Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More Questions About Race and Media Coverage: Mitrice Richardson’s Disappearance

A few weeks ago, I asked a few short questions about race and the national media coverage of the disappearance (and subsequent death) of Yale Ph.D. student Annie Le.

Around the same time, Mitrice Richardson, another missing woman of color, received a little bit of national coverage. This was surprising, given that missing black women pretty much never become national news stories. Of course, this coverage lasted a week at the most, and was nowhere near as widespread as that of Le.

As I said in talking the Le post, normally, for a missing adult to become a national story, that adult must be:

a. White
b. Female
c. Thin and relatively attractive.
d. Upper class (by virtue of income or education)

Collectively, these characteristics serve as shorthand for “sympathetic victim.” Mainstream media folks apparently believe that the audience will identify with attractive, upper class white women—“ all-American girls” in our country’s newspeak.

While neither Le nor Richardson are/were white, they are/were both attractive young women. I haven’t read enough about Richardson’s family to speak with certainty, but the tenor of the coverage suggests that Richardson comes from a middle class background. For instance, Richardson graduated with a B.A. from Cal State Fullerton—not exactly Yale, but college nonetheless.

Complicating the coverage of Richardson’s disappearance are her documented trangressions the night she went missing. The reportedly intoxicated Richardson was arrested and booked for not paying for her meal at a restaurant and for possession of marijuana.

Because mainstream media tend to depict people in crime-related stories simplistically, either as innocent victims or as criminals, Richardson’s case poses a problem. One can imagine a news editor downplaying Richardson’s “relateability” by assuming that her crimes suggest that she had some shady associations or a less-than-stellar character.

The implication is that, if you aren’t white, you’d better be squeaky clean or else you can’t be an everywoman/all-American girl. This goes back to Rule 1 of judging black screwups: “A black person who screws up is attacked more severely than is a white person who screws up.”

For the sake of comparison, consider Natalee Holloway, the white Alabama girl who went missing in Aruba several years ago and whose case is still getting national coverage. According to even her classmates, she engaged in extremely risky behavior—excessive drinking and sleeping around—but none of that diminished her luster as a victim.

Richardson’s family is acutely aware of the double standard, and has made a concerted effort, it seems, to render their daughter in aspirational middle class tones. They made it a point to emphasize her college degree. They also noted that Richardson worked as an executive assistant, but was considering pursuing a doctoral program in psychology.

Moreover, the Richardson family has tried to minimize her responsibility for her crimes. Richardson’s parents insist that a friend introduced her to marijuana (as if a 24 year old isn’t responsible for her own decision whether to do drugs). They also seem to be suggesting that not only was Mitrice intoxicated, she was mentally unstable.

Some additional questions (playing off the the questions I raised over the Le coverage):

1.) Is there a self-consciousness on the part of media outlets about the racial aspects of their formula to determine which missing women deserve national media coverage? Not that they care about missing women of color (or missing white women, for that matter), but are Richardson or Le simply token non-white covers?

2a.) Did the fact that the police have been held partially responsible for Richardson’s disappearance make her case more or less likely to be covered?

2b.) Had Richardson not broken the law, would the national coverage of her disappearance have more legs?

3.) Is the class dimension in Richardson’s case as prominent as those in Le’s? Remember, Le’s status as an Ivy League grad student were front and center, and were tied to her class-related social value. On the other hand, the class dimensions of Richardson is more complicated, as the media has countered her education and career with her crimes and signifiers (like tattoos) of her relative lack of class-related social value.

What other questions about media coverage have been raised by Richardson’s case (especially as compared to Le’s)?

I Honor Your Service: Hamden Man Dies in Afghanistan Attack

Veterans of Vietnam often talk about that moment when they heard of a friend from their high school or town being killed in action. This was the moment that the war touched home and ceased to be an abstraction. Draft numbers got lower, and more folks got sent. It was getting personal...maybe not so much at first because an acquaintance killed in country was not the same as a dear friend. But, over time, days, months, and years, those vague faces became faces more dear. There is a statistic that is often cited by policy makers, military experts, and the like that once you know someone from your high school class who was killed in a war, then the war becomes personal...and it is a sign that it is escalating. For us, Afghanistan is going to be our long war. And we must not forget that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. The question then becomes, will it be one name listed on the epitaph of American empire, or will it be one more country listed--like Western Europe in the dark days following World War 2--as part of our honor roll of success and greatness. Only time will tell.

Captain Sklaver is the first person from my high school that I am aware of (and who I remember) to be killed in Afghanistan or Iraq.

I wish peace for him and his family. Strength and honor Captain Sklaver. Your service and volunteer work was and is respectable negro behavior.

Hamden Man Dies in Afghanistan Attack

Hamden (WTNH) - Funeral services will be held Tuesday for a Hamden army captain who was killed by a suicide attacker in Afghanistan. Gov. Jodi Rell has ordered flags at half staff in his honor.

Army Capt. Benjamin Sklaver was killed on Friday, the governor said in a statement.

"He was a hero, in my eyes. He defended his country. I'm at a loss for words," said Carl Saraceni of Hamden.

Sklaver, 32, was on patrol in Muscheh, Afghanistan, when his unit was ambushed by a suicide attacker.

Sklaver was a graduate of Hamden high School and went to Tufts University. He was part of the Army's 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion, which concentrates on building infrastructure.

During his first tour of duty in Uganda his mission was bringing clean water to villages. When that tour ended, he still worked on that goal. He set up a charity -- Clearwater Initiative -- that works to bring drinking water to people in Africa.

It was yet another reason for pride from his friends and family.

"They were very proud of him. He was an all American boy who evolved into a humanitarian in his early adulthood," said Tom Koppel.

Members of Hamden's American Legion Post were saddened to learn the news. They pledged their complete support to the Sklaver family and plan to place flowers at the City's Veteran's Memorial today.

"On behalf of our state, I extend our deepest sympathies to his family at this most difficult time," Gov. Rell said Sunday. "And I ask everyone in Connecticut to keep all our soldiers, sailors and airmen, who are far from home, in our thoughts each and every day."

Capt. Sklaver was due to be married in June.

Funeral services for Capt. Sklaver will be Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. at Congregation Mishkan Israel at 786 Ridge Road in Hamden. He will be laid to rest at Farband Cemetery on Route 109 in the Town of Morris.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Boo Hoo Bill O'Reilly Plays the Victim (Again) or Sam Tanenhaus Discusses the Death of Conservativism with Bill O'Reilly on The Factor

Bill O'Reilly plays the victimologist card once more. As Gordon has pointed out, it is one of the recurring ironies of the resurgent Right that white men, conservative white men in particular, are now victims of the liberals, the media, the Left, Barack Obama, or [insert villain of the day]. Actually, is it an irony anymore given that the "conservatives are perennial victims card" has become a script of sorts for the Right?

I thought Limbaugh, Beck, Coulter, Malkin, et al. bemoaned how minorities, women, gays, and others played the perennial "victim?" I guess one wears the shoe (or in keeping with the metaphor, plays the card) if it is politically expedient--even if it is a gross act of hypocrisy.

Compare Tanenhaus's appearance on O'Reilly with his interview on Bill Moyers Journal or this clip from Reason.TV:

Apples and oranges, no? True, the formats are different. But, I honestly do not know why anyone not in league with O'Reilly or inclined to agree with his brand of Right wing populism would go on The Factor to begin with. Any thoughts? Are folks just gluttons for punishment? Does the appeal lie in the fact that it is hard to take down the king in his own castle, on his throne, and surrounded by his elite bodyguards...but then again that victory would be the ultimate in sweet satisfaction.

