Thursday, July 29, 2004

The Cos' strikes out at the hip hop industry

Taken from the Washington Post

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - Bill Cosby defended his controversial comments on blacks, adding that the music industry is "glorifying the wrong things" as he spoke about parenting and children at a college conference.

Cosby, 67, made headlines in May when he criticized some blacks for their grammar and accused them of squandering opportunities the civil rights movement gave them. Then earlier this month, Cosby said blacks should not blame whites for their problems and urged them to re-examine their own lives.

"I'm going to keep on saying what I've been saying," he said Wednesday, speaking to a group representing 118 historically black colleges and universities nationwide, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

On Wednesday, he said the music industry glorifies music that demeans women, praises life in jail and uses profanity.

He said college educators should prepare students to help poor blacks from backgrounds of violence and single-mother households.

Instead of joining the Peace Corps and going to Africa, "go across the street into the projects. These are people who need to see another picture, a brighter picture," he said.

Get the Black Eyed Peas Elephunk at Amazon!

It was great to see the Black Eyed Peas perform at the Democratic National Convention last night, right after John Edwards speech. They just really kept the energy, momentum and excitement going after John Edwards speech.

I noticed that CBS switched to a commercial, which to me was dissin' them basically. But, it was all on CSPAN, which was all good. Snubbed by the Republican Party so busy trying to ram "traditional values" down peoples throats, Hip Hop has found a home with the Democratic Party. I don't expect to see Big Boi or G-Unit performing at the Republican National Convention this year, at least.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Interesting rundown of past Bad Boy artists I picked off the BET Message Board

In the latest Vibe magazine, Diddy's talk about the rebuilding of Bad Boy and taking his label to the next era. He is the state the artists on the label:

112 - Moved to Island Def Soul
Faith Evans - Moved to Capitol Records, but album has halted due to drug conviction
Craig Mack - rejoined Bad Boy in 2002, but no longer with the label?
Lox - with Ruff Ryders/Interscope and focusing on their own label D-Block
Mase - has returned (new album August 24th)
Total - split after their 2nd release (Keisha motherhood & marriage to Omar Epps)
G.Dep - put on hold (dealing with personal issues)
Black Rob - incarcerated
Dream - album put back
Carl Thomas - recently put out album
Mario Winans - recently release solo album
8Ball & MJG - signed with the label and recently released an album (which is HOT!)
New Edition - signed to the label, album due in September
Heavy D. - has just signed and album due end of the year
Loon - album flopped, working on a new album
Cheri Dennis - album due this autumn - has joint out called 'Freak' (featuring Babs)
Ness & Babs (from Da Band) - working on albums, Ness has joint out called 'My Hood'
Chopper - signed to Bad Boy South, but if album is wack will be dropped.
Hoodfellaz - dropped, LOL!
Other Artists: Thelma, B-5, Shannon & Mark Curry

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Latest: Rappers In Trouble with the Law

Give Ja a break, buy his CD at Amazon!

I guess being in trouble with the law is some kind of prerequisite for hardcore gangsta rappers. I guess stuff happens, but its funny how much attention stories like the case of Ja Rule and C Murder make the news more than their artistic acheivements do.

Both artists stand on the sidelines of hip hop's current success. C-Murder was part of the whole No Limit bandwagon in the late 90's and Ja Rule had his success in 2000 and 2001, and is now a victim of the whole beef with 50 Cent. I've seen an advertisment for Ja's new album, heard his impressive new song on the radio, but will these legal troubles be part of Ja's struggle to stay relevant in the pop hip hop world and give him the same amount of success in a rap world dominated by Ja Rule haters? Im looking forward to the new album. C-Murder is another case. His is more drastic. Unless he collaborates with Lil Romeo, I can't see him getting out of his slump. I didn't like him when No Limit was hot, and I don't really care for him now.

On the political front, if Bush loses the election coming up, I sure am going to miss funny stuff like this!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Note: In the attempt to highlight issues and create a form of documentation, and because my life is very busy right now, I will be doing a bunch of cut and pasting.

Something I got from Multichannel News

Lifetime Poll: Bush, Kerry Not Reaching Women

-- Multichannel News, 7/21/2004 3:10:00 PM

A Lifetime Television and Rock the Vote poll released Wednesday found that neither presidential candidate is connecting with women, especially young women.The network said neither President George W. Bush nor Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has spent enough time discussing issues that are important to women, such as prevention of violence and sexual assault, women’s health, access to child care and equal pay.

Among the poll’s findings, only 16% of women 18-34 said Bush understands women like them very or extremely well, while 12% said Kerry does.More than one-half (51%) of women said Bush understands them not too well or not at all, while approximately 39% said Kerry understands them not too well or not at all.Of undecided women, fewer than 10% said Bush or Kerry understands women like them very or extremely well.“What this poll suggests is that there is an enormous opportunity for the presidential candidates to reach a critical bloc of voters, American women, whose decisions can and should play a decisive role in determining the next president of the United States,” Lifetime Entertainment Services executive vice president of public affairs Meredith Wagner said in a prepared statement.

“We are dedicated to encouraging women that they can and will make a difference as both voters and candidates,” she added.The results were taken from a telephone survey conducted July 8-12 by Caravan Opinion Research Corp. of 2,042 adults --1,014 men and 1,028 women 18 and older, living in private households in the continental United States. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for results among all women.

Something I got from Yahoo! News:

Two Protest Groups Clash Near DNC Center

By THEO EMERY, Associated Press Writer

BOSTON - As delegates arrived for the Democratic National Convention, protesters clamored for attention, staging demonstrations and marches across the city against the Iraq war, abortion and a host of other issues.

An estimated 3,000 demonstrators, most of them protesting against the war, rallied on Boston Common on Sunday before winding their way through the city and marching past the FleetCenter, the downtown arena where delegates are nominating hometown candidate John Kerry (news - web sites) for president this week. They were accompanied by a ragtag group demonstrating against everything from oppression in Haiti to better funding for schools and health care.

The protesters passed the FleetCenter before looping back through City Hall Plaza and returning to the Common — a 50-acre park that is the starting point for the Freedom Trail and was once used for public hangings.

"This is just the beginning of a week of protests," said Larry Holmes, spokesman for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, the coalition of activist groups that staged the march.

At Faneuil Hall, the historic meeting house where patriots gathered before the American Revolution, an estimated 1,000 anti-abortion protesters staged a rally before a smaller group set off on their own march toward the FleetCenter.
A brief scuffle broke out on the Common between some of the peace demonstrators and a man carrying a graphic anti-abortion sign. Witnesses said the man was pushed to the ground and his shirt was torn, but he was unhurt.

The anti-war and anti-abortion groups crossed paths again a few blocks from the FleetCenter and exchanged angry words. A handful of anti-abortion marchers lay in the street in the fetal position as their fellow protesters drew chalk outlines around them. Police moved them along, and the marches continued their separate ways after a few moments of confusion.

Authorities took two people into custody. One was later released without charges.
State police in riot gear lined Beacon Street during the anti-war march. A half-dozen cruisers and 18 police vans followed slowly along the parade route. Representatives of the National Lawyers Guild and other civil libertarians accompanied the march, wearing hats reading "legal observer."

The crowd ranged from teenagers to war veterans. They carried flags, banners and signs reading, "Bring the troops home now," "Health care, not warfare," and "Veterans for Peace."

Some protesters criticized the Bush administration and the decision to go to war in Iraq.

"How dare we go into another country and tell them how to run it, how to make it better when we cannot even better our own government?" said Christina Densmore, 31, of Springfield, Mass. "Our own people are dying."

Others took issue with both Republicans and Democrats. Fernando Suarez Del Solar, 48, said his son, Jesus, 20, was a lance corporal who became the first Marine killed in the Iraq war, seven days after the U.S.-led invasion began.

"Mr. Bush lies," said Del Solar, of Escondido, Calif. As for the Democrat, he said, "Mr. Kerry is very confused. On one side, he says the war is wrong. On the other side, he says we need more boys in Iraq."
Associated Press writer Ken Maguire in Boston contributed to this report.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Freestyle, the movie opened 7/16/2004

The following taken from NY Times:
Tryin' to Seize the Joys of Hip-Hop's M.C.'s

"Freestyle," a short, scrappy documentary by DJ Organic (a k a Kevin Fitzgerald), is a celebration of the verbal artistry of hip-hop. It is not about the images of gangstas and playas that pervade rap videos, nor yet about the controversies that these images have provoked, but rather about the vertiginous, improvisatory pleasure of rhyming.

The M.C.'s the movie discovers are, for the most part, not big stars. Mos Def, the wry, high-cheekboned Brooklyn rapper who has lately shown himself to be a gifted stage and screen actor, appears to drop a few lyrics, and there are a few bittersweet clips of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. But the movie does not wallow in glamour or chase after fame, and it is concerned as much with criticism as with sociology.

