Thursday, November 30, 2006

Selling More Albums, 50 Cents Two Cents on Oprah Winfrey

50 Cent accuses Oprah Winfrey of turning White:

He says, "(She) started out with black women's views but has been catering to middle-aged white American women for so long that she's become one herself."I think the idea of being publicly noted that she's a billionaire makes (black women) interested in seeing her views. But it's even more exciting to the demographic of white American women she's been aiming at to see that she has the exact same views that they have."

Shades of school yard thugs who beat down the lone, defenseless "smart" or "acting White" Black kids simply because they speak English correctly and know about the world around them. When will it stop?

Civility vs. Taking A Stand

George Will takes a bite out of incoming Senator-elect James Webb (D-VA) on his recent and very tense brush with President Bush:

Webb certainly has conveyed what he is: a boor. Never mind the patent disrespect for the presidency. Webb's more gross offense was calculated rudeness toward another human being -- one who, disregarding many hard things Webb had said about him during the campaign, asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another.

Not certain if one could characterize Webb's snubbing of the President as uncivil or "patent[ly] disrespectful." After all, this is a democracy, and - last we checked - one could disagree with the Commander-in-Chief's policies. It's not like Webb spit on him, or carried a picket sign into the White House, or clocked him with a fist. In this instance, he merely expressed his extreme displeasure with the Administration's pointless foray in Iraq, thereby relaying the mood of many Virginians who elected him. At the end of the day, Webb - like the President - must answer to voters ...

We find Webb's "truculence" in this instance a bit refreshing. Maybe that's what the President needs, constant and unsettling reminders of his dismal performance as a world leader in settings that aren't engineered for his comfort. If our child was deployed to a war with no meaning or coherent cause, a war based on deception and ideological Washington can get a bit too "civil" for its own good in that too many elected officials are unwilling to take principled stands out of fear for "rocking the boat" or insulting good "friends" and "colleagues." Upon a few elegant lunches and a routinely disgusting display of platitude, politicians soon forget they are beholden to the interests of the people. True: civility should always be maintained in the public discourse. We don't see enough of it, these days. But, not at the expense of taking a stand or making an important point. This Administration should be the last to feel insulted or express outrage at Webb's conduct after it has spent its entire course destroying checks-and-balances and arrogantly pressing forward with little regard for fundamental precepts in the Constitution. That, Mr. Will, is the true "boor."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Placing Blame on the Iraqis ....

It's difficult to see the complete logic raised in this latest Washington Post analysis which shows a wide swath of the American body politic placing sole blame on the Iraqis for their current condition. This skillfully removes the Bush Administration from any blame for a war that shouldn't have been executed in the first place (and if Hussein was that much of a threat to the region and world, we had ample chance to get rid of him with 500,000 troops during the first Gulf War in 1991). What happened to faulty [manipulated] intelligence on weapons of mass destruction that didn't show up?

A point hard for many to swallow: Iraq's religious and ethnic rivalries were kept under brutal control under the iron boot of Saddam Hussein. Yes: that gives Hussein credit where no one seeks to place credit, but in a society that for so long was defined by vicious and shrewd control, one should hardly expect it to become "civic-minded" and "independent" overnight. Post notes:

Even Democrats who have criticized the Bush administration's conduct of the occupation say the people and government of Iraq are not doing enough to rebuild their society. The White House is putting pressure on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group have debated how much to blame Iraqis for not performing civic duties.

What this should read is this: "Even Democrats have become eerily tepid and withdrawn in their previous criticism of the war after handily winning Congress." Now that they got the votes, notice Dems are less aggressive in the call for oversight.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

John Ridley's Take on N***a & The Rise of a New Black ...

John Ridley in Esquire Magazine steamrolls in hard and heavy with what is certain to be highly talked about:

That which retards us is the worst of "us," those who disdain actual ascendancy gained by way of intellectual expansion and physical toil—who instead value the posture of an "urban," a "street," a "real" existence, no matter that such a culture threatens to render them extinct.
"Them" being niggers.

