Thursday, July 31, 2008
National Hip-Hop Political Convention Opens
Today, the National Hip-Hop Political Convention opens in Las Vegas.
Thousands are expected to attend the Convention, with some coming from as far as Colombia and South Korea yesterday for the opening b-boy battle, that featured a showdown between Las Vegas's Knucklehead Zoo and the R16 champs, Gamblerz.
They will be discussing issues like the criminalization of youth, youth violence, the right of return on the Gulf Coast, media justice, sexism in hip-hop, economic justice, Black-Brown solidarity, global warming, liberation theology, and vote disenfranchisement. (I'm speaking today at an all-day symposium on the place of hip-hop in academia. alongside folks like Asheru, Byron Hurt, Marc Lamont Hill, and many others.)
Dozens of skills-building trainings around voter registration, lobbying, organizing, media, film making, and even krumping will be held, showing that the organizers draw no distinction between arts and social justice. Some of the best recent underground films on hip-hop--including "African Underground: Democracy in Dakar" and "Masizakhe: Let Us Build Together"--bring a distinctly global view of hip-hop to the event.
On Sunday Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney will give the closing address and the Convention will revise and update their hip-hop political agenda.
Keep your eye here for reports back over the coming days.
posted by Zentronix @ 7:01 AM
Friday, July 25, 2008
Throwback Friday :: Conspiracies & The X-Files After 9/11
In honor of The X-Files opening tonight, here's a throwback piece I did for the late, great newsstand edition of Punk Planet shortly after 9/11.
It was about the wave of CIA/FBI/Intelligence-themed shows. From a TV perspective, it seems a little dated now. "Alias" jumped the shark really fast, "The Agency" lasted less than a blink, and we now know "24" was the work of a right-winger.
Still, I am pretty proud of this piece for trying to capture the vibe of the time, a vibe that today--after the Patriot Act, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, Katrina, and more--hardly seems marginal anymore.
It also gets to why I still love Chris Carter's Mulder and Scully so much.
NOTES ON THE NEW FACES OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
By Jeff Chang
These are the times that demand entertainment. In this New War, police and fireman continue to recover 4000 bodies, the FBI interrogates a list of 5000 suspects, and countless more (they won’t tell us how many) sit in Federal and INS detention centers. And every week, 5000 resumes arrive at the C.I.A. while 20 million viewers tune in to see the new faces of central intelligence.
These faces are emotionally cold lone gunmen, like “24”’s Jack Bauer on “24”. They are built for speed but haunted by death, like “Alias”’s Sydney Bristow. They fall in love with beautiful, dark-skinned agents of Al-Qaeda, like the hapless, balding Jackson Haisley of “The Agency”.
Sometimes they fight with their daughters or turn in their homework late. In a typical 9 to 5, they might manufacture ancient Buddhist scrolls and dot them with monkey piss to prevent the destabilization of Tibet. They get their coffee and drive their SUVs to work in offices that look like last-year’s dot-com.
They’re your spooks next door. They have emotional attachments and cell phones. They have friends of other races. They hope for somebody to love and trust. They’re no longer the reclusive ROTC recruit in the next dorm room, they’re walking signboards for the 21st Century intelligence agent.
All of these shows reveal a huge debt to “The X-Files” and its exemplars of anti-intelligence, FBI agents Dana Scully and the now-departed Fox Mulder of “The X-Files”. And the timing couldn’t be better. Because of network competition to fill the void soon to be left by the slow-motion exit of “The X-Files” and tragic coincidence, the shows have arrived on network television just in time to run between news clips of the New War.
But while Mulder and Scully fought for their future with rebel hearts under a hopeless rallying cry—“The truth is out there”—the career spooks of “The Agency” adhere to the company line: “Truth is what we make it.” (“Alias” has an even dumber tag: “Sometimes the truth hurts.”) It seems as if the new agents were born to fight for the past—restoring the Old Normal of the Cold War, when intelligence and “failure” weren’t synonymous.
Meanwhile, the New War continues.
Dr. Siddharth Shah, 29, cuts a fine profile—tall, dark, handsome, with chiseled cheekbones and a strong chin. On Monday, September 17, as he was leaving the Kansas City airport, he was stopped by a Missouri state trooper.
He had just arrived from New York City to visit a terminally ill friend. The trooper told them he was stopping Shah and his South Asian friend for a loud muffler. No, a quick lane change. Finally he simply asked for what he really wanted—their ID’s. “I’m just giving you a warning’”, the cop said. “I don’t mean to give you a ticket.”