As a bonus: Here is a great excerpt from the documentary Outfoxed that exposes some of the trickery and stagecraft behind O'Reilly's show:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saturday Afternoon Funnies--Alexyss Tylor, Man Sharing, and the Wisdom of Shahrazad Ali

One of my friends just got back from DC and was lamenting the dating situation for black women in that city. I decided to use these Internets to do a little Youtube research because I knew that Alexyss or Brother Manning would have some guidance to offer on the issue (alas, the latter was mute on this point...he is too busy conspiring against Obama it seems). One worry though: I love me Alexyss, she is my personal goddess and I so desire to be her servant in semi-committed yoni-lingam betrothal. But, Ms. Tyler's look in this video ain't too good--am I crazy, but has she not lost a step or two (or three) since her debut a few years back?

As luck would have it, my mental energies were excited as I reviewed Alexyss's treatise on man-sharing. The old neurons began to fire a bit faster as I realized that I had heard some of this before. Yes indeed, from one of my favorite street corner, self-published intellectuals of the 1980s. Behold Ms. Shahrazad Ali, author of The Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Black Woman, in a classic appearance on The Sally Jesse Raphael Show:

Some preliminary thoughts/questions.

One, look at the brothers in the video. Don't they look like walk ons from a Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Flash, Treacherous 3, or Funky Four+1 video?

Two, ain't Miss Ali special? They don't make them like her anymore. Or do they? If they do, where can I find one?

Three, when is Miss Ali going to get a cabinet position with Obama's administration? She could be czar of black male-black female relationships.

Four, yes, yes, yes. Black women are marrying white men to escape being naturally submissive to the Black man. Oops, sorry I had a black nationalist, Willie Lynch moment, it must be the Korean BBQ I am eating.

Five, we do need a book to understand the sisters. But, I must be honest because this black man needs a book to understand himself. Are you with me? Am I the only one who is confused about a great many things? Beginning with myself and extending outward?

I must ask, am I the only brother who smiled when she dropped the truth about the almighty Black Man being the head of the family, the natural ruler of the family, and original king who has taught all men--including the White man--how to rule? I am feeling really Afrocentric now! I am hearing the drums in my ears, my heart feels the call of battle:

Sorry, I couldn't resist succumbing to a Shaka Zulu moment.

Maybe I will wear my dashiki and kufi out on Sunday when I go to see Zombieland and also make my weekly stop at Filene's Basement.


Part 1--

Part 2--

Part 3--

Part 4--

Friday, October 2, 2009

Kimbo Slice Beat on The Ultimate Fighter or Fight of the Century: The Myth of the Black Rapist Beaten by the Pillsbury Dough Boy

Kimbo Slice got his rusty black behind whooped on The Ultimate Fighter--quite deservedly if you ask me. Slice has no ground game and would have had better luck in the early, pre-Gracie era of UFC. Now, before he even steps into the octagon, Slice is already rendered obsolete.

Question: Doesn't Kimbo look like the myth of the black rapist come to life? Question two: could Kimbo do double duty as a poster child for the Klan's campaign against miscegenation? Question three: Were you surprised that the Pillsbury Dough Boy beat Kimbo "the guy you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley or see leering in your bedroom window" Slice?

By the way, Kimbo has a deal to fight at UFC's pay-per-view in December. Talk about failing your way to the top...

Update--check this great piece "Attack of the Giant Negroes," on Kimbo Slice and stereotypes of black manhood by Scratch of the blog, Scritch and Scratch...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chauncey DeVega says: On the Horrible Murder of Derrion Albert--The Rule of the Jungle, Elephant Attacks, and the Rise of the Ghetto Youthocracy

I was reading Field Negro's great post on the senseless murder of Derrion Albert in Chicago and had a light bulb moment. One of our first posts on this site was a bit prescient in that it (sadly) commented upon the root causes of the barbarism that we witnessed in Chicago this week--and which we have seen all too often in our communities many, many times. Sadly, here is a We Are Respectable Negroes flashback from July 28, 2008. It is all too telling as we try to explain the savagery among the ign't classes as of late:

Chauncey DeVega says: Of Naked Apes and Elephant Attacks

Besides the ape, the elephant ranks among my favorite creatures. They possess a certain power, wisdom, dignity, grace, and intelligence which is in my opinion, without equal among land mammals. I also love the sea cow, a.k.a. the manatee.

In fact, I so love elephants that on principle I do not attend circuses (creepy clowns) or zoos (even as a child I thought they were cruel, and I will not let my children go to zoos or circuses either). Besides belonging to the World Wildlife Federation, my support for the elephant is so great that I root for the elephants when they escape their cruel handlers and commence to get some revenge by laying the smackdown on their human captors. Making them even more ideal as subjects for study, elephants hold funerals for their honored dead (and this has been documented to include humans whom the elephants are fond of), have their own version of the telephone game, and are highly social. In total, this makes them great mirrors for examining human behavior.

The Straight Dope, a weekly syndicated column, recently featured a piece on the rise of social dysfunction among elephants. It seems that an absence of older elephants, and the violence facing elephant herds by poachers and Africa's litany of civil wars (these countries can't get their act together can they? and now the elephants, and the great apes, are paying the price for human foolishness) has damaged the social cohesion of elephant society. The older male elephants, the elephant OG's/elders are not around to control the young elephant ign'ts. And the female elephants can't keep these young elephant ign'ts in check. This breakdown is so profound that the young male elephants are killing innocent rhinos, fighting each other without cause, and then raping their dead and defeated adversaries. When reading the column, I couldn't help but think about the eerie parallels this has with the breakdown of social cohesion among the underclass. It seems that elephants, like mankind, are facing a crisis of "youthocracy"--Robin Kelley's word not mine--where the natural balance among families and communities is being upended by a crisis in elephant manhood.

Here is the article:

Are elephants in the wild showing newly aggressive behavior including rape? Is man to blame?

Dear Cecil:

I've read that elephants are now exhibiting aggression previously unseen — including raping rhinos on the African savannah. Have we truly screwed up the elephants that much, or is this merely one of those myths that is now perpetuated in the media? — K. Honey, Georgetown, Ontario

Cecil replies:

As far as I've seen, the most unambiguous published claim that male elephants do with some regularity rape rhinoceroses appears in an October 2006 New York Times Magazine article titled "An Elephant Crackup?" In opening his argument that a specieswide breakdown in social cohesion has led to an upsurge in violence by elephants, author Charles Siebert offers evidence that elephant aggression has been marked by what he calls a "singular perversity": "Since the early 1990's, for example, young male elephants in Pilanesberg National Park and the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa have been raping and killing rhinoceroses; this abnormal behavior, according to a 2001 study in the journal Pachyderm, has been reported in "'a number of reserves' in the region." That's an assertion guaranteed to catch the eye of even the most inattentive reader, and it's since appeared in other discussions of animal behavior, often phrased in ways suggesting the NYT article was the source.

But is it true? Sitting down with the Pachyderm study Siebert cites — Slotow et al, "Killing of Black and White Rhinoceroses by African Elephants in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, South Africa" — we learn that between 1991 and 2001 the park's elephants dispatched 63 rhinos, mainly by goring. The authors suggest that the animals responsible were young males who had grown up in social groups from which older males had been "culled" (read: slaughtered by government-commissioned hunters as a population-control measure) and as a result entered a state of heightened, testosterone-fueled aggression called musth much earlier in life than they ordinarily would have. Since similar incidents at Pilanesberg stopped after large adult males were reintroduced into the population, thus reestablishing the natural male hierarchy, the authors advocate trying the same thing at Hluhluwe-Umfolozi.

