Obama and the Jewish Vote...A Hilarious Look

Folks, I have yet to look at this year's presidential race from a humorous perspective. But what better way to do so than to post a clip from the The Daily Show. Here's a funny bit about Barack's trouble with the Jewish vote. While it plays up the differences between blacks and Jews, for some reason it also works at bringing the groups closer together...at least for a love of fried chicken....

An Interview with Your's Truly

More publicity for Somebody Scream! Being the purveyor of a dying medium—books, that is—the promotion never stops. Here's an interview I did with Amoeba Music (West Coast music store). It's for a blog written by DJ/writer Billy Jam. I especially like this discussion because it dealt with detailed ideas and theories but forth by the book...And, finally, somebody asked me about the history and politics—not just the music—explored by the book as well. It you get time, check it out.

Notes On the Election by Amiri Baraka

Obama & The Tragic Errors of The Weimar Republic
by Amiri Baraka, 7/15/08

The post Word War 1 journey of Germany from an Empire, which was overthrown and then a Democratic republic and finally the overthrow of that republic and the emergence and domination of Hitler’s Nazi Fascism, is important for us to understand. Because some of the facts of these years still apply to contemporary United States.

With the withering depression that had set in in the late 20’s in addition to German’s war loses, when the international stock market collapsed (US Wall St) in 1929, a worldwide depression of staggering proportions set in. And it is this depression and the rise and fall of governments in Germany that set the stage for the final takeover by Hitler and the fascists and finally the beginning of WW2.

Although McCain’s adviser Gramm says this is a “mental recession”, unless he’s referring to himself and McCain, today’s depression in the US is not just mental. We shd also factor in the outright theft of the last two elections, the general public bankruptcy of the Republican party, who have been playing and still are playing a “white card”. (The democrats have not won the majority of white male voters since John Kennedy!)

But the spreading foreclosure menace of the subprime (fraud ridden) mortgages, now at 6000 foreclosures a day, the closing of the huge banking mortgage regime, Bear-Sterns. Then the Bush cabal agrees to revalue Bear Stearns stocks so that the historically infamous speculator JPMorgan can get a better payday. No aid for the people losing their homes at terrifying rates. Today the government announced it had a new plan to save more banks. If there’s no recession why the plan to save “unthreatened” banks?

Suffice it to say there is a deepening depression in the US, the nation going from a surplus at the end of the Clinton regime till now deficit, much of it caused by the 10 billion dollar a month war in Iraq. Even many straight up backward Americans are convinced of the bold corruption that is the real cause of the war and the spiraling gas price since it is the oil swindlers who hold state power in the US. While they talk bad about the “Arabs” the Bush group is clearly in bed with the Saudi’s, Arab Emirates, Dubai now becoming a financial capital to compete with Wall St. and London.

There is no doubt that US forces are losing in the Middle East, just as they got wasted in Viet Nam. The whole ugly scam of removing oil billions from Iraq ( all those contracts for privatization of Iraqi oil went to the big US oilies) based on the 911 episode, the reality of which is still covered with crude lies, but now at scam’s end with a raging depression setting in and war incurred deficit climbing into the trillion, the stage is set for stunning rightward surge that will perhaps bring street fighting to the US and a final toppling that will make the current shrinking of the dollar, .60 per Euro, seem mild. China already holds US paper, the US is China’s top debtor. Indy Mac Bank has just failed in California.

So that this is a time much likes that in Germany, during the last phase of the Weimar Democratic Republic. Ostensibly a democratic republic, the depression caused widespread unemployment and great public unrest. And as the curtain began to raise for fascist takeover, (See Brecht’s Berlin) the country, especially the large cities like Berlin were inundated with pornography, sex crimes, business and political scandals and street fighting, usually between the rising fascists and the communists.

What brought the democratic era to an end was a split between the Communists and the Social Democrats, i.e., the Left and the Near Left and the Liberals, which permitted Hitler’s National Socialists in a coalition with the Conservatives and Nationalists to win the election, even though the Left Center coalition had more voters objectively. It was the split which allowed the right to consolidate power.

Recently in the US presidential campaign we have seen two tendencies, the one to vilify and distort Obama from the right e.g., the recent New Yorker cover described as “satirical” with Obama as a Muslim, his wife as a machine toting militant with an American flag in the fireplace and Osama bin laden in a portrait of honor on the wall. It is objectively a message from McCain, the US Right and the Israelis.

But as well there is the tendency on the presumed Left and the social democrats and people styling themselves “progressives” to attack Obama for moving to the right, thereby disappointing some very vocal would be Obama voters. One woman publicized prominently in the NY Times said now she “hated him”. But as I have said repeatedly this is an imperialist country, with two imperialist parties and a media controlled directly by the 6/10ths of 1 percent of the people that own the land wealth factories, the means of production.

There is no way Obama is even in the presidential race condemning Israel or embracing Cuba. Not to know this is not to know where you are or where you have been for the last forty years. But even with this clear motion to the center for the purposes of the general election, McCain is still a more backward and a more dangerous candidate and exactly the kind of right leaning militarist that would fit the paradigm for the weak chancellors during Weimar’s last throes that President Hindenburg removed and then appointed Hitler.

It is this split between the Left and Near Left, that is being exploited by the Right with War & Depression threatening to dump this whole nation on its head, so that Obama will be defeated, McCain elected and with the McCain opening plummet the country headlong into the far far right. Bush 2 has already obviously set the stage for this. Those elections were stolen out of desperation. The fact that Gore & Kerry were such weak liberals, tied clearly and obviously to the ruling class of this imperialist state allowed that theft to take place with minimum real struggle.

