Wednesday, March 29, 2006

ASCENT LIVE to air shortly tonight ...

Experiencing technical issues ... stay tuned for a few more moments (7:15pm)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ailing Democracy ...

Slightly disappointed that the Washington Post, along with quoted Paul S. DeGregorio, chairman of the federal Election Assistance Commission, is downplaying the "growing pains" in a recent Cook County, Illinois Primary that used new electronic voting machines.

It wasn't Diebold, that wily, secretive, DL Republican of a company cornering the voting machine market. Instead, it's Oakland, CA-based Sequoia Voting Systems, a company Cook County paid $50 million in federal grant money to implement a new voting system in time for yesterday's primary. But, there are many questions surrounding Sequoia, as well as the flawed training of election workers on its system.

We prefer to direct readers to

Interesting how the Post leaves out that detail - you'd think it would be the most significant piece of information since we're talking about software glitches and memory cards. We're trying to shake off a bit of Belarussian vibe - still, quite a few of us could get an education from cats holding 24 hour vigils in 10 degree weather; we can barely get up from the X-Box or an episode of Tyra to protest a sham primary election in New Orleans on April 22nd.

Last night's show, AL!, 3.22.06

We don't do it often enough, but maybe we should post follow up blogs on the previous night's show since we're getting a bit of a following.

To that following, lounging on a worn desk chair while staring into streaming media or those cuddling up with loved ones to hear us drone on (and maybe you just like to hear our solid hip hop samples blasting over the cyber waves), we apologize for the very public airing of our technical issues last night. KVDU studio equipment is pressed for a major tune-up, hence the board gives us problems from time to time. But, it's been said that the University of Denver is kicking in some loot to install new equipment, given the rising popularity of yours truly ...

Back to the show - the legendary Dr. Walters spoke his piece last night about the 34th Anniversary Gary, IN Black Political Convention. The main focus was economic empowerment, which is way overdue. Still, every issue in the Black community is a critical issue, including our ability to collectively accumulate and manage wealth. When asked about any sort of generation gap (old school vs. new school) at the summit, Walters emphatically denied any talk of such, dismissing it as speculative and a way to divide-&-conquer.

Then, we got into that sham called the April 22nd New Orleans primary. For the record, Walters asserted in an earlier article (which we printed) that New Orleanians (especially displaced Black evacuees) should boycott the primary by not voting at all. However, last night, he indicated that he's re-evaluated his opinion and altered it somewhat from a week ago, suggesting that community leaders should make every effort to get out the vote - while recognizing a Republican-controlled state legislature is engineering a takeover. We'll wait and see what's next ...

2nd half, we called on our co-panelist and conservative stalwart Leon H. Wolf of for an open dialogue on Iraq. Surprisingly, Wolf did not maintain a traditional party-line assessment of the situation, but managed to remain unapologetically conservative, which is why we call him back quite a bit and find out what's up on the red side.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

ASCENT LIVE! is back tonight

We're on tonight. Guests include the legendary Dr. Ronald Walters, Univ. of MD; & our co-panelist Leon Wolf of

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

ASCENT LIVE! on KVDU radio POSTPONED till next week (technical issues) ...

We had a nice line-up of guests tonight and something went awry. Just wasn't our night, we guess. See ya next week.

BET's Johnson To Form Black Bank

Forming "Urban Trust" will probably remake Bob Johnson's image as Black entrepeneur extraordinaire, since it took multiple hits over the sale of BET to Viacom, lack of critical news programming on the cable mammoth and the proliferation of scandalous, denigrating music videos that became fair game. And BET didn't do itself or its audience any justice when it refused to air Coretta Scott King's funeral live.

This latest venture is sure to get many excited. Memories will be shortened. Johnson will be viewed as a pioneer in Black finance, triggering the type of economic empowerment model African Americans will need to improve their collective condition in the 21st century. On its face, it's a good idea: a national bank and financial services firm targeting a debt-ridden but spend-happy Black community. If not for the excessive spending and inability to reach consensus, African Americans as a whole could be generating as much wealth as South Korea. The whole concept of creating a financial literacy and education network is a critical step in the right direction. Financial literacy is not only important for the Black community - it's important for everyone.