Another officer pulled up and together they did a computer check. It seemed to take a long time. When the cop returned to the car, Shah asked why they had been stopped. The cop answered, “I think you’d agree if I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t be doing my job.” Somewhat embarassed, the cop released them and admitted, ‘This is a great lesson in diversity for me.’”
The next day, when Shah tried to depart from Kansas City International Airport, an announcement came over the p.a. system, “There has been an equipment change which will require the shifting of some seats. Would Mr. S-H-A-H please come to the desk?” When Shah went to the desk, he was met by a police officer and an FBI officer who took him to a windowless room and began interrogating him.
They asked where he had been born, if he was a citizen. Shah was born in Houston, Texas. They asked him why he was leaving so quickly. He explained that, as a doctor, he had very little time off. They asked for his physician’s badge, and he produced it. They replied, “We’re very sorry. We’re responding to the airlines’ worries. Your name is on a list of Muslim names.”
Shah laughs at the memory: “My first name points them to me probably being Buddhist, Jain, or Hindu. And I explained to them, ‘Did you know that Shah is the second most common last name among Indian Americans?’” The agent replied, “I’m sorry. We’re very ignorant about your culture. I’m sorry for your inconvenience.’”
On the night of November 5, 2001, M. William Cooper did not die on his knees. One of the two Apache County sheriffs that came for him received a bullet in the head. The other shot Cooper dead on the desolate stretch of Arizona desert where he lived with his shortwave radio, two dogs, a rooster, and a chicken.
In recent months, the author of *Behold A Pale Horse* was being sought for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and charges of endangerment, the result of incidents in which Cooper threatened people who had stopped near his home. He had previously been sought for tax evasion. After he sent his family overseas, he used his popular shortwave and Internet radio broadcasts to boast that he would not be taken alive.
His death did not only raise fears within the Patriot movement for whom he was a hero. In Harlem, at the Universal Zulu Nation’s annual celebration of Hip-Hop Month, Brother Ernie Pannicioli spoke to a gathering about Cooper’s death, placing it alongside New Black Panther Party leader Khallid Abdul Muhammad’s February death by aneurysm. “The sleeping is over,” Pannicioli thundered. “They’re coming for our freedom fighters.”
What made Cooper so compelling to rural white militiamen and street peace-makers in communities of color? His worldview grafted post-COINTELPRO conspiracy onto New World Order paranoia. *Behold A Pale Horse*, which has reportedly sold hundreds of thousands of copies, is like an overstuffed folder, 500 pages of autobiography, news clippings, photos, and allegedly top secret documents meant to document the creation of a malign, shadowy one-world government. Armageddon’s already here, Cooper was saying. *Behold A Pale Horse* is your late pass.
The book’s influence remains stunning. South African health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang recently stirred an international outcry when she distributed to fellow African health officials a memo and excerpts of the book that argued that AIDS was introduced into Africa in 1978 by the Illuminati. “Protect your continent now”, the memo said. Cooper’s eclecticism had become a worldview.
While he probably expected his readership would largely be high-plains tax protestors and free-land patriots, the book found a willing readership on the streets as well. For many, it confirmed what they had believed for years, in sometimes prescient fashion. Cooper spoke of CIA ops that smuggled drugs into the ghetto to finance covert political operations. The proof would later be uncovered by reporter Gary Webb in his famous “Dark Alliance” series, and further investigated by Congresswoman Maxine Waters in hearings.
Cooper argued that drug war legislation and the FEMA act was laying the ground-work for the establishment of a police state, reviving memories of J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO. But, as further evidence of the New World Order, Cooper also offered up the long-discredited “Protocols of The Elders of Zion” (to which he affixed instructions that “any reference to Jews should be replaced with the word ‘Illuminati’”).
Cooper’s worldview—sans its apparently anti-Semitic leanings—hit the mainstream on September 10, 1993 when “The X-Files” debuted. Fox Mulder’s Cooper-esque rantings about one-world government, master-race plotters, alien abductees, secret torture chambers, and massive Tuskegee-style bioterror experiments felt realer than reality, like a speculative history of the Cold War in which the actual struggle was between the leaders and the people. Set against end-of-history crowing and wwweb ecstasy, the “X-Files” message was subversive and immediate: Evil still walks among us. Governments and nation-states are involved. All of humanity’s survival is at stake.
For the small screen, it was a pretty big picture.
These days, the picture on the screen is merely pretty, as if to melt the images of September 11 with beauty and quick-cuts.
“Alias”’s Sydney Bristow (played by Jennifer Garner, GQ’s September 2001 “Woman On Our Mind”) is thin as an arrow, and runs like Franka Potente’s Lola around a very short track. Recruited off the UCLA campus before she could legally drink, she came to the agency wide-eyed seven years ago, and now is trapped on a treadmill of fear.
