Saturday, December 25, 2004
Free Music For Xmas
Free music for Christmas from the Maroons.

Stay tuned for some epic Sticker Shock posts...updates shortly.

posted by Zentronix @ 10:25 AM   2 comments links to this post

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
I Got A Letter From The Government...
December 14, 2004

Dear Mr. Chang;

On behalf of President Bush, thank you for your letter about Iraq. We appreciate learning your views.

In Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners removed a threat to our security and freed the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein't oppressive regime. Our Nation is more secure because a dangerous tyrant with a history of aggression and links to terrorists is no longer in power. American and coalition forces are helping to restore civil order and providing humanitarian aid, and the Iraqi people have regained control of their own country and future.

(...blah blah blah blah blah blah...)

As the war on terror continues, we look to members of our Nation's Armed Forces as examples of courage, dedication, and sacrifice. Their service in defense of our founding ideals makes our country safer and makes the President proud to be their Commander in Chief. We appreciate their families for their support and sacrifice.

Thank you again for writing. For additional detials about the successful transition to Iraqi self-government, you may wish to visit the White House website, Best wishes.


Heidi Marquez
Special Assistant to the President
and Director of Presidential Correspondence

In much better news, an all Local final ('ey, careful who you calling Hawaiian) at the Pipeline Masters! And the Eddie went too, props to Bruce Irons. Wish I was still in Hawai'i...

posted by Zentronix @ 6:14 PM   5 comments links to this post

Soldier News: "The Army Is Not A Fund-Raising Business"
Remember that old lefty joke about what a wonderful world it would be if schools got all the funding they needed and the Pentagon had to hold bake sales? Well, here's a really bizarre twist.

Army reservist Sean Flynn (his real name, Clash fans) decided to sell some 49er's football memorabilia to raise money for body armor for himself and 2 homies before their deployment. The sports shop decided to expand it into a full blown auction and fund-raiser.

Then the top brass at the Army Reserve stepped in to stop the whole thing...

posted by Zentronix @ 8:57 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
We're Live!
If you got here then already you know it. We're officially live! Go here to get oriented to the spot, and enjoy yourself as we continue to get comfortable in the new joint.

posted by Zentronix @ 8:11 AM   2 comments links to this post

Saturday, December 18, 2004
X-Files: Oakland
Mulder is gone. This hurts too. You get to loving these guys for what they do, their guts.

But the last game I saw Mulder pitch was against the Angels when the pennant hopes were on the line. His form was wobbly--clearly his body had been run down, even if he wasn't admitting it. He got hit right, left, and center and got taken out after just a few bad innings.

Still, when I saw the news, I felt disoriented and a little fearful like I was Scully in the last season, figured BB had turned into Cigarette Smoking Man, and bad-guy aliens were taking over the A's front office.

Gammons thinks the Huddy trade was brilliant and this one ain't half bad, Schlegel and Blez say Trust Billy. We'll just have to stay tuned.

UPDATE: It gets weirder. Only Ratto can explain.

posted by Zentronix @ 11:44 PM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 16, 2004
Goodbye Huddy...SOB!
See this is what yall bigga-figga motherfuckers in Beantown and the Rotten (Queens not excluded) don't have to trip on every year--who's leaving next. Almost every comment here in there cuts like the Scimitar of Truth.

I wish American capitalist baseball was more like old-school socialist football. Fuck Steinbrenner and fuck the Bosux! Now leave me alone to cry like a baby.

Boy, my blog has been really depressing lately. Next entry might have to be Top Tens or Chappelle jokes or something.

On an upnote, the new website launches next week. We'll let everyone know the new address to this old thing shortly.

posted by Zentronix @ 9:18 PM   1 comments links to this post

Soldier News: PTSD-The Other Vietnam/Inner-City Connection
Please read this big, heartbreaking piece on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by ace hip-hop journalist and former Source staffer Dan Frosch, this week's cover story for the Santa Fe Reporter.

This is an alt-weekly piece, but the mainstream media is also beginning to wake up to the vast social, not to speak of medical, implications of extended tours and a war without end. Today's New York Times reports on an Army study that estimates 1 in 6 soldiers reporting symptoms of depression or PTSD.

More info from the Center for American Progress here.

+ Nathaniel Frank on gays in the army.

posted by Zentronix @ 9:46 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
The Election Was About Race, Not Religion
Still catching up on Inbox stuff.

Here's a brilliant essay by Bob Wing, a mentor and former boss at ColorLines, released exactly a month after the presidental election, on the real dividing line in the election: Race, not as the pundits would have it, religion.

I'm reprinting the entire article in full, not only because it's the best parsing of exit polling data I've seen yet, not only because it's the most compelling analysis of the presidential election I've seen yet, but because the topic that so clearly still divides the country and appears to be more divisive than ever was not on the radar at all in the mainstream media, lo, these past 11 or so months. The silence has been deafening.

Here ya go, long but worth it...:

The White Elephant in the Room: Race and Election 2004

by Bob Wing

The 2004 presidential contest was a warning shot across the bow of all progressives. While the president and the Republican pundits vastly overstate their "mandate," progressives need to become clear on the motion of racial politics if we are to get ourselves in shape for the coming battles.

Many spin doctors would have us believe that the story of the 2004 election turns on evangelicals and moral values, the better to advance their rightwing agenda in both the Democratic and Republican parties, not to speak of the halls of power.

But an examination of the exit polls shows something very different (though not at all new): the centrality of race in U.S. politics. The bad news is that the Republicans, trumpeting their program of aggressive war and racism, swung the election by increasing their share of the white vote to 58 percent. This represents a four-point gain over 2000; a 12-point gain over 1996 and a grim18-point gain over 1992.

The good news is that people of color--African Americans, Latinos, Native peoples, Asian Americans and Arab Americans--surged to the polls in unprecedented numbers and voted overwhelmingly in opposition to the Bush agenda despite an unprecedented Republican attempt to intimidate them. People of color constituted about 35 percent of new voters and, despite their dazzling diversity, showed uncommon political unity.

