A Brief Interview With Elijah D. Manley on The Democratic Party, Centrists, and Neoliberalism


This is the second of an ongoing series of brief, generally five-question interviews with Elijah D. Manley, who made history as the youngest person to ever run for President of the United States, at age 17, which he did as a candidate on the Green ticket in 2016. I was proud to be his campaign manager, especially after he managed to make the ballot on the Green primaries in two states and the District of Columbia, and acquired 41% of the votes among the Greens in his home state of Florida, along with three of his state’s seven Green delegates (the rest of the votes and delegates in Florida went to Green powerhouse Jill Stein). He also received strong support from fellow Green presidential candidates Sedinam Curry, William Krempl, and Darryl Cherney, with the first two giving up their allotted minutes to speak at the 2016 Green National Convention to allow Elijah to speak. He was thus able to take the podium and speak to his fellow Greens against the insistence of one of the ageist national committee members that this would never come to pass. Boo-yahh!

Elijah speaking at the Green National Convention, Houston, Texas, 8/16/16 (Elijah comes in at roughly the 12:26 time stamp, and unfortunately the sound quality of this video is poor, so turn up your speakers on max, mute the volume of your TV in the background, and listen carefully!)

Elijah has recently announced he will be running again in 2020, and I’m honored to be his campaign manager once again. As a result, this young man will soon be more relevant than ever, and this leads to our second interview, where he discusses his reasons for not supporting the Democratic Party and why true progressives and socialists cannot find a lot of common ground with centrist neoliberals.

Without further ado, let’s start:

1: Do you feel that social democrats and socialists, and the centrists/neoliberals who dominate the framework of the Democratic Party, have enough common ground to work together as allies towards mutually desired goals?
No. I don’t believe that they can work in the framework of the Democratic Party. Democrats still believe in capitalism, which is a failed system. Anyone who believes in the failed and oppressive system of capitalism are enemies of the working class/proletariat. Democrats and socialists are polar opposites. On certain issues they can work together, but on dismantling the oppressive system that enables these issues to thrive, they won’t.
2: You will often hear Democrats and their centrist constituents talk about the importance of being “pragmatic” and reminding us not to expect “miracles.” Do you think their “play it safe” strategy on both certain social and (largely) economic issues is a problem rather than a better alternative to more radical policies to completely overhaul the system?
Their approach is bullshit, just like their policies for the last 8 years, and the last 20 years. A fascist was just sworn in as President a month ago, and we can’t afford “pragmatic” solutions. We need more radical solutions to the rise of the alt right and fascists. The Democrats and their failed “resistance” got us Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, in as Secretary of State, it got us do-do Betsy Devos in as Secretary of State, Goldman Sachs in 3 cabinet positions, and many more disappointments to come.

3: So do you think that the 99% should seek a radical third party alternative outside of the Duopoly rather than continuing to support and attempt to reform the Democratic Party to make it more labor-friendly?
Yes. As long as we feed the Democratic Party, they will continue to bite our hands. They will continue to crush unions, bail out banks, deregulate the banks, the media, the [big corporations], and take millions from Wall Street while destroying the Earth.
4: What do you feel about the Bernie Sanders campaign overall? Do you think he accomplished something despite — or maybe even because — he ran on the Democratic ticket instead of as an Independent or for a truly pro-labor class party like the Greens?
I admire Bernie Sanders. I really do. He did endorse Hillary, which was terrible, and he didn’t live up to the expectations on many issues that I am passionate about. I am grateful that he did awaken many people and spread the word of socialism. But I will always disapprove of his stance on Palestine and on other issues that I am passionate about. He must denounce the Democrats, or risk human existence.
5: One policy you and your campaign have stood behind is to repudiate rather than embrace capitalism. This puts you at odds not only with the neoliberals, as noted above, but also against the economic policies of the Libertarians, who have a notable number in the youth liberation movement that you advocate. What made you ultimately decide that capitalism is a system that needs to be rejected and overhauled rather than supported and fully deregulated, as American capitalists and Libertarians favor?
Seeing millions suffer on a daily basis despite claims for change. On the campaign trail, I met hundreds, maybe thousands, of young people like myself that had stories of how they suffered at the hands of this system. One young man, who is undocumented, is forced to work in the shadows for $3.17/hr to support his mother and family. His father was deported. Some have had to turn to crime just to feed their families. And the judges would punish them, rather than addressing the socioeconomic system that enables their suffering. Watching the environment be destroyed. Watching parents work 2 or 3 jobs just to support their families while politicians live comfortably and crush unions. And the thing that got me was: it was all for profit.
5.5: So basically, your personal experience and research has not convinced you that a system based upon the profit motive; competition between workers for limited jobs; access to required services and products based solely on the individual ability to pay; extreme degrees of disparity regarding access to our plethora of resources; the inevitable crime and oppressive punitive law enforcement system that comes into being to deal with said crime; and frequent wars based on competition between separate nations run by different ruling classes who vie for control over the biggest pieces of the global pie; and virtually no product or service being provided unless someone can make a profit off of it, etc., et al., does not have some sort of benefits to the world that outweigh the above problems?
I believe that this system has to go, and so does the ruling class. They have cooperated on how to keep what I like to call the “parasiteousioue” in power while crushing workers worldwide. This must be an inter-sectional movement where we stand in solidarity with workers and non-workers internationally, and with all oppressed groups.
Thank you to Elijah for giving his time to this latest interview!

A Brief Interview With Elijah D. Manley on Education in America



This blog is the first of a planned series of brief interviews where I will discuss various youth rights and other assorted political issues with Elijah D. Manley, the first underager to run for President of the United States, which he did as a nominee in the 2016 Green Party primaries at the “mere” age of 17. The interviews in this series are intended to be short enough that most people can consume them in a single sitting. As a few examples of his political exploits over the past year, here is Elijah speaking at the 2016 Green Party National Convention in Houston, Texas (Elijah’s speech starts around the 12:44 time stamp; unfortunately, this video has a poor and inconsistent audio quality, so listen carefully on a device with a good sound system!); and here is his interview on The Young Turks.


Though the nomination went to Jill Stein, Elijah did quite well for a campaign that was radical even by the progressive standards of the Greens. He managed to get on the ballot of two states and the District of Columbia, and gained an impressive 41% of the votes and 3 of the 7 Green delegates in his home state of Florida, with the rest of the votes and the state’s other 4 delegates going to Jill Stein; and this despite all 6 Green primary candidates being on the Florida ballot. As an additional surprise, he was given a quarter of a delegate from among the District of Columbia’s 2 delegates (with another quarter going to Bill Kreml, and the rest going to Jill Stein).


I was honored beyond words when I was asked by Elijah to be campaign manager for his historic run, and needless to say, it was quite a ride! As expected, Elijah is far from done with politics, and I thank him for graciously giving his time to my blog for this series of interviews. Let us now begin! The interview was conducted via instant messaging, and is edited only for grammar and clarity, with no change or modification in content or context.


CN: As a major participant in the youth liberation movement who also happens to be legally “underage” and still in high school, do you think the American schooling system teaches students to be good critical and independent thinkers, or is it more about encouraging a conformity of thought?
 I believe that the education system in America does not encourage free thinking. It instead encourages conformity. This education system is undemocratic, particularly because it is hierarchical. Instead of helping students think for themselves, it discourages thinking.
CN:  Based on your personal observations and discussions with many other students across the U.S., do you feel that the small number of students who are naturally critical and independent thinkers are treated well by the adult staff at the schools?
 No. I believe that students who are independent and free thinkers are seen as a threat in schools. These students are likely disrespected, disciplined for not conforming, and/or watched.
CN:  There are some who believe that the hierarchical, top-down nature of the contemporary schooling environment in America — where older adults are treated as always knowing best, having full control over the school curriculum, etc. — has a lot to recommend it as long as there is mutual respect between the adult staff and students. Do you believe that the hierarchical, adult-controlled structure of the current schooling system allows for or encourages much mutual respect between the adult staff and students?
No. I believe that in order for there to be a successful schooling system, students must have a full say in all decision-making. It must be what I call a “vertical structure of power.”
CN: Would you describe the vertical structure of power as a bottom-to-top command structure where students share decision-making power with teachers and other staff, including participating in team teaching efforts?
 Yes, exactly. This requires a say in the formulation of curriculum.
CN: Do you believe that equal say should include the rules of the school related to attire, which programs funding is allocated to, etc.?
 Yes. All decisions made by school administrations and boards should be approved or rejected by student bodies.
CN: Many have complained that contemporary youths are very vapid in terms of their interests, i.e., only interested in modern fashions, the latest trendy movies (or trends in general), an over-interest in consuming all the latest technology (useful or otherwise), and almost sole interest in modern movies, books, and music with little interest in the classics in each of these mediums. Do you believe that what passes for “youth culture” today has anything to do with how the schooling system is formulated and conducted?
No. I believe that youth culture is developed as time goes by, and if it has anything to do with school, maybe it is the social setting in school. Attacking youth culture is what I consider to be “gentrification of youth.”
CN: How would you personally define “gentrification of youth” if asked to elaborate?
 Outside groups or age demographics attacking, targeting or trying to influence or change youth culture.
CN:  Having been in the contemporary schooling system for at least 12 years now, do you feel that it gives you and other students a positive attitude towards learning and education?
 No. It honestly makes us hate school and the education system even more. Most of us do not feel like we really learned valuable information to prepare us for life after HS. We also feel that the info we have learned is in part irrelevant. I doubt that many students are enthusiastic about the schooling system.
CN: Any last things you would like to add about your experiences in the American schooling system for those outside the nation who may be wondering about it?
 The biggest problems I have evaluated about the American schooling system is that it is run like a big corporation, and not a school. There is too much standardized testing, and not enough learning time. Failure should not even be a way to refer to children who have not succeeded in acquiring a certain level of knowledge. The biggest problem of them all is that the students’ concerns and voices are ignored.
CN: I think the video you put up that recorded your experience with the school board may well attest to that.
Yep [laughter] there are a lot!
CN: Cases in point are here and here.


My thanks to Elijah for his time!


Moving forward against all odds!

