Thursday, May 10, 2007

Justice Wasn't Served, but Pizza Was

This is Philip Workman. As The International Justice Project meticulously reported, on August 5th, 1981 in Memphis, Tennessee, he robbed a fast food restaurant at gunpoint. Unbeknownst to him, a silent alarm had been triggered, and police were on their way. Unfortunately one of the officers, Lt. Ronald Oliver, had been shot in the chest and died. Mr. Workman admitted that his drug addiction had led him to the crime, and on March 30th, 1982, he was convicted and sentenced to death for first degree murder.

In addition to The International Justice Project, CNN has reported an overwhelming amount of evidence and doubts raised by how this case was handled. Everything from eyewitness accounts to ballistic tests suggested that Lt. Oliver was killed by friendly fire, but not even an appeal to the US Supreme Court would allow Mr. Workman the justice he deserved. Make no mistake - he committed a crime, and he paid for it, but under NO circumstances was a death penalty warranted.

At 2AM Eastern Time on Wednesday May 9th 2007, Philip Workman was executed at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Tennessee where he was incarcerated. He requested that his last meal be a vegetarian pizza, but here's the thing that's going to mess you up - he requested that the pizza be given to any homeless person near the Riverbend facility. They refused his last wish because according to Riverbend spokeswoman Dorinda Carter, "We can get some special things for the inmate, but the taxpayers don't really give us permission to donate to charity." The limit for a last meal at Riverbend is $20.

Later that day, homeless shelters across Nashville had received a windfall of pizza. Donna Spangler, a 55-year-old woman, had called some friends and bought $1,200 worth of pizza and they deilvered them to the Nashville Rescue Mission. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had stepped up to the plate and ordered 15 pies to be delivered to the Rescue Mission. The first 17 pies to come to the Oasis Center in Nashville were donated by a radio station in Minnesota.

Philip Workman's case is a nauseating travesty of justice. I am disgusted and far angrier than I've been in a very long time. While Philip Workman was incarcerated for over 26 years, justice was NOT served. One of the eyewitnesses later admitted to perjury having never been anywhere near the scene of the crime. The Medical Examiners have backgrounds peppered with incompetence, unethical professional behavior, and even indictments of illegal possession of a bomb and lying to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco , & Firearms. You couldn't make up shit like this if you tried.

In spite of it all and knowing full well what was going to happen to him, Philip Workman's last act was one of humble generosity. While he more than paid for his crime, his life will have the impact of helping out far more than he could have wished for.   While I am saddened by the way our legal system has callously failed him, I am overjoyed that so many random people would want to honor his last wish.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Big Surprise - Kenneth Eng Is Insane. Now What?

I can't remember exactly when I read about Kenneth Eng's article in Asian Week, an Asian Pacific American newsweekly, but I knew that something was seriously wrong. Asian Week is a well-polished magazine of high standards - making the publication of his article on February 23rd, 2007 entitled "Why I Hate Blacks" all the more troubling. Asian Week quickly fired Kenneth Eng, and they issued a front page apology. They have remained open to dialogue in earnest hopes of showing that they are deeply regretful for publishing the article and in hopes of fostering better understanding between Asian and African American communities.

However, this was only the tip of the iceberg. I went online to research Kenneth Eng. He was a flim student at the Tisch School at NYU. He is a published science fiction author, and he has a blog section on His meagre efforts as an author are laughable at best and represent the meaningless deaths of the trees harvested to print his drivel. His blog section is loaded with the kind of lunatic rantings you'd come to expect of someone who would describe themselves as "An Asian Supremacist." He not only hates Blacks, Whites, other minorities, and even some Asians - he also hates virtually every religious denomination as well.

I'm not going to lie to you or deny that I felt that I wanted to find this angry little twerp and cave his skull in. I wanted him to shut up. Ultimately I realized that I wanted Kenneth Eng to disappear. He is delusional enough to think that his literary efforts are equal to truly great authors in Science Fiction. What better fate for him to suffer than obscurity? But he wouldn't shut up.

Shortly after Cho Seung-hui brutally shot 32 students at Virginia Tech on April 16th, 2007, Kenneth Eng sent a video to YouTube essentially calling the massacre hillarious. This video was quickly taken down, and it only brought more attention to the fact that he is not only disturbed - he is dangerous. On May 1st, 2007, Kenneth Eng was interviewed by The Village Voice, during which he was happy to draw similarities between himself and Cho. Eng has been institutionalized, he had stalked a female student, and he drew the strong concern of his professors at NYU who had deemed him dangerous enough to suggest dismissing him. In the article, Eng even went so far as to call Cho his hero, and he admitted that the only reason he didn't go on a rampage was that he couldn't afford a gun.

Let that settle in your minds for a moment.

The Virginia Tech massacre is a horrible tragedy, and while we try to search for indications how this could have happened, we must not lose sight of the fact that 32 people have died. We need to stop this from happening. As comedienne/activist Margaret Cho said on her blog, "What is lost here is the grief. What is lost is the great, looming sadness that we should all feel over this. We lose our humanity to racism, time and time again."