Wait a minute, you say — what about the raping part? That's what I said too. I went back through the study a second time, then a third. The reference to abnormal behavior seen in "a number of reserves" has only to do with elephants killing rhinos; nowhere is any mention made of rape. Seeing a clear need for some inside info, I had my assistant Una get in touch with one of the article's authors, Rob Slotow, director of the Amarula Elephant Research Program at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Professor Slotow's reply was straightforward: the young elephants seemingly got into ritualized combat situations with the rhinos, as males are wont to do, but having no experience being in the musth state, didn't know they were supposed to back off when the rhinos backed down, with the result that the rhinos wound up dead. "There was," Slotow concluded, "nothing sexual about these attacks." (He went on to report that, sure enough, the attacks on rhinos subsided almost entirely once older males were brought back on board.)

That would suggest a problem in the NYT quote above. Best case, I figured, was that the article got the underlying facts right — i.e., elephants really were raping as well as killing rhinos at the parks in question — but named the wrong study in support. That was Siebert's best guess as well, and he sent me to G.A. Bradshaw, an animal psychologist at Oregon State, who'd been a key source for him on the Times piece. Bradshaw maintains that the elephants have been observed mounting their rhino victims and that it's ridiculous to dismiss the possibility that the attacks have a sexual aspect. Though she prefers the term "false copulation," she says, "it is unlikely that the act was consensual as so many rhinos were killed, so in that context and in light of current science, 'rape' is not inappropriate."

There's little doubt that decades of poaching, culling, and habitat loss have played havoc with elephants' complex social and emotional lives, and a traumatized elephant is clearly capable of some scary behavior. But so far experts don't agree on what to call it.


Maybe I read too many issues of the comic the Elephantmen, but in considering the mayhem in the elephant community I couldn't help but visualize an elephant Bill Cosby lecturing the young elephant men on manhood, "come on elephant people we can do better!"

Or maybe a elephant Sudhir Venkatesh or William Julius Wilson doing ethnographies on the social networks of the elephant 'hood. Perhaps, there is an elephant version of Daniel Patrick Moynihan studying this issue and making policy prescriptions to correct the chaos among the elephant youth? Of course, there would also be the obligatory elephant John McWhorters and Stanley Crouches (maybe being an elephant would actually improve the latter's looks) railing against the social evil that is hip hop--or its elephant equivalent.

And guess what, when older male elephants were returned to the elephant herds the anti-social behavior of the young elephant ign'ts virtually ceased. Perhaps we should borrow that model in order to improve our own communities? But then again, where would we find these responsible, wise elders? And would they want to return to the 'hood?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Afternoon Lunch Reading: Gore Vidal on Obama, America's Decline, and The Dim-Witted Masses

Gore Vidal is one of my favorite essayists. He is so quotable and pithy. For example: "I never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television." Talk about a life mantra. In the Times online, Vidal offers his incisive wisdom on Obama's failings, America's future, and the anti-intellectualism of the American people. Again, as I observe with no so small amount of disgust, given the rabble of the Tea Parties, the 50th percentile that is comfortable with its mediocrity, and a country that gave us George Bush (twice), are the masses indeed asses? Or is this respectable negro just a bit of an elitist?

Some quotables from Vidal's interview, "We'll have a dictatorship soon in the U.S."

On Obama's Afghanistan policy:

Last year he famously switched allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama during the Democratic nomination process for president. Now, he reveals, he regrets his change of heart. How’s Obama doing? “Dreadfully. I was hopeful. He was the most intelligent person we’ve had in that position for a long time. But he’s inexperienced. He has a total inability to understand military matters. He’s acting as if Afghanistan is the magic talisman: solve that and you solve terrorism.” America should leave Afghanistan, he says. “We’ve failed in every other aspect of our effort of conquering the Middle East or whatever you want to call it.” The “War on Terror” was “made up”, Vidal says. “The whole thing was PR, just like ‘weapons of mass destruction’. It has wrecked the airline business, which my father founded in the 1930s. He’d be cutting his wrists. Now when you fly you’re both scared to death and bored to death, a most disagreeable combination.”

On Obama's leadership:

Vidal originally became pro-Obama because he grew up in “a black city” (meaning Washington), as well as being impressed by Obama’s intelligence. “But he believes the generals. Even Bush knew the way to win a general was to give him another star. Obama believes the Republican Party is a party when in fact it’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth, based on hatred — religious hatred, racial hatred. When you foreigners hear the word ‘conservative’ you think of kindly old men hunting foxes. They’re not, they’re fascists.”

Another notable Obama mis-step has been on healthcare reform. “He f***ed it up. I don’t know how because the country wanted it. We’ll never see it happen.” As for his wider vision: “Maybe he doesn’t have one, not to imply he is a fraud. He loves quoting Lincoln and there’s a great Lincoln quote from a letter he wrote to one of his generals in the South after the Civil War. ‘I am President of the United States. I have full overall power and never forget it, because I will exercise it’. That’s what Obama needs — a bit of Lincoln’s chill.” Has he met Obama? “No,” he says quietly, “I’ve had my time with presidents.” Vidal raises his fingers to signify a gun and mutters: “Bang bang.” He is referring to the possibility of Obama being assassinated. “Just a mysterious lone gunman lurking in the shadows of the capital,” he says in a wry, dreamy way.

And my favorite observation about the current political atmosphere and the American people:

Today religious mania has infected the political bloodstream and America has become corrosively isolationist, he says. “Ask an American what they know about Sweden and they’d say ‘They live well but they’re all alcoholics’. In fact a Scandinavian system could have benefited us many times over.” Instead, America has “no intellectual class” and is “rotting away at a funereal pace. We’ll have a military dictatorship fairly soon, on the basis that nobody else can hold everything together. Obama would have been better off focusing on educating the American people. His problem is being over-educated. He doesn’t realise how dim-witted and ignorant his audience is. Benjamin Franklin said that the system would fail because of the corruption of the people and that happened under Bush.”

The entire piece can be found here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pet Food Industry Enjoys Strong Sales in Weak Economy or Alternative Explanation: Things Are So Bad People are Now Eating Dog Food

Man bites dog...again.

Behold once more the wisdom of Good Times. Is there any life dilemma or situation that James Evans Jr. and company cannot resolve? Could it be that the bourgeois, naive reporter who compiled the following piece simply doesn't know how hard folk have/are having it in this economy?

I would like to believe that some folks are toughing it out and shorting themselves in order to keep their pets happy and well fed (I know me and my people would and are)--but, so many other sad and depressing data points are suggesting that our animal friends are sadly the first to be deemed a "luxury" item and thus discarded because of the horrid state of the economy.

Unfortunately, this is one more story that is being sadly underreported: along with good hard working Americans now being forced to live in their cars and in tent cities, my smart money is on the fact that pet food sales are "stable" because an increasing number of American families have been forced to make dog and cat food a staple of their diets. Courtesy of the Denver Post:

Pet Food Industry Enjoys Strong Sales in Weak Economy

Despite rising unemployment, credit-card debt and thinning discretionary spending, American pet owners remain loyal customers of an industry that is enjoying consistent growth.

The pet-food industry is fueled by consumers who won't back away from spending on food and necessities for their animals, though they're likely to pare down the family vacation.

The strong spending comes amid price increases in nearly every pet-food category, the result of rising costs of fuel, ingredients and transportation for manufacturers.

Dogs and cats, though, still feel the pinch in other ways, owners said. Fewer treats, new toys or accessories such as collars and leashes, even fewer trips to the groomer are all part of the cost

"We've cut back for us all," said Kathy Schmidt of Lone Tree, whose miniature schnauzer, Archie, has had to wait longer between clippings.

Though the family has trimmed back, Archie still eats pretty well because "he needs to eat what he's accustomed to," Schmidt said.

That's one reason spending on pets remains robust, with total sales of all pet products topping $45 billion this year, a 5 percent increase, according to the American Pet Products Association. And retail sales of pet food are up 4.5 percent in 2009 at about $18 billion. Future pet-food sales are projected to top $21 billion by 2013.

