Monday, September 29, 2008
At Hip-Hop's Birthplace: Hope For The Best, Preparations For The Worst
As the House of Representatives rejected an economic bailout proposal brought on by the national mortgage crisis, tenants of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue and their supporters awaited word today of the fate of the most famous address in hip-hop.

It was a day in which the drama of the nation was being mirrored at a place right the heart of hip-hop history, as tenants and their supporters began planning to save their homes while real estate developers scrambled to close a speculative deal against declining prospects for credit.

Late last week, a judge cleared the way for the landlord group behind the West Bronx apartment building to begin preparations to sell the building, whose value has been assessed at about $7 million.

The building at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, where DJ Kool Herc and Cindy Campbell threw their first party in late August 1973, is one of a declining number in New York City covered under an affordable housing mandate called the Mitchell-Lama program. It now represents the continuing decline of urban affordable housing.

But the judge's order allows the landlord group to pay off the rest of its outstanding $5 million mortgage and remove it from the affordable housing program.

Such an action, all sides believe, would clear the way for the purchase of the building by well-known real estate developer Mark Karasick, despite an offer on the table from the tenants, the city, and their supporters to purchase 1520 Sedgwick for $10 million—$3 million above the building's expected value.

Cindy Campbell and DJ Kool Herc have been at the head of an effort to have the building declared a historic landmark, but events have been moving quickly in the past year.

Today, Cindy Campbell worried that a sale of the building might displace over a hundred families.

"Winter is coming up. There's elderly people, children. Some of these people have been living there for over 30 years," she said. "People's lives are more important than a developer trying to flip over his money."

Dina Levy, director of organizing and policy with the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, said today that tenants and supporters of 1520 Sedgwick were baffled as to why the landlord group has apparently rejected the tenants' offer, which was supported by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and subsidized in part by the city.

She argued that even if the building were to be sold, the rents in the building likely would not rise because of city regulations and the depressed rental market. She said she felt the tenant deal on the table was a strong one. "I can't believe that they would not take that deal," Levy said. "It defies logic."

Levy added that she was unsure in this market what bank or lender might provide debt to Karasick to purchase 1520 Sedgwick.

Although the landlord group had signaled last week they intended to pay off the $5 million outstanding mortgage today, that had not occurred by the late afternoon. "There's still the hope that we can save the building," she said. "That's still the goal and that's still the hope."

But even if the building were to be sold, eviction could not begin right away, and the efforts to preserve the building as a historic landmark and an affordable housing building may redouble in the coming months.

"At this point what I can promise we will do, will be to train the tenants on what regulations are," Levy said. "This guy (Karsick) will not have a moment's sleep."

posted by Zentronix @ 1:56 PM   3 comments links to this post

Sunday, September 28, 2008
1520 Sedgwick Cleared To Be Sold
Courts have cleared the way for 1520 Sedgwick, the birthplace of hip-hop, to be sold next week.

This comes after a year in which the courts first blocked the sale of the building, and tenants of the historic building where Cindy Campbell and DJ Kool Herc threw their first party raised $10 million to buy the building back. Efforts by the efforts of the Campbells and affordable housing activists were also made to grant the building historic preservation status.

This from the article:

“While the owners of 1520 Sedgwick have a legal right to buy out of the Mitchell-Lama program, the building’s residents have made an offer that we believe is more than fair,” said Shaun Donovan, the commissioner for the housing preservation department. “In this light, it is difficult to understand why the owners would choose to put the affordability of over 100 families’ homes at risk.”

More on this shortly...

posted by Zentronix @ 12:26 PM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, September 26, 2008
Panic, Paralysis, Protests, and Presidents
Panic, paralysis, protests, presidents-dead, alive, and prospective.

This news week's like tripling my crack order. The wrong part of me doesn't want anything fixed.

The Times today has a great piece on the drama that went on after the cameras left the room yesterday at the White House.

Meanwhile the news tickers went bonkers. Palin playing herself repeatedly in front of Katie Couric. Thousands of protesters in the streets around the country yesterday--at places like the AIG headquarters and the Federal Reserve Banks. Washington Mutual getting taken over by the FDIC and sold to JPMorgan Chase. (Free checking still? I don't think so.)

Oh, and there was supposed to be this debate thing tonight...

Here's Joe Klein's take on what went down yesterday and why McCain basically gave us all at least one more--probably a few more than that--days of being glued to the news.

So McCain "suspends" his campaign--he didn't, really--and equivocates about whether to debate because the financial emergency is so crucial--a week after he said the fundamentals of the economy were sound--and he flies to Washington where:

1. The House Republicans blow up a rare, and necessary, moment of true bipartisanship to make it look like McCain, who has no expertise in this area, has come to the rescue.

2. McCain sits mute in the White House summit arranged for his benefit. He doesn't even ask Paulson what he thinks of the House Republican plan.

