying life as a new grandmother isn’t a better use of her time and energy.

On the Republican Side of Things

While Jeb Bush hit the trail in New Hampshire and Rand Paul and Scott Walker tried to convince America that they’re not as crazy as they seem on the surface, embattled New Jersey governor Chris Christie desperately tried to hold on to his slipping presidential hopes.

Quote of the Week

“You don’t diminish your office by taking a selfie. You do it by sending a poorly written letter to Iran. Really. That wasn’t a joke.” – President Barack Obama at the Gridiron Club Dinner on Saturday, March 14, 2015.

Cartoon of the Week

wu150310

Why Barack Obama Matters by Charles L. Freeman, Jr

March 8, 2015

‘THE RACE IS NOT YET WON’

Obama in Selma

President Barack Obama holds hands with Civil Rights icon John Lewis and Selma marcher Amelia Boynton Robinson as they cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on Saturday, March 7, 2015, the 50th Anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march for voting rights.

Look at the photograph above and try to imagine John McCain or Mitt Romney in it instead of Barack Obama. Try to imagine the impact either man would have had in Selma, Alabama on the 50th Anniversary of one of the seminal moments in this country’s convoluted history of civil rights. The sight of an American president, any American president, at this place on this occasion would be special. But only the presence of Barack Hussein Obama as the American president on this particular occasion makes sense and truly matters.

Obama’s soaring oratory at the foot of the bridge named for a former Klu Klux Klan Grand Dragon could have been delivered by any president, but it simply wouldn’t have had the impact, meaning and historical significance if he hadn’t been the one to do so. For it is Barack Obama’s responsibility and in many ways, his burden, to be exactly who he is – the first African-American president in this nation’s history. For it is he who bears most directly the hopes and dreams of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr’s lifelong work towards equality for all. For it is Obama who symbolizes the words found in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

John McCain and Mitt Romney, along with former president George W. Bush who was in attendance on Saturday, were born into and raised in privilege. A privilege known only to a select few in America. And while that privilege doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t grasp the enormity and importance of “Bloody Sunday” and what it meant and still means, that privilege mitigates their capacity to truly identify with those who marched, were beaten and in some instances, killed those fifty years ago. That privilege diminishes their commitment to seeing that the gains of those days aren’t further eroded by the actions of today’s Republican Congress and the US Supreme Court.

And that is why Barack Obama matters.

He matters because he gets it. He matters because he identifies with not just the privileged, but those living on the outskirts of the fullness of the American Dream as well. He matters because he knows. He matters because he understands. He matters because he appreciates those who came before him so that he can stand in front of the world and be introduced as “The President of the United States.” He matters because of his wife and daughters. He matters because of what he sees in the eyes and what he hears in the voice of John Lewis and Amelia Boynton Robinson when they look at him. He matters because if for no other reason, he presents to so many in this country who feel powerless and without a voice, the hope that they do matter. He matters because he can stand at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 2015 as the leader of the free world.

Barack Obama matters and don’t you ever let anyone tell you that he doesn’t.

2016 Presidential Campaign – #2

February 22, 2015

Note from the author: from time to time during the upcoming presidential election, I’ll be sharing articles and my thoughts about it here. For those hardcore political junkies among you, here’s a link to a very good non-partisan website, 2016 Election Central, which will keep you up to date over the next two years of campaigning http://www.uspresidentialelectionnews.com/. Charles

Quotes of the Week

“I love my father and my brother…But I am my own man—and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.” – Jeb Bush on February 17, 2015 in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

However, two of his key advisors include Paul Wolfowitz, one of the key architects of Bush 43’s Iraq War strategy, and longtime GOP/Bush family consigliere James Baker.

“Rand [Paul] is an interesting guy…No, he is…And Rand Paul said the Republican Party needs to show up on the South Side of Chicago and shout at the top of its lungs that the GOP is the ticket to the middle class.” – President Barack Obama in Washington, DC on February 20, 2015 to the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee.

The Week in Review

Just when RNC chairman Reince Preibus thought that he’d been able to reduce the number of potential landmines for the 2016 presidential primary campaign, things heated up when noted media whore and failed presidential candidate, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani opened his mouth and stuck both feet and hands in when he leveled a charge so nakedly evil and racist in its content and form – “President Obama doesn’t love America” – that one has to seriously ask this question: Is Rudy Giuliani insane?