I have no qualm about using the word nigger. It is a word. It is in the English lexicon, and no amount of political correctness, no amputation into "the n-word"—as if by the castration of a few letters we should then be able to conceptualize its meaning without feeling its sting—will remove it from reality.

So I say this: It's time for ascended blacks to wish niggers good luck. Just as whites may be concerned with the good of all citizens but don't travel their days worrying specifically about the well-being of hill billies from Appalachia, we need to send niggers on their way. We need to start extolling the most virtuous of ourselves. It is time to celebrate the New Black Americans—those who have sealed the Deal, who aren't beholden to liberal indulgence any more than they are to the disdain of the hard Right. It is time to praise blacks who are merely undeniable in their individuality and exemplary in their levels of achievement.

NYC & Sean Bell - Sadly Enough, Let the Games Begin ...

NY Times reports on the growing tension fueling understandable anger in the Sean Bell shooting in:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg convened an extraordinary meeting of black religious leaders and elected officials at City Hall yesterday to calm frayed tempers over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in Queens, calling the circumstances “inexplicable” and “unacceptable.”

“It sounds to me like excessive force was used,” the mayor said of the conduct of the officers, who fired 50 shots outside a Queens nightclub early Saturday, killing Sean Bell, 23, hours before he was to be wed, and injuring two others. “I can tell you that it is to me unacceptable or inexplicable how you can have 50-odd shots fired.”

Bell's father makes a cogent point:

“It’s more about politics than human life,” he said. Mr. Bloomberg has spoken with Sean Bell’s fiancée and said he plans to visit the family soon, but William Bell said none of the officials had reached out to him.

And that's where the political games will begin as there are some who will find ways to leverage political clout through this tragedy.

Whereby we agree there is need for a serious re-examination of police relations with African American communities nationwide (and are distressed by recent studies which reveal an upward surge in excessive force by police forces and overuse of SWAT teams), we also see a dilemma with respect to New York city, which has experienced a 70% drop in crime since the Giuliani years. The aggressive policing, "Broken Window," quality-of-life strategy obviously had its successes in dramatically reducing crime in a city once notoriously synonymous with it. There is a cost-benefit analysis to weigh here. But, as the Bell case shows us, it has its drawbacks and police departments need to really assess the very aggressive, disrespectful and sometimes downright rude disposition of many of their officers who give the profession a bad image. That's troubling, because law and order is an essential function of any civilized society. NYC is not the only place where this is happening - finding a calm and respectful police officer is unfortunately becoming something of a sport similar to "Punch Buggy" games on the school bus. We understand it's a stressful job; departments need to promote more counseling, less overtime and viewing citizens as partners rather than adversaries. Police etiquette and displays of public respect should be just as critical as citizen compliance with basic laws. If that's not the case, then perhaps departments should be honest about how they view us and simply issue a guide of protocols or rules for citizens on how to interact with police officers having a bad day.

It is likely that this was more so an incident of misplaced police anger mixed with fear than an outwardly racist act - community leaders such as Sharpton should tread lightly on this subject, particularly when Black and Latino officers account for a majority of the 5 officers involved in the shooting.

Mulling N****r. Is This What It's Really All About?

Black and unapologetically lesbian blogger Jasmyne Cannick enters the fray on our loose use of the "N" word, arguing for a verbal & economic ban. We're not certain this is the point, though: is this issue really supposed to be a test in gauging the parameters of [free?] speech or should it really dig deeper into the bowels of racist thought and the White supremacist legacy? If we're not careful, a sudden call, prompted by this Michael Richards incident, for Black people to cease use of the "N" word can cause the reverse of what is intended here: while Richards is forgiven, Whites in general could be absolved of their participation in the continuing perpetuation of racism while we are focused on how much we use the word "n****r" rather than on what promulgates it in the first place. Sure, we can blame record labels signing hip-hop legends for promoting its rise in popularity, but almost 2/3 of that market is White while African Americans still have little control over the real money in that game: distribution. Perhaps if we did, we'd be in a position to argue for more responsible content - but, isn't the purpose of hip-hop to describe society's most ugly realities? What happens to the vast majority of hip-hop emcees who stay true to the cause, but make endless use of the word "nigga"? Is it the word that's harmful or is it the institutionalization of racism (both overt and subtle) that created the word? The discussion must stay focused on larger social, political and economic indicators. Cannick asserts:

Consider this, Black people went from referring to each other as “brothas and sistas” to nigga’s and bitch’s and sometimes worse. Until the majority of Blacks are willing to make a conscientious effort which requires a lifestyle change in regards to the N word, it will continue to be used not only by Blacks but by other races as well.

This is a good point - hard to argue with it. But lifestyle changes can't be forced and they can't happen overnight. Note how Rev. Jesse Jackson uses "nigga" with such cool bravado and familiarity when denouncing it during press appearances - Jesse: do you want us to use it or not [cause you make it sound so customary]? Broader and systematic promotion of greater civic participation, community involvement and mutual respect is the key towards gradual re-insertion of social empathy. Somewhere along the cultural line, the basic fundamentals above got dropped in some ditch, leading us to the brink of self-destruction. We doubt "n****r" is solely responsible for leading us to that point. A more interesting conversation is how too many African Americans seem oblivious to the dramatic ascendancy of Black Congressional Members to leadership positions and committee chairs on Capitol Hill. Why aren't we as enthusiastic about a development of this magnitude as many of use were when O.J. was acquitted? There are some obvious contradictions at work. In the meantime, actions are what ultimately speak louder than words.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How The Kramer Incident Reflects Something Much Uglier ... and Much Larger

Something much more nefarious and sinister looms larger than what we think we see or hear on the stage of a Los Angeles comedy club. It really has less to do with "Seinfeld" star Michael Richards' (a.k.a. "Kramer") outburst than it has to do with vicious reminders of the nation's racial conscious. African Americans are, no doubt, closely observing the reaction to this latest episode to see if it will reach a level of critical mass comparable to the recent Mel Gibson episode. The major difference between the two episodes is that Gibson was drunk; Richards' appears disheveled, but not high or drunk - additionally, there are no reports of any drug use or alcohol. So, the question will be asked: will "Kramer" receive the same sort of perceived punishment or social backlash that Gibson received? Some can argue Gibson received little punishment beyond momentary ostracization since he's still making movies and appears financially healthy. A sizeable donation to the Anti-Defamation League probably does wonders to diminish one's anti-Semitic public image ...

This is a very important point because it's significant to gauge where this episode takes us as a society in the wake of some significant public policy changes taking place. Black Congressional members, to the obvious chagrin of their White colleagues and many White people, are in line to accumulate considerable political power during the 110th Congress. At the same time, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approve the banning of affirmative action in their state. In a proverbial flip of the finger, Republicans elect the racially-challenged Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) as their Minority Whip while denying Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R-MD) a chairmanship at the RNC, pretty much signaling a total rejection of any productive ties with the African American community. In addition, we have just witnessed one of the most racially-charged mid-term elections in recent American political history, the tenor of which was accentuated by brutal Senate campaigns in MD, TN and VA.

Enter Michael Richards.

Here's where the issue begins to appear much larger than Richards'. There is, first, an irony here: most informal surveys of African Americans will find that the number of Black people who did watch "Seinfeld" were initially attracted to the bizarre, yet cool-pose nature of "Kramer." The Kramer character drew an audience to "Seinfeld" that wasn't the intended demographic of the show.