It's showing up at local stores, where boutique owners are enjoying growth as many of their counterparts catering solely to humans struggle.

"We've seen double-digit growth this year. The recession hasn't really touched us," said Deb Dempsey, owner of Mouthfuls in Denver's Highland neighborhood. "We're not selling tons of bedding and clothing, and treats and durable goods, the foofy stuff, has stayed down."

Dedication to their pet's health apparently has much to do with how owners spend.

"We have so many customers who say they'd eat macaroni and cheese before they'd cut back on their dogs," she said.

The pet-food recalls of 2007 didn't leave the industry unscathed but did reinforce owners' focus on quality, not price.

"I'll go to McDonald's and eat lunch from the dollar menu, but a can of food isn't something I want to skimp on," money manager Pat Janssen said of his dog-food buying. "But there are fewer toys and chews in the bag these days."

Prices are stabilizing, but consumers shouldn't expect too big a drop any time soon. Much is because of long-term supply contracts producers locked into when prices were already high, analysts say.

"We're trying to cut back, though we're not real good at it," Mark Niederhauser said of his two chow-chows and papillon during a recent trip to PetSmart near Park Meadows shopping center.

"I just can't deny the dogs."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chauncey DeVega Says--An Unspeakable Act: 3 Hoodlums Charged in Beating Death of Chicago Honor Student or Who the Hell is Raising these Monsters?

I have to ask, who the hell is raising these monsters?

I have alluded to the following story a few times on this site, but incidents such as the above crime bring certain memories right back to the forefront of my mind.

A few years ago, I was the victim of an attempted armed robbery. I got lucky--very lucky--and fought off a gunman who during our struggle tried to take a brother out...thankfully the elder gods intervened and I was spared. I left my uncle a message that night about what happened. I was pretty impressed with myself, I didn't panic, with bare fists I fought off a person with a gun, and I did the right and honorable thing by the female friend I was with (I could just feel that he would have beat and raped her, and I would rather have stepped up and risked my life than to live and have watched such a thing happen without intervening).

Uncle didn't call me back for a few days. When he finally did, he told me in a quiet, very direct way, that since my dad had passed away, now he, my uncle, would give me the advice my pops would have if he were still here. My uncle coldly told me that I have a future, and that piece of garbage--another black man, sadly--could have killed me. My death would be the greatest thing that he accomplished, and the stickup kid's life will amount to nothing either way...so don't ever give one of these monsters another shot at you. These hoodlums live to destroy people's lives and they have no conscience, moral framework, or self-control. They are mired in muck and debris. They are the living embodiment of our society's collective ugliness. In reading this sad story, and watching the video, I can't help but think that the pieces of human filth that killed young Derrion Albert for sport have taken a bright star out of the universe. Sadly, we are now forced to grieve with young Mr. Derrion's family--and to hope that he finds peace.

Too bad we don't have garbage men for the human condition who would deposit these young thugs on the refuse pile where they belong. Too bad, indeed...

Official Suspect Admits Role in Beating Death of Chicago Teen

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN)
-- One of the suspects accused of killing an honor student in a beating captured on tape in Chicago has admitted to jumping on the victim's head after he was already lying on the ground, a spokeswoman for the Chicago States Attorney office said.

In the videotaped confession, 19-year-old Silvanus Shannon also said that the victim, Derrion Albert, never struck him, said Tandra Simonton, spokesperson for the Cook County States Attorney.

All three teens arrested for Albert's death -- Silvanus Shannon, 19; Eric Carson, 16; and Eugene Riley, 18 -- were seen on the videotape attacking Albert, and were charged with first degree murder and held without bail, Simonton said.

On Monday during the bond hearing, prosecutors described how the street fight escalated from a dispute between two factions at Albert's high school to a beating that left the honor student dead.

Prosecutors said Derrion Albert was an "innocent bystander" who ended up in the middle of a street fight between two factions of students at his Fenger High School.

When school let out at 2:50 p.m. on Thursday, Albert was on his way to the bus stop when two groups of students converged on the street, Simonton said.

The two factions, one that lived near the Altgeld Gardens housing development and one in an area known as "The Ville," began fighting after a shooting earlier that day that police called gang-related.

Albert was approached by 16-year-old Eric Carson and another unknown person, both members of the "The Ville" faction, Simonton said. Carson struck Albert in the head with a long wooden railroad tie, and the second person punched him in the face, Simonton said.

Albert was knocked unconscious by the blows for a short period, Simonton said, but gained consciousness and quickly tried to move from the escalating street fight.

"He gained consciousness and moved a few feet away, but as he was trying to get up, he was attacked by a second group," Simonton said.

That group, made up of five members from the opposing faction, then took their shots at Albert, Simonton said.

He was struck in the head by Riley with a railroad tie, a rectangular piece of wood used as a base for railroad tracks, Simonton said.

Once Albert was on the ground again, Shannon was seen "stomping on his head repeatedly," Simonton said.

An amateur videotape shot by a witness, which has been broadcast nationally, showed the attack unfolding. A local TV station that received the tape turned it over to police.

The video shows that, as the attackers ran away, the person with the camera and several others approached Albert and carried him into a nearby building.

"Derrion, get up!" a female voice pleads on the video.

Albert was taken to Roseland Community Hospital and then to Advocate Christ Hospital and Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, Simonton said.

Shannon and Riley do not have criminal records. Carson is on probation for a 2008 robbery conviction, according to Simonton.

On Monday, family and friends, some wearing shirts bearing Albert's photo, held a vigil in his honor.

Albert's grandfather, Joseph Walker, told CNN affiliate WLS-TV that his grandson was a good kid who didn't deserve to die.

"He was in Bible class this Tuesday night. Church on Sunday," Walker told WLS-TV. "I have no trouble out of my grandson whatsoever. This thing that happened to him is so horrific that we just don't know what we're going to do. We lost a really dear friend in my grandson. He was a blessed child."

Walker said the family was struggling to come to terms with why Albert was killed.

"I don't know where all this anger come from these people today," he told WLS-TV. "That's just too much anger for someone to have in their heart. All I can do is I'm going to pray for these people, I'm going to to pray for forgiveness."

Albert's aunt, Rose Braxton, told CNN affiliate WGN-TV that the family was hurt again when a memorial in Albert's honor was burned down.

"To go and burn a memorial after such tragedy, then that just speaks for itself to what kind of people they are," she told WGN-TV.

Family and friends asked the community to turn in anyone they knew who was a part of Albert's beating.

"What kind of person, what kind of individual, has such rage and such anger and such madness?" the Rev. Michael Pfleger said. "We've got to get to the hearts of our children, because nothing, nothing, excuses or justifies the actions of an individual who would beat another individual. Nothing justifies that in this society. "

Pfleger said it was time to make a change, so children aren't afraid to go to or from school.

He said this kind of teen violence was not just an issue for Chicago, but from "Oakland to Newark."

Ron Huberman, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, said he had met with Albert's classmates.

"How do we make sure this event doesn't become another event?" he said. "Another vigil on another day."

Huberman said he will fight every day to ensure the safety of children in Chicago's schools.

"We can promise them and we can say that we we will absolutely remember Derrion," he said.

Flanked by people holding signs with photos of a young child and the words "Don't shoot, I want to grow up," Pfleger pleaded for peace.

"It's time for guns, and it's time for two-by-fours to stop being the way we treat each other," he said.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Fun--"Let a Bitch Work": Ann Coulter, Obama as the Joker, and the Liberal Conspiracy

via videosift.com

Ann Coulter, so deserves to be the subject of a an avant-garde art festival or collection of scatalogically themed new age poetry. I have always preferred Playboy Magazine's approach to Coulter and her kin--"the infamous Conservatives I would like to hate fuck list"--but, we respectable negroes have to be more restrained. Interestingly, Coulter did not make the top ten of said compilation (although Michelle Malkin, coconut, race traitor, pro-Japanese internment advocate did quite predictably place at the top of the list).