Her fiancé is dead because she revealed to him that she was a C.I.A. agent. She has since learned that she actually works for SD-6, a rogue agency moved by unseen hands. She has become a double-agent, working with the real C.I.A. to bring down SD-6, whom she blames for her fiancé’s murder. She reports to her father, whose own shifting loyalties may have directly led to her mother’s murder (Sydney’s Samantha Mulder).
These are neat circular plot devices, and each episode plays just like the tight loops of driving techno playing beneath. The exotic locales, body-tight costumes, and decent kick-boxing, are softened by intimate interludes of “normalcy” among friends. “Sydney”, wrote Joyce Millman in the New York Times, “is the perfect television heroine for the times.”
The shows display a west-coast 21st century multiculti sheen. Unlike the real C.I.A., affirmative action apparently seems to have worked. Translating Middle Eastern languages will be no problem. Sydney’s best friends and her SD-6 partner are African American. “24” adds a twist.
Its day-in-the-life story arc centers on a plot to kill David Palmer, the first Black presidential candidate, a moderate with a real chance to win the White House (no apologies to Jesse Jackson and Bill Clinton). "24"’s Jack Bauer, played by the scruffily handsome Kiefer Sutherland, is runs a federal Counter Terrorism Unit office in Los Angeles. Like Clinton, Bauer is an effective leader, but a personal fuck-up. “24”’s eye-popping split screens capture Bauer’s compartmentalized conscience.
Bauer soon learns that the assassins have ties within the Agency, and that they may be also involved with the kidnapping of his daughter. Jack Bauer’s mission is to keep hope alive—and if he fails, his daughter dies and the country will descend into race riots. “24”, too, is set in Los Angeles.
Unlike most Cold War spy-hero dramas, these stories require the intelligence community to be dirty. (Indeed, “The Agency” sucks because it has no such tension.) But most of the enemies will remain dark-skinned and conveniently foreign. You will probably not see agents providing military and intelligence training to guerillas with dubious political agendas who support their war-making by growing opium or coca. You will not see agents devastating the ghettos by cutting drugs-for-arms deals. You will not see the surveillance and harassment of nonviolent peace, anti-prison, and anti-globalization activists. You will not see dragnet roundups of thousands of innocent Arab, South Asian, and Muslim men and women. They will not be rescued from their indefinite detentions by lock-picking spooks like Sydney.
Sydney and Jack, along with the redundant cast of Cold-War dust-offs in “The Agency”, live in a safely fictional world in which Dark Alliances and COINTELPRO never occurred. The worlds are hermetically sealed, most secure from insecure global realities. A symptomatic theme is the loss of memory. In “Alias”, the Irishman who killed Sydney’s fiancé is a sleeper, remotely programmed by SD-6 to murder during black-outs that he can only recover during dream time. He is therefore completely innocent of his crimes. Sydney efficiently and obediently carries out her dual orders from the C.I.A. and SD-6. Whenever death happens, she is shocked anew to learn that her work has bloody consequences.
The “X-Files” never strayed far from the relationship of knowledge to justice: what you did not know could not only kill you, but millions of other innocents. But “24” and “Alias” operate on a “need to know” basis. Everything you need to know is right there on its shiny, quickly moving surfaces. As Karl Rove and Jack Valenti bring together politicians and entertainment execs to figure out new ways of collaborating in the New War, Sydney and Jack are signs of redemption. They bend “trust no one” into a closed question. They mark the end to Beltway/Hollywood culture-wars. They fight for an undivided America we want to remember, one that never existed. The new faces of central intelligence represent a future without a past, well insulated from the present.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:30 AM
Obama's Award Tour
In Berlin, Germany, Barack Obama had a rally for 200,000 people. They wanted to believe.
Meanwhile, John McCain ate a bratwurst with businessmen and bored reporters in the German Village section of Columbus, Ohio.
For the past week, Obama has been on award tour, and his message has been greeted with the kind of fervor that now makes U.S. reporters--overly sensitive to Clinton/McCain-esque charges that they are giving the guy kid-glove treatment--highly uneasy and eager to downplay.
Obama has modified his two Americas speech to talk about reconciling the world. In Germany, where at the Berlin Wall the First World once ended and the Second began, he said,
The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christians and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.
It was high theater. Obama was being consciously Reagan-like, consciously Kennedy-like, consciously presidential.
Earlier in the week, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, despite being pressured by Bushites, signaled his agreement with Obama's call for withdrawal. Suddenly Obama's foreign policy didn't look plagued by inexperience, but blessed with prescience.