“Marvel’s Luke Cage” Lives Up to the Hype — A TV Series Review

I just finished watching the entirety of Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix, and I must say it was an amazing experience that this life-long comic book fan will not soon forget! It was not without its faults (I’ll get to them), and I never expected it to be perfect. I was, however, hoping it would be awesome, and it truly was despite the imperfections. Marvel Studios, ABC, Disney, and Netflix have thus far consistently worked together to keep our expectations high, so my confidence in a good show and respectful depiction of one of my all-time fav super-heroes was well-founded.
Like all of Marvel’s Netflix series, the 13-episode script is highly intellectual, with a lot of meaningful expository dialogue, so if all you’re looking for is 45-60 minutes of nearly non-stop action and fight scenes, then these are not the shows for you. They are designed to entertain and provide a good amount of spectacle, and they certainly deliver on that; but they are also designed to appeal to the thinking part of the brain, and hence may not appeal to viewers who dislike thinking and only want the spectacle. Admittedly, these types of scripts do result in pacing problems for Marvel’s Netflix shows, with the expository scenes sometimes taking up too much time even for people like me, who appreciates meaningful dialogue. If you can overlook them long enough to get to the true gold of these shows, then you’ll always be rewarded. If you can’t then, well, as I said… you may want to look elsewhere for your entertainment, especially if you consider anything that makes you think to be too “preachy” for your tastes. In that case, I recommend a marathon of football and boxing matches for such individuals.
I. Ah, the ’70s…
What is special about Luke Cage is how well it preserves the core essence of a series that was born and nurtured in the early 1970s, when the effects of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was still in its relatively early stages, and black culture had just recently begun to make major inroads into mainstream American society. This was after decades of black culture and entertainment being all but ignored outside of its own racial niche audience. The ’70s decade was thus a glorious era when black super-heroes began appearing within comic books in respectable numbers for the first time, with many headlining their own series. Arguably the greatest of these heroes was Luke Cage, and I’ll get to the why of that in a few moments (or perhaps several, give or take a few).
Most pulp culture buffs who are not comic book fans but nevertheless had the privilege of living their childhood during the decade of the ’70s will remember the many ground-breaking TV series which each had an all or predominantly black cast, even if they were mostly sitcoms: shows like Sanford and Son; Good Times; The Jeffersons; and What’s Happening? were extremely popular and garnered a large chunk of the Nielson ratings, when just a decade prior the tiny number of quality black-led shows like Julia struggled to remain on the air (and usually didn’t). Most of the popular shows of the 1960s had few black characters make even so much as a cameo appearance, let alone featuring a major black character as part of the regular cast (a rare exception being Bill Cosby in I Spy ). In fact, popular sitcoms of the era like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Leave it to Beaver, and Father Knows Best appeared to take place in realities where everyone lived in idyllic suburbs and no black people seemed to exist at all.
Just one decade later, that all changed, and it was an incredible era to live through. It must have been particularly amazing for black citizens of America, since for the first time in the history of the nation they saw fellow people of color duly represented in all aspects of popular entertainment, including the burgeoning medium of TV and its long-time parent medium of cinema, even if some of these depictions still left much to be desired. Nevertheless, they were considerably more respectful of black culture and individuals than the scant number of black-led shows which actually made it to the airwaves in the past, like the entirely-a-product-of-its-time but now utterly forgettable Amos and Andy. Even the Saturday morning cartoon craze of the ’70s gave culturally significant representation to black people with the long-running Fat Albert, which was charmingly respectful and entirely acknowledging of inner city life rather than some fanciful suburban existence that few blacks knew or enjoyed at the time. Interestingly, Fat Albert — which was second only to Scooby Doo as the longest running and most popular cartoon series of classic American Saturday morning fare — also gave us a super-hero in its later seasons in the persona of the star-faring, comical Brown Hornet.
He may not have eclipsed Luke Cage in popularity, but you can’t fault a brother for trying.
Most importantly of all in the ’70s decade was the full emergence of the “blaxploitation” film genre, featuring low budget films that had predominantly (if not entirely) black casts led by black stars, even if they were usually minor stars, and often helmed by black producers, screenwriters, and directors. These films could be a mixed bag in terms of quality, but many memorable characters emerged and really did speak to black culture and delivered to black audiences heroes and other iconic characters they could relate to. This includes the likes of the Shaft franchise; Dolemite; Super Fly; and the variety of strong female characters portrayed by uber-gorgeous blaxploitation queen Pam Grier (e.g., Coffy, Foxy Brown); as well as the black female cop protagonist of the film Get Christie Love and its short-lived but memorable TV spin-off series.

Of interesting note, Pam Grier made a major comeback during the 2000s specifically in the super-hero genre on the TV medium in the role of DC Comics’ cagey and formidable Task Force X director Amanda Waller for Smallville, the longest-running super-hero TV series to date. In fact, Grier originated the newer, sexy slim version of the previously uber-corpulent Waller, played most recently by Viola Davis on the big screen version of Suicide Squad.

In popular sports during the ’70s, black professional athletes garnered more respect and earning power than ever before. This was particularly the case for the sports of football and boxing (respectfully mentioned above, ha!). And of course, black music went fully mainstream during that era, with Motown having a major influence on American culture in a broad and general sense, rather than simply black culture or niche markets. My interest in sports was limited to boxing, but Muhammad Ali was one of my major heroes, and I couldn’t help but notice my family’s love of O.J. Simpson during the heyday of his career, long before his later tragic fall from grace. And in terms of black music, I grew up totally loving the likes of Marvin Gaye; the Stylistics; Earth, Wind and Fire; Sister Sledge; Donna Summers; the Commodores; and Diana Ross, all of which I have to thank my mother for introducing me to. I passed many days in a very difficult childhood listening to the work of these artists, and they did wonders to ameliorate the doldrums of life for the kid I once was (and in many ways, still am).
For those of us pop culture buffs who happened to be comic book fans (during an era when being a fan of that medium was considered ultra-fringe and far from cool), things were even more glorious. That’s because, as noted above, black super-heroes finally became a major force to be reckoned with in the fantastical universes depicted within the four-color pages. That included those who debuted in their own titles, and one of those who led the way was a Harlem-born gentleman of color named Luke Cage.

His title started as LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR FIRE, and would change to the more super-heroey LUKE CAGE, POWER MAN with issue #17. The book, and the character, scored very high with readers during the first decade that Marvel overtook DC as Number One amongst the Big Two of comic book companies. By the end of the decade — specifically with issue #50 of his mag — Luke Cage teamed up with white martial arts hero Danny Rand, a.k.a., Iron Fist, whose own comic merged with his to create the fan favorite duo POWER MAN AND IRON FIST. It continued into the mid-’80s under that title, and has re-emerged in different volumes since then with a present day incarnation ongoing at this writing. Nowadays, Luke Cage detests the name of Power Man, and is only referred to as that in an ironic manner; he has also passed the code name on to a teen hero of color he mentored, who is proud to carry it.

Cover to LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE #1, where it all began, circa 1972. Both beauty pageant contestants and Wonder Woman now had to deal with the fact that they weren’t the only ones famous for looking good in a tiara. 
Of course, Luke Cage proliferated on his own both before and after he hooked up with Iron Fist. During the ’70s he went on to be perhaps Marvel’s most popular black super-hero, if not the most popular black super-hero in general. He had a lengthy stint as a member of Marvel’s super-team the Defenders in their eponymous comic, and even had a brief stint as a replacement for Ben Grimm (a.k.a., the Thing) in the Fantastic Four. He got around, and he worked hard to cement his status as one of the greatest super-heroes Marvel ever produced, superseding the “color barrier” in short order.


This is the cover to LUKE CAGE, POWER MAN #17, when Marvel first gave the character an outlandish code name to make him seem more like a super-hero and less like a blaxploitation character.

Luke Cage was heavily influenced by blaxploitation cinema of the time, and has been rightly described as a super-powered version of Super Fly. His back story had much to say to the black experience of the era, and remains timely even now, which is why I was less than happy to see his past somewhat modified for the TV series in a way that wasn’t really necessary or desirable IMO (more on that below). The earliest incarnation of the character was hokey in many ways, something respectfully acknowledged by the much less hokey version seen in the TV series. These hokey elements included his choice of what passed for a costume: a yellow open-chested top with blue spandex pants and matching yellow boots, formerly belonging to an escape artist; metal cuffs around his wrists, a chain around his waist in place of a proper belt, and a metal tiara around his forehead and temples — and unique slang exclamatory catchphrases like “Sweet Christmas!” and variations thereof. It was corny, but it was also charming and in no way detracted from the inherent coolness of the character and the awesomeness of what he represented. These elements also in no way detracted from the gritty drama and hard core action and situations that the character often encountered in the mean streets of Harlem.
You said it long before I did, Luke. I just agreed with you here 🙂

Luke Cage was a game-changer in the world of heroic fiction, and I’m glad the costume and previous rather silly code names — Hero for Hire and Power Man — though wisely dispensed with since the 1990s, were nevertheless given respectful mention and token representation in the TV series. They were an integral part of his history that deserve to be gone but not forgotten, if such makes sense. And best of all, not only was his exclamatory catchphrases fully retained in the TV series, but a logical explanation for their retention was provided: his minister father and later barber role model and surrogate father figure Pops Hunter were both averse to profanity, so Luke came up with alternative exclamations to those which utilized expletives or obscenities. And they just so happened to stick!


II. Who is Luke Cage, and From Whence Does He Hail?
So who, exactly, is Luke Cage? That moniker is not his real name, which is Carl Lucas (though only his last name was revealed during his initial appearance, and his first remained unknown to readers for a long time). In the comic book version, Lucas grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Harlem. The reason was simple and applicable to real life:  the lack of viable opportunities on the right side of the law available for black people and pretty much everyone who grew up in an impoverished ghetto environment. This made the temptation of “easy” money made via illicit means an all too tempting aspect of life for too many young black men who grew up in the economically depressed inner city regions of our lovely capitalist system (I’m sure Ayn Rand would have been proud!). Lucas was such an example, and he and his close childhood friend Willis Stryker quickly began climbing the criminal ladder by pooling their exceptional talents: Lucas was unmatched as an unarmed street fighter and boxer (despite not having superhuman strength at the time), while Stryker was a master of the throwing blade (don’t ask me where he picked up that particular skill on the streets of Harlem, even the Harlem of the Marvel Universe! Most thugs I’m aware of prefer stabbing or slashing with knives, not throwing them!).
As time passed, however, it became clear that Lucas had too strong a conscience and sense of inner scruples to continue on that path. Further, the love of a good woman named Reva Connors cemented his determination to leave a life of crime and turn straight, even if it meant dispensing with the ill-gotten wealth his BFF Stryker was still rapidly accumulating. Unfortunately, Stryker’s conscience and loyalty to his good friend had been eaten away by a combination of the brutal power he acquired and his bitter jealousy over Lucas’s success with Reva, whom he also coveted. Thus, Stryker arranged to have Lucas framed for drug-dealing, and the young man was consigned to the infamous Seagate Prison, whose inmates and staff alike went out of its way to earn that place the not exactly creative but nevertheless apt nickname “Hell”.
This freed Stryker to woo Reva at his leisure, who ended up getting killed in a drive-by shooting that was intended for Stryker. The combination of this horrid betrayal and his culpability in Reva’s murder left Lucas filled with determination to exact just retribution on Stryker… if only the inconvenience of being incarcerated in New York State’s most stringent hardcore prison wasn’t preventing that from happening.
One can only hope future seasons of Luke Cage  bring us TV adaptations of some of the totally weird ass villains he faced during the ’70s run of his mag. These cats were often equal parts comical and horrific! Examples include the Piscean felon Mr. Fish from issue #29 (and if you think he’s creepy weird, you should see that sycophantic midget who hangs around him)…
… the other Piscean felon Piranha Jones, from issues 30-31, a guy you definitely don’t want nibbling on your ear if you want to keep it…

… and this muscle-bound hairy guy called Mangler. Imagine these two getting into a slug-fest on the next bus you ride. 


Not only that, but Lucas was subjected to repeated nasty treatment, including periodic beatings, from the cruel racist security guard named Quirt (very appropriate name for some reason!), and enabled by an equally nasty captain of the guards and acting warden named Rackham. This unfortunate situation lasted until a degree of comic book justice came along when a more scrupulous warden named Stuart took over; this guy not only stripped Rackham of his captaincy and demoted him to a regular security guard when he stumbled upon what was going on, but he also graciously locked Quirt alone and unarmed in a cell block with a very angry Lucas. I need not mention the next hour was a very bad one for Mr. Quirt, as his former victims’ fists reduced him to something resembling what his last name sounds like. Lucky for Quirt Lucas was a man of conscience, or he could have more formally made Quirt his “bitch,” if you know what I mean. But if you prefer to imagine that he did anyway, and the creative crew simply didn’t want to show it in order to meet the Comics Code requirements of the day, don’t let me stop you from fantasizing.

However, Warden Stuart was still not about to release Lucas from his sentence, or be convinced he was framed without ample evidence provided, so the matter of the man’s continued incarceration remained a plot obstacle to be overcome.

Up to this point, we have the perfect plot for a classic blaxploitation crime/revenge thriller. But this being the Marvel Universe, things were now about to take a turn for the fantastic, as a truly super hero was about to be born out of this mess.

III. Exit Carl Lucas… enter Luke Cage, Power Man

As is the case often enough for the denizens of a reality like the Marvel Universe, some rather fantastic opportunity was about to come Mr. Lucas’s way. This was in the person of medical researcher and only slightly-less-than-mad scientist Dr. Noah Berstein, who was looking for physically able candidates to participate in an experimental cell regenerative procedure for the benefit of all humankind that his brilliant but wacky mind had concocted. Lucas wouldn’t be the feature character of this comic if he wasn’t the one who proved the most qualified, and though he initially refused to be Berstein’s guinea pig, the death of Reva convinced him that the significant time off his sentence he would earn for stepping into that loony contraption was worth it.