A series of brief chapters, each one signaled by a flourish of old-school grafitti, explores the theory, practice and history of freestyling, in which M.C.'s, in collaboration or in competition, extemporize lyrics to minimal musical accompaniment. Archival images link the practice to the sermons of the black church, jazz musicians like John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk and the politicized proto-rap of the Last Poets, the legendary Harlem spoken-word collective of the 1960's.
Another obvious precursor is the a capella street corner harmonizing that flourished in American cities in the postwar decades. The rappers huddled in circles — called cyphers — resemble the doo-wop groups of those days. The sound is different, but the creative impulse is clearly the same.

While DJ Organic's subjects pay respect to rappers who write out their lyrics beforehand, they hold a special regard for those who demonstrate the ability to compose "off the dome," spinning out complex webs of verbiage as the inspiration strikes. A Chicago rapper called Juice brags that he has often been accused of composing his lyrics, which are as intricate as they are flawless. One of the stories woven into "Freestyle" involves Juice's rivalry with MC Supernatural, a revered freestyler whose growling and ranting on the microphone belies a gentle, thoughtful everyday demeanor.

Their competition is played out on a nightclub stage in one of the film's many battle scenes. Battles — the back and forth put-down contests that were central to the plot of "8 Mile" — are joyful, ferocious events where freestylers earn their reputations and test their skills.

The skills on display in "Freestyle" are too varied and idiosyncratic for one movie to contain, but this one at least offers a heady, rousing education in an art form that is too often misunderstood.


The Art of Rhyme
Directed by Kevin Fitzgerald a k a DJ Organic; director of photography, Todd Hickey; edited by Paul Devlin; music by Darkleaf, DJ Organic and Omid; produced by Henry Alex Rubin; released by the Center for Hip-Hop Education. At the Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street, Greenwich Village. Running time: 74 minutes. This film is not rated.
WITH: Mos Def, Black Thought, Jurassic-5, Pharohe Monche, the Last Poets, Supernatural, Juice, Craig-G, Wordsworth, Living Legends, Freestyle Fellowship, Medusa, Lord Finesse, Planet Asia, Bahamadia, Questlove, Boots Riley, Otherwise, Divine Styler and Akim Funk Buddha.

Check out the Organic Films website
Check out the article in Village Voice
Check out Rotten Tomatoes for showtimes in your area.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

P Diddy's Doing it!

P Diddy launches voter drive from Yahoo News:

P. Diddy Launches Black, Youth Voter Drive

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Music and fashion mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs has made a fortune selling records and T-shirts but now he's found a new thing to market: voter turnout in the upcoming presidential election.

The creator of Bad Boy Entertainment and Sean John clothing on Tuesday launched Citizen Change -- a campaign he hopes will attract a record number of minority and young voters to the polls on Nov. 2.

"The forgotten ones will ultimately decide who the next president is," Combs said. "According to the latest polls, Bush and Kerry are neck and neck. We will make the difference. We will be the deciding factor."

Combs said his target audience, the nation's 42 million 18- to 30-year-olds and minorities, has the power to decide the outcome of the race between Republican President Bush and his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

His campaign will include a line of "Vote or Die" T-shirts, an album, a voter registration push in cities and campuses nationwide, and television commercials on outlets like MTV and Black Entertainment Television.

Combs declined to say how much the effort would cost, but said, "It's a lot more than I thought."

Bush won the 2000 election after gaining a slim majority of electoral college votes, even though Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote. Civil rights leaders have complained that many blacks in places like Florida, where the vote was contested, were disenfranchised -- something they say tipped the election to Bush.

Black voters typically support Democratic candidates but minority groups and especially young voters vote in lower numbers than other groups.

Combs said his was a nonpartisan effort but many advisers are Democrats, including political guru James Carville, a key strategist for former President Bill Clinton.

Also check out: P Diddy launches voter intiative on BET

P Diddy meets with Young Republicans

P Diddy electrifies conventioneers.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Freedom Deferred
fayemi shakur

Taken from All Hip Hop.

Up until now, Bill O'Reilly's anti-hip hop antics have been so unfoundedly ridiculous we've learned to ignore him. From his personal vendetta against Ludacris to attacks on what he calls gangsta rap, Bill finds new ways to criticize hip hop music. But, on a recent show that aired July 14, he went too far.

Bill O Reilly

Attempting to discredit Jadakiss for lyrics criticizing Bush on the single "Why" from the highly anticipated new album, Kiss of Death, I watched as Bill began a new attack on hip hop. During the segment, Bill encouraged viewers to dump the stock, Vivendi, responsible for putting out Jada's records citing the stock had already begun its decline. Hip hop fans everywhere should be outraged by such blatant attacks on freedom of speech. Why? Well, think about how these attacks started. Bill began by pointing out portrayals of violence and misogyny in the music, something many believe is problematic. Bill even had an "O.G." on the show recently who claimed to be a former gang member to co-sign his complaints. How many gang members with influence and authority would go on the Bill O'Reilly show like that? Bill even claimed the guy had "street credibility." It's laughable just to hear Bill try to make that determination. No disrespect to the dude, but Bill used him like a pawn.


The real problem is censorship and freedom of expression. Once we allow others to say what is and is not acceptable, they believe they have the authority to define what the restrictions should be. The man is even against the ACLU, one of the nation's oldest and most respected agencies that protect civil rights.

I know I'm not the only one to see what's happening here.

A good point of reference and discussion:

The Patriot Act, devised to keep America safe from terrorists in a post 9/11 world was largely ignored by far too many. Careful study of the document though reveals how the Act actually limits constitutional rights of Americans not some distant predators. Particularly activists in this country are threatened as many of them can be labeled as "domestic terrorists" under the law. Could you imagine being place under surveillance for speaking out publicly about government policies? Sounds like Iraq, doesn't it?

Similarly, politically and socially conscious hip hoppers too must be supported and shielded from these attacks on constitutional rights that provide so many freedoms. Our right to free speech is more valuable than many may realize but could be in danger if we don't recognize policies designed to limit our freedoms. (Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11 is another good reference for further discussion and research.)

We need to support artists who take a stand to articulate their feelings about the political state of this society. Failing to do so puts at risk loss of power through the voice of hip hop music and could further water down its content. I say we SHOULD boycott record labels and companies that do not reflect more creative diversity in their rosters. However, signing AND properly marketing artists that take risks and display creativity and true care for the direction our generation is taking would be a good start towards change. I could give a damn what stock people dump. This won't hurt Jadakiss. A label would be foolish to dump him and if they did another one would be right there to pick him up and offer even more money...because record company people are people watch your back 'cause I think they smoke crack, I don't doubt it. Look at how they act...(Q-Tip)

Sorry, that was a flashback from the good ol days.

Sometimes it seems hard to defend hip hop at times and then Bill gives us good reason. Commercial music promoted today is mostly violent and degrading to women, afterall, WE LIVE IN A VIOLENT SOCIETY THAT HAS NO RESPECT FOR WOMEN! (Videos aside, see also the initial omission of Hillary Clinton as a speaker from the Democratic National Convention.)

Why should hip hop be a scapegoat for societal issues? A recent Harvard study even revealed movie ratings are more lenient than ever in accessing violence, sex, and offensive language content. If Bill O'Reilly is really concerned about these issues then he should broaden his scope. Does he go after MTV or movie making production houses the same vengance he has against hip hop? Why not devise a personal vendetta against Arnold Schwarzenegger? Surely over the years he contributed to protrayals of violence in our society. Now he's Governor of California. wow.

We should start a boycott...against FOX, (for its biased media reporting) ClearChannel (for violating free speech), Fleet Bank-now Bank of America- & Aetna US Healthcare (for accepting profits made from the slave trade), Viacom (for promoting images that degrade women and society). I could go on but that will do. Now is a great time to turn off the TV and radio and find ways to be more productive. Catch up on some good reading, check out a museum, or help register your neighbors to vote.

Last time I checked, Jada was number 4 on the Billboard Charts. Therefore, WE determine the order and disorder of our generation.

November 2nd will be here before we know it, as many join the campaign to get Bush out of office. Its time for some political and social maturity. Time to shift our focus from CDs to guarantees for our future. Thinking about the strength in our numbers and the potential for us to make a political impact in this election and the future, Bill O'Reilly can go back to being a non-issue.

P.S. For a journalist, Bill, you sure do a poor job. You should give yourself a more deserving title like Media Advisor to the President.

fayemi shakur is a political and cultural critic/writer & served as a senior producer of the National Hip Hop Political Convention held last June.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Buy "The Tipping Point" from the Roots!
Reviews from MSNBC.COM,IGN.COM,and Z Bone Man!