A key lesson of this election is that progressives and Democrats need to stop chasing the Republicans to the right and instead adopt a clear vision that mobilizes our main social constituencies and wins new allies. Only a long term strategy that draws deeply and skillfully from the high moral ground of peace, jobs and equality and refuses to cede the South and Southwest to the right can enable us to staunch the country's longstanding movement to the right. Otherwise what Lani Guinier calls the "tyranny of the (white) majority" will continue to lead us into authoritarianism and empire.

The bitter truth is that the election marks a substantial and dangerous victory for the rightwing forces in this country. Despite a presidency marked by numerous impeachable offenses; despite daily exposure by the press over many months of the administration's lying and incompetence; despite both a disastrous war and an unprecedented loss of jobs; despite an impressive effort by the Democrats, unions and allied groups to mobilize and protect the vote; despite a massive voter turnout led by African American voters; despite the fact that people of color constituted 23 percent of all voters as opposed to 19 percent in the last election, the president turned a 500,000 vote loss in 2000 into a 3.5 million vote victory and the Republicans increased their majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Progressives have much to be proud of in our tremendous effort and substantial impact in the 2004 presidential election. But we must also face the fact our loss was not the result simply of the Republicans having more money or of a low voter turnout. The Republicans flat out organized us and methodically found white voters receptive to their racist program of "permanent war on terrorism at home and abroad."


There has been much talk by the punditry about how the evangelicals were the key to the Republican victory. They counsel the Democrats to move to the right to remain politically competitive. There was indeed a tremendous mobilization of Christian religious conservatives (and National Rifle Association members) to work the campaign for the Republicans. They were the critical ground troops for the Republicans but they were not the critical voters.

Alan Abramowitz points out, "Between 2000 and 2004, President Bush's largest gains occurred among less religious voters, not among more religious voters." Among those who attend church weekly or more, his gain was only one point. But among those attending services a few times a month he gained 4 points. From those attending a few times a year, he increased his share by 3 points and from those who never attend services he racked up a 4-point gain.

The emphasis on the evangelical vote is a smokescreen motivated by the attempt by Republicans (and conservative Democrats) to move the country rightwards. Meanwhile, most pundits, left and right, refuse to squarely face the white elephant in the room: race.

The Republican victory turned almost exclusively on increasing its share of the white vote. In 2000 Bush won the white vote by 12 points, 54-42; in 2004 he increased this to a 17-point margin, 58-41. That increase translates into about a 4 million vote gain for Bush, the same number by which Bush turned his 500,000 vote loss in 2000 into a 3.5 million vote victory this time around.

This increase came mainly from white women. Bush carried white men by 24 points in 2000 (60-36) and increased that margin by only one point in 2004 (62-37). But he increased his margin of victory among white women from only 1 point in 2000 (49-48) to 11 points in 2004 (55-44). This accounts for a 4 million plus vote swing for Bush. (Women of color favored Kerry by 75-24.)

Another overlooked exit poll result is that Kerry actually increased the Democrats' share of the vote among rural and small town voters and held steady among suburbanites. However, his share of the vote in cities fell considerably. In cities of 500,000 or more Kerry won 60 percent of the vote, compared to 71 percent for Gore. Bush increased his big city vote by 13 points, from 26 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2004. We are apparently looking at a significant rightward motion among white women in big cities, a real blow to progressive strategy.


The other issue that has disguised the centrality of race in this campaign has been the National Exit Poll (NEP) survey of the Latino vote. The poll concluded that Latinos voted for Kerry by 53-44, a steep decline from Gore's 62-35 victory among Latinos in 2000. But the NEP's results are self-contradictory. Larger Latino exit polls show a tremendous Latino turnout that went for Kerry by as much as 68 percent.

Since the NEP polls only 13,000 voters, the size of the sample for Latinos was very small and therefore probably not very accurate. Latinos make up eight percent of the electorate, and their geographic location (more urban) and income/education (lower) are quite different from the majority white population that shapes the polling sample.

In addition, the NEP does not include the numerous Latino nationalities in appropriate proportions. This is important because these nationalities differ politically. For example Cubans tend to vote much more Republican than all other Latino groups, while Puerto Ricans tend to vote more Democratic.

More importantly the NEP's conclusion about the national Latino vote is not compatible with its own state-by-state polling results. For example, the NEP says that Bush won a mind-bending 64 percent of Latino votes in the South, the region with the most Latino voters (35 percent of the national total). But it simultaneously reported that Bush won 56 percent of Latino votes in Florida, the state where Cuban Republicans make up most of the Latino vote and 59 percent of the Latino vote in Texas. Something is clearly wrong when it is reported that the two states where Latinos are most likely to vote Republican voted less Republican than the South as a whole.

Indeed it is statistically impossible for both the NEP's results for individual states in the South and its conclusion that 64 percent of all Latinos in the South voted for Bush to be correct.

The William C. Velásquez Institute, as it has for many elections, performed a much larger exit poll of Latinos. The Institute polled 1,179 Latino respondents in 46 precincts across 11 states, and took into account the unique demographic characteristics of Latinos. Its survey concluded that Kerry won the Latino vote by 68-31, a strong showing in the face of unprecedented efforts by Republican operatives and Catholic priests to sway Latinos the other way.

It also found that 7.6 million Latinos voted, a record number that represents an increase of an impressive 1.6 million (27 percent) over 2000. This turnout was even more remarkable considering the widespread attempts by Republicans to intimidate Latino voters and the chronic shortages of Spanish language ballots.

Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Velásquez Institute, concludes, "President Bush tried unsuccessfully to increase his support among Latinos. The Democratsmessage appears to have resonated with Latinos.


The Republican spin-meisters, as well as some "centrist" Democrats, are even claiming a Republican breakthrough among African American voters based on appealing to conservative Christian values. However, veteran political consultants Cornell Belcher and Donna Brazile counter: "Those who trumpet inroads by Bush into the African American vote ignore history and show a strong prejudice against basic arithmetic."

The NEP concluded that Kerry won the black vote by an overwhelming 88-11 percent. Although this is two points fewer than Gore won in 2000, those two points are well within the margin of error of the poll. Even if correct, the results indicate that Bush received a lower percentage of the black vote than Nixon, Ford, Dole or Ronald Reagan in 1980.