As luck would have it (for the readers, if arguably not Lucas), Rackham was determined to exact vengeance on the man for… his getting caught while beating Lucas up, I guess? So when Lucas was skinny dipping in the water-filled tank of Berstein’s elaborate contraption, the ex-warden snuck into the makeshift medical lab and began operating the controls in haphazard fashion, hoping Lucas would be scalded, or turned blue, or something equally nasty. This being the Marvel Universe, however, that’s not the way it worked, and instead Rackham accidentally elevated the contraption’s energy levels to a point far beyond anything intended. The result: Lucas was enhanced beyond his wildest dreams, including gaining enough superhuman strength to slug it out with Spider-Man, but in his case with steel-hard skin that was bullet and knife proof. Lucas then proceeded to bitch slap Rackham into oblivion and, fearing he accidentally killed the man and would thus be denied the parole promised for his participation in Berstein’s nutty experiment, he decided to use his newly acquired super-strength to pummel  his way clear through the prison walls. He then headed for the sandy shore where miles of ocean separated Seagate Prison from New York City (the prison had to get its name from something!) as security guards pursued the escapee and fired on him mercilessly.

Only Lucas’s bullet-riddled prison shirt was found on the rocky shores near the water, so it was presumed he was mortally wounded and his body washed out to sea. No one knew he had gained superhuman strength save for Berstein (who stayed mum on the matter to avoid explaining his complicity in things), so no one realized he successfully made the swim back to New York. The escapee was therefore believed to have died in an attempted prison escape (don’t ask me how that hole in the wall of Berstein’s makeshift prison lab was interpreted; maybe they figured it was the result of Berstein’s contraption exploding when Rackham made it go haywire). It was quickly revealed to the readers that Lucas succeeded in surviving the repeated shots he received and successfully used his superhuman strength and endurance to swim those many miles to shore. He then spent about a year performing odd jobs wherever he could find them, until he was gradually able to afford enough to return to Harlem to exact just-tribution (I just made that up!) on his ex-BFF Stryker.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been a good story if things would have been quite that easy. After all, need I remind you again this was the Marvel Universe? Stryker had gone on to take the identity of Diamondback, where he became a very powerful crime lord and absolute plutocratic dictator of Harlem (I guess Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, wasn’t overly concerned who claimed to be top dog over there, as long as he had Manhattan). As for Lucas, upon arriving back in the Big Apple, he decided to maintain the fiction he had died to keep the law off his back, so he took on the alias of Luke Cage. He also came upon a new idea on how to make a living when he happened upon a robbery at a diner, and acting on his own inner good will, put paid to the criminals. The owner of the diner was so filled with gratitude that he put paid to the newly christened Luke Cage in an entirely different manner by… paying him a reward.

It was then that Cage realized his superhuman powers could be used to find honest work by his becoming a mercenary! Or, as he called it, a “hero for hire” (I guess “soldier of fortune” didn’t cut it on the streets). Using the reward money to purchase wares from a costume shop, the man on a mission acquired those funky yellow and blue tights, along with the tiara and chain around his waist, printed up some business cards, rented an office — above the Gem Theater on the horrid pre-Disneyfied Times Square, no less — and Luke Cage, Hero for Hire was officially in business.

Not only that, but the story was on! This story, it should be mentioned was written by the late, great Archie Goodwin, one of the comic mediums greatest scripters and editors, and a highly competent artist named George Tuska, whose work gave some perfect gritty detail to the world Luke Cage stomped about and kicked arse within.
IV. What Made Luke Cage a Winner Among the Masses of Characters Introduced in the ’70s?
Okay, the TV series brought to us by Cheo Hodari Coker for Netflix did give have some deviations from the comic book saga of Luke Cage, which I certainly expected. Yes, I fully understand that the TV medium is much different than the four-color pages of the illustrated story medium (or “comic books,” if you prefer), and some things play better on the latter than the former. I’m also well aware that this is the late 2010s, not the early 1970s, so some updating of the cast and situations needed to be made. My main concern is thus always this: was the core essence of what made the character work, and basic details of his origin story and what it represented, retained? Despite some changes I disagreed with (be patient, I’ll get to that), the answer is a resounding yes!

This is because many of the issues facing black america and the working/labor class in general during the early ’70s have found revived popular interest in a strong progressive spirit over the past few years thanks to the Great Recession beginning in 2008. A group like Black Lives Matter would have been just as much at home in 1972 Harlem, or anywhere else in America, as they are across the cyber-roadways of Twitter and Facebook in 2016 America. The issues of how the system denies opportunities to make a decent living off of honest work, and the temptations of crime as a result, are just as relevant during the Great Recession of this decade as they were during the recessions of the early ’70s, when nations in Asia and Europe (particularly Japan and Germany) began recovering from the industrial devastation wreaked upon them in World War II, and thus started giving America major competition in the global market again. How this disproportionately impacted upon people who had gotten a slower start on the capitalist system of wage labor in America was of major importance to the readers who became fans of LUKE CAGE in the early ’70s, and not all of them were black. That type of hard core progressive thinking has been further accelerated in America since the latest failed Democratic presidency, with the promise of another such failed Democratic presidency beginning in 2017 as yet another neoliberal hardliner takes office.


Cue one of my uncomfortable but relevant interlude segues: My preemptive response to my centrist friends and followers who read this and are tempted to say, “There you go again, Chris! Can you please leave the Democrats and politics in general alone and stay on topic here? Just for once, dude? Geez!”: In all seriousness, your request that I give respect to your stubborn loyalty to capitalism and the mainstream Democratic politicians who support its continued global hegemony would carry far more weight if so many of you weren’t struggling to pay your bills or even with keeping a roof over your head; or at least contemplating bankruptcy; or dealing with mounting hospital bills and/or inability to pay for needed medication; or drowning in college debt and/or credit card debt; or recovering from a housing foreclosure due to subprime mortgages being inflicted upon you by the “too big to fail” predatory bankers who literally gambled with your livelihood (which heaps of our taxpayer money went to bail out while you were left licking your losses); or keeping a job despite being very hard workers and most certainly not the lazy bums so many conservatives insist you all must be if you’re in such a predicament (even though so many of them are, as well!). Until you’re all thriving in this system and being justly compensated for your hard work more often than not, then I’ll consider your contention that the worst thing I can say about the system is that “it’s not perfect.” Until then, please do not expect me to respect your misguided loyalty more than what is really going on right in front of all of our eyes.

Further, and perhaps more importantly, these issues have much to do with the fictional world Luke Cage inhabits, and the factors that not only made him into the man he became, and which also made the various adversaries and supporting characters he interacted with the people they ultimately became. Hence, these issues are not off-topic; hence, I will not ignore them or pretend they’re irrelevant; hence, I will not foolishly try to pretend the saga of Luke Cage — both in the comics or on the small screen — is somehow non-political or that I’m “reading too much into what was always supposed to be just popcorn entertainment.” To the contrary, it’s the saga’s relevance to problems in the world outside our window mirrored in the fictional locale of the Marvel Universe (or whatever iteration thereof) that heavily contributed to Mr. Cage’s popularity and continued relevance in the modern world. Luke Cage has always been an angry mo’ fo’ against the injustices of the system, and while he may not explicitly point out capitalism and its chief policies as the problem for obvious reasons, I think anyone with half an intellect and the honesty to match it know precisely what the main source of most of Mr. Cage’s challenges happen to be.

End another of my uncomfortable but important interlude segues and back to our regularly scheduled review.

V. Let’s Get to the TV Series, Already!

Let’s start my analysis with the one major change to the saga that I wish Marvel Studios, ABC, and Netflix had not made. In the comic book storyline, the man who became Luke Cage started out as the fairly hard core but small time criminal I mentioned above, but with clear scruples that prevented him from taking things too far. These redeeming character traits allowed the love of a decent woman to pull him out of the escalating chaos that his BFF Willis Stryker — the future Diamondback — was descending into. The younger Carl Lucas could readily be identified with by many struggling members of the working class, including the disproportionate number of young black men who were not bad people at heart but nevertheless got pulled into the temptation to try and find their fortune on the wrong side of the law. Nothing about this history as written in any way condoned those early disreputable actions of his, and he paid dearly for them. However, rather than becoming a slave to bitterness, upon escaping prison he ultimately ended up becoming a hero by working his way up to that status.

The fact that Cage was taking money to help others as a way to make his living added an important element of controversy to the book. He literally started a one-man company called Hero For Hire, Inc. (until years later when Iron Fist joined him, and it was pluralized to Heroes For Hire, Inc.). He then coincidentally ran across Dr.  Noah Berstein (you can always count on coincidences of this sort in the Marvel Universe), who by this point a year after the prison incident was running a clinic for the poor in Harlem alongside a young and (also not coincidentally) attractive female doctor named Claire Temple. Claire would become Luke’s newest love interest, and would further pull him towards the side of the angels, much as Reva Connors did prior to his framing and unjust imprisonment.
This element of controversy, with the question of whether or not Cage could be considered a mercenary who did not have the interests of others as his first priority was a major philosophical issue driving the series, at least in its earlier years. It became clear from this early point, however, that Cage’s heart was always in the right place, and the well-being of the clients and others in his life always came before the money that the system required him to accumulate in order to both make a living and to keep his business operating. The message that sent meant a lot to readers, and went a long way towards making Cage a full-fledged hero and nothing like the truly ruthless mercenary characters of the comic book world like DC’s Deathstroke, arch-enemy of the Teen Titans and later star of his own series, despite any nuances his character may have (depending on who is writing him, which book he appears in, and what any given story plot requires, that is).
This element was not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) version of Luke Cage, however. In this variant of the story, Carl Lucas used to be a cop who was framed by his former BFF. The MCU version of Willis Stryker, however, is also Cage’s half-brother by Minister Lucas’s secretary, which is why their father refused to acknowledge Stryker. This, not a competing love for a woman, is what ultimately fueled Stryker’s resentment and ended their previous close relationship. Still, because Stryker was a tough natural street fighter who excelled at boxing, he taught his younger brother everything he knew about both of these skills when they were still close. Carl Lucas was an avid learner who put these abilities to good use at surviving in the harsh streets of Harlem, gaining a lot of experience along the way, and they later served him well both as a cop and after he was railroaded into prison by the very trusted individual who taught him these skills.
After this, the onscreen story proceeded similarly to how it was depicted in the comics. I cry foul to that particular change because in this version, despite a difficult childhood and a neglectful father who didn’t like him very much due to his high and mighty, holy-rolling, and hypocritical ways, Carl Lucas was never a young man who fell onto the wrong side of the tracks and had to work his way out of it after paying for these mistakes and ultimately having to summon the hero within to move himself out of it, with a little help and support from his friends. Here, he was a hero from the get-go, and was simply mistaken for a villain after being wrongly incarcerated. He paid for mistakes that weren’t his own (unless you consider trusting a half-brother you loved and respected to be a mistake one should ever rightly have to pay for).
Hence, I think it was a mistake to eliminate this element from the onscreen Luke Cage saga, even if perhaps it was done so in an attempt to make him more immediately “likable” to audiences. Nevertheless, IMO it was far from a deal-breaker for the overall quality and faithfulness to the core of the character, as I’ll now explain.
The next big change in the series came with its depiction of Reva Connors. She was indeed part of the Netflix series, but this time she was a doctor who assisted Dr. Noah Berstein within the prison, and the future Luke Cage didn’t meet her until he was an inmate. He still developed strong feelings for her, and she seemed to feel the same for him despite grooming him as the ideal candidate for Berstein’s experiment. Cage was similarly devastated by her death in a manner similar to what went down in the comics, only it was not yet made clear exactly what ultimate fate befell this version of Reva as of Season 1. All we know is that it was bad, and Cage never seems up to talking about it with anyone.