The New American Apartheid Part 2 of 4Race and the Drug Warby Randall Shelden and William Brown

Taken from: The Black Commentator

There is now little doubt that there is a close correlation between the "war on drugs" (and on "gangs") and the growth of the prison industrial complex. This "war" was officially launched by President Reagan in the mid-1980s when he promised that the police would attack the drug problem "with more ferocity than ever before." What he did not say, however, was that the enforcement of the new drug laws "would focus almost exclusively on low-level dealers in minority neighborhoods." Indeed, the police found such dealers in these areas mainly because that is precisely where they looked for them, rather than, say, on college campuses. The results were immediate: the arrest rates for blacks on drug charges shot dramatically upward in the late 1980s and well into the 1990s. In fact, while blacks constitute only around 12% of the U.S. population and about 13% of all monthly drug users (and their rate of illegal drug use is roughly the same as for whites), they represent 35 percent of those arrested for drug possession and 74% of those sentenced to prison on drug charges.

The evidence of racial disproportionality in the drug war is overwhelming. For instance, arrest rates for minorities went from under 600 per 100,000 in 1980 to over 1500 in 1990, while for whites they essentially remained the same. As far as prison sentences go, studies of individual states are telling. For instance, in North Carolina between 1980 and 1990, the rate of admissions to prison for nonwhites jumped from around 500 per 100,000 to almost 1,000, while in Pennsylvania, nonwhite males and females sentenced on drug offenses increase by 1613% and 1750% respectively; in Virginia the percentage of commitments for drug offenses for minorities went from just under 40 in 1983 to about 65 in 1989, while for whites the percentage actually decreased from just over 60 percent in 1983 to about 30 percent in 1989.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number and percentage of blacks who are incarcerated in America's prisons, amply documented in numerous sources. Drug convictions accounted for almost half (47.5%) of the total prison growth between 1995 and 2001 in the federal system. One recent estimate is that convictions for drugs accounted for almost one-half of the increase in state prison inmates during the 1980s and early 1990s. According to the latest federal prison figures (year-end 2002), drugs accounted for 55 percent of all offenders.One might assume that this is largely a result of the “unintended consequences” of the ongoing drug war in American society.

On the other hand, given the fact the drug war has been ongoing since at least the early 1980s, we are concerned that the reason for the increase in the number of blacks incarcerated is more sinister than simply the result of a failing drug war, and questionable racist laws (e.g., crack cocaine v. powder cocaine). It may be plausible to argue that the “war on drugs” (and the “war on gangs”) has actually been a “success” if the aim was to control the surplus population, especially blacks. We are suggesting that this apparent onslaught may actually be attributed to institutional segregation or apartheid practices. The “war on drugs” began to have its effects on jail and prison populations by the late 1980s and early 1990s. Data on court commitments to state prisons during the 1980s and early 1990s clearly show the dramatic changes for drug offenses. Between 1980 and 1992 sentences on drug charges increased by more than 1000 percent! In contrast, there was a more modest increase of 51 percent for violent offenses. Race played a key role in these increases, especially during the late 1980s and early 1990s as the number of blacks sentenced to prison for drug charges increased by over 90 percent, almost three times greater than white offenders.

Between 1985 and 1995 the number of black prisoners who had been sentenced for drug crimes increased by 700%. Not only were more blacks sentenced for drug crimes, but the severity of their sentences increased compared to whites. In 1992, in the federal system, the average sentence length for black drug offenders was about 107 months, compared to 74 months for white drug offenders. There has been a huge discrepancy when comparing powder and crack cocaine sentences in the federal system. In 1995, for instance, blacks constituted a phenomenal 88 percent of those sentenced for crack cocaine, compared to less than 30 percent of those sentenced for powder cocaine.Sentencing in the federal system for drug offenses shows some startling changes during the past half century.

Between 1945 and 1995, the proportion of those going to prison for all offenses rose from 47 percent to 69 percent, compared to a decrease of those granted probation (from 40% to 24%), while the average sentence has risen by over 300 percent. The changes in the sentences for drug law violations are most dramatic. Whereas, in 1945 the percentage of drug offenders going to prison was high enough at 73 percent, by 1995 fully 90 percent were going to prison! And the average sentence for drug cases went from only 22 months in 1945 to almost 90 months in 1995, an increase of 300 percent! Finally, while in 1980 the most serious offense for those admitted to federal prison was a violent crime in about 13 percent of the cases and a drug offense in just over one-fourth of the cases, by 1992 in almost half of the cases (48.8%) the most serious offense was drugs, compared to a violent crime in less than eight percent of the cases.

In the meantime, the average maximum sentence declined for violent crimes (from 125 months to 88 months) and almost doubled for drug offenses (from 47 months to 82 months). The most recent data show that in 2002 over half (55%) of all federal prisoners are serving time for drug offenses, compared to only 16 percent in 1970 (a 244% increase between 1970 and 2002) and 25 percent in 1980; of all black males in the federal prison system 60 percent are in for drug offenses, compared to 51 percent of white males; blacks currently constitute 46% of all drug offenders in the federal system. It is interesting to note that the proportion of both white and black females in federal prison for drug offenses is about the same – 67% of white women and 65% of black women are in for drugs.Although somewhat dated, one of the most recent sources of data on court cases comes from a U.S. Department of Justice report which examined felony defendants in the largest 75 counties in 1994. Here we can see the effects of the “war on drugs” and its impact on the nation's court system; we also can clearly see the effects of race. The most serious charge in just over one-third (34.6%) of the cases was a drug offense, with non-trafficking drug offenses being the most common (58% of all drug charges), followed closely by a property crime (31.1%), with about one-fourth (25.7%) being violent offenses, mostly assaults (constituting 45% of all the violent crimes). During fiscal year 2001, there were 24,299 drug offenders sentenced in U.S. District Courts. The most common drug, not surprisingly, was marijuana (one-third of all cases). Whites constituted only 26 percent, while Latinos made up 43 percent and blacks were 31 percent. Not surprisingly, race figured prominently in the cases in the 1994 study. Blacks constituted over half (56%) of all defendants and 62 percent of those charged with drug offenses. Another study noted that almost all (99%) drug trafficking defendants between 1985 and 1987 were blacks.

In some cities, the proportion of felony defendants who were black was incredibly high. For example, blacks constituted 93 percent of all felony defendants in Wayne County (Detroit), 90 percent in Baltimore and 85 percent in Cook County (Chicago) and Kings County (Seattle).A common illustration of the racial bias in drug laws is “crack” cocaine. The penalty for possession and/or sale of crack cocaine is far greater than for the powdered variety of cocaine. It just so happens that crack is far more likely to be associated with blacks. Little wonder that the enforcement of drug laws have been one of the major reasons the prison population has increased so rapidly in recent years. In fiscal year 2001, of all of those sentenced to federal prison for crack cocaine, 83 percent were black, compared to only 7 percent for whites and 9 percent for Latinos. For powder cocaine, the discrepancies are not nearly so stark: half of those sentenced for this drug were Latinos, while only 31 percent were black and 18 percent were white. Put somewhat differently, of all blacks sentenced to federal prison for drugs, 59 percent were convicted for crack cocaine; only 5.5 percent of whites were sentenced for this drug. Going to Prison Becoming the Norm for Blacks and LatinosFor most minority youth growing up in urban areas, there is a general assumption that they will end up in jail or prison someday. After all, most of them see family members, friends and relatives being accosted by the police, placed in handcuffs and taken to the local jail almost every day. The following figures reinforce this perception, especially among black youth. An estimated 9.4 percent of all black males between 25 and 29 were in prison in 1999, compared to only 3.1 percent of Latino males and just 1.0 percent of white males. More importantly, however, is the fact that going to prison or jail seems to have become a normative feature in the lives of blacks and Latinos.

One method of measuring the extent of the incarceration of racial minorities is to look at the percent of the adult population incarcerated at least once in their lifetime. According to a Department of Justice study, in 1970, less than 1 percent of all whites had experienced a term in a federal or state prison, compared to 4.5 percent of all blacks and 1.3 percent of all Latinos. About 10 years later (1986) whites were still less than 1 percent likely to go to prison, but over 5 percent of blacks and two percent of all Latinos were. By 2001, the latest estimates available, whites still had a low percent of ever going to prison (1.4%), but almost 9 percent of blacks and over 4 percent of Latinos did. Even more revealing are statistics concerning the lifetime chances of going to prison. According to another Department of Justice study, blacks born in 1974 had a 7 percent chance of going to prison sometime in their lifetime, compared to only 1.2 percent of all whites. For white males born in 1974, the chance of going to prison stood at only 2.2 percent, but it was 13.4 percent for black males and 4 percent for Hispanic males. Seventeen years later, with the drug war in full swing, these percentages had changed dramatically: for all blacks born in 1991 there was a 16.5 percent chance of going to prison, compared to 2.5 percent of whites; however, for black males the chances of going to prison had more than doubled to 29 percent, with a more modest increase for white males to 4.4 percent (technically, it doubled for white males, but the starting percentage was so low as to make this meaningless compared to black males).