This outcome is even more notable when one considers that, according to a Nov. 17 public memo by Belcher and Brazile, fully 60 percent of African Americans in the key battleground states, where the Republicans messaged heavily against abortion and gay marriage, consider themselves "born again Christians."

Their polling also indicates that, "The more likely African Americans are to be frequent church goers, the more likely they are to identify themselves as a strong Democrat." Clearly when pundits argue that the Republicans won by appealing to "moral values" or "evangelicals," they should really qualify their statements racially.

Perhaps most importantly, Belcher and Brazile point out that more than three million new black voters thronged to the polls in 2004, accounting for more than 20 percent of the total voter increase. They also erased the traditional 6-10 point voter participation gap between whites and blacks and increased their percentage of all voters from 10 percent in 2000 to almost 12 percent this year.

Black voters defeated the unprecedented Republican voter intimidation and suppression effort in the run-up to the election. Belcher and Brazile conclude that, "The real story is the reawakening of civic participation by African Americans in 2004."


Asian Americans also surged to the polls in historic numbers and, in all their great internal diversity, voted overwhelmingly Democratic.

The political trajectory of Asian voters has been striking. Like most immigrant groups, most Asians have historically registered and voted Democratic. However, as their incomes rose and the percentage of Asian voters who had fled Asian socialist countries climbed as a result of the 1965 immigration reform act, many became "Reagan Democrats" in the 1980s. By the 1990s a higher percentage of Asians were registered as independents than any other racial/ethnic group.

Asians were not included in national exit polls until 1992. In that election, won by Clinton, their Republican and independent bent showed through, with Bush Sr. receiving 55 percent of the Asian vote, Perot 15 percent and Clinton only 31 percent. However, since 1992 Asians have turned strongly toward the Democrats. Clinton won 43 percent in 1996, Gore won 54 percent and Kerry at least 58 percent. This trend is probably connected to the hard right turn of the GOP in the 1990s, especially its fierce attacks on immigrants.

The NEP sample of Asian American voters was tiny, as Asians represent only 2-3 percent of all voters. By contrast, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund conducted a multilingual, non-partisan poll of 11,000 Asian voters in eight states. Mindful of the diversity among Asians, it surveyed them in 23 Asian languages and dialects as they left 82 polling places in 20 cities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, Michigan and Illinois.

AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung said: "The record turnout of Asian American voters demonstrated our community's extraordinary interest in the electoral process this year." A tremendous 38 percent of Asian voters reported that they were first time voters despite what AALDEF called "an array of barriers that prevented them from exercising their right to vote."

The poll found that Asian Americans favored John Kerry over George Bush by 74-24 percent. First timers voted for Kerry by 78-20. A Los Angeles Times poll of 3,357 California voters found that 64 percent of Asian Americans voted for Kerry and 34 percent for Bush.


The National Congress of American Indians spearheaded Native Vote 2004, a nationwide voter registration and turnout effort. In a press release dated Nov. 3, NCAI President Tex Hall reported, "Native voters turned out to the election polls in greater numbers for this election day than any other in history." The release documented voter turnout successes across Indian country, including a doubling of Native voters in Minnesota. This show of political force was especially impressive considering widespread reports of Native voter intimidation by Republicans.

Although no exit polls on Native peoples are available, the county-by-county map of the 2004 vote indicates that the Native vote was largely Democratic. In addition, the NEP results by race shows the "Other" vote (which includes but is not limited to Native voters) as going for Kerry by 57-43. A Democratic Native vote would be in line with historical trends and pre-election polling.

The NCAI states that "The 2004 election will be the first time Native votes will be quantified in a way to benchmark the population for future elections" and that "rising political clout [by Native voters] will only grow going forward."


The only available analysis of Arab American voters indicates a major political about face by this group. According to a Zogby International poll, George Bush carried the Arab vote by 46-38 in 2000, with a strong 13 percent choosing Ralph Nader. The final Zogby poll for 2004 found Kerry winning by a landslide 63-28-3.

Arab voters contributed to Kerry's slim victories in Michigan, where they represent 5 percent of voters, and Pennsylvania, where they constitute 1.5 percent of the electorate. The Zogby poll indicates that Bush carried Arab Orthodox voters by one point, Arab Catholics favored Kerry 55-34-5 and Arab Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Kerry, 83-6-4. Both immigrant and U.S. born Arab voters went strongly for Kerry.

There are no figures available on Arab American voter turnout but, according to the Arab American Institute, there was an unprecedented Arab Get Out the Vote effort spearheaded by Yalla Vote. The Institute reports that Arabs organized GOTV efforts in 11 states that directly contacted at least 300,000 Arab American voters.

The Bush administration has rudely informed Arab Americans that they, like other immigrant groups from the Global South before them, are not just part of the "melting pot." They are also a group that is singled out by the government, the media and much of the public for racist stereotyping and harsh treatment.

As they have been increasingly treated like a racially oppressed group, Arab Americans have responded by voting like other people of color.

Taken together, people of color represented 23 percent of the total vote, but they accounted for about 35 percent of Kerry's tally. Their sense of political urgency was demonstrated by the fact that they represented about 35 percent of first time voters in this election. They are, unquestionably, the main base of the Democratic Party and the most avid anti-Bush constituencies.

White people and people of color are tremendously diverse groups and neither vote uniformly, but they are clearly trending in opposite political directions. How can we staunch the one and encourage the other?


The political map of Election 2004 has a depressing but telling resemblance to the pre-Civil War map of free versus slave states and territories. And, although blacks and other people of color now have the right to vote, the outcome of the electoral college vote in the South shows that the 55 percent of black voters who still reside there have as little impact on the presidential race today as they did when they had no right to vote at all.

The same disenfranchisement afflicts Latinos in the Southwest and Native voters in the heartland. Quiet as its kept, the racist remnants of slavery and the Monroe Doctrine are alive and well in the political life, institutions and consciousness of Americans of all colors and classes up to today.

Racism--at home and abroad--is a central element of the Republican "moral values" and strategy. And racism is conciliated if not actively promoted by the Democratic focus on winning more white voters by moving to the right while taking voters of color virtually for granted.