3. He refuses to take a stand, one way or another, on the Republican plan.

In the meantime, Washington Mutual--the nation's largest thrift--fails. Other banks are teetering. Credit has dried up...and the world financial markets are watching to see if the United States has the political wherewithal to save itself. McCain's erratic, and irresponsible, behavior this week isn't happening in a vacuum. This isn't just politics--even George W. Bush, who never failed to take a partisan advantage in his presidency, realizes that. ...

Strange times are here.

UPDATE (9:05am) :: The debate is on.

posted by Zentronix @ 8:26 AM   1 comments links to this post

Thursday, September 25, 2008
James K. Galbraith :: We Don't Need A Bailout
Here is economist James K. Galbraith in the Washington Post with some wisdom for the next president.

He asks this: Why try to save investment banks when the sector is pretty much gone?

His alternative? Strengthen the banking system through the FDIC, and save the folks who have been all but abandoned in this crisis from jump: besieged homeowners.

Here's an excerpt:

Is this bailout still necessary?

The point of the bailout is to buy assets that are illiquid but not worthless. But regular banks hold assets like that all the time. They're called "loans."

With banks, runs occur only when depositors panic, because they fear the loan book is bad. Deposit insurance takes care of that. So why not eliminate the pointless $100,000 cap on federal deposit insurance and go take inventory? If a bank is solvent, money market funds would flow in, eliminating the need to insure those separately. If it isn't, the FDIC has the bridge bank facility to take care of that.

Next, put half a trillion dollars into the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. fund -- a cosmetic gesture -- and as much money into that agency and the FBI as is needed for examiners, auditors and investigators. Keep $200 billion or more in reserve, so the Treasury can recapitalize banks by buying preferred shares if necessary -- as Warren Buffett did this week with Goldman Sachs. Review the situation in three months, when Congress comes back. Hedge funds should be left on their own. You can't save everyone, and those investors aren't poor. ...

A voice of reason amidst the madness.

posted by Zentronix @ 8:46 AM   6 comments links to this post

Naomi Klein On Wall Street's Shock Doctrine
Naomi Klein from Democracy Now:

Well, the thesis of my book, what I mean by the “shock doctrine,” is that it is in times of crisis, it is in times when people are panicked, when we’ve seen again and again the right push through radical pro-corporate policies, what they call “free market reforms,” precisely because it is in a crisis where the space for debate rapidly closes, and you can invoke this state of emergency to say we have no choice.

And I think we’re seeing a very dramatic example of this tactic right now with this really extortionist kind of tactics playing out in Washington. You know, “Sign this blank check, or we’re all going down, or Main Street is going down, or taxpayers—you know, the sky will fall in on them.”

I’m also arguing that this is only stage one of the shock doctrine. They’re getting this—they’re lobbying for this huge bailout, obviously, but this bailout is a kind of a time bomb, because it’s all these bad debts, and they are going to explode on the next administration. I mean, we know that the Bush administration has already left the next administration with huge debt and deficit problems. They’ve just exploded those, expanded them. And what that means is that whoever the next president is is going to be inheriting this economic crisis that is being exacerbated by this bailout.

So, in the case of McCain, I think—if he’s the president, then I think we know what he’ll do, because we know he wants to privatize Social Security, which is something that Wall Street’s been wanting for a long time, another bubble. We know he has said in the next—in the first 100 days of his administration he’ll look at every program and either reform it or shut it down. This is really a recipe for economic shock therapy. So, while you have all of these trivial issues being discussed in the election season, I think what we could—what we’re really—you know, under the surface, they’re actually being quite clear. They’re going to take—if they take power, it will be in the midst of an economic emergency. They’ll invoke that emergency to push through very, very radical changes. So, you know, what I’ve been saying is, this is not four more years of Bush; it’s much, much worse in the case of another Republican administration.

But there’s huge problems for Democrats, as well, if they win this election, because, you know, we need to only think back to the situation in which Clinton took power, where he ran an election on an economic populist platform, promising to renegotiate NAFTA. Then there was an economic crisis. Clinton came under intense lobbying by people like Robert Rubin, who’s also advising Obama right now, and by the time he took office, he had embraced economic austerity.

So, people need to understand these tactics, need to put pressure on the candidates, the parties, and reject this tactic. And I’ve actually been really heartened, Amy, that people are onto these shock tactics and aren’t falling for it. And, you know, to the extent that we’re seeing a little bit of spine from the Democrats, it is only, as Chris Dodd said, because they are hearing it from their constituents. So people need to keep up this pressure right now.


You know, Amy, I don’t think we can stress this enough. Henry Paulson is one of the key people, the top people, responsible for creating the crisis that he is now claiming he will solve, you know, and this is—if we think about the 9/11 analogy and, you know, the state of shock that Americans were in after 9/11 and the emergence of Rudy Giuliani as the savior—and, you know, people have so much regret about that. And in the book, I write about this as the state of regression that we go into when we’re frightened. And I think Henry Paulson has really been cast in this role as an economic Rudy Giuliani, saving the day, impartial, bipartisan, a strong leader.