For some Sunday laughs here is a bit of Coulter's latest wisdom: apparently those sneaky liberals are actually behind the racist excesses of the Glenn Beck, brown shirt Tea Party brigades. Courtesy of the Raw Story--

Coulter Suspects Liberals Behind Obama-as-Hitler Posters

For conservative political commentator Ann Coulter, it seems right-wingers can do no wrong — and, if they are seen to be doing wrong, it’s the fault of the left anyway.

Coulter says she suspects that posters of President Barack Obama with a Hitler mustache that appeared at Tea Party rallies are the work of “liberal agitators.”

During a discussion on Fox News’ Geraldo at Large on Saturday, host Geraldo Rivera played a clip of President Barack Obama addressing the Congressional Black Caucus, in which the president recounted an anecdote from last week’s G20 meetings.

“One of the leaders — I won’t mention who it was — he comes up to me … he says, ‘Barack, explain to me this health care debate,’” the president said. “He says, ‘We don’t understand it. You’re trying to make sure everybody gets health care and they’re putting a Hitler mustache on you. That doesn’t make sense to me. Explain that to me.’ He didn’t understand.”

“Isn’t it true that some of this extremist rhetoric [is] embarrassing to the United States and our president?” Rivera asked.If so, then liberals really did a number on America’s image over the eight years of [President] George Bush,” Coulter replied, going on to describe various hyperbolic protests that took place over the course of the Bush administration.

But in the case of liberals protesting Bush, “it was done much more egregiously,” Coulter added. “And we don’t know that the rare Hitler mustache you see at these Tea Parties was even [done by] a conservative. I suspect they were liberal agitators.”

That made Rivera laugh. “Those sneaky liberal agitators!” he exclaimed.

“Yeah, of course they do that,” Coulter retorted, adding that it is “a way to shut down speech."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Night Funnies: Stephen Colbert's Ownage of The Racist Screeds of Limbaugh and Beck

I must ask. Who is the American Socrates? Colbert? Chappelle? or Michael Moore? Who and why?

A bonus clip because we can, a classic from SNL--Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor's, "Word Association":

What are We New England Patriots Fans to Do? Have Belichick and Brady Gone Soft and Old? or From ESPN: Patriots Still Seeking Identity

We don't often talk about sports on this site, but given that I am an unapologetic New England Patriots fan this piece from ESPN caught my eye. I too was worried during the off season about my boy Tom Brady's ability to return to form after his devastating knee injury. Two games into the 2009 season it seems that we do in fact have much to be concerned about. The NY Jets game was atrocious--just piss poor football by the Pats...and to boot, the Pats of old would have punished the Jets for daring to brag before the game. There is a great deal of unease on Brady's part, understandable given a knee injury. And his rhythm--that amazing timing of his--is a bit off as well.

As Bill Simmons' piece points out, could it simply be that time, and the sheer pressure of the NFL has ended the Patriot's legendary run? I am still a believer in Belichick's genius. I still wouldn't consistently bet against Brady on any given Sunday. Nevertheless, something is clearly a miss with my Pats (have they lost too much veteran talent too quickly?) Are Belichick and Brady soft because they are now enjoying the fruits of their hard labor--i.e. money, women, and bit of sports entertainment power?

While still holding my breath, the following passage from Simmons' spot on article gives me some hope.

Part of me wonders if Belichick saw the writing on the wall, explaining why he swapped Seymour for Oakland's 2011 No. 1 pick. Most Patriots fans loved that trade, including me, but dealing a former All-Pro in a contract year (when he will never be more motivated) isn't exactly a 2009 power play. Was Belichick setting up for 2010 (an uncapped year) and 2011 (when the entire CBA will change) by risking this season's chances, just like when he risked 2006 by dealing Deion Branch for a future first? (And as it turned out, cost himself a title?) Did he decide Brady wouldn't fully recover for another year? Did he hedge his bets thinking this year's team might flounder?

Did he ... did he know?

Maybe Belichick is still the Emperor? Scheming and plotting against his foes as he prepares a trap that they could not have possibly predicted or defended themselves against. Hopefully, Brady is still the Chosen One--more the Vader of The Empire Strikes Back, than the reborn Anakin of Return of the Jedi.

Patriots Still Seeking Identity

In Malibu, beach houses hug the Pacific Ocean for miles on end. Each one looks different than the next. Some are modern, some are old-school. Some are gaudy, some are classy. Some are worth $5 million, others are worth eight times that much. If you stroll along the beach marveling at them, one thing always jumps out: the foundations. Some look like they could get nailed by a tsunami and remain standing. Others look like they could get swept away by the right wave.

For most of this decade, the New England Patriots owned a tsunami-proof house. They could weather anything. Even when Tom Brady blew out his knee eight minutes into the 2008 season, no Patriots fan gave up. We still have Belichick. We still have that foundation. We can figure this out. Nope. Missed the playoffs. That same defense mechanism kicked in after the Pats struggled in their first two games of 2009.

Everything is going to be OK. It's the Patriots. They will figure it out.

But will they? After a discouraging defeat to the Jets, Patriots fans splintered into two camps. The first camp (the "Kool-Aid drinkers," as the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy derisively called them this week) maintains that Brady only needs to get his sea legs back, that the defense will be fine when Jerod Mayo returns, that the Jets whupped them only because Kevin O'Connell gave them Brady's plays. Everyone in the Kool-Aid Camp believes in certain axioms that may no longer be true -- stuff like "never bet against the Patriots after a loss" and "when in doubt, Belichick will come through." They trust the foundation: eight straight winning seasons, three Super Bowl titles and the best eight-year overall record of any team in 20 years. The foundation will prevail. Always.

(Important note: My father is a charter member of this group. In fact, when I told him that I planned to write this column, he hissed things like, "it's too early," "we'll be fine," "you give up on our teams too easily," "this reminds me of when you quit on the Celtics two springs ago" and "you're an a**hole and I wish we weren't related." All solid points.)

For the second camp, it's more complicated. You wouldn't call them naysayers, just realists. And here's the reality: Today's NFL isn't built for teams to succeed year after year indefinitely. Extending the Malibu analogy, a good foundation only lasts so long. You still need to take care of your house. Need to wash the salt off your deck every day, update the furniture, keep a fresh coat of paint on there, check that foundation every few months to make sure it's fine. You cannot slip. You cannot fall behind. You cannot take anything for granted. Or else your house will start to look like crap.

Now ...

As a realist and a Kool-Aid drinker, for the life of me, I cannot decide between Camp No. 1 and Camp No. 2. My buddy Bug (Patriots Kool-Aid alcoholic, just like my father) believes the '09 Patriots will become this year's '08 Colts -- early struggles, untimely injuries, tons of panic and "could this be it?" columns, but ultimately the foundation will prevail and everything will be fine by December. That's Camp No. 1 in a nutshell. We have succeeded before, so we will succeed again. I could totally see this happening. I am rooting for it.

But I keep hearing the voices from Camp No. 2. In particular, five undeniable truths that don't bode well for the next three months...the full story continues here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Political Cryptozoology--They do Exist! A Photo Montage of African American Lyndon LaRouche Supporters in Chicago

My people, please do not ever say that Chauncey DeVega is not out there pounding the bricks in service of the tribe of respectable negroes.

Yesterday, during my daily travels (to and from the local Korean bbq spot and CVS) I encountered a most curious sight. It wasn't a yeti or a bigfoot. Nor was it a dodo bird. Comfortable on land, it could not possibly be the Loch Ness monster. It was rarer than a black Republican. As there was plentiful daylight, the beast could not possibly be Mothman:

Amazingly, not one, but two of the creatures were sighted! I had stumbled upon the holy grail of cryptozoology--the black Lyndon LaRouche supporter. While I was frightened at first, with my trusty camera in hand I bravely proceeded to document the encounter.