But, more compelling than his apology appearance on Letterman is how the audience reacted to it – with laughter. Since we assume this was a majority white audience, can we assume they were laughing at him or the subject matter? And since he is now inextricably linked into the harsh reality of that subject matter, is it appropriate for a mostly white audience to laugh at something that painful? The fact that he’s made no effort to appear on any major Black talk show or media venue speaks volumes to his lack of sincerity and courage. Perhaps, it also speaks to the lack of sensitivity of those who represent him or the general lack of consideration White people generally show on matters such as this. Making an apology on Letterman actually trivializes the issue - do you think the larger White community cares?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Discussions on the Draft ...

All signs indicate a Bush Administration (and possibly Baker Commission) move to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq and, perhaps, Afghanistan. Hence, an important question is posed: where do the troops come from? American troop levels worldwide are already stretched thin, creating a challenging redeployment soup with a plot as thick as a chess game. Enter NY Congressman & soon-to-be House Ways & Mean Chair Charles Rangel (D-NY) struggles to make a confusing point in his repeat push to reinstate the draft. Here he plays the ultimate "devil's advocate," as they say (although, we don't see why anyone in Congress right now wants to play such a game with a policy issue as freshly heated as this one).

We prefer a Rangel push to discuss how the Administration, in all of its lacking wisdom, proposes to enhance troop presence with little global troop force to begin with, particularly as matters heat up in the Asian theatre with North Korea and China. That's a very legitimate discussion worthy of an aggressive political push to further eat away at the Administration's lost credibility on this war. But, legislating the draft makes the political climate for Democrats much more precarious than they need it right now. Rangel isn't even Chairman, yet, and he's already jumping the gun. But, we see his point: reinstating the draft makes the war much more personal for lawmakers who have the convenience of completely detaching themselves from decisions on the war. No longer is it a war disproportionately engaged by African Americans, Latinos, poor Whites and others with few options at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Suddenly, it's a war for everybody to think about.

Which is why you can make the argument (as we have before) that perhaps public opposition to this war has never really been strong enough. We see public opinion polls showing wide dissatisfaction with the war - but do we really see it in the streets the way we saw it during Vietnam. American opposition to the war is based mainly on the war's unpleasant direction and our inability to win it - it's not so much that Americans dislike the Iraq War because it was wrong and morally twisted to execute in the first place, it's because Americans don't like to see themselves lose. That implies Americans would support this immoral war if there was a perception that things on the ground in Iraq had changed for the better. If we had a draft, we're willing to wager that American disillusionment would transform into American disgust on principle. In many ways, the war promotes an interesting balance between our consumer culture-induced comfort zones and "that war in the Middle East."

Our point here is that American opposition to the war is not really all that principled. It's self-serving and globally arrogant. Kudos to Rangel for seeing that. We're just not sure he's going about it the right way. It's not a ridiculous proposition to discuss the draft, for it is always a possibility - if it wasn't, we wouldn't have a Selective Service System.

And it's not ridiculous for public servants to also propose that, perhaps, it's time we all think about public and community service on a larger level. We feel Rangel on this point:

''young people (would) commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals,'' with a promise of educational benefits at the end of service.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How the CBC Factors into the Leadership Race ...

Newly minted House Speaker-elect (or "designate" for all those democracy purists out there) Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) open and failed endorsement of the "ethically-challenged" Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) was no big surprise. One need only look into Pelosi's personal and political past, peppered by the influence of close-knit Baltimore, East Coast city Italian roots established by her legendary father Thomas D'Alesandro, former B'More Mayor, Councilman, Congressman, State Delegate, etc. His entire life, and that of his daughter's, was based on the virtues of loyalty.

Somewhere along the way, Pelosi didn't pick up on the flaws of unbending loyaltly. Loyalty is a good thing; but, depending on the circumstances, it can be a dangerously dumb thing, too.