I found this article in BusinessWeek that ran when Paulson was appointed to the Treasury, and I just want to read you one sentence, because I think it’s all we need to know about Henry Paulson. This is from BusinessWeek, when he got the appointment as Treasury Secretary in 2006. The headline of the article is “Mr. Risk Goes to Washington.” It says, “Think of Paulson as Mr. Risk. He’s one of the key architects of a more daring Wall Street, where securities firms are taking greater and greater chances in [their] pursuit of profits. By some key measures, the securities industry is more leveraged now than it was at the height of the 1990s boom.”

Then it goes on to say that when Paulson took over Goldman Sachs in 1999, they had $20 billion in debts. When he—in these high-risk gambles. When he left, they had $100 billion, which means he took their risk level from $20 billion to $100 billion. So it is absolutely no exaggeration to say that Henry Paulson, far from speaking for Main Street, is actually bailing out his colleagues for some of the very debts that he himself accumulated. This is an extraordinary conflict of interest.

Her original HuffPo piece is here.

Here website is here.

posted by Zentronix @ 7:31 AM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The Audacity Of Despair, Or Homeless Again
"The 90s may have spoiled us, b!"

That was the great Joan Morgan, in one of a million conversations this past weekend about the economy.

Things done changed since the Cristal-sipping days, back when artists routinely dropped a milli on their videos. But now all of the chickens have come home to roost.

In the late 90s, the dealings in Lower Manhattan partly help make the hip-hop bubble possible. People were making money off making money. And hip-hop made them look good. We made it so that even if you weren’t hip-hop, you could go down to Soho—yes, Soho—and buy in.

This past weekend, the one after our economy collapsed, it was clear on the hard cobblestone streets of Soho that our days of dancing for dollars were over. In just the past year, Phat Farm and Stussy's flagship stores have shuttered. Bape, Supreme, and Union's traffic are mostly European and Asian tourists. Even Clientele's clientele is thin these days. Adidas stays in the game by discounting its limited edition shoes and shifting most of its floor space to clothing.

What did they used to say? When America coughs, urban America is in the sickbed. America is long past coughing at this point.

Now the dealings in War-shington could define a whole new era, or lead us back to 1973.

On Sunday, as his old company Goldman Sachs looked like it was ready to leap off the precipice, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson went on the morning shows to propose himself as the Monarch of the Economy and to have Congress approve the idea by the end of the week.

When deregulation is your mantra, democracy—the people—cannot be trusted to regulate the market. So Paulson claimed decision-making power above the review of the court or other agencies—"greater powers (over the economy)," according to one finance industry insider, "than even the President enjoys."

When trickle-down is your economic theory, corporations are the only individuals worth rehabilitating. So Paulson proposed a Troubled Asset Relief Program—TARP, as its called—to use $700 billion or more of your money to purchase nearly worthless assets from some of the biggest corporate debt abusers.

There is a hip-hop analogy here: in the Bronx in the '70s, slumlords bought up apartment buildings, then hired arsonists to burn them down so that they could pocket the insurance money. Who was left homeless? Not the slumlords.

With the TARP in place, Paulson and his friends can leave their posts at the end of the year and return to a still-bottoming Wall Street that grazes on lucrative funds from War-shington as real folk continue to lose their homes. Critics call this process nationalizing the risk and debt while privatizing the profit.

Talk about the Audacity of Despair.

That’s why finance industry lobbyists are licking their chops over Paulson's proposal. Some news reports suggest that this particular bailout plan was sitting on the shelf for the right moment. Conspiracy theory, anyone?

Conspiracy or not, there are shades here of the Shock Doctrine—Naomi Klein's name for the strategy of free-marketeers and their governments to use catastrophes as opportunities to lay waste to countries while creating secure economic, social, and political Green Zones for the rich. What happens in Baghdad—and Santiago and Buenos Aires and Jakarta and…—eventually comes home to New York and War-shington.

Paulson's TARP proposal locks into place the same lack of accountability and transparency that came to define the Patriot Act, the Iraq War Resolution, pro-torture policy, and more for the entire funny-money economy.

And where was W. in all of this, our fair President? After speaking on the economy for short minutes this past weekend, he presumably retired to the West Wing to continue putting together his favorite things for his Presidential Library.

Yesterday, he sent Cheney out on his first Congressional mission since the Iraq War Resolution. He rewrote a speech to the UN yesterday to reassure the world.
Goodnight Bush, indeed.

I said it a while ago and I stand by it: W. is our generation's Herbert Hoover, the Republican president who led us into the Great Depression. We are now staring down into our own economic depths. The bankers want to make sure it won't be them leaping out of the buildings this time.

But if Paulson's deal is so good to Wall Street, why is the market still plunging? The spin is that markets are now reacting to instability in War-shington. There may be a better explanation.

Over the past decade, corporate hucksters sold a fantasy of pure profit, from Enron through Lehman—one that hip-hop all too often bought in our desire to identify with those large and in charge. But markets cannot function for long on a foundation of obscure financial instruments, accounting shell-games, and corporate lies.