Quite friendly, but a bit skittish at first (they told me a story about how they were assaulted by a group of "brainwashed" Barack Obama supporters), the subjects were quite conversant with passerby's. Enthusiastic, the black Lyndon LaRouche supporters were eager to share their secret knowledge that Obama is the next Hitler, Lyndon LaRouche is the answer to America's problems, and a college education is a scam which should be replaced by "cooperative learning communities."

I was intrigued and came closer. I carefully spoke to the subjects in order to earn their trust. They became frightened and requested that I not linger near them. I continued to gently probe by asking more questions about how they found LaRouche. Again, I was rebuffed. Their White handler explained that they are not allowed to give interviews lest they be misrepresented by the mainstream media. His solution? That I contact the national headquarters and gain permission for us to speak with one another. Undaunted, I proceeded to call the national press officer who then proceeded to deny me permission for the interview.

As proof of my encounter with these mythic creatures I respectfully submit the following photographic evidence. Let history be the judge of the veracity and truth of my encounter with one of the rarest of creatures in the political ecosphere.

Photo 1

Is this black on black violence? Are Obama and this protester members of the same tribe? Take special note of the quiet pride and dignity in the countenance of the black Lyndon LaRouche supporter.

Photo 2

A rare sight: two of these exotic creatures sighted together at once. There must be a colony within close proximity to the near North side of Chicago. Notice the aquamarine plumage of the black Lyndon LaRouche supporter on the right--this coloring is used to attract females for potential induction into the tribe.

Photo 3

The males of this group use an innovative (and it seems, quite successful) approach to attracting women. As beautiful queens such as this sister walk by, the black Lyndon LaRouche supporter asks the object of his affection, "did you know that Barack Obama wants to kill you?" Shocked, the quarry pauses and then the black Lyndon LaRouche supporter can move in closer. If he is lucky, mating will soon commence.

Photo 4

More victims of the fierce "game" possessed by black Lyndon LaRouche supporters, as these women are waylaid by the boldness of their attack. Prior to the mating ritual, the above male (perhaps the alpha?) was overheard asking his compatriot, "where's the white women at?" All females should be cautious as black Lyndon LaRouche supporters do indeed know how to "spit hot fire at the ladies."

Photo 5

The black Lyndon LaRouche supporter is also a dangerous combatant if provoked. The male of the species often wears flip flops so that he can quickly pounce on a target. Notice the ashy feet and legs. This is a type of personal ornamentation that is an homage to the proud Zulu warriors, who because of rigorous training could use their calloused feet to extinguish fire or run hundreds of miles in a single day.

Photo 6

Males in the black Lyndon LaRouche tribe use a range of ornamentation to establish their masculinity and position in the male hierarchy. The male in the above picture tries to signal what some observers of urban culture have termed "street cred" by channeling the stylistic sensibilities of Raekwon the Chef in the much discussed, golden age hip hop video "Ice Cream."

Notice how this style of tribal dress uses white socks to attract the attention of potential mates. Of additional note are the worn over dress shoes that, as opposed to the Wallabees or Timberlands worn by Raekwon, signal a potential for upward mobility, wealth acquisition, and security--traits that are universally attractive to all women.

This has been an exciting discovery. If any of you have photos that should be included in our grand museum of the politically uncommon or rare by all means please email them to us. Remember, knowledge creation is a collective endeavor that stands to benefit all of humanity. We are forever in your debt as your participation in our most humble of projects is a service to all of mankind.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Personal Happiness Pill of the Day: Oprah Winfrey is an Anti-Christ Lesbian Who Has Seduced White Women to Vote for Barack Obama

My personal happiness pill speaks again.

Oprah Winfrey is a lesbian. Oprah Winfrey is a lesbian. Oprah Winfrey is a lesbian. Pastor Manning said it three times so I must too.

Visitors to our most humble website know that I am not a great fan of Oprah because she is a quasi-mammy, emotional surrogate for White suburban housewives. But damn! Brother Manning is droppin' mega-ton bombs on this one (get the Wu-Tang reference folks?) Yes, we have all heard the rumors about Oprah and Gail King--rumors which I firmly believe--but I didn't know that Oprah's Nubian, Sapphic tendencies were the secret to her conquering the global media.

I must ask, if lesbianism or bi-sexuality is a cult where can this brother sign up to be an alter boy or acolyte? Two, is Oprah that sexy? Is her furry temptress so powerful that she is turning out white women all over this country through the tv? If so, I got's to find a way to sample some of that kundalini-punani power to tune me up.

Lord knows that I desperately need a tune up, my tires rotated, and fluids changed...

I am now in tears--I truly am: so the conspiracy theory of the day is that Oprah Winfrey is the secret king maker for Barack Obama in a cultish, evil empire of three-way bisexuality between Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, and Barack Obama?

That must be one hell of a party worthy of Gore Vidal's Caligula! Pastor Manning do you have the hook up so that I can get me a ticket to that event?

Random, self-indulgent videoclip of the day just because I can--in honor of the furry temptress I bring to you a little bit of the new classic Booty Call:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: How Hip Hop Died Again--Call it Ludacris: The Kinship Between Talk Radio and Rap

God, what a horrible song. He sounds like the conservative, bastard stepchild of Michael Franti and Dead Prez...and that is not a complement.

As has become my ritual. Is this linkage between rap music and politics a reach? Is this one more example of hip hop's death as it is used as an example, metaphor, and parallel for everything from talk radio to international relations? Or is this a smart, innovative, and sharp use of the overlaps between different types of popular culture?

Courtesy of The New York Times:

Call It Ludacris: The Kinship Between Talk Radio and Rap

If you’re driving alone through the plains of Nebraska and need a little company, you can’t do better than the nationally syndicated maestros of political talk radio. Hour after hour, rant after rant, it is a feast of words and feverish emotion, interrupted only by regular commercials and the occasional call from the awe-struck fan.

I’d heard these voices before, but only in sound bites. When you don’t own a car and don’t tune in at home, you probably don’t run into Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin. On the highways of the Cornhusker State, they ran into me, every time I hit the scan button. After a while, it felt like a series of visits from very colorful and highly agitated relatives. Or it would if I had a lot of relatives certain that America is slouching toward a socialist abyss.

The apparent influence of these conservative talk professionals has caused more hand-wringing than usual in recent weeks, in the wake of our summer of angry town hall meetings and the “You lie!” outburst of Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina. And when you hear Barack Obama likened to Pol Pot — as Mr. Savage did in a recent show— you can understand the concern. But to my uninitiated ears, there was something reassuringly familiar about political talk radio, and not because I know a lot about firebrands. It’s because I listen to a lot of rap. Gangsta rap, in particular.

I’ll admit that the parallels between Jay-Z and Rush Limbaugh do not seem obvious, and to grasp them you need to look beyond the violence and misogyny that have made rap a favorite target of the right wing. (Come to think of it, perhaps each of these realms will be chagrined to be likened to the other.) But as soon as you dig beneath the surface, the similarities between talk radio and gangsta rap are nothing short of uncanny. And these similarities are revealing, too.

But before we get to the revelations, let’s examine the kinship. For great careers in both businesses you’ll need:

EGO Extolling your greatness is nearly as crucial to rap as it is to talk radio. One consistent theme of Jay-Z’s lyrics is the genius of Jay-Z’s lyrics. He claims a charisma that is almost mystical and skills on the mic that make him the “Mike Jordan of recording,” “the Bruce Wayne of the game,” a “god.”