Perhaps the most dramatic changes, and largely unnoticed in the press and within criminology, was the fact that the chances of going to prison for Latino males quadrupled from 4 percent to 16.3 percent. By 2001, a black male child born that year had an almost one-third chance of going to prison, compared to just fewer than 6 percent for a white male child and a 17.2 percent chance for a Latino male child. The fact that so many blacks have been sent to prison in recent years has a significant impact on their voting rights. A recent study found that while two percent of all adults have been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction (mostly drug convictions), about 13 percent of all black men have been! In six states the percentage of black men disenfranchised is 25 percent or more, going higher than 30 percent in Alabama and Florida (and we all know what happened in Florida in 2000).We need not elaborate the obvious any further, for the fact remains that the "war on crime" and the "war on drugs" targets disproportionately racial minorities, who find themselves in alarmingly increasing numbers behind bars and generally subjected to the control efforts of the criminal justice system. The situation is not likely to improve, especially as long as federal, state and local governments continue to increase the money used for the crime control industry, instead of for prevention. With increasing attention given to our reaction to crime, the attention given to the ultimate sources of crime will decrease, only exacerbating the problem further.Anyway you look at it, going to prison has become a very common experience for racial minorities. And these figures do not include their chances of being arrested and booked into jail or a detention center in the case of a juvenile. In Part III of this series we discuss two other examples of the new American apartheid: the jailing of minority juveniles and women.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Jadakiss 9/11 Controversy

It's funny the controversy surrounding Jadakiss's lyric on the song called "Why"?, in which he makes a statement that Bush had something to do with the WTC attack. Dead Prez and Paris must be mad; they would crave for this kind of attention.

Ruff Ryders/Interscope artist Jadakiss is receiving a lot of attention for his single "Why?," featured on his new album, "Kiss of Death." The song questions President Bush's involvement in the events of Sept. 11, 2001, with the lyric "Why did Bush knock down the Towers?" The line has prompted some radio stations to edit the track. According to sources at MTV, the "Why?" video was serviced to the network without the lyric.

To me, this illustrates how its not so scary what Dead Prez or Paris say about 9/11, and their comments have been far more controversial, but when Jadakiss says it, this scares the crap out of people.

Some programmers say they were serviced only with the version that omitted the line -- in both the radio edit and the "clean" version. "Actually, the uncensored version of that line [on the album] is probably my favorite in the whole song," says one PD, who asked to remain anonymous.

"Since they can hear us in [Washington] D.C., and I don't want [the] Secret Service knocking down my door in the middle of the night," the PD adds, "I'll stick to the clean version."

However, it is pretty contradictory how these program directors don't have the same feeling of apprehension with some of the rest of the stuff pumped to an overwhemingly young demographic.

While some stations air an edited version of the song, other stations like WGCI Chicago and WWPR New York have opted not to. "I saw the video, where they edited the [song], but when it came to playing it on the radio, we never thought we should [edit it]," WWPR PD Michael Saunders says. "Freedom of speech gives him the right to say what he does. No one edited 'Get Low' by Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz."

I love it. Rap artists are expected to just rap "gangsta" and people don't get mad. Now he throws in his own opinion on something political, and it had to be "edited". I hope more artists, even the ones I don't like, say to hell with these program directors, MTV, BET and all the rest of these outlets, and to hell with what I'm expected to say or do. Now to me, that's truly "gangsta".

Monday, July 12, 2004

Taken from the Washington Post:

House Backs New Center For U.S. Gang Crackdown
By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 10, 2004; Page B01

The crackdown on violent gangs is poised to go national.
By a vote of 397 to 18, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved the creation of a National Gang Intelligence Center. The center, which would be run by the FBI, would centralize the federal effort to fight gangs.

If the Senate approves it, the center would be the latest step in a spiraling state, local and federal crackdown on street gangs, especially in Northern Virginia. Fueled by a surge in gang-related violence, authorities have established three gang task forces in Virginia.

Officials say the blitz is needed to combat a growing problem recently highlighted by the gang-related slaying of a Herndon youth and a machete attack that nearly severed the hands of a Fairfax County teenager.

"There is a gang problem all over our nation," Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) said.

Wolf secured funding for the center through the the House subcommittee he chairs after the White House sought to cut more than $100 million in funds for gang prevention programs nationwide. The annual spending bill for the Department of Justice, approved Thursday by the House, includes $10 million for the gang center. It is unclear when the Senate will act on the bill.

"This center will pull together everything the FBI does to fight gangs," Wolf said. "What's happening in Los Angeles can have a bearing in Chicago. So you have people here at the national center looking at it from an analytical and law-enforcement point of view."

Many details of the center, which probably would be located at FBI headquarters in the District, remained unclear yesterday, including whether FBI agents already focused on gangs would relocate to the center. The legislation provides $1.75 million for the FBI to establish the center; the rest of the $10 million is to hire FBI agents and analysts to focus on gangs. The bill also provides $3 million to hire federal prosecutors and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

"In theory, it's a great idea. Information is power, and because gangs move and spread and expand, it's important to have some coordination across the country," said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston.

"In practice, it may not work," he said, raising concerns that the intensified federal involvement might cause agents to spend more time wading through bureaucracy than arresting gang members. "FBI clearinghouses are not always the most efficient ways to fight crime."

Susan R. Paisner, a Maryland-based criminologist and law enforcement consultant, said the center could lead to turf battles with local officials. "It might be helpful to have a national repository of information, but what do you do with it?" she said. "If you learn important stuff about South American gangs in Fairfax County, how is that going to impact the gang problem in Prince George's County?"

Wolf said the criticism "misses the whole point. This is an integrated center for just that reason -- so you don't have somebody in Minnesota, somebody in New York, doing their own thing. You tie it all together."

He called the center a natural outgrowth of the FBI's anti-terrorism efforts since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- efforts that have focused on prevention and have been run out of FBI headquarters.

Bill Carter, an FBI spokesman, said the center would be "a repository of intelligence on gang activity, and I think that will only be helpful in the ongoing war against gangs." He said the FBI has successfully used federal laws in recent years to target gang leaders, in the same way the agency brought down the heads of mafia families.

Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R), a former federal prosecutor, said he understands the concerns raised by the FBI's involvement. "I know there are turf battles in law enforcement,'' he said.

But Kilgore said that the FBI works well with local police and that he is confident that the national center would only aid the fight against gangs. "The more eyes you have looking at a problem, the better,'' he said.

In May 2003, Kilgore formed one of the three gang task forces in Virginia. His task force focuses on legislation, and it recently persuaded the state legislature to pass statutes including a "three strikes and you're out" provision that toughens sentences for repeat offenders.

Last year, Wolf established another body, now called the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force. Based in Herndon and consisting of local and federal law enforcement agencies, it assists local police departments in gang investigations.

Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) also recently created a gang "strike force" made up of 12 Virginia State Police officers to aid local authorities throughout the state.

Note: This reminds me of the whole issue of the "Hip Hop cops". Looks like the "war on terror" is taking more fronts than imagined....

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Taken from Counterpunch

Stupid White Movie
What Michael Moore Misses About the Empire

I have been defending Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" from the criticism in mainstream and conservative circles that the film is leftist propaganda. Nothing could be further from the truth; there is very little left critique in the movie. In fact, it's hard to find any coherent critique in the movie at all.

The sad truth is that "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a bad movie, but not for the reasons it is being attacked in the dominant culture. It's at times a racist movie. And the analysis that underlies the film's main political points is either dangerously incomplete or virtually incoherent.

But, most important, it's a conservative movie that ends with an endorsement of one of the central lies of the United States, which should warm the hearts of the right-wingers who condemn Moore. And the real problem is that many left/liberal/progressive people are singing the film's praises, which should tell us something about the impoverished nature of the left in this country.

I say all this not to pick at small points or harp on minor flaws. These aren't minor points of disagreement but fundamental questions of analysis and integrity. But before elaborating on that, I want to talk about what the film does well.

The good stuff

First, Moore highlights the disenfranchisement of primarily black voters in Florida in the 2000 election, a political scandal that the mainstream commercial news media in the United States has largely ignored. The footage of a joint session of Congress in which Congressional Black Caucus members can't get a senator to sign their letter to allow floor debate about the issue (a procedural requirement) is a powerful indictment not only of the Republicans who perpetrated the fraud but the Democratic leadership that refused to challenge it.

Moore also provides a sharp critique of U.S. military recruiting practices, with some amazing footage of recruiters cynically at work scouring low-income areas for targets, whom are disproportionately non-white. The film also effectively takes apart the Bush administration's use of fear tactics after 9/11 to drive the public to accept its war policies.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" also does a good job of showing war's effects on U.S. soldiers; we see soldiers dead and maimed, and we see how contemporary warfare deforms many of them psychologically as well. And the film pays attention to the victims of U.S. wars, showing Iraqis both before the U.S. invasion and after in a way that humanizes them rather than uses them as props.