The markets come back down to the people, and perhaps the people are now finding the word now to sum up their judgment.


posted by Zentronix @ 8:49 PM   6 comments links to this post

The Break/s TONIGHT!!!
Click on the image for the full 100...

Today and Thursday through Saturday at NYU's Skirball Center.

Get tickets here!

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

Monday, September 15, 2008
Marvin Gaye On The 2008 Elections
In 1972, Marvin Gaye was coming off breakthrough success with What's Going On. He moved to Los Angeles and turned his attention to the 1972 presidential election, which pitted Richard Nixon against George McGovern.

Nixon was trying to solidify what's become known as the "Southern Strategy", using racially coded language--crime, busing, welfare, radicalism--to mobilize a "Silent Majority" of white voters. McGovern, on the other hand, was depending on a coalition of anti-war progressives, young voters, and communities of color.

You can guess which side Marvin was on. His "You're The Man" single ripped into Nixon for his lies.

Nixon went on to crush McGovern in the general in one of the most lopsided victories in recent memory. The Southern Strategy's race-baiting politics is now one of the dominant electoral strategies in the country. It's so ingrained in the fabric of post-civil rights electoral politics, we take it for granted.

If you have any doubt that the U.S. is far from "post-racial", just check the latest mini-controversy prompted by Obama Waffles. The entrepreneurs behind these campaign products are so casually racist, it seems not much has changed among hard-line Republicans since 1972.

Many commentators have said that Obama's coalition has many similarities to the McGovern campaign. But there is a key difference. Demographics have shifted strongly away from Nixonland. The rise of young voters and communities of color have completely changed the landscape of politics. In this context, Sarah Palin is an anomaly. Time itself is not on the side of the aging Nixonland electorate. But what happens in November remains to be seen.

Gaye cut another song in 1972, this time with the brilliant, largely unsung Mizell Brothers, called "Where Are We Going?" This one was much less angry--it was more of a mountaintop view of a turbulent and crucial season.

It ought to become the theme song for this historic election as well.

Thanks to O-Dub for the tech assist.

posted by Zentronix @ 9:28 AM   5 comments links to this post

Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Lip Glossing :: The Silly Season Is In
The latest in the Lipstick "controversy"...

For those not following, yesterday on the stump Barack Obama made a comment referring to McCain's claims of being an agent of change.

"That's just calling something that's the same thing something different. You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig," he said, then paused for the line to sink in. "You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper and call it change. It's still going to stink, after eight years.

No truth, by the way, to the rumor that Obama's next line was, "When we start the revolution all they'll probably do is squeal." Too bad.

The line became the top news story in many markets around the country. Because Palin had made a joke about pitbulls, lipstick, and hockey moms, the question was: did Obama call Palin a pig?

This morning the Republicans released this web ad.

This morning, the lipstick crisis took Obama out of his game. He had planned to talk about education at a rally in Norfolk, Virginia. Instead, he had to address the McCain campaign:

"Enough. I don't care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and Swift Boat politics. Enough is enough."

We've got an energy crisis. We have an education system that is not working for too many of our children and making us less competitive. We have an economy that is creating hardship for families all across America. We've got two wars going on, veterans coming home not being cared for -- and this is what they want to talk about.

You know who ends up losing at the end of the day? It's not the Democratic candidate. It's not the Republican candidate. It's you, the American people. Because then we go another year, or another four years or another eight years without addressing the issues that matter to you."

Bring on the debates already.

posted by Zentronix @ 10:02 AM   0 comments links to this post

Sunday, September 07, 2008
Bigger Than Hip-Hop :: A Q+A With Kevin Powell
On Tuesday, New York voters will go to the polls in an important Democratic primary. 42 year-old, former Vibe writer Kevin Powell faces off against 74 year-old, 26-year veteran Congressman Edolphus Towns for one of Brooklyn's 3 House seats in Washington D.C.

It's one of the most closely watched races in the country, in no small part because of the contest's implications for generational change. There are echoes here of the Obama-McCain battle.

Powell calls himself a voice for change, and has hammered at Towns for backsliding on crucial issues like free trade, and for losing touch with his community. (Towns supported Rudy Giuliani for mayor in 1997 and barely won his last primary in 2004.) Yet Towns holds a major fundraising advantage, and has said that Brooklyn voters have no time for on-the-job training for Powell.

I recently had a chance to correspond with Powell on his candidacy and the meaning of the 2008 elections as he was jetting back from Obama's nomination speech in Denver. Here's what he had to say, uncut:

Q: A lot of attention has been focused on the presidential race this year. But how much do so-called "down-ticket" races such as yours mean to young urban voters?

A: My election is not actually a down ticket at all. It is a Democratic primary on Tuesday, September 9th in a majority Democratic city, which means that whoever wins my Congressional race, will be the next Congressperson for Brooklyn, NY's 10th Congressional district. Obviously I plan on winning.