The Democratic refusal to mount a fight for electoral reform and for the Southern vote leaves all its residents to the tender mercies of racist white fundamentalists, oil magnates, sugar barons and militarists. And it disarms progressives' ability to invoke the political and moral weight of the fight for racial and economic justice that still has deep Southern roots. And so it also is with urban racism and the burgeoning issue of immigrant rights concentrated (though by no means exclusively) in the Southwest.

It is about time for progressives, including those in the Democratic Party, to show the same basic common sense that the right has demonstrated. We should prioritize the issues and organization of our most powerful social bases as the foundation upon which to extend our influence to the population at large. It is time to stop chasing the Republicans--and the money--to the right. It is time to develop and fight for a coherent progressive political vision and set of policies that appeal to the positive sentiments of all people, and to fight for this vision over the long haul.

The fight for social and economic progress now, as in the past, cannot be won without challenging the racist, militarist right in its historic Southern heartland and its deep Southwestern echoes. We must have the confidence that skillfully doing so will win increased support from whites as well as people of color.

This is not just rhetoric. The future of our country and the well-being of the world depend on us. We cannot stop the right's incessant drive to dominate the world's resources and to steamroll all opposition to that program unless we pose a clear alternative. A powerful vision of peace, jobs and justice is our only chance to mobilize the democratic sentiments and courage of all the people of our country.

posted by Zentronix @ 10:30 PM   7 comments links to this post

Monday, December 13, 2004
R.I.P. Gary Webb
Births and deaths. This one hurts. A suicide. Will we someday need to put that word in quotes, bad-sushi Yushchenko-face-style?

Gary Webb was one of the most influential journalists on the hip-hop generation. You may not know his byline, he never covered Run DMC or Bambaataa, he never worked the Biggie death beat. No, he broke the CIA-Cocaine story in the Mercury News in 1996, one of the most important stories of our time. He later released a classic book, Dark Alliance, detailing the story.

And for covering that story, he was mercilessly hounded--first by his employers, then by the force of the mainstream media outlets, who, with teams of investigative reporters, and CIA and government internal inquiries, still never were able to refute Webb's most central allegation: that high-end CIA operatives were deeply involved with Contra-supporting cocaine importers, who in turn, helped fuel the crack explosion in Los Angeles.

Even below, in the wire story, you'll see that the official line is that Webb's story was "discredited". But the bottom line is that the CIA inquiry actually confirmed Webb's story.

Find more info here. You can read the CIA inquiry for yourself here.

The entire sordid story behind the story--how the media went after Webb with a singular fury--is documented in Cockburn and St. Clair's important book, White Out.

Who knows what role all this played in Webb's apparent suicide? Certainly, he was blacklisted by the mainstream media for simply doing a better, more courageous job at being a journalist than most all of the rest of us.

Perhaps had he been born into a different time, he'd still be alive to be recognized for what he stands as: the hip-hop generation's Seymour Hersh. Webb was someone to look up to, someone I hoped sometime to meet in this lifetime, and now I never will.

Here's the AP wire story:

SACRAMENTO - Gary Webb, a prize-winning investigative reporter who wrote a controversial series of stories linking the CIA to crack cocaine trafficking in Los Angeles, has died at age 49.

Webb was found Friday morning in his home in Sacramento County's Carmichael area, dead of an apparent suicide. Moving company workers called authorities after discovering a note posted on his front door that read 'Please do not enter. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance.'

He was killed by gunshot wounds to the head, according to Sacramento County Deputy Coroner Bill Guillot. Authorities are treating the death as a suicide, Guillot told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Webb's 1996 series in the San Jose Mercury News concluded that a San Francisco Bay area drug ring sold cocaine in South Los Angeles and then funneled millions of dollars in profits to the CIA-supported Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980s. The articles did not accuse the CIA of directly aiding drug-dealing to raise money for the Contras, but implied that agency was aware of the activity.

Major parts of his reporting were later discredited by other newspaper investigations. A CIA probe found no evidence of CIA drug trafficking with Contras, but said the agency had continued to work with Contras suspected of trafficking.

Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos eventually backed away from the series, saying 'we fell short at every step of our process.' Webb was transferred to one of the paper's suburban bureaus.

'This is just harassment,' Webb said after his demotion. 'This isn't the first time that a reporter went after the CIA and lost his job over it.'

After quitting the newspaper in December 1997, Webb continued to defend his reporting with his 1999 book 'Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion.'

Born in Corona to a military family, he moved around the country frequently. He dropped out of journalism school and went to work for the Kentucky Post and the Cleveland Plain Dealer before landing at the Mercury News.

There, Webb was part of reporting team that won a 1990 Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of a Loma Prieta earthquake.

He later worked in state government, most prominently as a member of an audit committee investigating former Gov. Gray Davis' controversial award of a $95 million no-bid contract to Oracle Corp. in 2001.

'The guy had a fierce commitment to justice and truth. He cared deeply about the people who are forgotten, that we try to shove into the dark recesses of our minds and world,' Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for the California attorney general's office, told the Los Angeles Times.

Earlier this year, Webb was one of a group of employees fired from the Assembly speaker's Office of Member Services for failing to show up for work. He continued writing occasionally for a various of publications. He recently covered government and politics for the weekly Sacramento News and Review.

'All he ever wanted to do was write,' said Webb's ex-wife, Susan Bell, who met him when they were both high school students in Indiana.

Webb is survived by two sons and a daughter. Services were pending.

posted by Zentronix @ 3:23 PM   4 comments links to this post

Saturday, December 11, 2004
The Gift of Music and Art
Stuff you may not want to pass up:

+ New Yorkers get blessed with the amazing political art of the Tumi's crew. December 15 only, yall!

+ This new comp Out On A Funky Trip from dub specialist Motion Records looks like it'll be off the chain.

+ Eden Canyon wines. California Pinay vintners with the flava!

UPDATED 12/13:

+ Stelfox is back! With MP3s!

+ Isaac at Quannum's gift: this brilliant West African musicblog.

+ Brent Rollins' Design Explosion's gift: From the Congo, Konono N 1.