More questions about the assumed Hillary Clinton campaign announcement and key staff members were posed and some of them were actually answered.

Can Jeb Bush Shutdown His Competition?

jeb_bush_ap1_1160x629

“I’m Jeb, the ‘smart’ Bush brother.”

As this Politico article clearly shows, Jeb Bush’s stealth “pre-campaign” campaign was a carefully crafted, designed and executed attempt to deliver a knockout blow to any of his potential opponents. Its first victim: Mitt Romney. Bush’s early and deadly shot across the bow has brought him a great deal of attention, but even more importantly, he’s moved quickly to lockdown key big-money bundlers/donors and staffers. But, as a speech in Chicago last week revealed, his biggest enemy just may be Jeb himself.

The GOP’s “Rudy G” Problem

Somewhere down the line, sooner or later, thinking adults in the GOP – and by “thinking” I mean anyone with the sense that God gave a seedless grape – are going to have to stand up and address the overt racism and hatred so many of its leaders have for President Obama.

Hillary vs The GOP Field

While Hillary Clinton continues as the Democratic front runner – actually, she’s the only serious candidate at this time – without any real competition on the horizon, the race for the GOP nomination remains wide open with Scott Walker and Jeb Bush as the early leaders.

Scott Really Wants To Be POTUS

We may be about to find out if, in the age of FOX News and its dumbed-down approach to “journalism,” someone without a college degree can be a serious candidate for president. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker who dropped out of Marquette University 34 credits short of a degree is doing the groundwork for a potential primary run, but is already feeling the heat of the enormous difference between a gubernatorial race and a national one.

Chris Christie Being Chris Christie

He simply can’t help himself.  Good or bad, Chris Christie is exactly who he is. And that will most likely be his downfall in New Jersey long before the first vote is taken in the Iowa Caucuses next year.

The Gay Marriage Dilemma for GOP Candidates

As this Boston Globe clearly shows, gay or same-sex marriage, is becoming much more a fact of life across America (nearly 72% of the US population now lives in a state where same-sex marriage is legal) and yet, for some in the GOP, it remains a highly charged and divisive subject that any presidential candidate will have to address sooner than later.

The Debbie Wasserman Schultz Factor

Marco Rubio has a huge factor in deciding whether or not to run for president that no other candidate other than Rand Paul must deal with: it’s against the law in Florida (and Kentucky) to run for two offices at the same time. And so far, there’s a big difference in how the two first-term senators (both elected in 2010) are handling the situation: Rubio says he’ll decide soon on which office he’ll seek and Paul has indicated that he will challenge Kentucky’s law in court as being unconstitutional. Where Wasserman Schultz enters into this is the fact that for the foreseeable future, the GOP will most likely hold an overwhelming majority in the House where her power will be limited. However, the Senate is far more volatile and should Rubio not run for his seat, the race will be wide open in Florida. However, if Rubio doesn’t run for president and stands for reelection to his Senate seat, Wasserman Schultz, who also can’t run for two offices at the same time, will have to make a career decision that just two years ago, seemed highly unlikely.

NBA 2015 Trade Deadline Recap

February 20, 2015

The Day All Hell Broke Loose in the NBA

Prior to last Thursday’s trade deadline, most NBA pundits, reporters, talking heads and the ever-popular “sources close to __________ say…”, believed that this would be one of the sleepiest days in recent league history. They were as wrong as Mitt Romney’s final 2012 Election Day polls as this report from espn.com’s  grantland shows. Almost 40 players changed teams, Don Patrick Rileyeone recalibrated the Heat and reshaped the race for the Eastern Conference title, the Blazers picked up a great back-up guard, the Pistons obtained Reggie Jackson from OKC as a possible replacement for rehabbing point guard Brandon Jennings, OKC found someone to take Kendrick “Mr. Smiles” Perkins while restocking their bench, Andre Miller and Aaron Affalo continued adding to their “Teams I’ve Played For” jersey collections, the Knicks and Lakers did nothing, Kevin “Old Man River” Garnett went back to his old Minnesota Home for whatever reason, the Clippers and Lakers did nothing, and the Philadelphia 76ers continued their mystifying trip to this June’s draft.