The problem is that these positive elements don't add up to a good film. It's a shame that Moore's talent and flair for the dramatic aren't put in the service of a principled, clear analysis that could potentially be effective at something beyond defeating George W. Bush in 2004.

Subtle racism

How dare I describe as racist a movie that highlights the disenfranchisement of black voters and goes after the way in which military recruiters chase low-income minority youth? My claim is not that Moore is an overt racist, but that the movie unconsciously replicates a more subtle racism, one that we all have to struggle to resist.

First, there is one segment that invokes the worst kind of ugly-American nativism, in which Moore mocks the Bush administration's "coalition of the willing," the nations it lined up to support the invasion of Iraq. Aside from Great Britain there was no significant military support from other nations and no real coalition, which Moore is right to point out. But when he lists the countries in the so-called coalition, he uses images that have racist undertones. To depict the Republic of Palau (a small Pacific island nation), Moore chooses an image of stereotypical "native" dancers, while a man riding on an animal-drawn cart represents Costa Rica. Pictures of monkeys running are on the screen during a discussion of Morocco's apparent offer to send monkeys to clear landmines. To ridicule the Bush propaganda on this issue, Moore uses these images and an exaggerated voice-over in a fashion that says, in essence, "What kind of coalition is it that has these backward countries?" Moore might argue that is not his intention, but intention is not the only question; we all are responsible for how we tap into these kinds of stereotypes.

More subtle and important is Moore's invocation of a racism in which solidarity between dominant whites and non-white groups domestically can be forged by demonizing the foreign "enemy," which these days has an Arab and South Asian face. For example, in the segment about law-enforcement infiltration of peace groups, the camera pans the almost exclusively white faces (I noticed one Asian man in the scene) in the group Peace Fresno and asks how anyone could imagine these folks could be terrorists. There is no consideration of the fact that Arab and Muslim groups that are equally dedicated to peace have to endure routine harassment and constantly prove that they weren't terrorists, precisely because they weren't white.

The other example of political repression that "Fahrenheit 9/11" offers is the story of Barry Reingold, who was visited by FBI agents after making critical remarks about Bush and the war while working out at a gym in Oakland. Reingold, a white retired phone worker, was not detained or charged with a crime; the agents questioned him and left. This is the poster child for repression? In a country where hundreds of Arab, South Asian and Muslim men were thrown into secret detention after 9/11, this is the case Moore chooses to highlight? The only reference in the film to those detentions post-9/11 is in an interview with a former FBI agent about Saudis who were allowed to leave the United States shortly after 9/11, in which it appears that Moore mentions those detentions only to contrast the kid-gloves treatment that privileged Saudi nationals allegedly received.

When I made this point to a friend, he defended Moore by saying the filmmaker was trying to reach a wide audience that likely is mostly white and probably wanted to use examples that those people could connect with. So, it's acceptable to pander to the white audience members and over-dramatize their limited risks while ignoring the actual serious harm done to non-white people? Could not a skilled filmmaker tell the story of the people being seriously persecuted in a way that non-Arab, non-South Asian, non-Muslims could empathize with?

Bad analysis

"Fahrenheit 9/11" is strong on tapping into emotions and raising questions about why the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11, but it is extremely weak on answering those questions in even marginally coherent fashion. To the degree the film has a thesis, it appears to be that the wars were a product of the personal politics of a corrupt Bush dynasty. I agree the Bush dynasty is corrupt, but the analysis the film offers is both internally inconsistent, extremely limited in historical understanding and, hence, misguided.

Is the administration of George W. Bush full of ideological fanatics? Yes. Have its actions since 9/11 been reckless and put the world at risk? Yes. In the course of pursuing those policies, has it enriched fat-cat friends? Yes.

But it is a serious mistake to believe that these wars can be explained by focusing so exclusively on the Bush administration and ignoring clear trends in U.S. foreign and military policy. In short, these wars are not a sharp departure from the past but instead should be seen as an intensification of longstanding policies, affected by the confluence of this particular administration's ideology and the opportunities created by the events of 9/11.

Look first at Moore's treatment of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. He uses a clip of former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke complaining that the Bush administration's response to 9/11 in Afghanistan was "slow and small," implying that we should have attacked faster and bigger. The film does nothing to question that assessment, leaving viewers to assume that Moore agrees. Does he think that a bombing campaign that killed at least as many innocent Afghans as Americans who died on 9/11 was justified? Does he think that a military response was appropriate, and simply should have been more intense, which would have guaranteed even more civilian casualties? Does he think that a military strategy, which many experts believe made it difficult to pursue more routine and productive counterterrorism law-enforcement methods, was a smart move?

Moore also suggests that the real motivation of the Bush administration in attacking Afghanistan was to secure a gas pipeline route from the Caspian Basin to the sea. It's true that Unocal had sought such a pipeline, and at one point Taliban officials were courted by the United States when it looked as if they could make such a deal happen. Moore points out that Taliban officials traveled to Texas in 1997 when Bush was governor. He fails to point out that all this happened with the Clinton administration at the negotiating table. It is highly unlikely that policymakers would go to war for a single pipeline, but even if that were plausible it is clear that both Democrats and Republicans alike have been mixed up in that particular scheme.

The centerpiece of Moore's analysis of U.S. policy in the Middle East is the relationship of the Bush family to the Saudis and the bin Laden family. The film appears to argue that those business interests, primarily through the Carlyle Group, led the administration to favor the Saudis to the point of ignoring potential Saudi complicity in the attacks of 9/11. After laying out the nature of those business dealings, Moore implies that the Bushes are literally on the take.

It is certainly true that the Bush family and its cronies have a relationship with Saudi Arabia that has led officials to overlook Saudi human-rights abuses and the support that many Saudis give to movements such as al Qaeda. That is true of the Bushes, just as it was of the Clinton administration and, in fact, every post-World War II president. Ever since FDR cut a deal with the House of Saud giving U.S. support in exchange for cooperation on the flow of oil and oil profits, U.S. administrations have been playing ball with the Saudis. The relationship is sometimes tense but has continued through ups and downs, with both sides getting at least part of what they need from the other. Concentrating on Bush family business connections ignores that history and encourages viewers to see the problem as specific to Bush. Would a Gore administration have treated the Saudis differently after 9/11? There's no reason to think so, and Moore offers no evidence or argument why it would have.

But that's only part of the story of U.S. policy in the Middle East, in which the Saudis play a role but are not the only players. The United States cuts deals with other governments in the region that are willing to support the U.S. aim of control over those energy resources. The Saudis are crucial in that system, but not alone. Egypt, Jordan and the other Gulf emirates have played a role, as did Iran under the Shah. As does, crucially, Israel. But there is no mention of Israel in the film. To raise questions about U.S. policy in the Middle East without addressing the role of Israel as a U.S. proxy is, to say the least, a significant omission. It's unclear whether Moore actually backs Israeli crimes and U.S. support for them, or simply doesn't understand the issue.

And what of the analysis of Iraq? Moore is correct in pointing out that U.S. support for Iraq during the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein's war on Iran was looked upon favorably by U.S. policymakers, was a central part of Reagan and Bush I policy up to the Gulf War. And he's correct in pointing out that Bush II's invasion and occupation have caused great suffering in Iraq. What is missing is the intervening eight years in which the Clinton administration used the harshest economic embargo in modern history and regular bombing to further devastate an already devastated country. He fails to point out that Clinton killed more Iraqis through that policy than either of the Bush presidents. He fails to mention the 1998 Clinton cruise missile attack on Iraq, which was every bit as illegal as the 2003 invasion.

It's not difficult to articulate what much of the rest of the world understands about U.S. policy in Iraq and the Middle East: Since the end of WWII, the United States has been the dominant power in the Middle East, constructing a system that tries to keep the Arab states weak and controllable (and, as a result, undemocratic) and undermine any pan-Arab nationalism, and uses allies as platforms and surrogates for U.S. power (such as Israel and Iran under the Shah). The goal is control over (not ownership of, but control over) the strategically crucial energy resources of the region and the profits that flow from them, which in an industrial world that runs on oil is a source of incredible leverage over competitors such as the European Union, Japan and China.

The Iraq invasion, however incompetently planned and executed by the Bush administration, is consistent with that policy. That's the most plausible explanation for the war (by this time, we need no longer bother with the long-ago forgotten rationalizations of weapons of mass destruction and the alleged threat Iraq posed to the United States). The war was a gamble on the part of the Bush gang. Many in the foreign-policy establishment, including Bush I stalwarts such as Brent Scowcroft, spoke out publicly against war plans they thought were reckless. Whether Bush's gamble, in pure power terms, will pay off or not is yet to be determined.