Last but not least, here's Wayne Wonder and Baby Cham wishing you a warm Jamaican Christmas (produced by Dave Kelly)! Nuff love to Jacquie at Dancehall Minded.

posted by Zentronix @ 1:35 PM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 09, 2004
Robert Johnson, Rockism, and Hip-Hop Crate-Diggers
Let me now sing the praises of Elijah Wald, whose book Escaping The Delta (the paperback version is out next month) is just an amazing thing. Wald turns rockist history on its side--basically, his job is to take apart the making of the myth of Robert Johnson.

In doing so, he offers a really compelling read of how race and rockism (that is, before it was rockism--maybe more like folkism or blues-ism) came together to distort what we understand to be the history of the blues. At the same time, he restores the context for the way Southern black audiences appreciated the blues during Johnson's time, overturning a lot of sacred cows and dirtying a lot of sacred texts on the way. It reads as an "alt-history", but it feels wrong to call it that when the Richards/Clapton/McCartney version of blues history is what got canonized.

Read it yourself and holla back, but let me just drop these paragraphs on you--from the climax of the book, a chapter called "The Blues Cult: Primitive Folk Art and The Roots of Rock"--and you might see how Wald's worldview touches on many raging questions, like:

+ Is crate-digging and funk or hip-hop nostalgia inherently conservative or progressive?

+ Just how important are packaged reissues--like, say, that wack 100%/200%/300% Dynamite series on Soul Jazz or even the brilliant Blood & Fire label--to our understanding of music?

+ How does whiteness, specifically the New York and the London versions, affect North American urban hipsterism and its aesthetic ideal of "what's real"?

+ What the fuck was the deal with My Bloody Valentine anyway?

This chapter talks about how, during the 1950s and 1960s, blues history gets rewritten by white folks in New York and London. First some explanatory notes. The "neo-ethnic" movement was a group of white folkies led by David Van Ronk in Greenwich Village during the Beat era who started playing "country blues" in cafes. Harry Smith's anthology is still regarded as godhead on 12 sides. John Hammond was, along with Alan Lomax, one of the brilliant white cultural progressives of his time--as an A+R he was a big Johnson supporter, and went on to champion everyone from Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan to Aretha Franklin to Bruce Springsteen. But in the book Wald argues that there was a downside to his legacy as well. Anyway, uh chekkidout:

The neo-ethnic movement was nourished by a spate of LP reissues that for the first time made it possible to find hillbilly and country blues recordings in white, middle-class, urban stores. The bible was Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music...Smith was specifically interested in the oldest and most-rural sounding styles, and set a pattern for any future folk-blues reissue projects by intentionally avoiding any artist who seemed consciously modern or commercial...

Far from balancing this taste, the other record collectors tended to be even more conservative. Much as they loved the music, they were driven by the same mania for rarity that drives collectors of old stamps or coins, and many turned up their noses at Jefferson or the Carters, since those records were common. (Ed. note: Like Rick James, bitch!) To such men, the perfect blues artist was someone like Son House or Skip James, an unrecognized genius whose 78s had sold so badly that at most one or two copies survived. Since the collectors were the only people with access to the original records or any broad knowledge of the field, they functioned to a great extent as gatekeepers of the past and had a profound influence on what the broader audience heard. (Ed. note: Like Freestyle Fellowship or Bun B, bitch!) By emphasizing obscurity as a virtue unto itself, they essentially turned the hierarchy of blues-stardom upside-down: The more records an artist had sold in 1928, the less he or she was valued in 1958.

This fit nicely with the beat aesthetic, and indeed with the whole mythology of modern art. While Shakespeare had been a favorite playwright of the Elizabethan court, and Rembrandt had been portraitist to wealthy Amsterdam, the more recent idols were celebrated for their rejections: Van Gogh had barely sold a painting in his lifetime, The Rite of Spring had caused a riot, Jack Kerouac's On The Road had been turned down by a long string of publishers. Where jazz had once been regarded as a popular style, a new generation of fans applauded Miles Davis for turning his back on the audience and insisting that his music speak for itself, while deriding Louis Armstrong as a grinning Uncle Tom. On the folk-blues scene, Van Ronk and his peers regarded anything that smacked of showmanship as a betrayal of the true tradition, a lapse into the crowd-pleasing fakery of the Weavers and Josh White. As he would later recall with some amusement, "If you weren't staring into the sound-hole of your instrument, we thought you should at least have the decency and self-respect to start at your shoes."

As in John Hammond's Carnegie Hall (Ed. note: a concert called Spirituals to Swing that packaged a grand narrative of black music), art was opposed to entertainment...

...Clapton and the Stones were the first pop stars ever to insist that they were playing blues...that was the sound they loved: no horns, no string sections, no girls going "oo-wah"--just slashing guitars and wailing harmonica.

Then the English kids flew across the Atlantic, bringing the gospel home. And they did something unprecedented: Unlike the hundres of white blues singers before them...they took it upon themselves to edcated their audience. "Our aim was to turn other people on to Muddy Waters," Keith Richards would later say. "We were carrying flags, idealistic teenage sort of shit: There's no way we think anybody is really going to seriously listen to us. As long as we can get a few people interested in listening to the shit we think they ought to listen to..."

In other words, my crate-digging, Wax Poetics-loving, hiphopcrit bredren, be careful what you wish for. You might actually win!

+ Gotta mention this too: Nate Patrin's got a new blog and the most bugged out version of "Apache" ever--in video, no less!

posted by Zentronix @ 9:46 AM   33 comments links to this post

Soldier News: Whistle-Blower on Torture Removed From Iraq
Democracy Now reports today that a whistle-blowing sergeant was removed from Iraq after telling his superiors he witnessed torture of Iraqi detainees. He was flown to Germany and given a battery of psychological tests, but was declared perfectly sound. The Army superior then reportedly pressured the psychologist to change her diagnosis.

+ More on Rumsfeld's accountability session in Iraq:

"We're used to hearing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld answer questions about things that went wrong in Iraq by saying they went right. When he does that to reporters, it's annoying. When he does it to troops risking their lives in his failed test of bargain-basement warfare, it's outrageous."