Additionally, I have been a community organizer and political activist for the past 24 years, since I was a youth and student activist back in the 1980s. It is not just young Americans of all different backgrounds who need to become more politically aware, it is all Americans.

From back in the day to my campaign now, I cannot begin to tell you how many people, regardless of age and background, who do not understand electoral politics at all, be it the presidential election every four years, or local races like mine. In fact, I would argue that local races are far more important because they directly impact the day to day lives of our communities.

It is local electeds who determine what kind of money and resources flow back to our communities, what kinds of businesses and industries come, or don't come, what kinds of schools we have, and so on. So part of my mission as a leader in these times is very serious political education, not just getting folks to vote for me.

We've got to cease being a nation of hype. That is, we get hyped for a political candidate because she or he is younger, hipper, hip-hop, or something like that. And that is simply not good enough.

As I sat in that Denver stadium the other day listening to Barack Obama with those other 80,000 people, naturally I was very proud. But I also thought to myself I have been a part of incredible movements before, back in the 1980s when folks like Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan were moving millions of younger people. And there still has not been, for me, no single more incredible gathering than the Million Man March in 1995.

But we need movement in America now, a progressive and multicultural movement of people from Generations X and Y. Young people who understand hiphop and pop culture in general, technology including the various handheld devices and social networks, the history of America and the world on at least a basic level, contemporary issues on at least a basic level, and are able to relate to a range of people, because they are culturally multilingual.

My point in all of this is that this is so much bigger than me or Barack Obama. Because after I get elected and Barack Obama gets elected we are still going to have racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, religious intolerance, ignorance, poverty, a terrible healthcare system, wars everywhere, including in Iraq, a polluted environment, mediocre public schools, and so on.

So younger people, of all backgrounds need to do what some of us did back in the 1980s: Jesse Jackson and his campaigns for president were the spark for our activism, for our social awareness, but then we took upon ourselves to become full-fledged leaders because we began to understand voting was just a piece of the work that needed to be done.

And that is the case today, too. Young Berg, the new hip-hop artist, asked me recently when was this CHANGE Barack Obama is promising going to happen? My response was simple: When YOU become the change you want to see, when YOU make it happen, when YOU understand the leadership we are waiting for is US. That is the message we need to be putting out there very clearly to young America.

Q: In many ways, your candidacy has echoes of the presidential primary and general election contests, with your theme of "new leadership" pitted against your opponent's theme of "experience". What do you think really separates young hip-hop generation leaders from a previous generation of leaders?

A: I think there is an overemphasis on hip-hop, number one. Back in the 1980s there was a wave of us who were, without question, hip-hop heads. Myself, Sister Souljah, Ras Baraka, and many others who understood that just given the world we were a part of, that hip-hop had to be a part of the conversation.

For example, I came up as a graf writer and b-boy and could recite any and every hip-hop lyric of that era, and certainly dressed the part. But we NEVER referred to ourselves as hip-hop leaders, or hip-hop activists, or anything of the sort. This is a very new thing, and, to me, a very tired thing, just the way back in the 1970s people felt compelled to put the word SOUL on everything.

A leader is a leader, an activist is an activist, as long as she or he is doing the work.

But I do need to say we worked very tirelessly with hip-hop artists of that time, the leading ones, like Public Enemy, like KRS-One, like LL Cool J, like Heavy D, like Ice Cube, and many others because we understood, instinctively, that, as Souljah said twenty years ago, any movement that post-Civil Rights generations have MUST be mass marketed to the people.

Well, clearly hip-hop is the greatest mass marketing tool we've ever created. And obviously, now hip-hop America is multiple generations. There is no one hip-hop generation, so we need to stop saying that. I see that as I campaign every single day in Brooklyn: there are folks between the ages of 35 and nearly 50 who came of age with hip-hop, who are hip-hop heads, who know my work as a hip-hop head. Then there are the teenagers and 20-somethings, also hip-hop heads.

So one of the main things that separates us from the old guard is our natural ability to relate to wide age ranges of people in our community. On top of that, we know the different ways to communicate in the 21st century, which is why my campaign does not just knock on doors and pass our flyers. We also do mad e-blasts, we have myspace, facebook, and other social network pages, we do text messaging to handheld devices, we have a mixed cd produced by DJ Reborn and hosted by DJ Drama (who I have known since he was a pre-teen, and whose parents are both old school activists), and we do nonstop parties and media that appeals to young America, be they hip-hop or not.

The type of leadership I am representing is not interested solely in protest and marching and complaining of being a victim. Those days are over. I represent leadership that is about practical and proactive solutions.

For example, my 9th book is just coming out. It is called The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life. Every single contributor to the book, be it BET's Jeff Johnson, the actor Hill Harper, filmmaker Byron Hurt, or scholar Jelani Cobb, is of what we call the hip-hop era.

So as folks read the books of essays around spirituality, political awareness, redefining Black manhood away from sexism, violence, and misogyny, hip-hop culture vs. the hip-hop industry, mental wellness, physical health, and stopping violence against women and girls, they are getting these solutions in the language of us, of the 21st century.