When the film addresses this question directly, what analysis does Moore offer of the reasons for the Iraq war? A family member of a soldier who died asks, "for what?" and Moore cuts to the subject of war profiteering. That segment appropriately highlights the vulture-like nature of businesses that benefit from war. But does Moore really want us to believe that a major war was launched so that Halliburton and other companies could increase its profits for a few years? Yes, war profiteering happens, but it is not the reason nations go to war. This kind of distorted analysis helps keep viewers' attention focused on the Bush administration, by noting the close ties between Bush officials and these companies, not the routine way in which corporate America makes money off the misnamed Department of Defense, no matter who is in the White House.

All this is summed up when Lila Lipscomb, the mother of a son killed in the war, visits the White House in a final, emotional scene and says that she now has somewhere to put all her pain and anger. This is the message of the film: It's all about the Bush administration. If that's the case, the obvious conclusion is to get Bush out of the White House so that things can get back to to what? I'll return to questions of political strategy at the end, but for now it's important to realize how this attempt to construct Bush as pursuing some radically different policy is bad analysis and leads to a misunderstanding of the threat the United States poses to the world. Yes, Moore throws in a couple of jabs at the Democrats in Congress for not stopping the mad rush to war in Iraq, but the focus is always on the singular crimes of George W. Bush and his gang.

A conservative movie

The claim that "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a conservative movie may strike some as ludicrous. But the film endorses one of the central lies that Americans tell themselves, that the U.S. military fights for our freedom. This construction of the military as a defensive force obscures the harsh reality that the military is used to project U.S. power around the world to ensure dominance, not to defend anyone's freedom, at home or abroad.

Instead of confronting this mythology, Moore ends the film with it. He points out, accurately, the irony that those who benefit the least from the U.S. system -- the chronically poor and members of minority groups -- are the very people who sign up for the military. "They offer to give up their lives so we can be free," Moore says, and all they ask in return is that we not send them in harm's way unless it's necessary. After the Iraq War, he wonders, "Will they ever trust us again?"

It is no doubt true that many who join the military believe they will be fighting for freedom. But we must distinguish between the mythology that many internalize and may truly believe, from the reality of the role of the U.S. military. The film includes some comments by soldiers questioning that very claim, but Moore's narration implies that somehow a glorious tradition of U.S. military endeavors to protect freedom has now been sullied by the Iraq War.

The problem is not just that the Iraq War was fundamentally illegal and immoral. The whole rotten project of empire building has been illegal and immoral -- and every bit as much a Democratic as a Republican project. The millions of dead around the world -- in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia -- as a result of U.S. military actions and proxy wars don't care which U.S. party was pulling the strings and pulling the trigger when they were killed. It's true that much of the world hates Bush. It's also true that much of the world has hated every post-WWII U.S. president. And for good reasons.

It is one thing to express solidarity for people forced into the military by economic conditions. It is quite another to pander to the lies this country tells itself about the military. It is not disrespectful to those who join up to tell the truth. It is our obligation to try to prevent future wars in which people are sent to die not for freedom but for power and profit. It's hard to understand how we can do that by repeating the lies of the people who plan, and benefit from, those wars.

Political strategy

The most common defense I have heard from liberals and progressives to these criticisms of "Fahrenheit 9/11" is that, whatever its flaws, the movie sparks people to political action. One response is obvious: There is no reason a film can't spark people to political action with intelligent and defensible analysis, and without subtle racism.

But beyond that, it's not entirely clear the political action that this film will spark goes much beyond voting against Bush. The "what can I do now?" link on Moore's website suggests four actions, all of which are about turning out the vote. These resources about voting are well organized and helpful. But there are no links to grassroots groups organizing against not only the Bush regime but the American empire more generally.

I agree that Bush should be kicked out of the White House, and if I lived in a swing state I would consider voting Democratic. But I don't believe that will be meaningful unless there emerges in the United States a significant anti-empire movement. In other words, if we beat Bush and go back to "normal," we're all in trouble. Normal is empire building. Normal is U.S. domination, economic and military, and the suffering that vulnerable people around the world experience as a result. This doesn't mean voters can't judge one particular empire-building politician more dangerous than another. It doesn't mean we shouldn't sometimes make strategic choices to vote for one over the other. It simply means we should make such choices with eyes open and no illusions. This seems particularly important when the likely Democratic presidential candidate tries to out-hawk Bush on support for Israel, pledges to continue the occupation of Iraq, and says nothing about reversing the basic trends in foreign policy.

In this sentiment, I am not alone. Ironically, Barry Reingold -- the Oakland man who was visited by the FBI -- is critical of what he sees as the main message of the film. He was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle saying: "I think Michael Moore's agenda is to get Bush out, but I think it (should be) about more than Bush. I think it's about the capitalist system, which is inequitable." He went on to critique Bush and Kerry: "I think both of them are bad. I think Kerry is actually worse because he gives the illusion that he's going to do a lot more. Bush has never given that illusion. People know that he's a friend of big business."

Nothing I have said here is an argument against reaching out to a wider audience and trying to politicize more people. That's what I try to do in my own writing and local organizing work, as do countless other activists. The question isn't whether to reach out, but with what kind of analysis and arguments. Emotional appeals and humor have their place; the activists I work with use them. The question is, where do such appeals lead people?

It is obvious that "Fahrenheit 9/11" taps into many Americans' fear and/or hatred of Bush and his gang of thugs. Such feelings are understandable, and I share them. But feelings are not analysis, and the film's analysis, unfortunately, doesn't go much beyond the feeling: It's all Bush's fault. That may be appealing to people, but it's wrong. And it is hard to imagine how a successful anti-empire movement can be built on this film's analysis unless it is challenged. Hence, the reason for this essay.

The potential value of Moore's film will be realized only if it is discussed and critiqued, honestly. Yes, the film is under attack from the right, for very different reasons than I have raised. But those attacks shouldn't stop those who consider themselves left, progressive, liberal, anti-war, anti-empire or just plain pissed-off from criticizing the film's flaws and limitations. I think my critique of the film is accurate and relevant. Others may disagree. The focus of debate should be on the issues raised, with an eye toward the question of how to build an anti-empire movement. Rallying around the film can too easily lead to rallying around bad analysis. Let's instead rally around the struggle for a better world, the struggle to dismantle the American empire.

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of "Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity" from City Lights Books. He can be reached at

Saturday, July 10, 2004

The rap artist Litefoot.

I read about this artist in some magazine, and yesterday in some message board this poster said that some rap fans yelled at him to "Go back to his teepee". I tell you, sometimes hip hop fans can be the most ignorant MF's.

Anyways, I found out that he has his own company, Native Style. Here is an article below I got off Davy D's message board.

SOMERS - He's known as Litefoot and his uniqueness is something to behold.

As an American Indian rapper, he's the only one of his kind.

"Doing it the way we've done it and the way we're we doing it, you're pretty much looking at him," Litefoot said during a 30-minute interview prior to his free concert at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Union on Monday night. "It's definitely been ground-breaking, definitely blazing your own trail. Sometimes you feel like you ought to get an honorary trailblazer award from hip-hop just for doing what we've done.

"There was a feeling in the early days that rap wasn't for Native people. Over the years, people have seen that truly, my message is more important than any vehicle that it comes in."

Litefoot, 34, doesn't want to be categorized in the same manner as many of the best-known rappers.

"Sometimes, a lot of rappers get lumped into the same category for what one or two may speak about," he said. "It's one of the biggest businesses in the music industry right now - rap, hip-hop and urban music. When I started, it wasn't.

"So I definitely think a lot of people take lumps for what a few people do just to make money. It's shock value and I think the record companies have prostituted the industry for that."

His lyrics convey a message of truthfulness, and he makes it clear that it's from the heart.

"Over the years, the message has definitely gone from something that was for Indian Country and has moved beyond that," Litefoot said. "It's starting to transcend racial lines and the lines that have been put there to kind of segregate people, and it's become a message that is very relative to people at this point and time all over the world."

Litefoot, a member of the Cherokee Nation, was raised in Oklahoma. His interest in music came from listening to Motown and other rhythm and blues artists.

He started by writing poetry and listening to rap music. He became a performer after being asked to write a rap for his sister's band. When asked to perform his lyrics with her band, a career was born.

Since 1988, Litefoot has recorded 13 albums, most through his own record company, Red Vinyl Records, and has performed across the country and internationally. Many of his shows are attended by young American Indians who see him as a role model.

He's also appeared in several movies, including "Indian in the Cupboard," "Kull the Conqueror" and "Adaptation."

First Nations Entertainment, Inc. was formed to handle his concerts and other appearances. A merchandise division would come later as Litefoot's popularity increased.

Today he is proud to be associated with a company that is totally owned and operated by American Indians.

"I've been very blessed. I've literally traveled around this world and performed from Rome to some of the tiniest reservations throughout this land," Litefoot said.

Litefoot was a popular artist at this year's Indian Summerfest in Milwaukee. That led to the invitation from Amy Hernandez Maack, a Parkside senior who is president of the Sacred Circle: American Indian and Indigenous Peoples Student Organization at Parkside.