Meanwhile, McCain cancelled a visit to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico because of Hurricane Dolly. Then a massive oil spill along the Mississippi River in New Orleans kind of spoiled the whole idea that McCain might be able to steal Obama's thunder in the Mideast by championing the virtues of domestic drilling.
But for the Obama campaign--now well stocked with images of the true believers in Kabul, Ramallah, and Berlin to match those in Chicago, Boston, and Des Moines--the real battle will still be fought on home soil.
Despite Obama's award tour, he has not moved the meter much. He still has a slight lead in all national polls, and there are signs that at least one key red state--Florida--is getting grapes.
But with bad news coming down the wire every day on oil prices, mortgages, and the economy, the next month leading up to the conventions will look more like trench warfare than a love parade.
Welcome back Senator Obama. Back to the grind.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:32 AM
Nas On Fox And Colbert
Ferentz has the update here.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:11 AM
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Nas Joins ColorOfChange To Put Fox News On Blast
Tomorrow, Nas, ColorOfChange.org, and MoveOn.org will deliver petitions to Fox News signed by over 600,000 people protesting their racist coverage of people of color, particularly Presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.
“Fox poisons the country with racist propaganda and tries to call it news,” said Nas.
“Watch what you watchin', FOX keeps feeding us toxins, Stop sleeping, Start thinking.” he raps on his song "Sly Fox". “I pledge allegiance to the fair and balanced truth/Not the biased truth/Not the liar's truth/But the highest truth.”
The protest itself is historic, bringing together one of the top rappers with the two most dynamic political netroots organizations.
MoveOn.org launched the netroots revolution after 9/11 and now boasts over 3 million members. ColorOfChange.org is the largest netroots of color organization, with a membership of almost half a million members, and is best known for its national call for demonstrations in support of the Jena 6 last fall. Together the organizations launched protests than prevented Fox News from broadcasting a Democratic presidential debate last year.
ColorOfChange.org gathered the 620,217 signatures over the last month as Fox News's attacks on the Obamas increased, from the "terrorist fist jab" to "baby mama" comments.
posted by Zentronix @ 12:20 PM
Thursday, July 17, 2008
National Hip-Hop Political Convention Opens In 2 Weeks
Like most of the others, this one's xposted to Vibe.com...
Since the first National Hip-Hop Political Convention was held in Newark New Jersey in the summer of 2004, young voters have come to the polls in big turnouts, driven by a landmark surge of young voters of color. This surprised many long-time political observers, but not the organizers of the Convention—full disclosure: I was there—who had seen the growth of hip-hop activism and organizing around the country.
After the Convention, those efforts continued around the country, joined by high-profile voter registration campaigns by Diddy and Russell Simmons. Those efforts continue today. Simmons' Hip-Hop Summit Action Network has taken Hip-Hop Team Vote to a number of campuses. T.I. is joining the Hip-Hop Caucus's efforts to register and turn out young people to vote in 12 target states, including swing states like Florida, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio.
When the third National Hip-Hop Political Convention opens in Las Vegas on July 30th—in the heart of another swing state, Nevada—it can boast of its role in expanding the field of hip-hop generation elected officials and candidates, including co-founder Rosa Clemente who will be addressing the body as the Green Party vice presidential candidate. Representatives of the Democratic and Republican National Committees will also be speaking. The focus will be the Convention's political agenda, first forged in Newark in 2004.
2008 Convention Chair Troy Nkrumah took time away from a heavy load of emails, text messages, and phone calls to talk with Vibe.com about the importance of the Convention and its agenda, and what role it hopes to play in this historic election and beyond.
Vibe: This is the third National Hip-Hop Political Convention. Why is it important to hold this convention in 2008?
Troy Nkrumah: The whole idea from the start was to develop a political agenda for the hip hop generation. The political agenda is a living document. It's not set in stone like the Ten Commandments. So the Convention needs to continue to happen to keep the agenda relevant. This convention is even more important than the last because there is more of a possibility of getting at least parts of this agenda implemented with the change of administration coming up. Now that we have people actually expressing that agenda on the national stage, then it makes the other parties look at it.
It's a time for us as the hip-hop generation to step up and say, we put this agenda out and now we want to see where people really stand on it and we're calling you to task. You can't take us for granted anymore.
Vibe: What are the main issues that you'll be pushing?
TN: The first one is the Katrina issue. We want to keep it fresh in everybody's minds that this has not been resolved. There are still people with no right to return because they can't afford to. We have issues on gender relations, exposing the troublesome sexual politics of the hip-hop generation. Criminal justice is going to be top on the agenda. We have artists and activists—Rebel Diaz, a rap group out of Chicago who were recently abused by NYPD, Dhoruba Bin-Wahad, and Regina Kelley out of Texas who was thrown in jail by a drug task force over a confidential informant who lied.