However, loyalty to her will work out well for the Congressional Black Caucus, standing in line to accumulate serious political power with leadership posts and committee chairs. Certainly, this was the reason behind their deafening silence during the short-lived battle between Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Murtha, as the deals with Pelosi have been struck - knowing the fairly liberal CBC is not a big fan of Murtha and his "Blue Dog" ways, Pelosi reminded them of what's at stake and that she had the power to giveth and/or to taketh away. Bad enough White folks in Washington are hating on the Black folks about to take over - come on, we know you can't stand us right about now; we overhear your cantankerous whispers.

Since the CBC was good during the Hoyer/Murtha battle, she'll let Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) get the intelligence committee, too. It's definitely the year of the White woman ... Rep. Diana Degette (D-CO) is angling to test this theory as she considers a bid against Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) who patiently awaits the Majority Whip post.

On Lott as Minority No. 2 ...

Here's some irony for you: openly racist, old school "Dixiecrat" nostalgic senior Senator from Mississippi gets bumped back into the Republican leadership as if nothing ever happened four years ago. Note: Mississippi's history and ole' boy way of seeing things. Also note: racially challenged ole' boy Senator from Mississippi just gets back from the campaign trail after beating down an underfunded African American Democratic nominee making the first real challenge to Lott's incumbency in a long time.

But then, for all their talk about wanting to change what is the poorest state in the Union, Mississippians still vote Lott back in, even with an opportunity to make history by electing the state's first Black Senator and seriously shedding the cross-burning past once and for all - some Black folks down there even mulled a Lott vote because "he brings home the bacon that gets us the jobs." Let's not even get into that ...

The irony is after somehow breaking away from his culturally challenged past and ducking an admirable challenge from a lowly Black State Rep., Lott is back in his party's leadership, obviously vying for the Leader spot he's always cherished. Within one election cycle, he simultaneously snubs both Black people and the Republicans (outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) most notably among them) that he feels betrayed him four years ago, possibly attributing GOP losses last week to some sort of kharma that favors him. The fact that GOP Senators are blessing him for this spot speaks volumes about where their collective head is and how that mentality will continue keep Black folks in perpetual and justifiable distrust of them.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The GOP and Its Latin Fantasy ...

We figured that as soon as defeated MD Senate candidate & Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) announced plans to seek the chairmanship of the RNC, the GOP White boys would figure out a quick and ruthless way to keep that from happening. The message here from White Republicans to their lowly Black Republican counterparts: "We'll let ya'll run for office and, sure, we'll give you some money for a few campaigns to make us look all good and big tent - but we'll be damned if you run our party!"

Picking Steele to run the Republican National Committee would have paid dividends in the future, particularly when one considers the slow but gradual rise of the Black Republican profile. Sooner or later, that sort of move would at least have some (not all) but some Black voters taking a second glance. Essentially, it would've been a somewhat smart move, perhaps making Democrats look a little less diverse along the way. We don't know - what we do know is that the GOP wants to openly blame everybody but the current President for its loss last week. Hence, the feeling is that current RNC Chair Ken Mehlman should go -

GOP: Ken - thought you said all this Black talk, all this talk to the Blacks, all this apologizing and stuff, was going to get them votin' for us? What happened there, Ken? Cuz they sure wasn't votin' for us last Tuesday?

Mehlman: Well - that sort of stuff takes time, you know, earning people's trust -

GOP: Time? We ain't got that kind of time, man! If they couldn't get it in a year, then they just can't get it. You know what we need? We need them Browns in here. We need them Hispanics to counter that Black vote.

Hence, fairly White-looking, "safe," establishment Cuban-American GOP Senator becomes the Republicans' Flavor of the Cycle.

And, so, the GOP indulges in some perverted electoral Latin fantasy of a wave of Latin immigrant voters embracing the GOP. But, with all this hype about the Latino vote, somebody forgot to remind them that Hispanics are only a bit over 6% of the voting masses (that's less than the percentage of African Americans that typically vote Republican on any Election Day - if that's the case, how come Black people can't get a chair at the RNC?). In addition, they can't really be classified as a "bloc."