"I thought it was awesome," Maack said of Litefoot's performance at Indian Summerfest. "I'm an older student (32), so I'm kind of out of the pop and hip-hop music scene. But I was impressed that he was able to incorporate Native values and beliefs into his style of music.

"His message is positive, clean and truthful. One of the jaw-dropping moments for me was when he addressed the problems of alcoholism, drugs and gang activities that exist within the Native American community."

Sophomore Bony Benavides, a Parkside student from Colombia, was anxious to hear Litefoot perform.

"I'm not a rap listener, but I really want to know how he gets his message to the people through his music," said Benavides, who is the vice president/secretary of the student organization that co-sponsored Litefoot's appearance along with Plan 2008 and Multicultural Student Affairs.

"I'm new with the Native American culture and heritage and I want to learn more about it."

Litefoot performed in front of a small, but appreciative audience. His message? "I don't know if it's really clean, but it's the truth," he said. "Sometimes the truth falls upon people in many different ways, and the truth isn't always what people like to hear or want to hear. But the truth is the truth, so therefore you speak the truth and I don't know if you're always going to win friends and influence people immediately.

"But over the years, I think that if you speak the truth long enough and they stick around to find out where this all comes from they see it is what it is. In a way, you have to be patient with people, to catch up with you sometimes. ... The truth has been here forever and sometimes people may think the truth changes, but the truth has always been the same."

Litefoot believes that he, like rap, is here to stay.

"I'm becoming accepted by the industry," he said, "but not because of why the industry loves for people to get accepted. What I have to say in my music has garnered me respect."

Friday, July 09, 2004

Taken from ZMag

Kerry and Edwards
White America's Dream Team
by Justin Felux; July 07, 2004

In a move that didn't surprise many, John Kerry selected Senator John Edwards to be his running mate. Kerry announced his choice after returning from a bus tour of the Midwest which he labeled the "Spirit of America" tour. And just what kind of people embody the "Spirit of America," according to Kerry? Well, white people, of course! The photos of the trip indicate as much. Analysts are predicting the addition of Edwards will increase the ticket's appeal to rural, middle class, Midwestern, and Southern voters (white voters, in other words). The recruitment of Edwards is simply the next major step in the Democratic Party's epic struggle for the hearts and minds of white America.

At first, Kerry seemed to be interested in the plight of African Americans. He even said he wanted to be America's second "black President." A former (black) Clinton official responded by saying, "That ain't gonna happen. He's not going to out-Clinton Clinton, and if he tried, he would look phony." Kerry seems to agree, and has all but abandoned his black constituency. In a speech to the National Conference of Black Mayors in April, Kerry spent his time talking about how to secure U.S. chemical plants rather than the concerns of the audience. He has virtually excluded black people from prominent positions in his campaign, angering many black activists.

This isn't the first time Kerry has had trouble with black folks. His Senate campaign in 1996 raised similar doubts about his appeal. According to a Boston Globe story from that year, "Black voters, a traditional bastion of support for Democratic candidates, appear to be keeping their options open in the race between Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry and Republican Gov. William F. Weld. In sharp contrast to the fervent loyalty Sen. Edward M. Kennedy inspires in the black community, interviews with black leaders and analysts revealed a decided coolness toward Kerry's candidacy." The reasons will be obvious in a moment, but for now let's examine how the Kerry/Edwards campaign will reach out to white America.

One of the most touted themes that John Edwards brings to the ticket is the theme of bridging the gap between the "two Americas"--one for the rich and one for the poor. Edwards played on this theme of class divisions many times during the primaries. However, the concept of there being "two Americas" originally referred to America's racial divide. The 1968 Kerner Report famously stated, "our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white--separate and unequal." The Kerner Commission prepared the report in response to a series of ghetto uprisings ("riots") that spread throughout the country during the 1960s. It laid the blame for the violence squarely on white racism. "White racism is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II," it said.

It will probably be a cold day in hell before John Edwards speaks about America's racial divide in such candid terms. Instead, he opts for the class-based and more white-friendly "two Americas." Kerry has hummed a similar tune over the years. In 2000 he signed a manifesto saying we should "shift the emphasis of affirmative action strategies from group preferences to economic empowerment of all disadvantaged citizens." Such an approach ignores the uniquely disadvantaged position of people of color in America, who face obstacles over and above ordinary class exclusion. For example, whites with only $13,000 in annual income are still more likely to own their own home than blacks with income of $48,000. White males with a high school diploma are as likely to have a job and earn as much as black males with college degrees. Black unemployment is consistently twice as high as white unemployment. These are divides that Kerry and Edwards don't seem as willing to address.

The solutions favored by the Kerner Report involved reforms designed to improve the situation of African Americans in almost every facet of American life , including aggressively increasing affirmative action programs. While both Kerry and Edwards claim to support affirmative action, both have made statements which suggest their support is rather thin. Kerry has been especially vocal in his distaste, referring to it as "reverse discrimination" in a 1992 speech at Yale University. He sympathized with white people who "feel alienated or abandoned by their government" and end up supporting "generations of welfare families." Both Kerry and Edwards like to brag about having eviscerated what little was left of the American welfare state under the leadership of Bill Clinton.

The recommendations of the Kerner Report were never followed, due in some part to Richard Nixon being elected President in 1968. Using his infamous "Southern Strategy," he rode the white backlash against the civil rights movement to power. The aforementioned inner-city riots were very frightening to white America, who felt that their country was falling apart. Nixon played upon the white majority's racial fears and made "law and order" one of his primary campaign themes. With the impending collapse of the Jim Crow system, the "law and order" approach would be the new means by which blacks were relegated to second-class status in America. Slavery was followed by Jim Crow, and Jim Crow was followed by the mass incarceration and criminalization of people of color, particularly young, black males (otherwise known as the "prison industrial complex"). Between 1972 and 2000 the U.S. prison population rose from 330,000 to almost 2 million. The ratio between white and non-white prisoners was also reversed during this time, with non-white prisoners now making up a large majority.

Racism exists at every level in the criminal justice system: arrest, arraignment, indictment, trial, conviction, and sentencing. Despite being 14% of illegal drug users, blacks are 35% of those arrested for possession. There is a massive sentencing disparity between crack cocaine (a "black" drug) and power cocaine (a "white" drug). In a New Jersey poll, 26% of judges said prosecutors were more likely to insist on more serious charges against minority defendants than whites and 20% said sentences for minorities were more severe. Even at equal "brutality," murderers are 4 times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white. For black males, a criminal record makes it nearly impossible to get a job, as if it wasn't hard enough already. One recent study showed that whites with a criminal record were more likely to be called back by employers than blacks with no criminal history. Blacks with a criminal record were only called back 5% of the time.

Kerry's crime agenda is taken straight from the playbook of Richard Nixon. He has suggested "law and order" should take precedent over economic development and education with regards to urban communities. In his Yale speech he described black neighborhoods as having a "violent, drug-ridden, rat-infested reality ... ruled not simply by poverty, but by savagery." He apparently realized the racist nature of these comments and attempted to cover his ass by saying, "we cannot equate fear of crime with racism," but many studies have documented the fact that white perceptions of black males and crime in general are way out of touch with reality. During the Clinton years, Kerry and Edwards voted for a $22 billion crime bill which included provisions to build more prisons and hire 100,000 more cops despite the fact that crime rates were falling to historic lows.

Then again, there's no easier way to score political points than to make white people think you are protecting them from the young, black "savages" on the other side of town. This is probably why Kerry constantly reminds people that he put people in jail for life while working as a prosecutor (and they say Edwards is the lawyer with the questionable past). Criminalizing black youths has always been good politics and prisons have become good business in places where military bases are closing and corporations are offshoring their operations. Of course, Kerry has a plan to stop that as well: more tax breaks for the rich, white owners of America's corporations.

In this campaign, Kerry has advocated for continuing the Clinton-era crime programs. He also voted for a bill allowing U.S. attorneys to prosecute 14-year-olds as adults. Racism is rampant in the juvenile justice system as well, with black offenders six times more likely to end up in prison than white offenders. Ironically, this "tough on crime" approach may have cost the Democrats the election in 2000, and it may cost it for them again. Due to felony disenfranchisement laws, 13% of the black male population doesn't have the right to vote. This may have been enough to keep Gore from winning Florida, despite all the non-felon "felons" that were struck from the voter rolls.

John Edwards is a strong supporter of the racist death penalty. When confronted by Al Sharpton about the death penalty's racial disparities Edwards said, "States can evaluate whether their own system is working." As a resident of Texas, I seriously doubt that my state will be doing any soul-searching in the near future with regards to its death penalty policies. Kerry is regarded as taking a strong liberal position against the death penalty. He has rightly pointed out that the government has executed scores of innocent people and there are likely more to come, but he has backtracked a bit in the campaign, saying he thinks people who commit the worst crimes deserve the death penalty. His record indicates that he isn't as anti-death penalty as many think. He has voted for several bills that increase the number of federal crimes for which a death sentence can be applied.