Rush Limbaugh peppers his show with self-adulating incantations that would seem right at home on a Snoop Dogg track, calling himself “Chief Waga-Waga El Rushbo of the El Conservo Tribe,” “doctor of democracy,” and “a weapon of mass instruction.” Both he and Jay-Z have referred to themselves as “a living legend.”

HATERS You’re nobody in hip-hop until you claim to have hordes of detractors. The paradox, of course, is that the artists who regularly denounce their haters have a huge and adoring audience. How does Lil Wayne complain in song about the legions who seek his ruin even as he dominates the charts? Ask Michael Savage, who is forever describing himself as an underdog, marginalized by the media — on the more than 300 stations that carry his show.

FEUDS 50 Cent vs. Ja Rule. Lil’ Kim vs. Foxy Brown. Jay-Z vs. Nas. Every couple of years, one rapper will pick a fight with another and battle it out with the winner typically determined by sales. This will sound familiar to anyone who has followed, say, Bill O’Reilly’s broadsides at Mr. Limbaugh (“Walk away from these right-wing liars!” Mr. O’Reilly said of an unnamed rival, described as someone who smokes a cigar and owns a private jet) or Mark Levin’s attack on Mr. O’Reilly. (“He has a fledgling radio show, that has no ratings,” Mr. Levin said in 2008, “and he’ll be off radio soon because he’s a failure.” Levin’s predication came true in January of this year.) Liberal ranters can partake, too, as MSNBC host and fulminator par excellence Keith Olbermann has proven with his long running O’Reilly spat.

VERBAL SKILLS Without them, you can’t rap and you’ll never make it as a talk radio opinion-machine. Free-style rap requires precisely the facility with words that it takes to free-associate for two or three hours a day. Forget, for a moment, what the Fox TV and radio gabber Glenn Beck is saying and marvel for a moment at how long he can say it — and how sharp and funny he can be. In a recent and genuinely hilarious bit, he lampooned the sleepiness of NPR talk shows by affecting a plummy British accent and repeatedly urging a caller — a member of his coterie in actual fact — to “please use your indoor voice,” though the caller was talking at a perfectly reasonable volume. Mr. Savage’s riffs are a quirky, zig-zagging flow of ideas that at their best are a kind of talk show scat, jumping from a mini-lecture about the Khmer Rouge, to a rave about barbecue chicken, to a warning that he feels a bit manic, which means he’ll be depressed for tomorrow’s show. If Mr. Limbaugh is conservative talk radio’s answer to Jay-Z, Mr. Savage is its Eminem — a man whose own neuroses are one of his favorite topics.

Even beyond simple matters of style, rap and conservative talk radio share some DNA. Once you subtract gangsta rap’s enthusiasm for lawlessness — a major subtraction, to be sure — rap is among the most conservative genres of pop music. It exalts capitalism and entrepreneurship with a brio that is typically considered Republican. (Admiring references to Bill Gates are common in hip-hop.)

Rappers tend to be fans of the Second Amendment, though they rarely frame their affection for guns in constitutional terms. And rap has an opinion about human nature that is deeply conservative — namely, that criminals cannot be reformed. The difference is that gangsta rappers often identify themselves as the criminals, and are proud of their unreformability.

Finally, rappers and conservative talkers both speak for a demographic that believes its interests and problems have been slighted and both offer stories that have allegedly been ignored.

Obviously, there are limits to all these parallels, but there is one more worth noting: rap has inspired its share of fear and now, liberals and moderates are asking the same question about conservative talk radio that conservatives have long asked about rap: How dangerous is it?

There’s a curious role reversal here, with fans of Mr. Limbaugh, et al., now under the very suspicion that had long been cast on fans of gangsta rap. The suspicion boils down to another question: Can people listen to highly provocative words (and in rap’s case, irresistible beats) and still be civil?

This seemed like a good question to pose to a man uniquely situated to opine about the shaded part of the Venn diagram of rap and conservative talk radio. I’m talking about DJ Clayvis, né Clay Clark, an Oklahoma-based, right-leaning talk show host and rapper. He has written anti-Obama raps, including “Audacity of Nope” and, though he believes his favorite talkers are sincere conservatives, he has long understood that his two different callings have a lot in common.

“The differences between Ludacris and Rush Limbaugh are not that great,” he said. “Both have a huge egos, both bring a lot of bravado, both are sort of playing characters when they perform. And at the end of the day, they’re both entertainers.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gordon Gartrelle is a Welfare Queen: Confessions of an ACORN Beneficiary

The national press’ latest idiotic distraction is the community organization ACORN’s supposed corruption of such timeless American values as denying assistance to poor and minority populations. ACORN, of course, is still in the news only because Communist in Chief President Obama had a connection to the organization.

Those on the left have taken three main approaches in responding to the shameless duncery of the right wing machine and the lack of integrity of the mainstream media, which have combined to treat this ACORN-video scandal foolishness like a legitimate story:

1.) Point out the foolishness of the controversy and note its status as a non-issue manufactured by mental midgets, opportunistic ideologues, and news whores.

2.) Renounce ACORN. Cut all support for ACORN in theory and in practice , simply because the political damage to the President and Democrats is not worth the effort required to defend the organization.

3.) Defend ACORN. Defend the organization and its mission on the grounds of social justice, especially with regard to poor, underserved minority communities.

It should be clear that I’m in the first camp. I’m also in the third one. Defending ACORN isn’t a purely ideological matter for me, however; I have personal, practical reasons for supporting ACORN: it helped me buy my first home.

In my attempt to seize on the low interest rates, I decided to buy last summer after only a brief period of preparation (little did I know that rates would continue to decline). Based on income and the location of the place I was buying, I qualified for an ACORN first-time homebuyer’s program*. The program provided substantial credit toward closing costs and a lower down payment with no private mortgage insurance (this was key, since I decided to buy without a year’s worth of savings).

Check out the dastardly obligations ACORN required of me after they cleared my paperwork and financials:

A) Mandatory attendance at a 4 hour homebuyer’s informational seminar. During this seminar, a real estate agent, a loan officer, a real estate lawyer, and a home inspector spoke about common mistakes and misconceptions about the home buying process, and were especially focused on highlighting various scams.

and B) Two private sessions with a representative that included discussion about the terms of the program as well as Q and A sessions about every aspect of the home buying process.

I know, how insidious, right?

I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable guy, but the amount of information I needed to digest in such a short time period was massive. These ACORN sessions helped me ask the right questions to the lawyers, the bank, and the real estate agent. As helpful as this ACORN program was to me, this would be exponentially more helpful to parents and people with lower income, bad credit, and limited education.

That such a ridiculous attempt to smear this organization is not only treated credibly, but is framing the debate about community social justice programs is disgusting enough; having had first hand experience with the people of all races and ages who benefit from ACORN’s services, and having witnessed the professionalism of the ACORN workers, who were clearly understaffed, underfunded, and underpaid, I find the tactics especially loathsome.

It’s open season on the black President—that’s a given. He’s been in the PE crosshairs since he became a serious contender for the highest Office in the land. It’s also open season on anything that can even remotely be construed as benefiting black and brown poor people.

*This program may not even exist anymore because its funding was cut soon after I applied.

The Right Wing Populist Tea Baggers Speak for the Little Guy or Timothy Egan's Ownage of Mark Williams in the New York Times

This is representative democracy? And Barack Obama is an Indonesian, Muslim turned welfare thug, and racist-in-chief. I can't even begin to parse this one out.

Right wing, demagogue, bloviator, corporatist Mark Williams is talking about "blowback" and speaking up for the "little guy"--does the hypocrisy of the American Right know any bounds? As I have said many times, the elements which are threatening to destroy the Republic are hiding in plain sight.