We are tired of leadership that is simply about reports and studies and conferences where the same people show up again and again, say the same things over and over again, and we walk with nothing practical and life-affirming to give our communities. That is what makes us different.

Others talk about it. We make it happen. And that making it happen, now, is being translated into our taking over the leadership of communities once and for all. It is time, and we have no other choice.

Q: What has been the most inspiring moment in your campaign so far this season?

A: Every single day for the past 12 months we've been campaigning has been inspiring. I love people, all people, and I could not imagine doing anything else with my life other than being a public servant, of being an activist and advocate for the people.

This is why I quit journalism many years back. I am always going to be a writer. Always, but even my writing is simply a tool to get information out to the people, to spark dialogue, which is why I write essays more than anything else now.

You want an inspiring moment: last night we had a pre-Labor Day fundraiser in the heart of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Great crowd, music being blazed by my dude DJ CEO. I addressed the crowd briefly, to thank them. I thought I was done for the night.

A young man named Richard came up to me, quite serious and passionate, and said he wanted to know why I was really running for Congress, and asked if I could get back on the mic. He basically challenged me, at 1am in the morning, to talk to the people.

So we turned the music off, and for the next 90 minutes, at a club, we held an impromptu townhall meeting covering issues like education, the state of young America, violence, you name it. And as always, the people asking questions and making comments realized, as I guided the dialogue and answered questions, that the solutions are right in front of us.

But it is only when we realize our individual and collective power that things will change in America, and on this planet. Erica Perkins, my Campaign Manager, and I left that club like WOW. This is what this work is about.

Wherever people want to think and talk, you give them that space to do their thing. And Richard, as I said to him over and over again from the stage, is a leader. That is what this is about, that is what inspires me. To get as many people as possible to know that self-empowerment and community empowerment is the route we must take. Anything less means we will forever see ourselves as powerless victims.

So folks walked away from the party last night ready to do, as you better believe I steered the conversation toward DOING. Great to talk, pontificate, theorize, all of that. But we need action, now, more than ever. That is what inspires me about this campaign, about Barack's campaign: all the multitudes who are stepping up to do something. But it has to continue, as I said, beyond voting, it has to become a movement for change nationwide.

posted by Zentronix @ 1:35 PM   15 comments links to this post

Friday, September 05, 2008 :: Day 4: The C-Word
John McCain walked onstage at 9:11pm, to chants of "USA! USA!"

Outside, 400 more were being arrested as National Guard guarded the entrance to the Xcel Center, bringing the total to 818 for the week, a count smaller than only the 2004 Republican Convention held in New York City.

Eleven minutes into McCain's speech, two protesters from Code Pink--sitting behind stage left near the nowhere that networks MSNBC and Al-Jazeera had been assigned to--began shouting "U.S. Out Of Iraq!" The crowd at the Xcel Center interrupted McCain's speech again with more cries of "USA!"

And then it was all McCain's stage.

He didn't try to match the fervor of VP nominee Sarah Palin's address the evening before. Instead he tried to portray himself as an experienced, determined fighter and above all, a break from the recent Republican past.

He spoke sometimes as if he wished the Bush II administration had never happened. He pointed the finger at corruption, big government, oil companies. "We lost [people's] trust when we valued our power over our principles," he said.

He received one of the biggest cheers of the night when he said, "We're going to recover the people's trust by standing up again for the values Americans admire. The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan is going to get back to basics."

But he also reached out to new constituencies, "the Latina daughter of migrant workers", urban children in failing schools. He even proposed bridge pay and job retraining for unemployed workers, a proposal that labor and Democrats began making during the Reagan/Bush I years.

Still, his major domestic initiative, what he called "the most ambitious national project in decades", was an energy plan that depended most of all on new oil drilling. Wednesday night, Sarah Palin offered her own semi-pristine Alaskan North Slope wilderness as a place to start as Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele, the only elected African American to address the RNC, coined a new phrase: "Drill, baby, drill!"

This is hardly seems the kind of domestic agenda that can reinvigorate a new Republican Party. This year, less than 2% of the Republican delegates were African American, less than 5% were Hispanic, and the count of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders not from Hawai'i was negligible.

Throughout the week, black and brown Republicans spoke about how frustrated they were to see the party going backward in time. Efforts to bring communities of color into the party, after all, had been a major initiative of Karl Rove and RNC Chair (and former Harvard Law classmate of Obama) Ken Mehlman. In 2004, 44% of Hispanics and 11% of African Americans voted for Dubya.

Yet since the retirement of J.C. Watts, the Republicans have had no prominent national elected African American. Their delegate total this year is the lowest in 40 years.

And although McCain has been well-respected in the Hispanic community for his stance on immigration reform, over two-thirds are expected to vote for Obama.

Michael Steele--who had won the support of Russell Simmons in his failed 2006 bid for the Senate--was candid in interviews this week. The lack of outreach is a recipe for disaster.