But, the reality of the complex, globalized and volatile economy we live in today presents another angle that is less idealistic and culturally utopic. In forming hedge and leverage buy-out funds with assistance from Deutshe Bank AG and the Carlyle Group, there's no indication that the money used to purchase Florida-based Metro FSB is completely Bob Johnson money. To us, that's a simple signal of the times: there may be no such thing anymore as a complete "Black-owned" business; instead, Johnson's venture could be a collection of various shareholders who can put their money where their mouth is - regardless of the color of their skin or their politics. Johnson plays that game well.

What we predict is the impression or visual image of a Black-owned bank simply based on the novelty of another Bob Johnson enterprise. It may be "independent" for some time, but he'll end up spinning it into a subsidiary of a larger global bank or financial services firm that wants the Black business. And, there's nothing totally wrong with that since we've arrived at that stage in our political and economic maturity where we can no longer say we're "the first" to do this and that.

Still, we hope that the financial literacy aspect of it is truly sincere and solid. What we're looking for here is not another round of seminars, tours, book promos and marketing schemes where famous people tell working people how they made money ... "and you can do it too!" No: the masses are looking for something elementary, basic, straightforward and practical. Something universal and perhaps the beginning of a movement that teaches kids (at an early age) how to invest, save money, write checks, balance budgets and ledgers in the classroom. The true road to financial and personal freedom is through financial literacy.

Where Was Feingold When Conyers Needed Him?

We feel this is a valid question while Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) gets his man on in this lone battle with the White House and Senate over censure. Even his own Democrat colleagues in the Senate are "distancing" themselves from this one, privately dismissing Feingold's calls for censuring the President due to illegal wiretapping allegations (let's not fake the funk: it's illegal. But: whether or not it's effective is what everybody wants to know). Republicans believe Feingold is on an '08 warpath, setting up a stunt to gain favor in the next Presidential cycle.

What happened to Congressman John Conyers (D-MI)?

And, where was the Feingold muscle when Conyers called for censure in the House over fake war intelligence that led us into the current military quagmire in Iraq? That seemed more egregious, on some levels, than warrantless wiretaps (we're not trivializing the issue, we're just saying that if you compare the intensity of triggering World War III against listening in on someone's phone conversation, the former gets the big up). The way we see it, Feingold could have teamed up with Conyers which could have drawn in further support from the Congressional Black Caucus. Then again, the CBC isn't taken very seriously these days, even by their white party colleagues, and - who knows - that could have had something to do with it. Instead, Conyers has been left to dry, characterized as a grumpy, ancient statesman looking for a pointless brawl. Maybe a partnership is already brewing that we don't know about. Still, Feingold seems a day late and a dollar short ...

Of course, Feingold gets bigger media play than Conyers, golden boy of campaign finance reform with no skeletons in the closet. He has that rising star power factor Conyers never processed. But, Feingold is also an outsider and maverick, just like Conyers in the House, and the double-standard applied - clearly cutting that corner called race - is truly suspect.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Rise & Fall of Claude Allen ...

The recent arrest of Bush Administration top domestic policy advisor Claude Allen on charges of fraud is the latest in a sad string of events involving hard-line Black Republicans/conservatives close to the neo-con wing of the White House junta. In some ways, it was already distressing that out of the small packs of Black Republicans qualified for the $161,000/yr job, the White House picks a proud protege of former firebrand racist Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) - we emphasize proud, because Allen was known to flaunt this fact, that he was mentored by the most vicious opponent of the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday and a man who spent his entire political career getting re-elected through destructive race-baiting (it's much worse than that). And so, the President - expressing "disappointment" at Allen's arrest the other day - was famous for using Allen as a photo-op token when walking across the White House lawn. All the while, Allen used Bush as a means to some twisted political end deeply immersed in a somewhat confusing hostility towards his community. We note Allen's stint as Virginia Secretary of Health & Human Services when he denied Medicaid funding for an abortion to a pregnant African American woman who was the victim of a rape.

We're not going to pre-judge Allen on these extremely humiliating charges of petty theft and fraud since all are innocent until proven guilty. And highlighting Black conservatives is an aimless and misguided exercise right now since Black political figures of all ideological stripes have been caught with hands in assorted cookie jars. But, you can't deny, given Allen's almost Draconian allegiance to the most uncompromisingly right of conservative movements, there is some interesting irony at work here. We wonder if the man truly practiced what he preached all along. The blind can't lead the blind.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Pimpin' Ain't Eazy ...

And so, in a moment of evening solitude roasted by wandering thoughts liquidated by a 24/7 news cycle, we've got to stoop so low as to put our pence and bit in the controversy over Oscar winner Three 6 Mafia. Is it a public policy issue? On some levels it might be, based on the dominant society's perception of what we do and how we handle what we do.