Better than I could have expressed it, here is some ownage of Williams and his tea party ilk from Timothy Egan at The New York Times:

Working Class Zero

The first nine years of the new century have yet to find a defining label, something as catchy as Tom Wolfe’s “Me Decade” of the 1970s or the “Silent Generation” of 1950s men in gray flannel suits. Bookmarked by the horror of 9/11 and the history of a black president, the aughts certainly don’t lack for drama.

But last week, lost in the commotion over the brat’s cry of Joe Wilson and the shotgun blast of rage in the Washington protest, something definitive was released just as this decade nears its curtain call.

For average Americans, the last 10 years were a lost decade. At the end of President George W. Bush’s eight years in office, American households had less money and less economic security, and fewer of them were covered by health care than 10 years earlier, the Census Bureau reported in its annual survey.

The poverty rate in 2008 rose to 13.2 percent, the highest in 11 years, while median household income fell to $50,303. Ten years earlier, adjusted for inflation, it was $51,295.

Of course this reflects the ravages of a horrid recession. But the decline started before the collapse in the housing and financial sectors — and it was calculated, in the eyes of some.

Harvard economist Lawrence Katz called it “a plutocratic boom.” If anything comes close to defining the era, that would be my nomination. President Bush cut $1.3 trillion in taxes — and the biggest beneficiaries by far were the top 1 percent of earners. At the same time, Wall Street was inflated by the helium of a regulation-free economy that eventually gave us Bernie Madoff and banks begging for bailouts.

Now consider the people who showed up in a state of generalized rage in Washington over the weekend. They have no leaders, save a self-described rodeo clown — Glenn Beck of Fox News — and some well-funded Astroturf outfits from the permanent lobbying class inside the Beltway. They are loosely organized under a Tea Party movement, but these people are closer to British Tories than 18th century patriots with a love of equality.

And they have the wrong target.

Mark Williams, a Sacramento talk radio host, was speaking to CNN on behalf of the demonstrators — many of whom carried signs comparing Obama to a witch doctor, an undocumented worker or a Nazi — when he played the blue collar card.

Who is Williams? A garden variety demagogue who calls Obama “an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug” and the Democratic party “a domestic enemy” of America. He also refers to the president as “racist in chief.” That says all you need to know about leaders of the Tea Party movement.

Williams repeatedly invoked the “working stiffs” who feel left out. Working people are always the last to get aboard the gravy train, and the first to be used in campaigns that will not advance their cause. And with these demonstrators, and the hucksters trying to distract them from real issues, history repeats itself.

Where was the Tea Party movement when the tax burden was shifted from the high end to the middle? Where were the patriots when Wall Street, backed in Congress by Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, rewrote securities laws so that the wonder boys of Lehman and A.I.G. could reduce home mortgages to poker chips at a trillion-dollar table?

Where were the angry “stiffs” when the banking industry rolled the 2005 Congress into rewriting bankruptcy law, making it easier to keep people in permanent credit card hock?

Where were they when President Bush started the bailouts, with $700 billion that had to be paid on a few days’ notice — with no debate — to save global capitalism?

They were nowhere, because they were clueless, just as most journalists were.

But now, at a time when a new president wants to reform health care to fix the largest single cause of middle-class economic collapse, he’s called a Nazi by these self-described friends of the working stiff.

“A working class hero is something to be,” John Lennon, that product of ragged Liverpool, sang just after leaving the Beatles. “Keep you doped with religion and sex and T.V.”

As someone who had a union card in my wallet before I owned a Mastercard, I don’t share Lennon’s dark view of blue collar workers. But as long as they can be distracted by people who say all government is bad, while turning a blind eye to manipulation at corporate levels, they’re doomed to shouting at phantoms.

One more detail caught my eye in these new economic reports on the lost decade. People in their prime earning years — age 45 to 54 — took the biggest hit in the last years of the Bush Administration, their median income falling by $5,000. And the region that suffered most — the South.

Older southern whites — that’s who got hit hardest by the freewheeling decade now fading. They should be angry. But they’re five years too late.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We Have Our First Brave Entrant in Our Contest to Win a Copy of Hill Harper's "The Conversation"

My respectable negro friends and allies, I do apologize for my recent hiatus. I have finally finished moving into my new apartment (twice in 2 weeks folks)--silence is bliss. And the first week of classes are behind me. Zora should be returning soon, and Gordon has some things in mind as well, so business should be picking up.

We began a contest to win a free copy of Hill Harper's book The Conversation a few weeks back. Much to my surprise, folks didn't seem to want a free book (maybe they were scared to talk about black love--does anyone get my Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown joke? or am I just being self-congratulatory?)

Now, we finally have a first, brave entrant in our contest. Who will join him in sharing their diagnosis of what ails the black relationship?

Here is a (re)introduction to our contest:

In the spirit of the Church of James Brown (wasn't that a fun contest?), we bring you the chance to play ...insert drum roll...

Doctor For a Day: How Would You Diagnose the Problems that Plague Black Male and Female Relationships in the 21st century?

Each of the submissions should have the following format.

1. Tell us what the symptoms are of the patient (i.e. if the Black Male/Female relationship was a patient, what would he/she come to you as the doctor complaining about?)

2. What condition is the patient in? Please use this helpful guide:
Undetermined: Patient awaiting physician and assessment.
Good: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable. Indicators are excellent.
Fair: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious, but may be uncomfortable. Indicators are favorable.
Serious: Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient is acutely ill. Indicators are questionable.
Critical: Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.
3. How would you cure this patient? And yes, euthanasia is a fair answer.

Our first entry courtesy of Vee (Scratch):

I usually tend to get 10 - 20 walk-ins, but I only take 5 - 7 appointments a day at the Center for Black Relationships Health & Research Studies. I'll tell you about one recent appointment, names will be withheld as per the center's policy.

This couple was particularly odd. The male subject appeared to be intoxicated, possibly on marijuana. His female counterpart was very agitated and could not wait for our session to end, repeatedly stating that she needed a strong drink. Normally I would write off their relationship as being critically unstable but they’ve been able to endure each other for several years, seven to be exact. One time during a heated argument, I noticed the male cringe as if he expected to be hit by the female. This was odd because he exuded many alpha-male qualities except when relating to her. He has been between jobs while pursuing a career in music. The female was working full time, assuming all the financial responsibilities of the household. She complained that although he kept the house clean, organized and cooked great meals, he did not have any real ambitions or plans.

I noted all the complaints and frustrations then I asked them what made their relationship work. She quickly stated that the sexual relationship was great and they have a great time only when they go out together. The male subject simply nodded in his stupor. After pushing him for a reply he stated that he loves her but wishes she was more sympathetic towards his dreams. The male subject offered that the relationship was fine when he was financial supporting her through grad school, but then things changed. Before their back and forth, tit-for-tat argument began to escalate again I decided to stop them in their tracks.

Their relationship is as fairly normal as it gets but they can make it great. They have their highs and lows. No real expectations are explicitly declared and they obviously share different values and morals. I told the male subject that I strongly suggest he begins to learn how to open up emotionally, find a Plan B and to reduce his marijuana intake. I let the female subject know that she needed to respect the man she fell in love with, learn to listen effectively, and reduce her alcohol consumption. Then I told them to quietly list the roles of a man and woman, indicating which were cultural or universal. For the next session, we will discuss the roles and expectation of men and women in intimate relationships. I explained that like many relationships, the repair and growth requires understanding and education. Prior to the next appointment, I insisted that they participate in our Communication 101 workshop. I let them know that I thought they had hope for a great rewarding relationship; it all depended on how much time and work they invested in making it flourish.

Please note that this is one example, not indicative of the majority of Black Relationships. I’ve had many cases that informed me that despite what the statistics, surveys and op-ed pieces in major media outlets say about this subject, our relationships are not monolithic and are determined by a variety of factors like education, religion, culture, socio-economic and educational backgrounds. I must admit, while there’s a cause for concern, through focus, education everything will be fine.