How does Claire Temple fit into the TV version? She was actually fit into the saga in a rather interesting and pre-meditated manner. The character, played onscreen by actress Rosario Dawson, had previously appeared in Season 1 and 2 of Daredevil, Season 1 of Jessica Jones, and is slated to have a big role in the upcoming first season of Iron Fist (due to be released March 17, 2017). She is, in other words, the proverbial glue that cements the initial quartet of series featuring Marvel’s street-level heroes on Netflix together into a shared universe. As such, she can reasonably be expected to play a big role, and major force, in the upcoming Defenders series that unites these four heroes into a team. Of course, other supporting characters have appeared in more than one of the Netflix series, and references have been made to events and characters between one and another, but Ms. Temple as the emergency room nurse who ends up getting her fate mixed up with several metahuman heroes which results in a unique career of discretely patching up their cuts, bruises, gunshot wounds, etc., is the true connection between them all.

It should be mentioned that Mike Colter originated the role of Luke Cage on Jessica Jones Season 1, and had a fairly big role on it, so that is further cement on the firmament uniting this shared universe. I should also mention that the sexual relationship he shared with the titular character of that previous series mirrors one they shared in Jones’s comic book series ALIAS (do not confuse with the unrelated TV series of the same name!), and the two eventually united at a later point in the comics to get married, run an Avengers team together, and have a baby girl named Danielle. It remains to be seen if anything like this occurs after Luke and Jessica re-unite in The Defenders Season 1, especially since Temple is in the picture and she and Cage expressed feelings for each other via a parting kiss at the end of Luke Cage Season 1. Could an interesting love triangle be in the future of these three characters? Gotta love drama!
It should also be noted that Claire Temple is an interesting character for an entirely different reason: her MCU version is actually an amalgamation of two entirely separate comic book characters published by Marvel, one of them with a truly unique point of origination.
It’s been well-established in the media that Claire Temple is based on Marvel’s Night Nurse character, who briefly had her own series around the same time LUKE CAGE was first published. NIGHT NURSE was a very experimental series that had nothing to do with super-heroes, but was about college-aged nurse Linda Carter (she was created before the similarly named actress came on the scene to gain popularity in the role of the Wonder Woman TV series of the ’70s) and her two friends, Georgia Jenkins and Christine Palmer, three young ladies from very different backgrounds who struggled to both become friends and make it in the medical profession at New York City’s Metro General Hospital.
The series was clearly a hybrid of romance comics and some of the popular soap operas at the time (including General Hospital on ABC’s line-up), which gave a big nod to the popular theme of hospital work (medical dramas had been popular on TV for a decade, including Dr. Kildare; The Nurses; and the then-ongoing Marcus Welby, M.D. ), relevant social issues, and added elements of dramatic danger — such as a sub-plot in the first issue of a criminal plot to blow up the hospital generator, a scheme Georgia’s brother ended up mixed up in — that was clearly designed to appeal to college-aged readers of a female persuasion. The book was a surprisingly entertaining experiment that didn’t succeed,  cancelled after four issues. Its main featured protagonist was not to be seen again (to my knowledge) until she turned up in Marvel Comics a decade ago in her role of secretly patching the wounds of street-level heroes in various comics, where for this reason she truly gained the epithet of “Night Nurse.”
The reasons NIGHT NURSE failed, and what a truly offbeat experiment from Marvel it was, warrants a separate blog entry for the future. For now, however, I can say that I think it was a brilliant move for Marvel Studios and Cheo Hadari Coker to combine Claire Temple with the purpose and identity of Night Nurse. The comic book version of Temple was black, and Rosario Dawson’s portrayal of a Hispanic version is much better suited as a contemporary role model of inner city people than the blonde and blue-eyed Linda Carter was, even if I must admit the likelihood of meeting a woman of Hispanic heritage with the surname of “Temple,” or even the first name of “Claire,” in the world outside our window is almost as unlikely as meeting a person with Luke Cage’s powers. But it’s a disparity one can easily live with, because Dawson is so great in the role, and you quickly fall in love with her in each of the series she appears in. She does an adept job of combining the comic book Claire Temple’s compassion, street toughness, and impressive medical skills with Linda Carter’s overall saga, even if most of that saga has just been implied on the TV series thus far. Is it possible Marvel Studios and Netflix will bring us a Night Nurse series starring Rosario Dawson in the future? Since anything seems possible these days, let’s keep our digitals crossed!
No discussion of the “glue factor” would be complete without mentioning Rob Morgan’s reliable role as Turk Barrett, the sleazy street thug who migrates from one crime boss’s employ to another, and is based on a comic book character who has appeared in the many volumes of DAREDEVIL since the 1970s, and has occasionally appeared elsewhere. He has appeared in all of the Netflix shows that occur within the MCU, and will doubtless find some other crime boss to do his small time business with in the upcoming Iron Fist. This is a small but recurrent character role that Morgan plays quite well, and does his small but rather significant part in holding the shared universe encompassing all of these shows together.
It was a shame that Luke Cage’s long-time supporting character, his likable and loyal friend and employee Dave “D.W.” Griffith, who was popular enough with the fans to carry over into the title when it morphed into POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, didn’t get a part in Season 1 of the series. Oh well, maybe in Season 2, which I’m confident we’ll end up seeing.

Let’s now get to the show’s main antagonist, adapted from Luke Cage’s debut storyline in the comic books: Willis Stryker, a.k.a., Diamondback. The comic book version of this debut story arc played out in the first two issues of LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR FIRE, as written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by George Tuska. The comic book version of Diamondback was interesting enough, and the strong personal connection to Luke Cage described above lent more pathos to their antipathy, even though it wasn’t necessary to make a good story. The villain’s stock in trade outside of his sheer brutality was his skill with throwing blades, for which he had a weaselly little mechanical genius called Gadget design trick throwing knives that released various sprays from the hilt; or exploded; or emitted brain-crunching sonic waves whenever the tip of the weapon struck or embedded in a surface. Only the one that emitted sound waves proved problematic for Luke Cage when the inevitable battle went down, however, and the Diamondback of the comics was defeated in a fairly prompt fashion, not to mention in a rather ignominious manner, as Cage’s first story arc concluded.

If this character was to be adapted into the scripts for the 13 episodes of Coker’s Netflix series, he would have to be made far more menacing and formidable than his comic book counterpart. And I’m happy to say that the scripts fully delivered on that, as did the truly bone-chilling and empathic performance by Erik LaRay Harvey. This cat totally owned the role, and this utterly remorseless version completely saved the character from the obscurity that the Archie Goodwin-created version incurred and frankly deserved.
Harvey’s Diamondback was every bit as lethal and compellingly disturbing to behold as Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in the Daredevil series and David Tennant’s Kilgrave the Purple Man from the Jessica Jones series. Though he retained his skill with throwing blades, these took an understandable back seat to his preference for firearms, and the trick knives were replaced by the horribly deadly Judas Bullets, which could penetrate even Luke’s steel-hard skin and deliver horrifically life-threatening wounds to him. Later in the series, Diamondback wore another weapon of a much different sort culled from the inventory of Justin Hammer (an Iron Man villain from the comics who had a MCU version in Iron Man 2): a strength-enhancing exo-suit modeled after the snake-like costume his comic book version always wore since taking on the Diamondback mantle. This suit allowed him to throw down with his hated half-brother in a no-holds barred mono-a-mono battle where their fighting skills and sheer determination counted more than physical strength. The fate this version of Stryker met was serious but not final, and we were given a strong indication we may see him again in a new and improved form, possibly in The Defenders Season 1 if not Luke Cage Season 2.
Willis Stryker, a.k.a., Diamondback, as he appeared during his initial comic book appearance in LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE #1.
This is Diamondback in  the TV series, where his garish snake-like outfit was actually a functional exo-suit, and not just for looks.  I’m guessing the visor on the helmet must have been to keep the glare of the street lights out of his eyes, right? 
Another popular character from the comics who was given a fine adaptation in this series was Mercedes “Misty” Knight, a strong female African-American cop turned cyborg adventurer and martial arts hero who debuted in the IRON FIST comic (well, fully debuted, at least, since she first appeared with Spider-Man in an issue of MARVEL TEAM-UP Vol. 1, but we didn’t know it at the time; long story for another time). Knight has been a long-time supporting character of Iron Fist’s alter-ego Danny Rand, and was his lover for a long time, perhaps one of the first passionate interracial relationships in mainstream comic book land, as it goes all the way back to the 1970s. In short, her story in the comics was this: she was a cop who thwarted an attempted bombing by a terrorist at an airport, saving the lives of many innocents but tragically losing an arm from the ensuing explosion. Being a resident of the Marvel Universe, that arm was replaced by a super-strong, fully articulated bionic limb similar to the one given to Colonel Steve Austin on the then-popular TV series The Six Million Dollar Man (and possibly inspired by it).

Knight then left the force to become a freelance adventurer. She became BFFs with Danny Rand’s friend and ally, the female samurai Colleen Wing, and Knight proved one of those incredibly fast and adept learners of martial arts skills who are so popular in fiction. The dynamic duo of Knight and Wing then billed themselves as the Daughters of the Dragon when working together, and not only did they remain supporting characters and allies throughout the runs of IRON FIST and POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, but also appeared in a few stories of their own, mostly as a recurring series in Marvel’s black and white 1970s mag THE DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU (where Iron First also had a recurring series, as did the comic world’s first Puerto Rican super-hero, Hector Ayala, the original White Tiger, who debuted in the mag… which may also be a whole other future blog entry).

Though it can be argued that Knight should have waited until the upcoming Iron Fist series to debut, her role as a determined and honest police officer who is nevertheless not afraid to break the rules if the situation absolutely depends on it, and if she honestly feels it’s the right thing to do, was an integral factor in this series.

The character was well played by Simone Missick, even if to be totally honest here, I really wish the role had gone to the truly beautiful Nigerian but London-born actress Deborah Ayorinde, who was relegated to playing the minor if semi-significant character of the beleaguered, ill-fated nightclub worker Candace Miller, a relatively thankless role that in no way allowed this talented and awesome actress to shine. I wasn’t one of the show’s three casting directors, and I do not mean to sling aspersions on Missick, who gave the role of Misty Knight her all to good effect, but this is how I feel about this particular casting decision. I think Ayorinde not only has the acting chops, but also the right look for  Misty Knight, and as attractive as Missick certainly is, she just doesn’t hold a candle in that department to Ayorinde. I know looks shouldn’t mean everything in a casting decision, but this is one of those cases where it should have IMHO. Ayorinde’s beauty totally stole attention from Missick in the several scenes they had together, and since both actresses are graduates of Howard University — which Ayorinde walked out of with honors —  I stand by my decision who the roll of Misty Knight should have gone to.

Deborah Ayorinde — the amazing woman who should  have been Misty Knight.

That being said, I again mention that Missick certainly didn’t suck as Misty Knight, so I hope no one perusing this review misreads my words and accuses me of saying otherwise. It should be noted that in this season of the series, Misty Knight receives an injury that may or may not presage her receiving a bionic arm by the time The Defenders rolls around… it may have simply been an homage to this distinct feature of the comic book version rather than a true presaging of things to come, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

As for Colleen Wing, she didn’t appear in this series, but will appear in Iron Fist. We received a nice little Easter Egg in episode 13 of Season 1 presaging both her appearance, and explaining how Claire Temple will end up treating the injuries of Danny Rand in his own upcoming series. I’m really hoping Misty Knight will be brought into that show too, so that the Daughters of the Dragon can receive the MCU treatment on Netflix, and Iron Fist will receive the love interest he had for so long in the comics.
The character of Hernan “Shades” Alvarez, portrayed as an even better weasel henchman than Turk Barrett who knows how to work things to his advantage so as to move up in a crime lord’s employment hierarchy, was played to entertaining perfection by Theo Rossi. Shades happens to be another example of a character who was African-American in the comic book version that became Hispanic in the TV series. Not only that, but in the comic book Shades was a very minor character whom Carl Lucas knew in prison, and didn’t have much to do in the first story arc other than talking shit and to the future Mr. Cage and getting his ass whupped in a prison court yard throw down as a result. In the TV show, he starts out as a less than friendly acquaintance of Cage in prison, but goes on to become something far more than that his comic book counterpart afterwards.