Ask the 20-year old white mayor of Muskogee, Oklahoma, John Hammons--where Hammons says, per Merle Haggard, they still fly the American flag and respect the college dean.

He was 13 when 9/11 happened, and it became one of the formative events of his young life. But he calls himself not a "neoconservative" but a "new conservative", distinguishing himself from older culture-war Republicans.

His generation, he says, views the nation and the world differently. He says his best friends are Vietnamese and Dominican, Buddhist and non-Christian. His town is now only 61% white. And as a young person, he too has been moved by the historic nature of Obama's candidacy, even though he's a solid McCain Republican.

"We're letting go of some of those irrational fears that we have," he says. "When you do something from fear, you regret it."

John McCain asked the Xcel Center crowd to stand up and fight with him. He flipped an Obama line like jiujitsu, saying, "Let me offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do nothing, me-first country-second Warshington crowd: change is coming."

But in the Grand Ole Party, it may be that change is not coming fast enough.

posted by Zentronix @ 7:22 AM   2 comments links to this post

Wednesday, September 03, 2008 :: Day 3: Red Meat
Props where they're due: Sarah Palin came in with expectations lower than a bug, and delivered like a ninja.

Her mission: set herself up as the mother-next-door, then lance Barack Obama as an uptown liberal.

Boom boom.

She trotted out her son Track, who is about to deploy to Iraq. Her daughters (with no appearance from Bristol's baby daddy). Her part Yup'ik Eskimo husband, the world champion snow machine racer. Even her infant with Downs Syndrome.

Before a crowd in which the only hand-painted signs either read "Palin Power" or "Hockey Moms 4 Palin", she retold her single hockey mom/pit bull joke. The Michigan delegation, outfitted in hockey jerseys for the occasion, went craaazy.

Then she started it up. She tossed the red meat again, following the path of her warm-up, the king of the parade of the also-rans featuring Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee—Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani suggested Obama didn’t think Palin's hometown Wasilla was "cosmopolitan enough". (Obama has never said anything of the sort.) But Palin evoked old-school red-baiting: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer', except that you have actual responsibilities."

(Ain't it funny how the meaning of 'red' has changed?)

Giuliani called Obama out of touch. Palin said, "In small towns, we don't quote know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening. We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco."

She raised the experience issue. "Listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform—not even in the state senate."

The partisan crowd—which even at its most alive seemed straining to fill the arena—roared like a kennel of red nose pits.

They had chanted "Sarah" all night. For Obama, they chanted "Zero".

Palin even dissed Obama's "Styrofoam Greek columns" and all but dismissed his supporters as brainwashed followers.

"In politics," she said, "there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those who, like John McCain, use their careers to promote change."

Palin came off like Tina Fey beyond her most Hillaryest, delivering her punch lines like a savvy fighter. All this after a week in which Republicans had set expectations so low by giving the press over to her daughter's baby troubles, that Palin could hit it off a tee and get on base. She stepped up and blasted it over the next block.

And yet if this were actually a battle cypher, let it be noted Palin got through round one with a pocket full of writtens.

It's hardly clear how Palin will do on October 2nd at Washington University when she is separated from her teleprompters and facing off against Joe Biden, who has years of debates under his belt.

All that is certain is that the next two months will be no friendly game of baseball.

posted by Zentronix @ 9:42 PM   6 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 02, 2008 :: Day 2: Once Again It's On
Day 2 of the Republican convention came off with a frenzy of activity in the Xcel Center to get back up to speed after Hurricane Gustav rained on the parade. Scheduling wasn't clear for much of the day. Delegates and media struggled to figure out what was up.

By showtime tonight, seats in the Center were still empty, even for a night-capping speech by Joe Lieberman that seemed repurposed from his short-lived glory days as Al Gore's second fiddle, history repeating as parody. If his career ended tomorrow it would still be too soon.

The shortened convention may serve as an official explanation, but certainly this was the smallest role a sitting president has ever been given in recent memory. President Bush II--beamed in via satellite from a safe distance in the White House--seemed overshadowed even by the presence of his father and mother. The big chill between McCain and Dubya will go down in history as colder than even the arctic cool that blew between Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 2000.

Meanwhile, those on Cheney watch got stinking drunk for yet another night. They could be in the hospital with alcohol poisoning by Thursday.

Outside, there was a light rain all day, accompanied by purple clouds of tear gas. What looked like mere police incompetence and bullying on Monday--when added up with actions both over the weekend and through today--now looks like a pattern of suppression.

Convergence centers were raided, continuing a daily operation that began last Friday before the convention. The Ripple Effect concert was shut down early, before Rage Against The Machine was able to make an unannounced performance. Crowds trying to leave were barricaded.

A peaceful Poor People's March turned ugly when pedestrians and protestors alike were pepper-sprayed. Even trad media cameramen and reporters were badgered by horse-riding cops.