Grading the 2015 NBA trade deadline by Kelly Dwyer

All-Star Weekend Recap

It very well may still be LeBron James’ league, but the future just may belong to “Splash Brother” Stephen Curry who won the 3-Point Shooting Contest with a final round that included 13 consecutive made shots in a row.

Russell Westbrook scored 41 points – one short of Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star Game record – and won the game’s MVP award with an incredible, court-scorching, eye-popping performance.

Speaking of MVPs, Celebrity All-Star Game legend Kevin Hart won his fourth consecutive award despite being embarrassed by Little League World Series star Mone Davis. During an appearance on the Jim Rome national radio show, Hart said, “That little girl embarrassed me on live television…It’s only going to get worse if I keep going back. I don’t want to see what’s going to happen next.”

Melo, Melo, Melo

Was it really that important to play in the All-Star Game just because it was on your home court? Have we seen the best of you? What does the future hold for you and the Knicks franchise after this season ending surgery that could have you out for 4-6 months?

Kobe Talks and Talks

Suddenly, towards the end of his incredible career, Kobe Bryant, is opening up and talking about his life and process more than ever before.

The NBA at the All-Star Break – 02/15/15

February 15, 2015

NBA Coast to Coast: All-Star game brings Gasol brothers together again

marc-gasol-pau-gasol-20150214 (2)

Grizzlies center Marc Gasol works in the post against his brother, Bulls forward Pau Gasol (16), in the first half of a game earlier this season. (Brandon Dill / Associated Press)

The NBA Coast To Coast at the break gives you a professional’s look at the current NBA season so far. Later on, I’ll be giving you my perspective. But first…

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

Ageless

Golden State Coach Steve Kerr, 49, the Western Conference All-Star coach, got a chuckle out of knowing that he’s going to coach former San Antonio teammate Tim Duncan, 38, in Sunday’s All-Star game. “I’m sure I’ll have some choice words for him too,” Kerr said. “And maybe even threaten to play him 42 minutes just to wear him down.”

I’ll be there

Golden State guard Stephen Curry couldn’t help but crack on his easy-going teammate, Klay Thompson. Curry was asked what Thompson’s response was when Thompson found out he was starting for the West in his first All-Star game. “Huh, really?” Curry said, imitating Thompson. “That’s cool. Wait, when’s the All-Star game?”

Jokester

So you think Gregg Popovich doesn’t have a sense of humor? When the San Antonio coach was asked how he relates to the younger players in the NBA, Popovich, 66, left the media laughing. “The young kids are easy,” Popovich said. “The old ones are hard. Timmy [Duncan] and I divorce once a year.” —Broderick Turner

GAME OF THE WEEK

San Antonio at Golden State

When: 7:30 PST. TV: ESPN

The first time the teams met in November, the upstart Warriors were shown how NBA champions do things, losing, 113-100, to the Spurs in Oakland. But since that time, the Warriors have produced the best record in the NBA and the Spurs are the seventh-seeded team in the West. Since it’s the second game on back-to-back nights after the All-Star break for San Antonio, it will be interesting to see whether Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich rests any of his regulars. — Broderick Turner

CHARLES’ TAKES

The league’s three most historic and storied teams, the Celtics, Lakers and Knicks are shells of themselves, but because of Danny Ainge’s aggressive and unemotional approach to letting go of the recent past, Boston is in the best shape of the these franchises. At the break, the Celtics are only 1 & ½ games out of the last playoff spot in the woebegone Eastern Conference and are loaded with draft picks for 2015 and 2016 with salary cap space as well. Meanwhile, both the Knicks and Lakers are in limbo with both of their superstars ailing; Carmelo Anthony is contemplating shutting it down after making a cameo appearance in today’s All-Star Game and Kobe Bryant, with one season left on his contract, is out for the third consecutive season with a major injury.

So far, the post-Dr. Jerry Buss Era is a failure (just ask Lakers legend and constant John Buss critic Magic Johnson) and the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson has admitted that this season is the same in New York. Critics of both franchise’s owners and front office abound in the media and blogosphere and many believe that things will get worse before they get better. The Lakers face another summer of trying to convince a premier free agent (or two) to ignore their recent history and take their money while in the Big Apple, first time president Phil Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher face an uphill battle to prove that they know what the hell they’re doing amid questions about Jackson’s long-term commitment at the age of 69 with fiancée (and Lakers co-owner) Jeanie Buss in sunny Los Angeles. And team owner James Dolan isn’t exactly helping things either.