Vibe: Over the last 4 years, there has been a sharp increase in numbers of young people and people of color going out to vote. A number of hip-hop generation candidates, such as Kevin Powell and Rosa Clemente, are running across the country. What role has the Convention played in developing the space for hip-hop generation candidates?
TN: After the first convention, I think a lot of people left Newark, New Jersey, with this feeling like,
'Why are we depending on these other candidates who will tell us whatever we want to hear, why don't we start our own people? So what we saw was a lot of people running for office, running for school board or city council. And now we see people like Kevin Powell who has a really good chance of beating an incumbent. It's the work of the Convention to show people that it goes beyond demanding people recognize our agenda. If they're not going to, we have no choice but to run ourselves. This year we're going to push that a little further and start preparing for the mid-term elections in 2010.
It's hard to measure how much of an impact hip-hop activism has played. Some people say that it played a really big role, that the work that we did in 2003 and 2004 is the reason Obama can be taken seriously today. Without laying the foundation, a lot of young people would be still saying, 'The hell with voting. It doesn't do anything. But we've changed that perception.
It goes beyond the presidential elections. We didn't really take into consideration that the prosecutors and judges who are locking up a lot of Brown and Black people are in elected positions. So I think the 2004 convention educated a lot of the activist community in hip-hop to say we have to take the electoral part seriously. We can't depend on it as the only outlet. But they're using it against us, so why not switch it and use it for us?
Vibe: Do you expect we're going to see big interest in the elections this year?
TN: We know that there are going to be record turnouts at the polls. Now whether or not the elections are going to be fair and whether all the votes are going to be counted is a whole 'nother story. The question is: If Obama gets the election stolen from him, as did Gore and Kerry, is he going to be willing to fight it? Gore wasn't. Nor was Kerrey. If the elections are stolen again, if the Democrats don't step up to the plate, they're going to lose an entire generation putting their last bit of faith in the electoral system.
However, it's going to be powerful to see how big of an impact these young, first time progressive voters actually affect this election. If they do decide this election, then they can understand that they can decide every election. It's up to us—the activists, the organizers who do this year round—to channel that energy to go beyond November and make it a part of hip-hop culture.
posted by Zentronix @ 3:29 PM
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Why The Papers Are Getting The Race Polls Wrong
So many race polls, so little insight.
Today's sober NY Times poll on the presidential election and race relations comes to the very same conclusions that the wacky Washington Post poll—which turned into a game of "White People: So You Think You're Not Racist?"—found last month: Blacks really love Obama and whites kinda like McCain.
Good work, fellas!
The Obama campaign hit back hard this morning, saying basically, "Hey! A lot of whites other than his grandma actually like him. And Michelle, too."
White liberals like Bill Scher back them up. Scher notes that although Obama trails McCain by 9 points, he is running much better among whites than John Kerry did in 2004, especially among working-class whites.
The Times headline—"Obama's Run Isn't Closing Divide On Race"—is only half-right. In fact, the race polls on the race show that he may be running well enough among whites to secure enough votes to win. Why is the press not getting this?
Partly because, again big surprise, it's stuck in the past. Since the pivotal 1968 election, when Richard Nixon and George C. Wallace turned racial backlash into a Republican majority, the partisan divide has largely been a reflection of racial divide. Just as demagoguery on civil rights put African Americans in the blue column, demagoguery on immigration has put Latinos and Asian Americans there for decades to come.
In 2008, another demographic shift is on. Obama's coalition could forge a new majority, one rooted in large part by racially progressive, not reactionary, politics. The MSM is still very late to the game here.
Instead they have conflated two huge stories in these polls. The first story is whether or not Obama is leading in the race for the presidency. Here the evidence points solidly to a new majority.
The second is what does the race for the presidency say about race? This is an aspirational story. News editors are making the same leap that many people of color are making. (Which is not, in my opinion, a bad decision, even from the business/publishing side.)
They are jumping to this question: Would the election of Barack Obama improve race relations?
In both polls, whites are loudly saying, "No". Very few in the MSM have yet thought to ask, "Why?"
But there's where your real story is.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:16 AM
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Kevin Powell :: It's Time For New Leadership
Vibe contributor Kevin Powell drops what he has said may be his last essay on the need for new Black leadership in today's Huffington Post.
It's a bomb. Not the kind of turn-the-other-cheek thing we have come to expect from Barack Obama every time he's dissed by an elder Black leader. He writes:
I certainly acknowledge and appreciate what the Civil Righters have done, but we younger African Americans are saying now, loudly, the jig is up and it is time for you to go, especially if you have not created hope and plans of action for our communities. The days of marching and protesting without a clear purpose are over. The days of voting for someone just because they are Black are over. Indeed, the multicultural legion of young Americans who've flocked to Obama's campaign suggest that we want leadership that builds bridges, not be stuck in the rhetoric and realities of the past.