Afterwards, he  pops up from time to time in the series working for various criminals, until he finally acquires some goggles (okay, “shades”) that allowed him to fire optic beams that was given to him by the criminal mastermind he most commonly came to serve, the genius Tilda Johnson, otherwise known as the scantily-clad African-American female super-villain called Deadly Nightshade. Retroactive continuity eventually decided Shades and his frequent partner, the bow-and-arrow-wielding Commanche, were part of a four-member street gang with Striker and Lucas in their younger years called The Rivals.




Only in the Marvel Universe could you expect to run into these guys while taking a stroll through Harlem. 

He also later turned out to be the father to Victor Alvarez, a teen super-hero who acquired the power to absorb the chi energy of his surroundings and channeling it into physical power, where he took on the moniker of the new Power Man and teamed up with Iron Fist in a memorable POWER MAN AND IRON FIST mini-series from the 2000s. It would be really cool to see a version of the younger Alvarez

Shades in the TV series (on left), and his comic book counterpart after he began wearing a costume and force beam-firing visor that made him into a Cyclops wannabe (on the right). Too bad the X-Men weren’t recruiting at the time. They may be a mutants-only club, but if they were liberal enough to accept Longshot at the time, I’m sure they would make an exception for Shades, especially since their leader would be flattered by his shtick. 

The role of Dr. Noah Berstein (not “Burstein,” as spelled on the IMDb) was played in realistically nervous manner by Michael Kostroff, who did a fine job of portraying the somewhat morally gray, conflicted nature of a scientist who wants to benefit humankind with his revolutionary though experimental technology, but is sometimes willing to go a bit too far to achieve that goal. He has a crucial role in Season 1 of the series, and will clearly have a similarly important role in Season 2, although the implication is that he’ll have a markedly different one than he played as a regular supporting character in the comic book series. In the latter, he was a doctor trying to make up for his past mistakes — a common theme for the book — and acted as Luke Cage’s sometimes unwanted conscience, keeping an eye on the mercenary to make sure he didn’t stray off the path of the angels.

In the TV show, Berstein also regrets his mistakes, but not so much that he isn’t willing to make them again if there’s the chance of advancing medical science, and not so much that he could ever be the conscience of anyone. The MCU version of Luke Cage needed no help in that department other than the support and faith of Claire Temple, the memory of his mentor Henry “Pop” Hunter, and the appraisal of the people of Harlem to keep him on the straight and narrow path.

Other roles of note in the series, not reflected in the comic book’s initial story arc, were the always talented Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard, the corrupt politician hoping to go legit, but emotionally incapable of doing so; and Maharshala Ali as her younger cousin Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (but don’t call him that nickname to his face!), the criminal owner of the Harlem’s Paradise nightclub, and initial crime lord of Harlem as the show begins.

In the comic book, the character of Mariah Dillard was quite a bit different from the small screen version, and she first appeared in issue #4 of the series. Woodard played an articulate, fairly shapely, and cunning Clintonesque politician with a veritable graveyard of skeletons in her proverbial family closet. This was in marked contrast to the comic book version of the character, a well-known criminal boss called “Black Mariah,” who spoke in awful ghetto slang, was literally 400 lbs. and over six and a half feet tall — her weight and mass making her more than strong enough to knock the average man across the room with a single swipe of her hand, and even to engage in physical combat with Luke Cage — with an M.O. consisting of the disrespectfully ghastly practice of picking up recently killed bodies in fake ambulances and robbing them of whatever valuables may have been on their carcasses before dumping them in the river. Not to mention blowing out the brains of those who crossed her in traditional fashion via use of firearms when necessary.

It appears the MCU version of Mariah Dillard was fused with the character of hefty female crime lord Mama Mabel, who was played with gusto by  LaTanya Richardson Jackson. Mama Mabel was the viciously awesome female crime lord of Harlem’s past who was the aunt and mother, respectively, of Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes and Mariah Dillard. Unsurprisingly, her criminal ways provided the evil influence behind both their moves down the path of the dark side, as shown in the series’ obligatory flash back sequences (you can’t have a Marvel series without those).
Mariah Dillard on the TV show (right) and her considerably more, erm, “big-boned” variation from the comic books (left).
As for the role of Cottonmouth, Ali played that role with deadly efficiency, and he provided the main villainy of the first half of the series before Diamondback stepped in and took over. I’ll say this much, as well, in deference to those who haven’t yet seen the series: Cottonmouth did not step aside as owner of Harlem’s Paradise and de facto owner of that part of the Big Apple  because of anything Diamondback did; the reason was much more terrifyingly close to home than that. Binge the series and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Needless to say, the comic book version of Cottonmouth — he was simply called “Cornell Cottonmouth” with no aversion to his nickname — was markedly different and less formidable than the comic book version. It was a shame that a version closer to the one we got in the comic book, co-created by writer Steve Engelheart, didn’t make it to the TV series. In the comic, Cottonmouth was an older villain with a bald head who had his natural teeth replaced by razor sharp molars composed of a tool steel alloy, and he didn’t appear in the saga until the story arc featured in issue #’s 19-20. At first, he possessed superhuman strength equal to that of Cage (source unknown, but possibly related to the glowing red jewel on his lapel), and was able to fight him head-to-toe (it was never revealed where he acquired that power. The comic and TV story, however, shared the fact that Cottonmouth had possession of the paper files that could exonerate Carl Lucas, since they had proof Willis Striker  was the one who stole the heroin from Cottonmouth, and framed the crime on his former BFF.
After being defeated in unarmed combat he wasn’t seen again until three decades later, where he seemed to have lost all of his superhuman strength, had his steel shark-like teeth plated in gold, and took on the role of a repulsive and brutal pimp to cash in on the sex trafficking hysteria in the media. In this guise, he worked for Deadly Nightshade and plagued the son of Hernan “Shades” Alvarez, a student of Iron Fist who became the teen super-hero that took the moniker of Power Man after Cage had long since abandoned it.
LUKE CAGE, POWER MAN #19, where the comic book version of Cottonmouth first bore his teeth. This was well after Luke Cage’s initial story arc, and we were treated to a monstrous version of the criminal who had more differences than similarities to the TV variant. 
Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, the dangerous enough human criminal seen in the TV version (right), and the far more scary and dangerous version seen in the comic book (left). 
Even after losing his superhuman strength, the comic book iteration of Cottonmouth was one dangerous mo’ fo’ who enjoyed sinking his teeth where they didn’t belong. He’s shown here in the pimp persona he took on during the POWER MAN AND IRON FIST mini-series published during the 2000s. 
Rounding that out we had the small but extremely important role of Frankie Faison as Henry “Pop” Hunter, a former boxer and now barber whose persona and shop served as the heart and soul of Harlem, who also happened to be the mentor and conscience-nurturer of Luke Cage and many others in the MCU’s version of Harlem. The man didn’t last long, but his influence certainly did, and it’s a role no one will ever forget. His final fate will impact viewers as strongly as it did Cage and the rest of Harlem, including as vile a man as Cottonmouth himself.
Some final nods should go to the great performances of Jaiden Kaine as the wily henchman punk Zip; Karen Pittman as the upright but sometimes overly hard-as-nails Inspector Priscilla Ridley; Ron Cephas Jones as Bobby Fish, the manager of Pops’ Barber Shop who provides continual friendship and moral support for Luke Cage, along with a good dose of always welcome good-natured humor and pity philosphy; and Jacob Vargas as the Mexican crime lord Domingo Colon, who decides to take on Diamondback.
VI. What About the Main Man? (And I’m Not Talking About Lobo!)
Now we get to the main star of the show: Michael Colter as the titular hero himself. In my humble opinion, no actor could have done the role better. Colter not only proved his merits for the role previously in Jessica Jones Season 1, but he totally cemented them here on his own. His now patented use of bullet-ridden hoodies in place of a formal costume became an important plot thread in the show, and is evocative of the more conventional attire the character has used in the comics since the 1990s, when he dispensed with the yellow escape artist suit and the metal tiara.
No sooner did ripped jeans go out of style than Luke Cage went and popularized this  look. 
Cage dispenses his classic attire for a new, updated look in the ’90s.
His old yellow shirt had so many bullet holes in it by that time he figured he might as well tear what was left of it apart and break the chain belt just to show how bad ass he was.
Despite the changes in the TV version that removed the character’s full struggle against the temptations of the dark side of inner city ghetto life, Colter nevertheless instilled the character with a massive amount of “everyman” appeal and working class power and pride, becoming the type of icon the common person can relate to considerably more than Captain America — still the greatest hero of them all as far as I’m concerned, but not nearly as relatable as the likes of Luke Cage. Not only that, but Luke Cage as portrayed by Michael Colter was as inspirational as he was relatable, with numerous nods to the black culture  he grew up in.
Harlem was depicted as a character in its own right, and its centrality and importance to the development of black culture in post-Civil War America was evident in every single scene, almost every line of dialogue, and the entire atmosphere exuded by the script and cast performances.
VII. So, in Conclusion…

If Luke Cage had been made by the mavens of blaxploitation production in the early ’70s when the character first debuted, the resulting film and/or TV series would no doubt have been considerably different than what Coker and his cast brought us here in 2016. Would it have been good? There is absolutely no way to tell, as it never came to pass. I’ll let individual readers decide for themselves if that’s a fortunate or unfortunate fact of celluloid history as we know it. What I can give an opinion on, however, is that what Coker and his cast gave us in 2016 was a great interpretation of the character, keeping intact every theme he represents, and respecting the culture he exemplifies. Thus, I conclude that the show we finally got after waiting so many years for it does Goodwin’s and Tuska’s character proud, with its positive points far outweighing the mistakes. As another comic book legend, writer and editor supreme Roy Thomas, served as the editor of that comic book, it would be interesting to see what he thinks of the TV series and how well it held up the standards of a character and saga he was once in charge of.

If nothing else, this show makes it completely clear why Luke Cage has endured for four and a half decades at this writing, and why he is one of the greatest heroes ever created in the comic book medium. What he represents and the world he came from are as relevant today as they were in the glorious era of the 1970s that spawned him, and the great success of this TV series since the weekend it was released on Netflix offers proof of that. As I said in the beginning, this show — like all produced by Marvel Studios for Netflix — is not for every sensibility, but it should be appreciated by everyone with a flare for a character who represents something pivotal to the society we live in, a script that makes you think, exploration of the history of a major aspect of American culture, an inspirational hero the common person can relate to, and strong character development sharing equal space with super-hero action and fight scenes.
I eagerly await both The Defenders Season 1 and Luke Cage Season 2, where the interrupted saga of this character will continue on the small screen. I hate having to wait an entire year for it, but here’s betting it will be well worth that wait!

This Is The Modern Publishing Business

David Gaughran’s latest post is a quick and insightful read on how the legitimate publishing industry often supports illegitimate publishing scams. All new, indie, and aspiring authors need to read this!

David Gaughran

asandfriendsnewScammers used to operate at the edges of the publishing business, but have wormed their way into its heart. And the entire industry is in denial.

An unintentionally revealing aspect of the tiresome Amazon-Hachette dispute was a series of statements from an organization purporting to advocate for authors’ rights. One of the heinous crimes Amazon was said to have committed was treating books like toasters.

With such a claim, Authors United was attempting to tap into a current of feeling about the commoditization of literature – as if Amazon was the first company to put a price tag on a book, and writers around the country were hitherto living off laurels and kudos. It’s tempting to suggest that other entities in the publishing business might be doing as well as Amazon if they also treated books like toasters and attempted to sell the bloody things, but I digress.

What this…

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Money: The Root of All Evil and One Hell of a Lie


What our entire world runs on: “money, money, mon-eyy… mooonee-eey!” (cue “The Love of Money” by the O’jays.)

The O’jays said it better than I ever could.


The following blog is a guest rant of the political kind from my long-time friend Brian Rebmann, who has earned a degree in Business Management and has a lot of experience working within the system. He’s also a recovered capitalism-supporter, and you can consider this blog part of his penance 🙂


Money, the thing which we go into the world to earn and which is an essential component to our survival in the world, is nothing more than paper in most instances. In a more global context, money doesn’t even have to be paper in the literal sense; it’s just one computer talking to another and transmitting sets of numbers between each other.