And here's a blast-from-the-past editoriall from--of all people--Robert Novak with the backstory on how we got to that moment:

"On the eve of war in mid-March, Rumsfeld was ready to fire White but was dissuaded because of poor timing. The war would be short enough for him to wait."

posted by Zentronix @ 9:43 AM   1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Soldier News: Troops Go After Rumsfeld + More Back Door Draft
Don Rumsfeld was questioned sharply in Iraq about the lack of safety and the extended stays troops in Iraq face. From the AP Wires:

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?'' Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

UPDATE: Good commentary going on here.

Also, check this from Davey D:


By now everyone has heard stories about a 'Back Door' draft. To make sure the US military is well staffed as it continues its war in Iraq, military leaders have done all sorts of shady things including; extending people's stay of duty, refusing to let people retire, giving petty criminals a choice between jail time or joining the army and more recently calling people up and demanding they report to duty years after they've been honorably discharged.

In one instance, well known Hip Hop scribe Jeff Chang saw his cousin, David Miyasato who lives in Hawaii, go through an agonizing situation when the US Army attempted to force him back into service after he had been retired for 13 years. In addition, Miyasato had served a tour of duty during Desert Storm back in the early 90s.

He had served his time and was at home relaxing with his newborn child and eons away from the reality of war. However, because he was a skilled truck driver and truckers have been frequent targets by the Iraqi insurgence, the Army felt it necessary to order Miyasato back on the battle field. He report date was last month on Veteran's Day.

For those who don't know, if given a date to report to duty, even if a mistake is made, once you report you are at the beck and call of the military. So even if they are mistaken in calling you up to duty, once you show up it’s their ball game until things are figured out.

Miyasato was lucky to have a cousin who is well connected in the media. He was also lucky to have a good lawyer. The subsequent attention he received resulted in a quick resolution to his situation, but not everyone is so lucky.

The latest casualty of this shadiness on behalf of the US military, involves 19 year Bay Area native Jamelle Posey (spelling may be wrong). He attended the School of Social Justice in Oakland which is known for its activism. Posey comes from a background where money and resources are scarce and his neighborhood is really rough. Very few make it out, but he was one of the few who was determined.

He wanted to go to college, but like many of the folks around him, his financial situation would not allow him to do that. As a last resort he signed up for the Army after a recruiter broke it down to him about all the benefits and advantages he would have.

His classmates who are hip to the game and underhanded recruiting tactics of the military, including a close friend named Michelle, tried in vain to persuade him not to join. According to her, Jamelle really wanted to go to college and believed the promises of the military recruiters and wound up joining.

As soon as he signed the papers, the Army moved to have him graduate early and transfer out of the School of Social Justice. His friends speculate that the army did not want him to be around folks who would influence him or even use his situation to make a larger case about how those who live in poor communities are economically drafted.

It wasn't too long after graduation that Posey was shipped off to Iraq where he served for a year. He found himself having to come back to the Bay Area because it was discovered that his mother has terminal cancer. The army gave him a few weeks to get his affairs in order. The other week his 18 month old baby brother. Note: I said 18 months not years, was tragically stabbed to death. So now Posey has a mom who is dying and suddenly had to deal with the funeral of his infant brother being killed.

One would think the army would say to 19 year old Mr. Posey 'stay at home get yourself together and take care of your family'. Unfortunately the Army remained steadfast in its stance that Posey must continue serving and make his way back to the battle lines in Iraq.

When word got out about his situation friends from the School of Social Justice began to kick up dust and alert people. This in turn prompted army officials to raid Posey house and take away all forms of communication including cell phones and computers. He had been ordered to keep quiet about his ordeal. It appears this is the new tactic being used by the military to do their dirt while non -military folks are kept in the dark.

The other day we had two of Jamelle's friends from the School of Social Justice, Jackie and Michele along with community activist George Galvez and former Vietnam Vet and Gang counselor Nane Alejandrez of Barrios Unidos come on our Hard Knock Radio Show to speak to this disturbing situation.

We are providing a direct link to the radio show so you can hear this unbelievable story for yourself. It will make you cry and get you pissed off as hell. People need to call their elected officials and demand that these sort of tactics being used by our military be put to an end.

On another note, my question is where are all these so called Red State voters who are in full support of the War in Iraq? Why is the army short of personel? One would think that we would have a long waiting list of folks ready to go fight and show their support for this country and our current foreign policy. I guess talk is cheap in the end. We only have one Pat Tillman and bunch of folks who like to cheer and in this case vote from the sidelines.

Here's a link to the radio show where we talk about the shadiness of the US military and Jamelle Posey.

Here's a link to the radio show where we covered David Miyasato's Case.

posted by Zentronix @ 10:07 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Who Still Says Freestyle Is Wack?
Ciara, Nina Sky, and Destiny's Child givin' up the love to Full Force and the Latin Rascals and the most important, most influential of all--bet yall beatbloggers don't know this one, not unless you were a DJ in the 80s and scratched with the breaks on Debbie Gibson remixes--The Beat Club's "Security". (On the real tho, Sweet Sensation kills em all.)

Meanwhile I'm So Sinsurr's got the favela tribute to Stevie B, I meant Information Society's "Running". The sound of '87 back in full effizect.

Diggers take note: Tommy Boy's Freestyle Greatest Beats series is starting to look like Ultimate Breaks and Beats. Investors take note: hair-care products.

Quick, someone do an academic paper on the links between Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, Pilipino, and Brazilian scenes from the mid-80s to now--from the Funhouse to South Beach to City Nights to Florentine Gardens to the Funk Balls. Now how exactly did you do the Webo? Dulce Veran, holla!

posted by Zentronix @ 3:42 PM   1 comments links to this post

Soldier News: Loan Sharking GIs + More
Diana Henriques of the NY Times reports on payday loans, a form of legalized loan sharking--instant credit at rates up to 400%--whose reach has in the last few years has extended from ghetto corners to the entrances to military bases.

Hmm. Interesting connection, huh? Oceanside, CA meet Flatbush, NY. Fort Lewis, WA meet North Philly, PA.

A lot more info, especially if you're caught up in this credit trap, here.