All that being said, it would be difficult for any Democratic ticket to rival the white supremacist credentials of Bush/Cheney. In fact, they probably have the white racist vote pretty much wrapped up, so perhaps it would be better strategy if Kerry stopped the pandering. The experience of the 2000 election in Florida made it utterly clear that the Democratic Party needs the black vote. It's time for Kerry/Edwards to start acting like they understand that.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Brandy vs. Lloyd Banks

Of course, I guess it was a given Lloyd Bank's new album would hit #1.But did you think I'd post his pic on my site? Hell no! Brandy hit #3!
Buy the Afrodisiac album now!!!!!!!!
Junior Mafia

Maybe I don't get it, but how can Junior Mafia, having only released 1 album, put out "The Best of Junior Mafia"?

Meth and Red controversy

I haven't seen the Meth and Red show yet, but it seems to be generating some kinda controversy!
Meth and Red not ghetto enough?

The comedy drew more than 8 million viewers in its debut Wednesday, but that didn't minimize Method Man's dissatisfaction. He told the Los Angeles Times the series has veered from his original vision because some executives or writers tried too hard to appeal to "Middle America" with "lame jokes."

"I know what I wanted this show to be, but there's been too much compromise on our side and not enough on their side," he said. He didn't know the series would have a laugh track, he said, adding, "This show doesn't need it."

Meth and Red too ghetto??

The really sad thing about this show is that black people, unlike the 1950's Amos 'n' Andy Show, are part of the decision making process, black folks are directly responsible for the images, vulgarity and content of Method Man and Red! The credits list Method Man as one of the Executive Producers and Redman as one of the producers. I’m all for poking fun at ourselves, laughter has helped us endure some truly horrific situations and experiences at the hands of white people in AmeriKKKa, but in my opinion the Method Man and Red Show is a modern offshoot of the buffoonery and debasement of the minstrel shows of a not so bygone era.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Old school rap
You know, working day to day, doing the 9-5 grind, and being kinda old to be dealing with today's rap, I always like to look back to the days when I was younger, hitting the strip clubs, going to class, going to the clubs and parties and trying to find the right kinds of saggy jeans and the "right kinds" of music. I didnt have to work, I lived off my parents, and I could sleep all day. I miss those days.

Pudgee tha Phat Bastard
Get this at Amazon!
Released 10/26/1993.
He had that song where he said "Dead Presidents are dead but they still rule."

Chi Ali
Get this at Amazon!
Released 3/24/1992.
Very distinguished kiddy rapper.

Da King and I
Get this used at Amazon.
Released 7/13/1993.
"Crack da Weasal" is a classic!

Released 6/9/1992.
Kinda like Das EFX, mostly tongue twisting rhymes.
Get this at Amazon.

Original Flavor
Released 3/24/1994.
I remember seeing the video for "All That".
Get this at Amazon.

Redman's 1st released 9/22/1992
Buy it at Amazon!
This was Redman at his best.

Some news.........

Looks like Snoop is just fine......

About a month into divorce, and Snoop is handling his. He's collaborating with the Neptunes to go "Rythmn and Gangsta". Will I buy it? Probably not.............

Check out Chuck D's TV Week on TRIO. Now who the hell even has TRIO? This is an interesting article about the line up for the cable network nobody has, most likely.

Pic of the day!

Brandy is a piece. I like her.

P Diddy introduces at his "White Party" his new organization Citizen Change. The major goal of this organization is what else? Voter registration. It'd be interesting to see what these groups become when the 2004 Election is over.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Chicano Rap

Image source: Familia Records

With the doors of Death Row seemingly shut (at least for now, I guess) and nobody to really represent for the West, unless you think Eminem and Dre are the ones who rep the West, it seems like there is enormous potential for an open urban market.

Granted, there are some MC's, but one MC does not make a whole scene. Enter Chicano rap. Whereas gangsta rap from the West Coast has become played out when black rappers do it, and the fading of MC's such as W.C. and the ill fate of Mack 10, the Chicano rap is fresh in that it comes from a whole different perspective. Also, only established artists have been able to bubble from the bottom and come out with new records; wheras in Chicano rap the door is more open for new artists to make a come up.

Most West Coast artists like Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Dre have become larger than life; their music cannot be clearly identified as "West Coast" because they are making their music universal. The Chronic started that trend, which set up the sampling of funk classics and rapping about gangs and dope. With the popularity and growth came the appealing to everybody, including BET and MTV. Chicano rap seems to have gotten back to the original formula of rapping about gangs and dope, while Dre, Snoop and Cube have abandoned these topics.

I wonder if this music has a broad audience. I see alot of what No Limit did in the late 90's in what La Familia is doing. This seems to be a small label putting out a large stable of artists for a set market. Will it cross over? I don't see any big media promoting it. To MTV, this scene is invisible. BET won't play it because, well, the artists aren't black, or aren't popular in the black community. Univision seems to only stick with "rap" that sounds like salsa and sometimes like regaee. I don't really see it as appealing to most East Coast Latinos; I'm sure there are a few.

Cypress Hill pretty much represent these cats in the mainstream, but they have been selling music to a mostly white audience since their second album. Unlike Cypress Hill, these other artists are more rugged and rough around the edges, and extreme. Cypress Hill are laid back weed smokers, but Chicano rap seems to endorse a whole lifestyle. I won't knock it, but I wont really endorse it because I can't really relate to what they are talking about. Music is music, but it seems so anchored in the Latino gang lifestyle. I guess I'd have to buy a couple CD's to see if I could find something I'd like.

Homiez Music
Brown Pride
High Caliber Records
Lockdown Records

Monday, July 05, 2004

July 4th-a big day for booty rap history!

On July 4th,1990, the rap group 2 Live Crew releases the single "Banned in the U.S.A." with the blessing of "Born in the U.S.A." creator Bruce Springsteen. The song, which racks up 2 million advance orders, is in part a response to anti-obscenity groups that have targeted the rappers.

0n July 4, 1992, "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot peaked at #1 on the pop singles chart and stayed there for five weeks.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Peace, Unity, Love, and Havin' Fun!

Afrika Bambatta

The following text taken from the Temple of Hip Hop:

Peace, NOUN:
1. The absence of war or other hostilities. 2. An agreement or a treaty to end hostilities. 3. Freedom from quarrels and disagreement; harmonious relations: roommates living in peace with each other. 4. Public security and order: was arrested for disturbing the peace. 5. Inner contentment; serenity: peace of mind.

-Unity, NOUN: Inflected forms: pl. u·ni·ties
1. The state or quality of being one; singleness. 2. The state or quality of being in accord; harmony. 3a. The combination or arrangement of parts into a whole; unification. b. A combination or union thus formed. 4. Singleness or constancy of purpose or action; continuity: “In an army you need unity of purpose” (Emmeline Pankhurst). 5a. An ordering of all elements in a work of art or literature so that each contributes to a unified aesthetic effect. b. The effect thus produced. 6. One of the three principles of dramatic structure derived by French neoclassicists from Aristotle's Poetics, stating that a drama should have but one plot, which should take place in a single day and be confined to a single locale. 7. Mathematics a. The number 1. b. See identity element.

-Love, NOUN:
1. A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness. 2. A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair; the emotion of sex and romance. 3a. Sexual passion. b. Sexual intercourse. c. A love affair. 4. An intense emotional attachment, as for a pet or treasured object. 5. A person who is the object of deep or intense affection or attraction; beloved. Often used as a term of endearment. 6. An expression of one's affection: Send him my love. 7a. A strong predilection or enthusiasm: a love of language. b. The object of such an enthusiasm: The outdoors is her greatest love. 8. Love Mythology Eros or Cupid. 9. often Love Christianity Charity. 10. Sports A zero score in tennis.

-Fun, NOUN:
1. A source of enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure. 2. Enjoyment; amusement: have fun at the beach. 3. Playful, often noisy, activity.


One of the founding fathers and leaders in the Hiphop community (Afrika Bambaataa), as well as KRS-ONE and the Temple of Hiphop promote this ideal in the music and overstandings. Peace, Unity, Love, and Having Fun.

The upper class elite has tried to keep the working class divided throughout history. They've done this in labor (giving some groups better wages and working conditions), real estate (red lining), education (segregation & inequalities in education), etc. This serves their best interest. They know if we (all "races") united we'd be so powerful they that they would have no choice but to succumb to our needs, i.e. living wages, adequate housing, healthcare, etc.

This goes for Hiphop as well, some people want to keep it divided, for whatever reason, even people on this forum. If we unite, no matter who, what, where, when started Hiphop, we could recognize our fundamental differences and see that we want the same things. Hiphop would be such a powerful force that no one could stop the needs of Hiphoppas, but if we stay divided that will never happen. Do you think labor would've got the eight hour work day or the weekend had labor not united into unions, the answer is hell no!

What are reasons people would want to keep Hiphop divided?