It’s all just a lie; smoke and mirrors. Money is paper. Money is a supposed to be a medium of exchange. However, in my experience, money is a tool to be used and manipulated by others to achieve certain ends such as control and power. We need money to survive and/or otherwise live. And, the money supply in any country is controlled by a handful of people who are politically savvy. In any business or organization you have overspending, mishandling, bad investment/lending practices and, in general, spending more than you take in while dealing with crippling debts and over-extended lines of credit, which should surely mean the end of the organization.

Well, I’ve got news for you: that is the state the United States is in as a fiscal entity. And, in spite of all this, the fiscal entity keeps leading money to others who can’t or won’t pay it back. So, due to the government bailing out major financial institutions in 2008, the economy still struggles and has not recovered and/or returned to prosperity [that’s the Great Recession, dewd! – CN].



“You can’t afford the electric bill this month, Mrs. Parker? Well, I sympathize, but I hope you’re prepared to freeze your little elderly ass off until you come up with the cash! Yes, I know it’s winter, but I do not  get paid to care!”


There is an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine  called “Past Tense” which illustrates my points here quite well. In brief, the main characters of DS9 get transported back to the early 21st century, maybe a decade into our own future. There, they encounter an Earth wherein the economy had collapsed; the homeless, unemployed, and mentally ill were secluded into walled areas of the city called Sanctuary Districts where they were not provided for properly, re: food and medical care. In the plot of this episode, technology had taken jobs away from people, which caused massive unemployment. And, because the homeless and unemployed were out of sight and out of mind, no one in power thought to do anything about the social problems that the situation caused.


“God may control the heavens, but we CEOs control the material world that all mortal men actually live in. And they worship us just the same! Let’s see you top that, Mr. Jehovah!”


I believe that like any overworked system, no matter how many fixes or patches you apply to it, eventually, I believe, the United States and its economy will collapse and descend into chaos because of poor management. Considering all of the above, that’s to be expected, as all things end and begin anew. However, while the economy may collapse, I’m confident the human race will live on and thrive. I wish I could say that the human race would evolve into the fine people Gene Roddenberry envisioned, but something tells me that we will never reach that “fictional finalism,” as my therapist would call it [nice to see that both you, and the shrink who is treating you, are both such cynics, my friend! Remember Monty Python’s classic theme from the ironically named film Life of Brian: “always look on the bright side of life * cue whistling chorus*”… if a group of men crucified on crosses could try to see the bright side of things, so can you and your shrink! 🙂 – CN].

Japanese and French Spree Killings Repudiate the Anti-Gun Fanaticism of the American Left

Prohibited sign - gun ban


Sadly, we live in an age where the militarization of American culture, and the worship of violence and reverence for the military in an economic global order that thrives on perpetual war, is at an all-time high. Even worse, we have now reached a point where these horrific spree killings have spread beyond the U.S. and into other Western nations, as well as nations in the East that have become increasingly influenced and indoctrinated into Western cultural values and consumerist behavior.




Of course, part of the reason that the problem persists is because the American Left utterly refuses to put emotion aside and take a hard, logical look at the true sources of the problem. The perpetrators of these spree killings range from individuals sympathetic with terrorist organizations spawned by the imperialist policies of the West; gang members warring to achieve power, territory, and control over resources (read: the recreational drug industry) in a microcosm of what the governments of the current world order regularly engage in with each other; terribly bullied and ostracized young people rejected by a deeply conformist and hierarchical culture who are motivated by retribution and react in the only way they feel possible; disgruntled employees thrown out of work and cast into the extreme poverty that is a worldwide feature of the capitalist system and its private ownership of the essential services and its characteristic refusal to disperse any items or services unless one has the financial resources to purchase them, regardless of need; and a surfeit of mentally ill individuals who have gone over the edge due to all of the alienation, extreme economic insecurity, and abusive hierarchical social institutions that naturally mirror the economic hierarchical, top-down chain of command which all but a lucky few are forced to live under and exist in life-long servitude to.

In other words, different types of individuals whose mad actions are influenced by the same basic set of economic and social forces serving as a catalyst. This, as noted above, includes a glorification of the military (as long as they wear the “right” flag emblem on their uniforms) and the importance our culture places on using violence to solve issues both abroad and domestically, the latter courtesy of our heavily armed and increasingly militarized police whom the communities they monitor have no control over, and who thus have a strong penchant for profiling oppressed minorities as easy targets to meet their arrest quotas and personal need to vent their own mental issues upon.

Of course, whenever a spree killing occurs in America, the majority of the Left cannot be counted on to even consider taking a deep and uncomfortably honest analysis of the above aspects of the system. This is, in part, because the Left has become increasingly inured to the system and have become its sometimes reluctant supporters rather than opponents ever since Reagan, the Clintons, and Obama divested them of most of their idealism, optimism, and willingness to embrace fundamental change and move onto a better system. It’s also in part because the Left, much like their sometimes opponents/rivals/semi-collaborators on the Right, are prone to emotion on certain issues which detract from logical, common sense analysis of the system and the manifold problems it causes.

Instead, the simplistic reaction and explanation for any spree killing in America is always a knee-jerk, emotionally charged condemnation of guns. They will start spouting sometimes dubious statistics on how awful guns are, how many accidents they cause per year, and sometimes the claim  that only a total “nutjob” would ever perceive the need to own a firearm, let being capable of using one responsibly and within reasonable circumstances in the impoverished streets common to a system whose inequality breeds crime, brutal competition, any number of neuroses,  mass insecurity, and severe mistrust between members of the working class. And this in an environment where American police insist they must be more heavily armed than a typical infantryman in Afghanistan in order to safely conduct their job on the streets of a typical large city where the “dog eat dog” mindset of our vaunted capitalist system rules over virtually every aspect of our day-to-day lives.

Every gun owner is compared to the wacky members of the right-wing NRA by the Left, even as many of them simultaneously cheer any soldier taking orders from the U.S. government who lays waste to a Middle Eastern city street or drops a salvo of cluster bombs on innocent families to get maybe one or two suspected terrorists; and likewise applaud them as heroes even if their courage is genuine but terribly misdirected, or amounting to nothing more than a “soldier” operating a lethal drone from the safety of a cabin located literally thousands of miles away. Not all liberals and progressives are hypocritical in this fashion, of course, and many steadfastly denounce pre-emptive imperialist war and militarized domestic police as much as they do the right and competence of common citizens to bear arms. More than enough of them display this contradiction of values, however.

These liberal Democrats are so overwhelmed by emotion on this single subject, they will boldly initiate a  24-hour sit-in at the House of Representatives until the Republicans agree to enact anti-gun legislation, while lacking the will or the kahunas to do the same in regards to compelling House Republicans to pass legislation for universal health care, a federal $15 minimum wage, a guarantee of jobs for everyone under a system of public works, the diminishing of our bloated military spending and re-disbursement of funds for needed social programs, paid maternity  and  paternity leave, free universal college education and forgiveness of college debt for all current and former students, the creation of community committees to oversee the conduct of local police, etc, et al.  One so-called progressive recently mentioned the Democratic sit-in over gun legislation to me and said, “if that’s not progressive for the Democrats, then I don’t know what is.” In my typically long-winded fashion, I not-so-simply pointed to all of the above progressive measures the Democrats have refused to stand up for in a similar fashion, and told him, “if they stood up for all of that  with the same determination they did for gun control alone, then not only would this be a far more progressive nation, but the main source of all forms of violence, including these spree killings, would be greatly diminished.”




As I write these words, yet another of these horrible spree killings has occurred in America, this one once again in Florida, where a popular teen club in Fort Myers was subject to a mass shooting which took the lives of two confirmed patrons and injured as many as 16 others, some of them being in critical condition as of yesterday morning. This particular shooting was believed to be gang-related, rather than terrorist-inspired like the recent Florida spree killing at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Of course, this latest tragedy in Fort Myers can be expected to cause the Left to typically blame availability of guns as the main or sole culprit, and ignore everything I discussed above. This is because their emotional attachment to the issue surrounding the production and sale of any item that is specifically designed to be used as a weapon by civilians causes them to fear and hate guns based on  what they represent in their minds. This is why we will also hear nary a word on the far greater number of accidents per year involving automobiles, power tools, or swimming pools, and what can be done to reduce such tragedies, nor anything about the many items that can be used as weapons as readily as any gun (e.g., sledgehammers, sharp screwdrivers, weighted flashlights, hardwood walking sticks, baseball bats, steak knives, box cutters, or vicious dogs), because each of these things have utility purposes and are not explicitly designed for use as weapons even though they can, and often do, serve as very deadly makeshift weapons. But because of their primary purpose, they fail to elicit the same degree of emotional response as do guns. As a result, their proven serious threat potential is either seriously down-played in comparison to guns, or completely overlooked.

Two further spree killing tragedies, however, recently took place in nations where guns are far more difficult to come by than in America. These horrible incidents throw a major monkey wrench into the simplistic and emotion-based argument of the American Left that availability of guns to civilians is the main cause of this incessant violence, as if simply looking at a gun is enough to provoke murderous tendencies in people who would otherwise have no inclination — or at least no capability — of launching a murder spree.

The first such incident occurred in Nice, France earlier in July of 2016, courtesy of 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who was responsible for 84 confirmed deaths, a far greater number than the Orlando and Fort Myers spree killings. This tragedy was also said to be terrorist-inspired. But there’s a major twist in this particular act of horror which throws some major aspersions on the pet focus of the Left that strict gun control is the primary solution to this problem: Bouhlel didn’t use a gun to conduct this obscene death toll. He used a perfectly legal and not-too-difficult-to-acquire 2o-ton truck. 

Yes, think about that for a minute, fellow progressives, and let it percolate in your mind for a bit, hopefully giving pause to unbridled emotional hatred and fear of guns and acting as a catalyst for some much-needed rational thought and analysis. This incident garnered but a minimum of coverage in the American press, and I suspect it was because the liberals had no emotional basis for which4 to latch onto this story. Were they supposed to demand a ban on trucks? No, not because it was unreasonable to do so, but because as deadly a weapon as this incident proves certain vehicles can make — much more so than even a high-powered assault rifle — trucks are not designed for the specific purpose  of being used as weapons.

As a result, this incident lacked any serious emotional impact on the matter of the worsening culture of violence and spree killings that is now plaguing the entire world, because it didn’t involve the symbolic spectre of guns  for the liberals to build the necessary emotion to rally around. This, despite the truly horrific number of deaths caused by this particular murder binge despite not involving a firearm of any kind.



This weapon of death must be banned, lest further spree killings occur!


And of course,  the liberals didn’t bother to find this incident as any reason to conduct a thorough analysis on the economic and social aspects of the current global order which creates a culture of violence. Is that perhaps because doing so would offer clear evidence that a simple near-obsessive focus on banning guns or attacking all gun owners as irresponsible, violence-promoting spree killings waiting to happen is not  the ultimate solution to this problem? Is it because doing so would make it clear that a much more incisive and nuanced analysis into the very system we live under, and which so many modern day Democrats misguidedly if sometimes reluctantly dedicate themselves to preserving, would be in order? Would it maybe undermine the anti-gun mania of the Left by offering proof that guns are not necessary for even the spree killings with the highest death tolls, and that you have to look to the system itself because you can’t ban or disparage absolutely every item which can  be used as a deadly weapon no matter the reason it was actually designed?


burglar image01

Take a guess which image the typical American Liberal considers the main source of all violence in the world today… the one in the funny burglar’s right hand, or the one in his left? 




Now let’s take a look at the second, even more recent spree killing which occurred in July of 2016, this one all the way in the Eastern domain of Japan.

Satoshi Uematsu, a 26-year-old unemployed man of Sagamihara, a city located 30 miles west of Tokyo, went on a terrifying and tragic killing spree at a care centre for disabled people, where he was previously employed. He slaughtered 19 people and injured another 25 — 20 of them seriously — before regaining some semblance of calm and quietly walking into a police station to turn himself in. Uematsu’s killing spree, and the number of seriously injured in addition to the murders, is right up there in number with the two Florida killing sprees which likewise occurred in July of ’16. This incident was neither terrorist nor gang-related, but most likely the result of a disgruntled ex-employee who went off the deep end due to his insecure financial circumstances and suddenly connected disabled people (as opposed to gays, blacks, etc.) to the source of his problems (as opposed to the global system which he lived and was forced to work within). But here is the major twist that puts a further damper on the “blame the availability of guns” mantra so often spouted by the American Left when something like this occurs: Uematsu, who lives in a country where guns are much more difficult to come by than in America, utilized a single knife  to conduct this slaughter.