+ A challenge to don't ask, don't tell. Much more info here. Really interesting timing. Just at the moment many are demanding that the military honor its own rules and contracts, gays and lesbians are knocking on the door to be reinstated and serve proudly. If you're familiar with the history of African Americans, Japanese Americans, and Latinos and the military, it kinda looks like World War II, doesn't it?

+ Rummy says we're out in 4 years. Just in time to secure his legacy, no doubt. If you believe this, I got some land in Mesopotamia to sell you.

posted by Zentronix @ 9:50 AM   links to this post

Pro Homo
Check this incredibly provocative piece on DL culture by Juba Kalamka of the Deep Dickollective. It's from another great issue--this one on Sex, Race, and Gender--from Tram and the crew at ColorLines, who scooped up mad awards this year (making me a very proud older brother figure). Recognize!

posted by Zentronix @ 8:27 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, December 06, 2004
Soldier News: Fighting Stop-Loss Policy & A Victory
Monica Davey of the NY Times reports on a lawsuit filed to end the stop-loss policy. Here's a quote from David W. Qualls, a National Guardsman who is the only man on the lawsuit using his real name--the 7 others fear retribution from the Army:

"You should know I'm not against the war. This isn't about that. This is a matter of fairness. My job was to go over and perform my duties under the contract I signed. but my year is up and it's been up. Now I believe that they should honor their end of the contract."

In other news, there's a victory in the case of five of the reservists who refused the "suicide mission": they will not be court-martialed. The Army admits the soldiers "raised some valid concerns." This case rang especially close to home, because the reservists duties were exactly the same as my cousin David's--transport and supply.

posted by Zentronix @ 9:55 AM   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, December 05, 2004
Ban The BCS and Dump The Bowls
Of course, I'm pissed about Cal not making the Rose Bowl. But every year it's the same argument--what teams did and didn't deserve to play, why they did, and then how do we fix this mathematical formula to get it more right. (A digression: since when should teams be punished for having the ethics and dignity not to run up the score? Cal and Auburn both could have done that last night and didn't--and the numbers punish em for it. Don't get me started.)

No one agrees that the system works. But all this annual outcry and subsequent "tweaking" of the system won't help. The thing no one admits is that the BCS is a flawed system because it's a compromise. Why not do away with the bowls and have a tournament? That would be real competition. But the reason we don't have one and never will is that the Bowls and their corporate sponsors are the tail wagging this dog.

I bet most coaches wouldn't mind a playoff system--certainly it could not be as big as the basketball tournament because you can't have a football team adding 5 more games to their season--but it would be much fairer than living at the whims of 150 or so voters, ridiculously flawed algebra, a bunch of wealthy fairweather-fan bowl hustlers, and their corporate puppeteers. Sure there will be more arguing about who deserved to be in the tourney, just as there is with the basketball tourney every year, but there will be no doubt who the top team is at the end.

posted by Zentronix @ 3:11 PM   0 comments links to this post

Writing The Book, Part 3 or 2.5: The Wait and The "Asian American" Question
This is the period that my editor Monique describes as "the quiet period". As she describes it, it's the time between the final filing of the book and the actual release when the hum of work drops to a whisper and you kind of sit on pins and needles wondering what's gonna happen next. Like the ten minutes before a theater artist or a performer gets onstage. You kind of tighten out your tie and smooth out your shirt a few too many times, stare at the curtain and block out the audience behind it.

I've reacted the way I usually do to this. I either do too many things or suffer these ridiculous mood swings. If I'm not working on something, I'm thinking too hard about the book. I grab the galley and read it, trying to tell myself I'm the dopest writer in the world, can't nobody can top my shit, moohoohoohaha! Or, much more often, I torture myself about how I could have structured a section better or fret over a sentence that wasn't tight, and pray that, if the punditocracy even deems it worthy of comment or review, they won't utterly destroy it and leave me to the discount bins. At the end of this exhausting cycle, I grab the Aiye-Keita album or the advance of this ridiculously hot Luaka Bop comp of West African funk, Love's A Real Thing, and just try to clear my head.

No way is any of this rational, but welcome to The Wait.

In the meantime, I'm still learning to get used to being on the other side of mic. I'm not a stranger to being there, but I was much younger and hot-headed then, usually without sleep, with about 400 other friends chanting or chained together, and about to be arrested.

Todd was kind enough to suggest doing the Hyphen piece (that's the part 2 of this irregular "Writing The Blog series, Part 1 is here.) as a collabo. Any chance to collab with Todd is OK in my book.

But then I'm still refining what I'm trying to say. Here's an interview done by Sabrina Ford at Newswatch. Sabrina was a great, provocative interviewer, and I just went bananas. Sound-bitey I'm not, yet.

The interesting thing about interviews is that there are always a set of unspoken assumptions that proceed between interviewer and subject. The subject assumes the interviewer knows certain things, the interviewer assumes the subject knows certain things. This is just a fundamental truth about human interaction.

That's why some interviewers get lots of stuff, and others get nothing. It was especially pronounced in hip-hop journalism at the beginning, where there was often a huge gap between what a mainstream news journalist might get and what a hip-hop journalist might get out of Rapper X. It's also why the longer you're in the interviewing game, the better you are. You begin to learn how to connect with your subject on an almost cellular level, and it shows up in everything from how you approach your subject to your body language to how and when you ask questions.

Being a journalist, your job is to tell the story to your audience. You learn to phrase questions or to poke and prod until you get the subject to say something that will be immediately transparent to your writing audience. As a subject, you never get told that this is what is going on in the interview, and in fact, the interviewer sometimes doesn't want to let you know--for fear it will impede you from being you. I actually think this is the source of 95% of all misquotes, and the subsequent feeling of betrayal that a subject might feel. The interviewer may have a much better handle onthe assumptions you're coming to the interview with, and if they are adept or unethical or just good (and who knows just where those boundaries fall sometimes), exploit those to the fullest.

I'm not saying Sabrina did any of that--quite the contrary, she's already a kick-ass journalist and the world won't be ready-and folks like me can't wait-for her to take over!--but I realized in reading the interview back how uncomfortable the "Asian American in hip-hop" question makes me.