Meanwhile, positive stories and rising young stars abound around the league. Golden State, Memphis and Portland are legitimate title contenders in the West; Andrew Wiggins is showing Minnesota and the Cavaliers why he was drafted so highly and other young players are coming to the forefront across the league. Speaking of the Cavaliers, after a rocky start and recent trades, the LeBronites seem to be gelling at the right time. The Bulls, as always, are as good as Derrick Rose’s knees while the Raptors are drawing record crowds in Toronto and showing why any title talk in the East must include them.

The All-Star Game weekend showed a changing in the guard and most likely featured final appearances by players such as Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. Meanwhile, injuries to Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Dwyane Wade allowed young stars such as Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson to make their initial appearances on the globally broadcast game. And, taking full advantage of the extended break (a week), many of the game’s brightest stars and their celebrity counterparts from the worlds of movies and television and other sports gathered in New York City to network and party together.

For old-timers such as myself, it’s not our father’s NBA anymore. Adam Silver is celebrating one year as commissioner, the players association has an aggressive new executive director in Michele Roberts who’s already made it clear that the owners are in for a fight over increased revenues from the new TV contracts due to take effect for the 2016-17 season, and in what may be one of the most important player moves in recent history, Lebron James is taking an increased role as a leader of the game off the court.

Thursday’s trade deadline could portend who positions themselves for both a playoff run this season and this summer’s draft. Will the Lakers trade Steve Nash’s (yes he’s still alive) expiring contract or just hold tight and hope to keep their protected draft choice while waiting on promising rookie Julius Randle to heal from his broken leg suffered in the opening game of the season? What contender/s will make a bold move to bolster their roster? Can Kevin Durant get and stay healthy long enough to lead the Thunder, along with Russell Westbrook, to a playoff slot? And, are the Spurs just lying low, trying to conserve energy as only “Pop” can do?

For the first time in recent years, there’s no clear-cut leader to hold up the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. And for fans, that’s a great thing as the playoffs promise to be exciting and thrill-filled from start to finish.

The Times’ NBA rankings – 02/15/15

February 15, 2015

stephen-curry-gordon-hayward-20150214 (2)

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry drives around Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward during a game on Jan. 30. (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

Broderick Turner ranks the 30 NBA teams – February 14, 2015 @ 6:39pm

My comments

By BRODERICK TURNER

Last week’s ranking in parentheses, statistics are through Thursday’s games:

  1. GOLDEN STATE: Curry, Thompson are first two All-Star starters for Warriors since Barry, Thurmond in 1967. (3) – Still not convinced that they can win a ‘Larry O’Brien’ without a healthy Andrew Bogut, but damn, this is an exciting team especially with the “Splash Brothers.”
  2. ATLANTA: Hawks have record-tying four All-Stars: Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, Al Horford, Paul Millsap. (1) – Sexiest “cheerleaders” in pro sports history; group meetings held at Magic City.
  3. MEMPHIS: Back to the Grind House, with the Grizzlies giving up 95.7 points a game, tops in the NBA. (2) – proverbial ‘Window of Opportunity’ is NOW with Marc Gasol’s free agency looming this summer.
  4. CHICAGO: Won four in a row after losing 10 of previous 15 to open 1&1/2 -game lead over Cavaliers in Central Division. (10) – Fair or not, it’s all on Derrick Rose and his legs.
  5. CLEVELAND: Went through the motions in loss to Bulls in last game before All-Star break. LeBron had eight turnovers. (4) – Paging Kevin Love!
  6. HOUSTON: James Harden for MVP? He leads NBA in scoring (27.4) and has scored more than 40 six times. (5) – And yet, Dwight Howard’s nagging injuries and seemingly lack of total commitment makes me think the Rockets are more title “pretenders” than contenders.
  7. TORONTO: Making history. At 36-17, it’s the Raptors’ best record at the All-Star break in team’s 20 years of existence. (7) – Best city in the NBA outside of Miami.
  8. SAN ANTONIO: Tim Duncan selected to 15th All-Star team, tied for third-most with Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett. (6) – As usual, just going about their business down by the Riverwalk.
  9. PORTLAND: Damian Lillard is the only player to score in double figures in all of his team’s games this season. (8) – If LaMarcus Aldridge’s thumb injury doesn’t get any worse, Blazers could be the sleeper in the West.
  10. CLIPPERS: Clippers go 2-1 after Blake Griffin’s elbow surgery, with DeAndre Jordan putting up 20-20 in wins. (11) – Lob City could become Sob City.
  11. DALLAS: Got to get healthy. Rajon Rondo (eye), Tyson Chandler (ankle), Monta Ellis (hip) all have injuries. (9) – In a word: no. In two words: hell no.
  12. WASHINGTON: All-Star break needed after losing six of eight. Bradley Beal out nursing leg, big toe injuries. (12) – Nope, not even a remote chance the Wizards can win the East.
  13. MILWAUKEE: Bucks are the first team in NBA history to double last season’s win total by the All-Star break. (13) – Yeah, but it’s still Milwaukee and no premier free agent will ever sign there.
  14. OKLAHOMA CITY: Making its playoff push with two stars healthy and is just behind the last spot in the West. (18) – One and a half seasons to convince Kevin Durant to stay in the OKC.
  15. PHOENIX: Lost seven of last 10 before the break, and can see Oklahoma City coming fast in rearview mirror. (15) – Uh…no.
  16. NEW ORLEANS: Must get Anthony Davis back for playoff push. He missed two games with sprained right shoulder. (16) – Davis, great as he’s becoming, simply can’t do it by himself.
  17. CHARLOTTE: Health issues. Kemba Walker (knee), Michael-Kidd Gilchrist (hamstring) out. Lost three straight. (14) – And now Michael Jordan must make a move before Thursday’s trade deadline.
  18. BOSTON: Flying under the radar, Celtics are only 1 & 1/2games out of playoff spot in East after winning four of five. (20) – Danny Ainge’s rebuilding project slowly but surely coming together.
  19. MIAMI: Dwyane Wade, out last seven games with hamstring injury, plans return in first game after All-Star break. (21) – Heat will make it interesting but it’s time for Don Pat Rileyeone to come out of retirement and bolster the roster.
  20. BROOKLYN: Won three straight, including impressive victories over Clippers, Raptors, but then lost last three. (17) – Barclays is a great new arena!
  21. DETROIT: Pistons have lost seven of last 11, but they’re still in playoff picture, two games out in the woeful East. (19) – “Woeful East” is redundant, like saying “Sarah Palin is an idiot.”
  22. INDIANA: Good news. Paul George, out with a broken right leg, eyes March 1 return from gruesome injury. (22) – Why?
  23. UTAH: Passing the ball a bit more couldn’t hurt. Jazz ranks 28th in assists, averaging only 20.3 a game. (26) – Ironic considering insurance agent Don Stockton’s twin brother is NBA’s all-time career assists leader.
  24. DENVER: Rumors have the Nuggets looking to move Arron Affalo, Wilson Chandler, Jameer Nelson. (24) – Jameer Nelson is still alive? Who knew.
  25. SACRAMENTO: George Karl takes over as coach after the All-Star break. His new team has lost eight of last 10. (25) – George Karl is the one former Tarheel that I root against.
  26. ORLANDO: Why not add him to the All-Star team? Nik Vucevic third in NBA in double-doubles with 32. (23) – Who?
  27. LAKERS: Set franchise record for most consecutive losses on road (11). Is worst record (19-53) next? (27) – Loyal (or crazy depending on one’s point of view) fans holding out hope that Kobe Bryant comes back healthy next season and leads team back to the Promised Land. In a possibly related action, hard liquor sales are up 200% in LA since December.
  28. MINNESOTA: Ricky Rubio making strides. Had 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists against Warriors. (28) – So what?
  29. PHILADELPHIA: Time to reflect during 10-day break. Hope to get Michael Carter-Williams (finger) back. (29) – Reflect on what? They’ve already got tanking down to an art.
  30. NEW YORK: With Knicks going nowhere, will Carmelo shut it down after All-Star break because of nagging knee? (30) – If Knicks can’t sign a major free agent this summer, how long will Phil Jackson stay in NYC? That, all apologies to Sir William Shakespeare, is THE question in Jim Dolan’s world.