Powell, of course, is in a battle to unseat Brooklyn Congressman Edolphus Towns. He's raised the kind of money and has the staff and machine that may make this September 9th primary competitive. Politicos predict Powell will run a close race in this changing district, a largely African American district with a sizable orthodox Jewish community that has also become more Latino and Afro-Caribbean in recent years.
Towns, a Baptist minister who has been in the position for 15 years, barely fought off a 3-way challenge in 2006 from Roger Green and City Councilman Charles Barron, who has endorsed Powell and who lost that race by only 4000 votes.
Powell's list of supporters is no joke. RZA, Chris Rock, ?uestlove, and Fab Five Freddy all made appearances at his big fundraiser last week. Gloria Steinem and Afeni Shakur have offered endorsements.
Although the blogosphere was abuzz with the news that the headliner, Dave Chappelle, didn't show, that will matter little on September 9th.
The intergenerational struggle that played out in 2002's Newark mayoral election between Corey Booker and Sharpe James, and again in this year's presidential election, most certainly will.
posted by Zentronix @ 1:43 PM
Monday, July 14, 2008
New Yorker Goes Imus On Obamas
The New Yorker is having an Imus moment.
Today, it was slammed by the Obama campaign, Muslim Americans and African Americans for its July 21st cover of Barack and Michelle Obama dressed as Islamic terrorists doing a fist bump. See it here.
Bill Burton, spokesman for the Obama campaign, stated today, "The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Sen. Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."
(McCain's staff was like, "Ditto.")
A coalition of organizations, including hip-hop media justice organization Industry Ears, Muslim American media watch group Project Islamic Hope and the Los Angeles chapter of Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network, are calling for newsstands and stores to pull their magazines from its sales racks, and for advertisers to pull their ads immediately.
Paul Porter of Industry Ears, said to Vibe.com, "Afro's and AK 47's are no way to portray Michelle Obama. Add the Arab garb to Barack Obama and you achieve a racist satire."
He added, "We are just tired of the same old media bias game. It's always 'satire' with people of color when you're reaffirming fears and stereotypes. The New Yorker is just reinforcing and profiting from divisive media."
What were they thinking? Editor David Remnick told the Huffington Post this morning:
I respect people's reactions -- I'm just trying to as calmly and as clearly as possible talk about what this image means and what it was intended to mean and what I think most people will see -- when they think it through -- that it means. The fact is, it's not a satire about Obama - it's a satire about the distortions and misconceptions and prejudices about Obama.
Writing in today's Huffington Post, author and satirist Leonce Gaiter calls the image "red meat for Red States" and says,
There seem to be two possibilities. The first: they truly find the idea depicted in the image so ridiculous that they couldn't conceive of anyone taking it seriously. However, if that were the case, there'd be no need for the satire in the first place. Attempting to satirize it acknowledges the idea's prevalence.
The other possibility is that somewhere, deep in the recesses of their upper east and west side white minds, lurks a restive "fear of black." To provide such an image without context is to accept its message to some degree. No similar cartoon would have ever appeared about a white candidate.
As I've noted in earlier blogs, polls show that up to 15% of the country believes Barack Obama is Muslim, roughly the same percentage that also tells pollsters they wouldn't vote for him because he is Black.
posted by Zentronix @ 10:39 AM
Thursday, July 10, 2008
HKR Radio :: Rosa Clemente On Her VP Run
Here's Rosa Clemente on yesterday's Hard Knock Radio discussing her VP run. (Streaming audio)
posted by Zentronix @ 11:22 AM
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Green Party Taps Hip-Hop Activist Rosa Clemente For VP
Signaling it is serious about courting the hip-hop vote, Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney has tapped respected hip-hop activist Rosa Clemente as her Vice Presidential pick.
If the Green Party accepts McKinney's nomination this weekend at its convention, Clemente will make history as the first hip-hop generation candidate on a presidential ticket, and together with McKinney make up the first all-female of color ticket in U.S. history. McKinney is African American. Clemente identifies herself as Puerto Rican of African descent.
Clemente joins Brooklyn Congressional candidate Brooklyn Congressional candidate Kevin Powell as another prominent hip-hop writer/activist competing in the 2008 elections. Maryland hip-hop activist and scholar Jared Ball also competed for the Green Party presidential nomination, ending his run this past January.