My stock answer is this--folks who know me, know I don't play, and my resume proves it. It's a real, honest, and incredibly defensive answer. I might as well be telling the interviewer, THE FUCK YOU KNOW ABOUT ME PUNK--WHAT! It's probably right to be mad about lazy interviewers who don't do their homework and try to drop this on me, but lots of folks I like a lot--take Todd and Sabrina--ask it, and I owe a decent answer.

So while I don't think I'm going to come up with a good soundbite soon, here's a shot at trying to be, uh, you know, nuanced and shit.

Politically, I'm a product of 80s anti-apartheid movement and Rainbow Coalition progressive politics. That meant that some black nationalists used to call me a Asian-white-hippie-wannabe sellout back in the day. These days I've been called a nationalist-wannabe sellout by some more-progressive-than-thou-type students (who should have better things to do with their time, like downloading or something), and a black-wannabe sellout by some more-Asian-than-thou activists. Funny what a difference a decade or so makes.

Those kinds of labels used to really rankle me, but in old age, I've gained a teflon coating. It's best, I've decided, to take an independent, idiosyncratic, iconoclastic stance. Always tell the truth. Outside is a good place to be. That way you get to piss off both your foes and your friends. Eventually they all come back and want to party with you despite it all. So as opposed to remembering what you're not supposed to say and holding your tongue, all you have to remember on any given day is who not to invite.

Back to the point, these questions about being an Asian American in hip-hop are funny to me. I can no longer relate to the fixed notions of identity that they assume. My writing in the early 90s criticized Asian Americans for being caught in old paradigms of race that prevented us from recognizing how in some blacks' and Latinos' eyes we had turned from ally to enemy. These days, as hip-hop has moved beyond the rhythms of the African diaspora into Asian sounds--this is why I'm so into Robin D.G. Kelley and Vijay Prashad's idea of polyculturalism--it's strange to me that we'd still be discussing the culture in terms of '80s frames of identity. Multiculturalism is dead, long live multiculturalism, apparently.

This doesn't answer the "Asian American in hip-hop" question for those concerned that hip-hop studies and new forms of scholarship around hip-hop will lead to a whitening of the story, an erasure of the African roots of the culture. In other words, is the inevitable result of hip-hop studies the access of more non-Black scholars to the culture? (For now, let's dance around the Afro-Latino question, which actually puts a lot of this stuff to rest.) Does that mean we'll eventually have some white, Asian, or even Latino revisionist history, a Richard Sudhalter-style take on hip-hop?

That's the assumption of the question that makes me defensive.

And unnecessarily so. All my study of hip-hop has only led me into deeper into Afrodiasporic roots and rhythms and cultures and Black nationalist politics. And, at the same time, my study of hip-hop has only led me deeper into rejecting most fundamentalist notions about hip-hop culture as a whole. The deeper you study, the more questions you have to ask, the less certainty you have about anything, except for the beauty and survival of African cultures, the way they continue to transform and expand upon contact with non-African cultures, and the openings and transformations they create for those other cultures that come into contact with it.

That's not a soundbite, and it still doesn't really answer the question, and it opens up hella other questions, but it's closer to how I feel.

posted by Zentronix @ 2:04 PM   5 comments links to this post

More Reasons The Yankees Suck
"Performance-enhancing drugs are a disgrace when they don't enhance performance."
--Gwen Knapp in a brilliant essay on the hypocrisy of anti-Giambi Yankees. UPDATE: Murray Chass gives the sordid history, going back to Steve Howe in 1990.

posted by Zentronix @ 9:44 AM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, December 03, 2004
The Cleats Drop


Giambi (Jason). Much as I love Bonds, this is the dude I feel for the most. Although he abandoned the A's for the Bronx Chokers, the media has already sharpened their knives and the town lynching won't be pretty.

posted by Zentronix @ 8:04 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 02, 2004
The 974th Version of "Ikaw" + Blogreading Fun
Gotta big up Audrey's post on the phenomenon of balikbayan stars.

More blog-reading heaven:

+ Tiny talks Nixon, Jabberjaw, and mid-sized dreams. (Bonus: midwestern ass!)

+ I'm late to the game again, but what a discussion: Julianne (and again here) and Lynne and Hashim and Catchdubs on sexism and hip-hop. It's not all been said, and it needs to be read. As always, check the comments too...(Note to self: figure out a way to make it to Chicago again in April for this, and thank my homegirl again.)

+ Finally, on some stupid ignant shit, looks like some fools done put their hands in my man's hive. Whoo-ee. Bad move, great blogging. Bonus: it all ends with a dope Q+A.

posted by Zentronix @ 8:15 PM   0 comments links to this post

The ACLU has filed suit to expose the FBI's spying of activists under the guise of anti-terrorism work. More info here and here.

I'm still catching up yall--lots of music and politics, not to mention straight-up work--so here's some more great reading here. If you can find the Big Ideas 2005 Issue on the newsstands, pick it up.

posted by Zentronix @ 10:25 AM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Iraq, Inc.
My brain has been underwater for 2 weeks, so please give me a few to catch up with the land world.

In the meantime, read this. Iraq, Inc. is an account of the corporate war on Iraq. BKLY colleague Pratap Chatterjee is a genius journalist, a brilliant reporter, a nonpareil researcher, a fantastic writer, and a cool dude. If you remember Naomi Klein's account of the neocons' free-market Year Zero in Harper's a few months back (Update: It's now online here, thanks to Steady Blogging for the link!), Pratap's book offers a more complete picture. If you can't wait to get the book, get a taste here and here.

posted by Zentronix @ 1:02 PM   0 comments links to this post

It's Been A Long Time...
I'm back. Regular transmissions to resume shortly...

posted by Zentronix @ 8:18 AM   0 comments links to this post


Previous posts
Coming Soon!
Notes On The Eve Of Day One
Students Occupy The New School
Farai Chideya's News And Notes on NPR Has Been Can...
I Am Nixon
Shouldna Lef Ya...
2G2K Is Back! :: On Hillary, Again, And Foreign Po...
The Impact of The Hip-Hop Vote
UCLA Education In Action Keynote Speech
A Great Day In Baseball History

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