2016 Presidential Campaign – #1 – 02/04/15

February 4, 2015

Note from the author: from time to time during the upcoming presidential election, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on it here. For those hardcore political junkies among you, here’s a link to a very good non-partisan website, 2016 Election Central, which will keep you up to date over the next two years of campaigning http://www.uspresidentialelectionnews.com/. Charles

“Money talks and bullshit walks.” – Disgraced Pennsylvania Congressman Michael Myers as recorded on tape during the ABSCAM sting operation on August 22, 1979

“Money will talk even louder than ever before in the 2016 presidential election.” – Charles L. Freeman, Jr – February 4, 2015

Here we are only six months out from the first official GOP presidential primary debate and eleven months from the Iowa Caucuses on January 18, 2016 and already, we’ve witnessed a seismic event among the party’s potential candidates for the right to run against (and probably lose to) Hillary Rodham Clinton. Less than a month after telling a private meeting of some of his biggest donors in the 2012 campaign that, “I want to be president” and ramping up speculation that he might run for a third time, Mitt Romney announced last Friday that he won’t be running again. Despite his stated belief that he could “probably win the nomination and beat Hillary Clinton” and raise the estimated $1 billion plus needed for long, grueling primary and general campaigns, Romney most likely saw the writing on the wall that became even clearer when Jeb Bush jumped the line and announced that he was going to explore the possibility of running for president: “Please go away Mitt and stay away.”

Unlike the Democratic side where it appears that Hillary Clinton will be the only serious candidate unless Elizabeth Warren can somehow be convinced by the progressive wing of the party to run, the Republican pool of potential candidates runs from the must be taken seriously Jeb Bush who so far appears to be ignoring the far-right wing of the party to the ridiculous threats of Donald rhymes with Chump and Sarah “I’m Serious This Time” Palin. In between that spectrum, in no particular order, lie Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, the quixotic Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, Lindsay “Boots on the Ground Everywhere” Graham, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker. Paul Ryan, who was Romney’s 2012 running mate, says that with Romney out of the race, he’s going to remain neutral for now.

This list of potential candidates comes with several caveats and possible problems led of course by Jeb Bush’s last name which, because of his brother’s disastrous end to his second term, must be seen as a huge impediment particularly should he be the party’s nominee. But, because he’s far more moderate on Common Core and immigration reform among other crucial issues than most of the party’s hardcore conservatives can stomach today, and the fact that he’s been out of office since 2007 and hasn’t run a campaign since 2002 – a lifetime in today’s hyper-digital 24/7 news cycle atmosphere – there’s reason for many to wonder if Bush’s ability to tap into his family’s vast donor base will be enough to propel him to the nomination.

Then consider the following: Christie faces possible indictment from several current investigations; Perry is already under indictment and facing trial in Austin, Texas while Cruz, Graham, Paul, Rubio, Santorum and Walker all have questions about their ability to raise the money needed for a nationwide run. Plus, both Paul and Rubio face decisions about running for president or their Senate seats as Kentucky (Paul) and Florida (Rubio) have laws against appearing on the ballot twice – Paul is threatening to challenge the law while Rubio has said he’ll make a decision soon on which office he’ll seek (most observers think he’ll run for reelection to the Senate). Kasich and Walker are Republican governors in Midwestern states – Ohio and Wisconsin respectively – who’ve taken vastly different approaches to governing; Kasich is more pragmatic and seeks to solve problems via common sense and consensus while Walker seems intent on destroying labor unions in his state and across the country.

Looming over all of this: an improving economy, immigration reform, terrorism, Citizens United’s “dark money” being funneled into Super PACs, Karl Rove’s Crossroads, Sheldon Adelson’s desire to force any and all candidates to swear allegiance to Israel and the notoriously secretive Koch Brothers who say they will spend upwards of $800 million on the 2016 campaign.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who vowed to take control of the debates this cycle in order to end the circus that surrounded the 2012 primary campaign, has implemented a series of changes that not only limits the number of party sanctioned debates, but punishes those who participate in non-sanctioned events and created a baseline of support that candidates must meet in order to appear onstage. In other words, no Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain in 2016 (sorry Dr. Ben Carson and fired Hewlett-Packard former CEO Carly Fiorina) to provide reams of material for Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and SNL.