Yes, you read that right. Due to growing up in a quiet area of Japan (until now, that is), Uematsu likely never even saw a gun outside of television and video games, yet the lack of a firearm in his possession, and the general lack of accessibility to guns in his country, didn’t stop him from improvising and using a readily available and very deadly weapon to carry out the worst mass murder to occur in Japan for many generations. Is it any coincidence that it happened around the same time as the spree killings occurring not only in the U.S., but also the one that ensued just a week earlier in France? And like the similarly horrific killing spree in France, is it any coincidence that this happened without a firearm being involved?

Let’s also note this incident while I’m on the subject: in 2001, after killing sprees first became a tragically recurring phenomenon in the present era of the neo-liberal militarization of world culture and the economy as a whole after the 1999 Columbine massacre, a mentally unbalanced 37-year-old man named Mamoru Takuma, described as a drifter and a sufferer of schizophrenia, entered an elementary school in Ikeda, Japan, located ten miles north of Osaka, and launched a brutal spree massacre on the students and teachers within, murdering eight children and injuring 15 other kids and school staff. And he did this all of this not with a firearm, but with a kitchen knife  — yes, not simply a knife, but one that was readily available and not designed for combat or use as a self-defense weapon, but as a typical utility item.

Of course, this incident garnered a similar lack of focus or deep analysis by the American Left, because it didn’t involve a gun, and thus lacked any emotional or political resonance, and thus no incentive to put aside the anti-gun mentality and take a hard look at the type of world order we’re now living in, and what it does to so many members of the working class. And it provided further uncomfortable evidence that the availability of guns is not the prime cause of the problem, and that even completely banning guns and criminalizing all gun ownership wouldn’t bring an end to the problem.


woman with kitchen knife

“Just looking  at this thing makes me want to run out and stab a whole retirement home full of senior citizens! What possessed me to think I was responsible enough to have one of these things in my kitchen?”




American liberals can boast all they want that mass killings do not occur with the same regularity in countries where availability of guns is far more restricted, as that situation seems to be rapidly and tragically changing. It may simply mean that spree killings with firearms are more rare in these other countries, as individuals in largely gun-free nations are quickly beginning to make due with the multitude of readily available items (e.g., vehicles, common kitchen knives) that can easily be turned into a deadly weapon in the hands of a madman, and inflict a comparable degree of damage (if not worse) than even an assault rifle equipped with a mega-clip magazine. And this is beginning to strongly indicate that not only are the availability of guns far from the main source of the problem, but if strict gun control legislation is finally passed in the U.S., those members of what Marx labeled the lumpenproletariat  who are driven over the edge by the forces endemic to this dog-eat-dog, military-worshiping system will easily find ways of making do with various utility-items-cum-potential-deadly-weapons, much as their foreign counterparts are beginning to do, and have in fact been doing for over two decades and even longer.


Maybe the American Left can take some inspiration from how some individuals quoted in the Japanese media reacted to the above 2001 incident and a series of similar, previous spree killings during the 1990s (one of them involving not firearms, but sarin gas released in a Tokyo subway by a “death cult” which left 12 people dead), as noted by journalist Calvin Sims in the above linked article he penned: “In recent years, Japan has experienced a growing number of violent attacks, including bus hijackings, child abuse, murders of parents and juvenile assaults, that have caused many Japanese to worry that their country is in a state of social decline. Japan is also undergoing wrenching social change widely attributed to the country’s long-term economic downturn and shifting values.”

Further, Sims quoted Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as saying, ”We have to ask for the opinions of experts on what we should do about the collapse of a safe society.”

Hmmm, considering that perhaps the blame may be the problems caused by the unstable economic system we live under and the type of “shifting” (euphemism for “increasingly corrupt”) values it encourages, rather than on the easy accessibility of kitchen knives, heavy trucks, and sarin gas, let alone the mostly non-existent firearms to be found in the Land of the Rising Sun? That is quite novel by the standards of the American Left, their media, and their political parties, and I’m hoping there is a valuable lesson for them to take from the less emotional and more logically reasoned statements from Sims and Koizumi.

Regarding certain isolated incidents of senseless murders occurring in Japan during the 1990s, Sims recorded this:

“Last year, a 17-year-old boy, angry after a fight with his father, bludgeoned a passer-by at a Tokyo shopping district. Another teenager beat his mother to death with a metal bat, and a third stabbed an elderly neighbor to death because he said he wanted to experience killing someone.

“Attacks in schools and subways have also been increasing. In 1999, a young man stabbed a 7-year-old boy in Kyoto to death in front of his classmates in a school playground.”

In deference to the concerns of a colleague of mine who actually lives in Japan, he disagreed with an  earlier draft of this blog, saying there are specific aspects of Japanese culture which explain these murders, including the spree killings in 1995, 2001, and 2016, and which cannot put the blame on Western cultural and political tampering. He believes that my connecting these incidents to the Western spree killings is comparable to a conspiracy theory. I will note his concerns and mention the following in response, out of fairness to both his opinion and my intentions here:

1. No doubt Japan has a culture quite distinct from anything in the West, as well as specific political events, which combined to influence people there, including the spree killers being discussed on this blog. But I believe and maintain my stance that the above evidence strongly suggests a connection between these similar acts of violence, many of which happened literally within days of each other in different parts of the world. Despite the differences in culture and political history between the West and an Eastern nation like Japan, the fact remains that they share an economic system based on private ownership of the industries and production for profit, and are all heavily involved in a global interconnected market system. The effects on the common people by these capitalist policies — unemployment, inequality due to strict class divisions, fierce competition between workers for jobs, dehumanizing work conditions, financial insecurity and instability, a heavy militarization of their respective societies to  operate within a global system based on perpetual war — result in all types of anxieties and neuroses among the labor class citizens, so I do  not believe this is all a coincidence.

2. I think the evidence clearly shows that you cannot blame the availability of guns alone for the problems of spree killings, nor isolated incidents of brutal violence, because guns are not required to do such killings. Banning guns would not solve the problem; it would simply result in spree killers and other murderers using implements not designed to be used as weapons which nevertheless provide lethal substitutes for guns which can provide the same number of victims.


So what will the reaction of the American Left be to the state of affairs represented by these recent killing sprees in France and Japan? Will they once again give into emotion, and this time insist that the solution is a simple banning of trucks over a certain size and weight, or kitchen knives of a certain length, or power tools that operate for a particularly long time under a single charge, or at least strict background checks on anyone who wishes to purchase these items for their kitchen or garage? Or will they perhaps take a cue from the people of Japan circa the 1990s to the present and conduct a strong, honest, and distressingly objective analysis of the system we live under, the the type of culture it creates seemingly everywhere, and what it does to a growing number of 99 percenters the world over? I’m hoping the evidence I present here, and which others have presented elsewhere, will spur my fellow progressives into putting aside the emotion to consider taking the latter route.


spree killer

The average gun owner in the eyes of the American Left. He just can’t wait to shoot somebody, even if it’s his own image in a mirror! (He recently shot the last mirror in his house to pieces, so he now has a picture of his mom in the cross-hairs.)


To My Fellow Progressives: Stop Defending Hillary!

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders01
Hillary: “Pssst! And don’t you ever  bring up universal health care, free college tuition, or the word ‘socialism’ ever again, Bernie.” 
Bernie: “Okay, I told you, Hillary, I’m sorry, I’m sorry… ‘stronger together,’ remember?”
This particular political tirade is in response to some conversations I’ve recently had both on and off Facebook with individuals who present themselves as fellow progressives. The subject is in regards to their continued misguided support for Hillary Clinton, and/or their insistence that she is the “lesser evil” of Donald Trump rather than an individual of equal demerits to take up the Power Throne in the Oval Office. Some of these individuals I had these exchanges with were valued friends and family, others mere acquaintances, and others simply individuals who participated in certain threads or comments sections of political sites I was also engaging in discourse on.
Most importantly, however, this blog is about providing good evidence to back up my statements, particularly in the absence of any evidence on the end of the opposing view, and to hopefully convince as many people on the Left as possible why they need to give up any respect for Hillary they may be holding onto.

The first of my delightful (yea, right!) tirades will be in response to too many of my fellow progressives who insist on supporting Hillary Clinton by saying, “She’s not the monster that so many make her out to be.” Seriously? I have to ask people who say this: where, exactly, did they acquire the information to back up such a statement? Or perhaps more importantly, are they in fact basing it on any actual information or evidence, or could their defense of her possibly be based on any of the following factors:


1. Are you simply supporting Hillary because she is “not Trump”? If so, that may make you a good Democrat, but certainly not a good progressive. Have you seriously looked at Hillary’s policies and conduct over the many years since her family took power in Washington? Warning: you’re about to see a lot of that presented here! Please consider what you will see objectively before you conclude she is a lesser evil than Trump, rather than simply a rival who wants essentially the same policies but speaks less forthrightly and more in “code” than The Donald does.


2. Are you defending Hillary in deference to her gender rather than her behavior in office? If so, that is not progressive or feminist thinking, but identity-biased, anti-egalitarian, and even thinly veiled misandry. It constitutes a school of thought which is increasingly coming to be called “oppressive liberalism” — the negative, reactionary side of the Left, which twists honorable platforms favoring progressive change and female empowerment into policies which canonize and demonize individuals based upon their identity category rather than their actual behavior or the content of their character. If you fancy yourself a true progressive and feminist who wants to see a female president, why not prove your honor and scruples by voting NOT simply for the most powerful and “electable” female candidate, but one who actually supports progressive values and feminist empowerment by virtue of their principles and behavior such as Dr. Jill Stein or Sedinam Curry, both of whom are presidential nominees for the Green Party? Or again, do you favor powerful  women over that of principled women who actually support the 99%? Please ask yourself the above questions, and demand you give yourself an honest answer! Also please note the difference between female power  and female  empowerment, and understand how one is the mere inversion of hierarchy whereas the other is the full repudiation of it..


3. Or is it because Hillary is a Democrat, and you insist that this second party of Wall Street can still be “reformed” to give up all of that lucre thrown into its coffers by the corporate lobbyists, divest itself of the numerous pro-corporate centrists who dominate and control the inner workings of the party via the Democratic Leadership Council (DNC), so that it it will ever again stand up for the 99%? Or do you think being a centrist yourself in any way benefits a person belonging to the 99%? Or that supporting a puppet of Wall Street and the Democrats as they are today is the best we can actually achieve in this country, or worse, the best we should  actually achieve?  If you’re one of the millions of centrists who are having severe financial problems, and can’t find a job that pays enough so that you do not have to continuously choose between rent and groceries, then you need to do some serious thinking and re-assess your political loyalties.  That honestly makes as much logical sense as a group of politically active people of color supporting the Ku Klux Klan by insisting that it has an important place in the world even if they must concede that the Klan is “imperfect” and sometimes does things they do not particularly care for. That analogy is by no means outlandish if you honestly think about the logic or wisdom of a member of the labor class supporting a politician or political party which stands for the interests of the capitalist class. The majority of the 1% is comprised of privileged individuals who consider themselves superior to the 99% much as the Klan was comprised of white people who considered themselves superior to individuals of color, so the comparison is very apt. Yet how many black people would be foolish enough to vote for a political party based on support for the Klan’s ideologies and policies? So why are so many members of the labor class continuing to align themselves with political parties who serve the interests and agendas of the capitalist class, and seek to perpetuate and even escalate the conditions that are crushing both ourselves and the biosphere itself?