"This campaign is the opportunity the Hip-Hop generation has been working for," Clemente wrote in an email to supporters this morning. "This is our time to address the issues affecting our communities - rising unemployment, the high cost of food and housing, a lack of quality public education and access to higher education, the prison-industrial complex, and unaccountable corporate media. These issues are not being addressed by either the Republican or Democratic nominee."
Clemente has been one of the most prominent national hip-hop activists for nearly a decade. She was one of the co-founders of the National Hip-Hop Political Convention and of REACHip-Hop, a New York City-based coalition that launched a boycott of Hot 97 for greater accountability and balance on the airwaves. Affiliated with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Clemente has been a prominent national organizer around securing aid to Gulf Coast victims of Katrina, and against the verdicts in the Sean Bell case.
Clemente's potential VP run was welcomed by many in the hip-hop community.
"I've never voted in the Presidential election; I've never felt strongly enough about a candidate to, said rapper M1 of Dead Prez. "I feel that now is the greatest opportunity for the Hip-Hop community to put our collective strength and power to the test and vote for someone who represents who we are and what we stand for."
"It's a good sign of political maturity for hip-hop," Troy Nkrumah, 2008 Chair of the National Hip-Hop Political Convention, said of Clemente's run. "There are issues we've been screaming about to the candidates and they've ignored them--whether police accountability, the prison system, or the war in Iraq. They touch the issues on the surface, they talk about change, but their policies are in line with Bush. A lot of us were turned off."
"But Rosa is one of the people that knows we need systemic change, especially the youth community," he added. "She has a history of speaking her mind, not holding her tongue, and telling the truth."
posted by Zentronix @ 10:26 AM
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
McCain :: My Crew, My Dogs
Late-breaking polls show that Obama is deeply in trouble with one key demographic.
If the election were held today, the AP-Yahoo poll all but guarantees McCain would stomp Obama among--angry rednecks? white women? retired army generals?--no, dog-owners.
Said one voter, "I think a person who owns a pet is a more compassionate person - caring, giving, trustworthy. I like pet owners."
McCain owns 2 dogs, an English springer spaniel and a mutt.
While currently petless, Obama has announced he is buying his girls a dog when the election is over, win or lose.
Big Boi, holla at your candidate. The future of the nation could depend on it.
posted by Zentronix @ 11:24 AM
Friday, July 04, 2008
Rinku Sen on Immigration and The Meaning of July 4th
A great piece here by Rinku, publisher of Colorlines and the president of ARC::
On this Fourth of July, I will be eating hot dogs. While I was trying to fit in as an Indian immigrant child throughout the 1970's, they represented the quintessential American food. I begged my mother to let me have them for dinner every night instead of chicken curry and rice. She nixed the hotdogs but sometimes allowed spaghetti and meatballs -- straight from a can. Hotdogs were "invented" by German immigrants serving their traditional sausages in the hustling streets of the new world, and spaghetti, everyone knows, came from Italy. If I had been celebrating Independence Day 150 years ago, however, neither would have been on the menu. In those days, Germans and Italians weren't considered Americans, or even white. When they fought over the most lucrative street corner for food vendors in the 1880's, the press reported these incidents as "race riots."
I'll be sharing this holiday with a group of restaurant workers, largely immigrants. Along with the hotdogs, we'll have tacos, samosas, falafel. According to one side of immigration debate, we can keep our goodies to ourselves. America doesn't want them, or us.
posted by Zentronix @ 11:17 AM
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Young Jeezy & The Power of Words
No disrespect to Young Jeezy, but he's been spinning like a Korean b-boy this past week after jumping in the presidential cypher in this month's cover story.
Jeezy raised eyebrows when he told Benjamin Meadows-Ingram:
"No disrespect to my man Barack, but I f**ked with John McCain. He greeted me like a god."
But by yesterday, the rapper had issued a press release and a video saying that no, he in fact supports Obama.
(You think I could have ever written something like I just did back when MC Eiht was first saying, "Geeeeeeeaaaahh"? When you have to show you're gangsta by saying you vote and you vote Democratic and you vote Black and you quote Aristotle to support that, something big has just happened.)
Jeezy says that the whole episode taught him "the power of words." I wish he had thought about that when he was writing his lyrics for "Love In This Club".
But now that he's moved beyond bagging groceries, he had some profound thoughts on the elections in his MTV interview:
"..my mama is about to have surgery that I gotta pay for out of my pocket because she can't get insurance. I don't really feel McCain. It ain't just because Barack is Black; he can make change. Just like Bush equals recession, Barack equals progression. I really feel that, all bullsh-- aside. He's gotta come in and keep it right."
Which goes to what many of us have been saying all along: if folks felt free to rap more about what they actually think, rather than what they think they need to in order to get money (to pay for health insurance and other sh*t), it'd be a different world right now.