Mitt Romney is the first victim of 2016 and only time will tell if he can continue to influence the race via his vast and deep-pocketed donor list. Whoever taps into it the best and right now, Bush seems to be the most successful at doing so, will have a decided advantage.

In 2011, I told anyone who’d listen: when it’s all said and done, Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee because the powers that be in the party aren’t going to risk what they think is a very good chance to defeat a seemingly weakened incumbent Barack Obama by nominating some far-right wing candidate. And that holds even truer today in 2015: when it’s all said and done, after billions of dollars in official and unofficial campaign spending, after a campaign that’s going to give Game Change authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann their third joint best-seller, it’s going to be Jeb Bush against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the right to be the 45th President of the United States.

That’s what I think today.

NBA Update – 01/10/15

January 10, 2015

Time for a January Look at the Season

Well, even though the All-Star Game Weekend is the longtime accepted “midpoint” of the season, the truth is that by the end of this week, most teams will have played almost half of their 82 game regular season schedule. So, with that in mind, I thought now would be a good time to take a hard look at the first half of what my good friend Bobby Midnight has dubbed the “Post Kobe Bryant NBA.”

Parity is Alive and Well in the NBA (The CBA is Working)

Disgruntled and disgusted Lakers fans aside, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement is working EXACTLY as the mid-sized market team owners had hoped. Much like this season’s NFL playoffs without any teams from NYC, Chicago or Los Angeles in them (yes I know LA doesn’t have a team-yet), this season’s NBA playoffs won’t feature the Celtics, Knicks or Lakers and it won’t matter one bit. Oh don’t get me wrong, I know Commissioner Adam Silver would give at least one of the family jewels to have these historic franchises in the playoffs, but it’s not going to affect ratings now as much as it would have five years ago.

Smartest Person in the League Award goes to…

…Steve Kerr and Pau Gasol, come on down!

He was Phil Jackson’s hand-picked, Numero Uno choice to be the Knicks’ coach and appeared to be on the verge of signing a multi-year, fully guaranteed $25 million contract to do so when suddenly, he veered left and signed to coach the much better Warriors in Oakland.

While I can’t prove it, I’m fairly certain Kerr was made an honorary member of MENSA in a secret ceremony in the Bay Area during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Pau Gasol is back to being Pau Gasol again and that’s a good thing for one of the truly nicest and most professional players in the league. He’s helped make the Bulls title contenders and shown that he’s not washed up yet.

Luckiest/Unluckiest Person in the League

Derek Fisher.

The unexpected beneficiary of Kerr’s intelligence, Fisher walked into the same unbelievable contract for a totally untested head coach of one of the league’s marquee franchises. Unfortunately for him, it’s with the Knicks who are on pace to win 15 games this season. (That’s not a typo.)

Biggest Question of the Season

Did LeBron James make a basketball mistake in leaving Miami to return to Cleveland?

One thing is certain; “Apex LeBron” was in Miami and the player that returned home in such dramatic fashion isn’t the same player as the one who took his talents to South Beach four summers ago. Injuries, poor team play, the rookiest of a rookie coach in Dave Blatt (at least the Knicks and Warriors had heard of Derek Fisher and Steve Kerr before they were hired even though Fisher looks lost on the sideline so far), the realization that Kevin Love just might not be the star he was on bad T’Wolves teams and recent trades have left the Cavaliers, widely thought to be shoo-ins for the Eastern Conference Finals this spring, looking up at the Bulls, Hawks and Raptors in the standings. (By the way, if one has to live in Canada, Toronto ain’t a bad place to be.)

Biggest Surprise of the Season

Speaking of the Hawks, what in God’s name is going on in the ATL? I dare you to name their starting five without Google. Hell, I’m not even sure they have a coach (actually, they do and his name is Mike Budenholzer). The team is in the process of being sold because one of the current owners was an email racist, they probably won’t have anyone on the All-Star team in February (by the way, I’ll bet you anything in the world you didn’t know that Elton Brand is on the team; frankly I had no idea he was even still in the league), their attendance hovers in the middle of the league and yet, as of this writing, they’re 28-8 and if the playoffs started today, they’d be the number one seed in the East.