In our title above, we drop back and reminisce a little on someone who really had lyrical, poetic talent beyond his time: Big Daddy Kane. Pimpin Ain't Eazy was true urban grit so foul that it received little to no radio airplay, only daring late night DJs on college stations who were willing to play hip hop at its finest - when the FCC censors weren't listening. Anyway, Kane captured the essence of Pimp in this heralded underground favorite, a true hip hop artisan and skilled wordsmith of fantastic proportions who respected the art. You may not have agreed with the content, but you knew this cat could flow verses like Aesop wrote fables.

And, hip hop today? Maybe we sound really old and near geriatric, but we're not certain the controversy has so much to do with the blaxploitation dynamic of "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" than with the pure foolishness of it. That's where we get slightly irritated by this pick and the staged performance on Sunday night: as long as hip hop has been a steadfast global phenomenon for nearly three decades, it takes this particular song and this particular group - of all groups, emcees and acts - to have it formally recognized by the most prestigious awards show in human history. Why this group? Why this tasteless brand of skeezed club music wrongly portraying itself as "hip hop" or "rap?" And we could produce a vast, almost infinite list of emcees and DJs of immense talent who could have solidly represented the artform before an unschooled audience: from the Gurus, to the Chuck Ds; from the DJ Premiers to the CL Smooths; from Q-Tip & Fife to the Jungle Brothers; & De La Soul to Common; Dilated Peoples to The Roots; oh no - and out there in Southern California, you mean to tell us Hollywood hasn't tapped into the production genius of multi-dimensional Madlib and his alter ego Quasimoto? Peanut Butter Wolf and Lootpack blown across the Santa Ana winds? Couldn't Nas or even big-headed Kanye have sufficed? A Rawkus record re-union, get Mos Def and Talib together on stage and blast the dripping Botox hanging from the faces of uptight forgottens? Even Eve or Lil Kim could've been somewhat tolerable ... Busta could've pulled another liqour ad, but we would've loved it. Enough of these uncreative, moronic, one-hit-wonder, ghetto-fabulous & favored slang-of-choice catch phrases that sound insanely funny for a moment when skipped on a cheezy, cheaply produced digital beat. Enough already; our ears are a popped and bloody mess. Come on, now - couldn't we have done better than this?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Predictions on Mayoral Race in New Orleans ...

The ASCENT Blog lunched a little last week for various reasons, Mardi Gras not being one of them. So, our list of excuses is fairly short. Just one of those weeks, we guess. Some catching up to do ...

The New Orleans Times-Picayune put it best when recently describing Mayor Ray Nagin's (D) political position in the hurricane ravaged Crescent City: he "... can no longer claim invincibility." That's become more evident since the candidate filing deadline this past Friday showed 23 Mayoral wanna-be's grabbing at Nagin's seat. This seemed to exceed the initial expectations of political observers who envisioned a crowded, yet manageable field of 12 or 13 candidates. Beyond the Mayor's race, we're witnessing a democratic growth spurt of 116 enthusiastic candidates running for 20 offices. It makes a crowded race look like a packed emcee battle at the local underground spot.

Still, Nagin shows a very slim lead in a recent CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll of N.O. voters, edging at 19% compared to 18% for Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu (brother of the Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) famously punked by CNN's Anderson Cooper during a live post-Katrina interview). Yet, CNN calls that edge "cloudy" ...

We still think Nagin will squeeze through this, despite a split-vote-tastes-White-less-Black-gentrified-faster-than-Shani-Davis Big Easy. He could end up being New Orlean's last Black mayor for a long time (much like after Dinkins in New York & Goode in Philly), but, let's not forget, Nagin is a disaster mayor: most voters might have little stomach for dramatic regime change in the midst of a recovery. Deon Roberts (who spoke to us live from downtown New Orleans on ASCENT LIVE! this past Wednesday) of the New Orleans City Business Journal reminds us:

Throughout the city’s 288-year history, most incumbents have won re-election in spite of presiding over catastrophic events.

Officials say history shows it is not the event that spoils an incumbent’s re-election; it’s public perception of how the leader prepared and responded to the event. Another factor, analysts say, can be the event’s timing in relation to the re-election race.

Then again, some in the NEW New Orleans may see this April 22nd primary as a first step towards really cleaning up the notoriously corrupt and politically sinful Crescent City, jumping at a chance to end business as usual. That can become an increasingly attractive proposition.