Jeezy says he'll be putting up a song called "My President Is Black" on his website the Monday after July 4th.
Me? My head is still spinning.
posted by Zentronix @ 9:36 AM
2G2K Circus :: Obama as Billy Beane?
Uh oh! Ferentz went there by comparing Barack Obama to Billy Beane. Here we go now.
While I love the equating the two people who probably most inspire in me the most intense mix of fanboy awe and bar-side cynicism, I'm not sure the analogy is perfect. You might say that the campaign is Billy Beane-like, and the candidate is much older-school.
I think Michael Lewis was trying to show how Billy Beane had rationalized the game for the 21st Century, removed it from the mystical realm of old scouts and false indicators. And I think he did it because Oakland is one of the poorest drawing teams in the league--we're consistently in the bottom quarter, I mean, shit, we're moving to freakin Fremont.
He's the epitome of the restless Adam Smith-style capitalist, relentlessly destroying the team to remake it. He's probably the least wedded to narrative of anyone in the game. Every die-hard A's fan--of which I am beyond one--knows their heart will get broken in the fall.
Nick Swisher or Danny Haren or Tim Hudson or Miguel Tejada--Miguel Tejada! whom Beane found on the cheap in the DR and built up from a scrawny little, um, beanpole into one of the best in the game--all of these were heroes who conformed to Oakland's sense of underdog love and bootstrap pride. None of them got the long-term contract, and all of them were traded before their time.
The story Billy Beane delivers every year is this one: we'll have a new crop of underachivers, outcasts, past-their-prime stars, and hot young stars on the field. And then when the year's over, we'll lose half of them--some to bigger paychecks (the Hankees, the Gnats) and some to oblivion. But don't get too attached.
That's certainly the mentality of the permanent party operatives, especially Dems who have been mainly out of power for the last forty years. The candidate is the candidate, and next year there will be another. Obama is Mr. Field of Dreams, though, and that's why I agree with your conclusion. The campaign may be underestimating the damage it is doing with the standard post-primary rightward swing thing.
I think the essential tug-of-war in the Democratic party is between its idealism and its pragmatism. Most long-time observers don't want to go there--they correctly point to 1968 and 1972 as times when this intraparty fight ended in disaster.
But no one can get to a new majority without some leaps of imagination, and that's where numbers, statistics, and damn lies can strand this presidential campaign like the last two.
posted by Zentronix @ 9:27 AM
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Actually Don't Read My Posts
Just read Humanity Critic. Man! I should just quit.
posted by Zentronix @ 3:55 PM
The Long Days Of Obama's Summer
Ain't no fun being Obama these days. Just ask the candidate, who cracked to the press corps the other day, "It's not allowed."
Although his lead in the polls seems to be holding steady, he's been caught out there in the long days of summer. A lot of it is of his own making, as he moves his campaign to the right for the general election after a long primary season that was about motivating his base on the left.
Obama has riled them by refusing public financing after promising he would, reversing his position to back a law that allows the government to use telecom companies in warrantless wiretapping, and throwing Wesley Clark under a bus over his comments on McCain's time in the military.
By yesterday, folks were scratching their heads.
To recap: Obama likes campaign finance reform but refuses spending limits. He opposes government spying and media consolidation, but if the two issues come together, he'll reconsider. He says McCain's war experience does not automatically make him the best presidential candidate, but if another military man voices the same thing, it's wrong. What happened?
And on top of all that, Obama is also under fire for receiving campaign support from Chicago slumlord developers, who took advantage of weakened federal oversight and enforcement to secure federal funds to gentrify Chicago and leave affordable housing in shambles. Plus a quarter of Americans still think he's unpatriotic, and a tenth believe he's Muslim.
It's getting hot in here.
No wonder he's now begun making a point of his opposition to initiatives that would ban gay marriage. (It was the headline in today's San Francisco Chronicle.)
One initative will be on the ballot in California-where Governor Schwarzenegger holds the same position and Obama is expected to win easily. The other is in Arizona, McCain's home state, where the Republican candidate declared his support for the ban. The last will play out in Florida, and we all know about Florida.
Here's the question many Obama supporters are raising now: is he simply doing the same thing the Republicans have been doing for their conservative base for years--playing up cultural issues while backsliding on some of the most important economic and political ones? Will issues like gay marriage, affirmative action, and green jobs simply become triangulation for the same old politics of big money and bad government?
That wouldn't be change now, would it?
posted by Zentronix @ 10:00 AM
A Final Farewell To Cody's
Matt Richtel says one last goodbye to Cody's. We'll all miss it deeply.
posted by Zentronix @ 8:26 AM
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