On top of that, anybody who tries to capitalize upon this tragedy must be held accountable to public scrutiny. NBC aired Cho's videotaped manifestos, and they were lambasted for their insensitivity. Kenneth Eng has a history of saying precious little more than the volatile rantings of someone not capable of creating a coherent thought pattern. While it would be easy to dismiss him as just another talentless hack, he could just as easily go on a rampage as another. The big question now is what do we do about Kenneth Eng? I have no clear answers about him. I only know what I'd love to do jsut to shut him up. That is not the moral thing under any circumstances. The best thing is to hope he fades into obscurity. I have strong doubts whether there is any good to Kenneth Eng or if he is even capable of understanding that what he is saying is hurtful to others. I don't even know if he cares, and that's the worst part.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Respect, Simple Bitches, and The Ultimate Fighter

OK, before I go into last night's episode of "The Ultimate Fighter, Season 5," I should explain the title. When I say "Simple Bitch," in no way do I mean women. This is NOT intended to malign women at all. "Simple Bitch" refers to any whiny little cry baby who is not capable of owning up to one's own faults and genuinely trying to overcome them to become something greater than before.

For those of you that don't watch "The Ultimate Fighter," the concept behind the show is to take a group of fighters with experience in a number of different disciplines (e.g. wrestling, boxing, grappling, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, etc), split them up into two teams, and have them fight individual exhibition matches from week to week. The teams are coached by veterans of the sport. The grand prize of the show is a contract with The Ultimate Fighting Championship, arguably the largest mixed martial arts organization. The show is hosted by the President of the UFC, Dana White. These contestants range from also-rans to rookies, and you'd think that they would all have a burning hunger to excel. You'd think that their eyes would be focused on the contract and woe be unto the poor bastards who get in their way.

You'd be dead wrong.

Season 5 of "The Ultimate Fighter" was created to give Lightweight fighters a chance and so the UFC could broaden appreciation for the sport. Currently attention is focused on heavier fighters ranging from Welterweight to Heavyweight. The two coaches, B.J. Penn and Jens Pulver are not only veterans, but bona fide legends. Both have had huge amounts of success as well as colorful histories with The UFC. Like recent seasons, losers in any given match stay on the show to train even if they are ineligible for the contract prize as there may be a chance that one contestant will be forced out and another will be called to come back as an alternate.

Tony DeSouza is part of B.J. Penn's coaching staff. His experience in grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is rock solid, and in last night's episode, he got tired of eliminated contestant Noah Thomas' lackadaisical attitude and his joking. He not only taught Noah several object lessons in grappling, he got him in some rather punishing and obviously painful positions, forcing Noah to bitch even more.

At the beginning of Season 5, Gabe Ruediger started off 20lbs. over the 155lb. weight limit. While losing weight is part of training for any fight, the chance that he will be called in any episode put stress on him and his team. This would give him something like 1 day to lose 20lbs. before the weigh-in. If a contestant does not "make weight," they usually forfeit the match and are booted from the show. 20lbs. in one day is practically impossible, and he would have time to recover in the time after the weigh-in and before the actual fight. Unfortunately in the first five episodes, Gabe Ruediger was eating junk food like it was going out of style, not training as hard as his teammates, and he was even given special dispensation to leave the training facility to get a colonic with the hopes that it would help his weight loss. It didn't do a blessed thing, because he was a delusional, lazy bastard, and he thought he knew what was the best way to train and to lose weight. The irony of it is that he has an impressive fight record, so you'd thinkt hat the idiot would know best.

When things got to a few hours before the weigh-in, he was still massively overweight, and while he lost a couple pounds, he was forced to wear layers of clothing including a non-permeable "sauna suit." He didn't run on the treadmill, he walked. He took breaks. His coaches and his teammates were wondering waht his motivations were. This didn't work, so he had to go into a sauna with all the clothing on AND ride a stationary bike to drop a massive amount of weight. He was bitching and crying and asking for help to put him back in the sauna when he staggered out to cool down. The upshot was that he was literally within 3 pounds of making the weight limit and either he passed out or he gave up. An ambulance had to take him to a hospital for rehydration. Once he was let out, Dana White threw the book at him and kicked him off the show with no chance of coming back as an alternate. Gabe was crying rivers of tears, saying a crock of bullshit about this being his career, that he needed fighting, yadda yadda yadda.

I have no sympathy for either Noah Thomas getting the crap choked out of him in training or Gabe Ruediger coming to the startling conclusion that he is a self-absorbed moron with less of a grip on reality than President Bush. One thing that Dana White has been absolutely clear on is that no matter what the theme of a particular season of "The Ultimate Fighter," it's all about giving contestants a shot at a UFC contract instead of having to fight tooth and nail in smaller organizations and pray that they're gonna get a call from the UFC. There has been some speculation that the contestants who come out of "The Ultimate Fighter" aren't as worthy of title fights as regular fighters, but recent examples like Forrest Griffin, Kendall Grove, and especially Matt Serra with his stunning upset victory over reigning UFC Welterweight champion George St. Pierre in UFC 69.

"The Ultimate Fighter" contestants have a shot at greatness. They have been given a huge opportunity not only to learn from veterans, but to become fighters that command respect. The thing is that morons like Noah Thomas and Gabe Ruediger don't understand that in order to get respect, you have to give it back to those that know more than you. What kills me is that while these simple bitches were enjoying the limelight, scores of fighters with more promise and talent have to suffer. I'm clearly not stating that I could kick either of their asses, but if somebody told me that I could become as great as one of my heroes, I would listen to them implicitly, and I would show them nothing but unflinching respect. If this is as much a part of their lives as they claim, then they are completely delusional and I can only hope that they realize that they are wasting their time. Then again, I hope that Noah Thomas, Gabe Ruediger, and other morons like them kiss the third rail.