Long after the protests ended this evening, innocent bicyclists in downtown Minneapolis were still being stopped randomly by police--brought in from as far away as Philadelphia. (And we already told you how much folks love bikes in this town.)

Sample line of questioning:

Are you anarchists?

Uh, no sir, we're heading to The Wedge to buy some locally-grown organic lettuce.

Perhaps the most fun to be had today was at the Ron Paul rally, where the speaker list ranged from the entertaining (Jesse Ventura) to the abhorrent (Grover Norquist). Attracting over 10,000 committed libertarians and confused liberals, the day-long Rally for the Republic was like a rock show without the rock. Paul even speaks like Underdog. Ventura, in the Hulk role, announced interest in running in 4 years. Paul-Ventura, 2012? There's no need to fear.

Tomorrow, Governor Sarah Palin should draw a full house for her time in the spotlight, family, future son-in-law and all. Another anti-war march is planned. Will that lettuce still be on the shelf?

posted by Zentronix @ 11:20 PM   0 comments links to this post

B+'s Photos Of The DNC
Don't miss these galleries at that chronicle last week's events through the eyes of the brilliant B+.

posted by Zentronix @ 9:50 PM   0 comments links to this post :: Day 1: Music And Teargas
Yesterday, as Atmosphere stepped onstage at Harriet Island to rock a crowd of 10,000--Slug sporting a fashionable "Obama '08" shirt--riot police just across the Mississippi were firing tear-gas cannisters and preventing hundreds more from crossing the bridge to get to the show.

Earlier that day, 20,000 had marched through the concrete canyons of St. Paul, carrying signs like "To Work Hard and Overtime, It Is Not A Crime: Immigration Reform First 100 Days", "School Is For Learning, Not For Recruiting", and "Heck Of A Job, Bushy". Encompassing anti-war, pro-immigrant, and anti-Bush groups, the march was larger than anything seen in Denver, more diverse and celebratory.

A marching band played near a giant inflated globe. In front of the St. Paul Children's Museum, little girls stared at the horses the riot cops sat on.

By 2pm, the main demonstration dissipated. The family marchers left across the bridge to Harriet Island for the SEIU concert and rally, and the day-long skirmishes between the anarchists and police intensified. A few hours later, unsuspecting stragglers to the concert found themselves caught in a militarized zone.

Black-bandanna'd anarchists hurled rocks, bricks, and trash at the black-suited riot police. Riot police fired rubber bullets back. Some who wanted an afternoon of music in the park were left bloodied and angry.

Hundreds of arrests later, the concert on the Minneapolis side of the river ended. As the show attendees walked back into St. Paul across the Robert Street bridge, at the request of Hennepin County police, squadrons of riot police arrived to block them. It was as if, unleashed and having drawn blood, they couldn't wait to get more.

This was the news on a day the Republican Convention suspended most of its business and focused on Hurricane Gustav.

Cindy McCain and Laura Bush urged the delegates gathered in the otherwise strikingly empty Xcel Center to donate to the victims of Gustav. Hoping not to be outpositioned, Obama--perhaps the first candidate in recent memory not to receive a convention poll bounce, even after delivering a keynote that clocked Super Bowl ratings--cell-spammed supporters with a text message asking them to give $5 to the Red Cross, and to "Please fwd."

At the demonstration, one marcher had held a sign on which he drew the southern part of the U.S., added a big hurricane symbol, and inscribed "Republicans: There When It Benefits Them." By the end of this unusual day, though, the irony had become meta: Republicans seemed to be stacking benefits like chips.

posted by Zentronix @ 8:03 AM   0 comments links to this post

On :: Randy Newman's "Korean Parents"
Here's my piece on Randy Newman's "Korean Parents" and his new album, Harps & Angels. A teaser...

Post-racial may be the new black, but race humor is as perilous as it ever was. This summer, satirists—from second-time offender Don Imus to The New Yorker's Barry Blitt—have found being funny on race hard to do. The latest entertainer to step into this spotlight is Randy Newman, whose new album, Harps and Angels, includes an uproarious song titled "Korean Parents."

The song will probably not prompt boycotts the way Ice Cube's "Black Korea" did months before the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Nor will it lead to confrontations with activists like those that Sarah Silverman faced in 2000 after telling Conan O'Brien that her friend advised her to avoid jury duty by writing, "I hate Chinks" on her form. She told O'Brien that she wrote, "I love Chinks! And who doesn't?" If the race dialogue in this country—such as it is—has moved from culture-war rancor to lame meta-satire, perhaps that's progress. But Newman, with "Korean Parents," offers a more enjoyable way forward.

He has always shown a particular fondness for picking at the scabs left by America's ongoing racial unease. Against the backdrop of Nixonland backlash, he devised a carny for 1972's "Sail Away" who pitched slaves on a free ride across the Middle Passage. "In America you'll get food to eat, won't have to run through the jungle and scuff up your feet," the carny sang. "It's great to be an American."

Read it all here...

posted by Zentronix @ 7:50 AM   0 comments links to this post


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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
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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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