I wish all of you Hillary supporters would seriously ask yourselves the above three questions before you put any portion of your heart and soul into Hillary, as opposed to, say, supporting and helping build a third party with candidates and platforms which actually represent the interests of the 99% (the Green Party being the largest example). Didn’t the eight-year debacle of Obama in office teach you a lesson? Please learn from your mistakes instead of insisting on repeating them every election year ad nauseum and ad infinitum.




Here we start the fun part: providing the evidence so many of you need to see and heed.

This video consists of a straight 13 minutes of news footage featuring the numerous times Hillary has been caught on camera lying and backpedaling with the flow of politics. Think of it as a detailed video history of how often she backtracks on various positions depending upon what is politically popular at any given time (e.g., gay marriage rights, her position on NAFTA, her non-support for universal health care), about whether or not she is a progressive or centrist (yes, Virginia, there is a difference!), about how she lied about being under gunfire upon arriving in Bosnia circa 1996 (this one was epic!), and how often she was caught contradicting herself during Senate hearings on her recent shameful e-mail scandal… yes, the one the Senate decided not to go forward with charges on despite all of these stated contradictions! But I guess we all agree that powerful politicians and average people should be subject to different standards when it comes to criminal activity, right? And it doesn’t matter if Hillary is a liar, untrustworthy, or a chronic flip-flopper as long as she “gets things done,” as the narrative claims, huh?

Let’s close this section of the blog by reading author and journalist Michael Walsh’s article for the New York Post  exposing a long laundry list of Hillary’s lies, thus making it all the more baffling as to why so many people on the Left insist on trusting her in the most powerful seat in the world. Remember Whitewater? Remember her claims of attempting to join the Marine Corps. in 1975? Click on the link and revisit Hillary’s long history of doing what she does best (hint: it’s not  enacting sensible foreign and domestic policies for a democratic nation).


Hillary Clinton looking puzzled

“Hey, you act like it’s my fault these people keep believing my lies!”




Very telling is this PJTV video where several Hillary supporters are asked what they think Hillary’s greatest accomplishments as Secretary of State happen to be. Note how none of them can actually point out anything substantive, instead giving numerous statements of how cool it would be to have a woman president (Jill Stein and Sedinam Curry, please!); or how one of them said it would be cool to have a Clinton family legacy in the White House just like we already had a Bush legacy; or how one interviewee mentioned that Hillary did “many” great things as Secretary of State, but he would be damned if he could name one, since he’s not up-to-date on politics (in other words, he has no idea what she did as Secretary of State, but who cares,’cause “Hillary is cool” and that’s the “in” thing to say!). Another says she made “no major mistakes” as Secretary of State… huh?! Um… Libya! Syria! Women’s rights activists in Honduras! (Sorry, feminist supporters of Hillary!) Baiting Russia and China! Need I go on?


Please note the numerous actions and policies, both domestic and foreign, which incited people to protest Hillary when she visited her home town of Chappaqua in this video. In particular is how she is taken to task for the cover-up and lies she was responsible for in Benghazi, when she refused to offer aid to four American journalists trapped there.

But now let’s look at what may arguably be her greatest accomplishment of all time: the brutal sustained and agonizing torture and murder of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Here is a link to a video of Hillary gleefully saying in an interview, “We came, we saw, he died!” regarding Muammar Gaddafi when the latter was barbarically beaten and sodomized with a spear by NATO rebels whose coup of the Libyan government was supported by the U.S. government, and largely orchestrated by Hillary circa 2011 during her reign as Secretary of State. And yes, that is seriously Hillary laughing about this in the interview; she is not  being taken out of context here! But c’mon now, Hillary isn’t the monster so many people try to make of her, right? Puh-lease, people! Look at her conduct in this video!


Hillary Clinton with thumbs up

Hillary watching the video-taped mob murder of Muammar Gaddafi as she waited for her servant to finish making the popcorn.




Those among you who are actually informed about politics yet continue to say Hillary is a lesser evil than Trump often argue that unlike The Donald, she is not racist. That claim, of course, only holds the metaphorical H2O if you judge Trump by what he verbalizes forthrightly to what Hillary only says in code, and  you ignore the nature of the policies she has enacted and endorsed.

Someone whose intelligence and knowledge I greatly respect also recently told me to ask any black voter I know about this matter, and they will say they support Hillary Clinton. This must mean she cannot possibly be racist, right? Well, again, that’s only if you look past the self-serving networking Hillary has done with the black community due to her connections with the Democratic ticket and look at her coded statements and the end results of her policies.


Let’s take a look at both of these thing now.


We’ll start by revisiting Hillary’s statement about the group people chiefly targeted by the infamous, very conservative “three strikes and you’re out” Crime Bill of 1994, enacted by   her husband and endorsed heavily by First Lady Hillary herself, specifically the group of young people she referred to as “super-predators”. Here is Exhibit #1. It quickly became evident that the term “super-predator” was a loaded slur against young black people. In case you want to argue that it was not young black people she was referring to with that word, consider this uncomfortable fact: that 1994 legislation resulted in mass incarceration of a disproportionate number of young black males, which made it quite clear whom these laws were heavily targeting. I would wager that the large number of black people who support Hillary are ignorant of this fact, just like the bulk of everyone outside of the 1% who continues to support her.


Let’s now look at this Exhibit #2, a video where we see young black activist                           Ashley Williams (not to be confused with that guy on Starz who kills the Deadites!), who paid $500 to attend one of Hillary’s speeches (hey, the rich have to make a living, right?) and there demanded an apology for underhandedly referring to young black people as “super-predators” while endorsing legislation which resulted in a record number of incarcerations for young blacks, particularly males. Please note that a huge amount of these incarcerations were not due to gang violence or theft of property, but for non-violent drug-related crimes such as purchasing or smoking marijuana. It’s been estimated that four times as many young blacks were arrested and incarcerated under these drug laws than white youths, despite it being well-known that white people partake of recreational drugs more often than black people. Note Hillary dismissing Ashley’s questions in that video, and how the young woman ended up escorted out for her confrontational questions (after spending $500 to attend! For that, was she supposed to just listen and not be heard?).


Hmmm, I wonder if Ashley Williams would be one of those black voters who are quick to endorse the woman who endorsed this legislation. Or how about the Latino activists telling Hillary she isn’t welcome for all of her many atrocities during her speech recorded in this video? I see no great love for Hillary there among minority activists.


Hillary Clinton going military

“My major regret is that I couldn’t be there taking pot shots at those silly little Syrians myself! I’ll have to spend another 48 hours straight playing  Call of Duty  and  Full Auto  to get me out of this melancholy mood…”




With all of this evidence made clear, I would like to respectfully ask all Hillary supporters to take a hard, objective look at this evidence, and at the same time, to take a hard, objective look at their reasons for supporting her. While you’re at it, I ask you to please take an equally hard look at why you continue to support the Democrats, and why despite your personal situation — both social and financial — you continue to remain center-of-left in the political spectrum. As a member of the 99%, supporting Hillary and the Democrats in general benefits you in no way whatsoever, regardless of your gender, race, or job.
If you’re of feminist leanings, consider the true equality for women that would result if we achieved the eco-socialist objectives fought for by the Green Party and various smaller socialist organizations in the U.S.

If you simply want to better your situation in a material sense, then your continued support for one of the two major parties of capitalism are going to leave you exactly in the situation you and millions of your fellow 99% are in, and endanger those of the “middle class” into ending up in precisely the same situation during when the next capitalist economic crisis strikes, and President Hillary Clinton (or one of her successors) spends billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out the multi-billionaire culprits — just as Obama did with the bankers in 2008.

If you are suffering from health problems and worry about how you’re going to pay for it, then consider how Hillary callously boasted during her sparring with Bernie Sanders (who has now capitulated to her) that it’s improper to have a  “theoretical debate” about universal health care, since it’s something that will “never, ever come to pass” in the U.S… that is, if she and her fellow Democrats and centrists in Washington have anything to say about it.  How is this benefiting you as a member of the 99%, who is going to have to pay out the arse for expensive health insurance and pharmaceuticals to even hope to partially cover any medical expenses you may incur? And how does this make Hillary even remotely a decent person who is in any way capable of looking beyond the perspective of Wall Street?

If you actually want to see terrorism and the cycle of violence plaguing the U.S. and elsewhere in the Western world finally end; and, if you should also happen to care about the lives of innocent families in the Middle East who routinely see their homes and family members blown to bits by U.S. drones as a result of the government’s present policy of perpetual war and a capitalist system which thrives on war profiteering, then you need to realize that an inveterate war-monger like Hillary Clinton and her fellow centrist Democrats are going to continue with these policies and the general militarization of our culture and social mindset that is the main source of terrorist spree killings (sorry, but it’s not the mere availability of guns alone which causes the problem! The typical, emotionally driven fear of guns by Democrats — so long as they are in the hands of civilians, that is — are both hypocritical and ineffective considering the militarization and pro-violence mentality which so many Democratic politicians gleefully support when it’s soldiers abroad and police officers on our own streets literally taking the shots).

Consider all of the following. Hillary and company are going to continue committing numerous war crimes in your name, and continue to spend 57 cents of every single tax dollar on the Pentagon to fight numerous wars that will in no way benefit the 99% at home. Now please ask yourselves the following questions:

What is going to happen as a result of her continued baiting of Russia and China? What is her continued support for Israel and its war crimes against the Palestinians going to mean for the U.S.’s standing in the world? Do you seriously believe that Hillary will cease supporting the ruling family of Saudi Arabia, which a lot of evidence suggests is the true supplier and financier of most fundamentalist Middle Eastern terrorist groups? Do you seriously think she is going to reverse Obama’s blocking of the 9/11 families suing Saudi Arabia for its complicity in the 9/11 tragedy? (And you gotta love his business-oriented rationale for opposing this legislation! And how it will “open the doors” to the many foreigners who lost family and property to the U.S. government’s drones from suing the U.S.! Who wants to leave themselves open to the consequences for their actions, right, Mr. President?) How can you possibly argue that those who cover for terrorist-supporters for what amount to business and P.R. reasons, and falsely blame and attack sovereign nations who had nothing to do with it for similar business reasons (it’s all about the oil and establishing oppressive regimes friendly to U.S. corporate interests!), are “not the monsters some people claim they are”?

Seriously, why do you give that much moral deference to those who have sizable political and economic power over and above the 99% of us who do not? Would you think as highly of your fellow labor class neighbor if he blew up a tenement full of innocent people to get maybe one or two vicious drug dealers? Conversely, would you call the police on any of your working class neighbors and have them harshly incarcerated and indicted simply for smoking a joint? Would you trust a neighbor who was constantly caught lying to house-sit for you when you were away? How much respect would you have for a fellow 99 percenter neighbor who paid a bunch of thugs to slowly beat and torture someone who refused to do business with them to death, and ended the whole thing by shoving a sharpened blade up their rectum? Would someone who was commander-in-chief of the U.S. military that did such things be more  or less  of a threat than one of these hypothetical working class neighbors who did the same thing?

I respectfully ask everyone who supports Hillary and bothers to read this blog to reflect on the above questions and seriously think about them. If you fancy yourself a true progressive, I ask you to reflect on why you continue to be loyal to this economic system and one of the two parties who continue to represent the interests of its small handful of beneficiaries (and that’s not  you, my fellow 99 percenters!). Finally, ask yourself this: how does being a centrist benefit you in any way, shape, or form?

And in closing, considering all of the above, why not support constituents of a third party who truly represent the 99%, and actually supports fundamental change in the structure of the economy that are geared towards ending rather than perpetuating the economic equality which is the source of all the major problems in human civilization, including those making your own life so difficult? Think about it, people, the next time you give Hillary, or any other Democrat, such a firm defense.  I also ask those who choose to wash their hands of the entire political process and vote for  no one at all  to likewise consider these important questions.


Hillary Clinton doing the LOL

Hillary: “Bwah-ha-hah!” 

Off-panel commentator: “Okay, okay, Hillary, I won’t bring up universal health care again. But you will cancel this $180,000 of college debt I incurred to become a journalist, right?” 

Hillary: “BWAH-HAH-HAAHH!” 

Off-panel commentator: “Okay, alright, I’ll get back to the subject of improving drone technology…”