Second Biggest Surprise of the Season

D-Wade is back to being D-Wade. The face, heart and soul of the Heat is playing at a legitimate All-Star level again and one has to wonder if during their Christmas Day game in Miami, King James didn’t have at least one “What if I’d stayed here?” moment.

Third Biggest Surprise of the Season

While no one with the sense God gave a seedless grape thought the Knicks would be title contenders this season, no one could have predicted what looks to be an all-time low for the historic franchise that plays in the self-titled “Mecca of Basketball.” He still may get healthy and return to his ball-hogging, high-scoring, can’t guard your house game, but for now, it looks like the Bulls, Lakers and Rockets, all dodged a huge bullet when Carmelo Anthony didn’t sign with them last summer.

Fourth Biggest Surprise of the Season

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Portland Trailblazers.

His Seahawks have already given him a Super Bowl title – and could do it again this year – and now Microsoft co-founder and gazillionaire Paul Allen’s NBA team are legitimate title contenders as well.

Life just ain’t fair.

Fifth Biggest Surprise of the Season

Marc Gasol as a legitimate MVP candidate. No longer just “Pau’s little brother,” the Grizzlies’ center is arguably the best player in the league at his position.

Speaking of the East aka the NBA Least…

…while you weren’t paying attention, in addition to the conference leading Hawks, the Bulls, Raptors and Wizards have all won at least 24 games. In other words, not all the teams in the Eastern Conference are “turrible.”

Meanwhile, out in the Wild, Wild West…

…the Warriors are 29-5, the Blazers 28-8 and four teams – Mavs, Grizzlies, Rockets and Spurs – in the Southwest Division have won at least 22 games. And only in the loaded Western Conference where most home games start as fans in the East are getting ready for bed, could the 24-12 Clippers be considered “disappointing” and no one laugh at that characterization.

Out in OKC, injuries and roster changes must be overcome if the Thunder are to make a serious title run again. One must wonder what happens to coach Scott Brooks if they fall short of the conference finals in late May/early June. And, are these the last days of KD and Russ in Thunder uniforms with free agency looming for both in a couple of seasons?

Best Post-Game Interview

Nick Young aka Swaggy P of the Lakers.

When he plays well and the team wins – it’s disturbing how intertwined these two occurrences are – he’s full of jokes, joys and yes, swagger. When he’s had a bad game and the Lakers lose – again a disturbingly connected occurrence – he mopes, pouts and shows the depth of his emotions more than any other player in recent team history.

Kobe, Kobe, Kobe

This doesn’t end well folks.

No perimeter player has played as many years as Bryant has and there’s a good reason for it – no one’s body can hold up to the stress and strain and he’s no different. It’s not just the 19 regular seasons at the age of 36 and two major leg injuries in recent years. It’s the additional three full seasons worth of playoff games, two Summer Olympics and countless practices and workouts, all at the highest level of competition and stress.

When he missed Friday night’s game against the Magic – a game the Lakers won for their 12th victory of the season – Bryant had sat out 5 of the Lakers last 10 games with what both he and coach Byron Scott described as “general soreness.” And in what has been the most surprising development in all this, Bryant seems resigned to the fact that he’s simply not the player he once while having a hard time adjusting his game to the new limitations of his body.

There are four undefeated champions in history: Rocky Marciano, the IRS, p***y and Father Time. Bryant’s not a boxer so the first one doesn’t matter, his taxes are probably in good shape, he settled with the third one with a TKO (multi-million dollar payment) in the Eagle, Colorado case and now he’s face to face with the last one. And no matter what even the most ardent, devoted and fervent Kobe Bryant fan may want to believe, he’s not going to win this last battle.

I may be proven wrong in the long-run, but something tells me Kobe Bryant’s considerable ego, pride and competitiveness, the same forces that have forged him into arguably one of the 10 greatest players in NBA history, won’t allow him to finish out this contract as a part-time player shooting well below 40% for the rest of his career. I think we’re a few months, maybe even mere weeks away from another “Elgin Baylor Moment” when Bryant walks away from the game in the middle of the season.

If that happens, I’d be surprised, even a bit disappointed, but not shocked. This isn’t how great champions like to go out and whatever one may think about Kobe Bryant as a person, there’s no denying that he’s been one of the greatest in NBA history and is a first-ballot, no doubt about it whatsoever, Hall of Famer.