So that is the real struggle unfolding before us. First, to oppose the empty idealism which elitist base allows it to claim to represent the masses but actually have as little to do with them as possible. Allowing seemingly intelligent people to throw their votes away on McKinney or even the racial chauvinist, Nader, thus formalizing a hole in an actual progressive constituency which allowed Bush 2 to seize power in 2000.

We must also oppose the absolutising of Obama’s progressive stance and with that drawing away from him as he gets closer to the general election and tacks toward the middle. This would be the other aspect of the tragic Weimar breakup of the fragile democratic coalition that caused millions to die in fascist purges, concentration camps, or World War 2.

On the other hand it should be part of our campaign tasks to create a document of planks of progressive character to submit to Obama and publish and popularize this as well, to exert what pressure we can bring to bear on the campaign and publicly for a reversal of Bush’s neo-fascist creations, war, depression, unemployment, violation of democratic rights, diplomatic isolation from the rest of the world, a general weakening morally and politically and economically of the country.

(Sigh!) The New Yorker Cover

Damn, the news that moves the blogoshere is so fast a blogger can get whip-lash. Just when we were digging our teeth into Jesse's furious facination with Obama's nuts, the New Yorker magazine sucker-punches us with its quasi-satirical cover of Barck and wife Michelle dressed as terrorists (Barack, the turban-wearing, Middle Eastern kind, and Michelle, the fornlorn '60s black nationalist kind). But so much has been said and screamed about the wrong-headed move of the magazine that I don't have much to say. I saw what they were trying to do (being the latte-drinking, cultural elitist East Coaster that I am...LOL) and, for a brief moment, I chuckled. Sorry, I'm a fan of the publication. But, as many have pointed out, satire is about exaggerating the characteristics of the intended target, not playing up the stereotypes of the person or group you're trying to defend. If David Remnick was attemtping to satirize the racist fears of white people, primarily those in the south and mid-section of the country, he should have made this type of voter the focus of his cover. Say, a Nascar-loving, greasy baseball cap-wearing, gun-obsessed hick with buck-teeth, if we're sending up stereotypes here. But making fun of rednecks doesn't sell magazines, and to crack on ignorance, white supremacy, and fear in the face of a possible black president would be too much work for an illustrator with a weekly deadline. So, there you have it. Poor satire because of poor aim at the intended target. For a refresher course go to the latest by Jib Jab. And better luck next time.

If My President is Black, Does That Mean My Hip Hop Will Be, Too?

Much hoopla was made about Young Jeezy’s “I f---k with John McCain” comment in the August issue of Vibe. In an election year, where political allegiance in rap music is as tantamount to maintaining street cred as proving your tired loyalty to street corners and the drug game, Jeezy almost became hip-hop music’s first casualty of the hard lines drawn (and the high stakes sought) in this years’ political Main Event. (Though a gangsta emcee’s brief allegiance to the Republican Party is nothing new. Remember Eazy E’s attendance of a Republican fundraiser in ’93 and 50 Cent, in 2005, expressing an overwhelming desire to shake President Bush’s hand and “tell him how much of me I see in him?”) But it was interesting to see Jeezy’s diligent response to the perceived misstep, posting a video and issuing a press release stressing his support of Barack Obama. The ultimate peace offering was his false promise to post the song “My President is Black,” from his up-coming disc The Recession, on his Web site.

The fact that Jeezy put his political spin (even the issue of having to pay for his mom’s operation because she had no health insurance) on the Web was in lock-step with hardcore rap’s 21st Century means of immediately getting notes-from-underground out to its constituency (Thanks Chucky D for getting that ball rolling in 1999). Though, it was what Jeezy said in his video response that rang most ironic and revelatory about how rap artists see themselves, particularly Jeezy’s statement about what he’s learned from his ordeal:
For my words to get mixed up at a time like this …It just showed me the power of words…As a young black man…it just showed me that I have a voice…

Finally, a gangsta rap artists who sees the profundity—though under much duress—of what he/she says. Is this the sound of a gangsta rapper finally admitting that what they say does matter (as oppose to, “we just entertainers.”) And this at a time when Nas’s much-publicized message to Jesse Jackson, after his castrating comment about Barack, and the old guard of black leadership was: “All you old n---as, time is up. We heard your voice, we saw your marching, we heard your sermons. We don't wanna hear that sh-- no more. It's a new day. It's a new voice. I'm here now. We don't need Jesse; I'm here. I got this. We got Barack, we got David Banners and Young Jeezys. We're the voice now.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I laugh at such assertions as Najee Ali did when he wrote: “Who on earth would actually follow these malt liquor drinking, misogynistic, drug using, gang banging idiots?” But, in this historical election year, it’s refreshing to see hardcore rap artists at least talk of some responsibility as far as leadership (ha!).

Ironically, the only other mainstream rapper who seemed to take this idea seriously, especially during the last election cycle, was Eminem, who bypassed fearful record labels and music label channels by releasing the video for his anti-Bush song “Mosh” on the Internet. Didn’t get Kerry elected, but it showed that an election could make Eminem take his role, his influence, and his honesty seriously.

But given Jeezy’s revelation, his pro-black presidential stance, and an insistence that his up-coming album will deal with issues—in the face of this important presidential race—like poverty, the economy, high gas prices, etc. might we be looking at how a Barack win might impact hardcore rap. After all, this summer will be hit with two rap song’s—Nas’s “Black President” and Jeezy’s “My President is Black”—that celebrate the hope of a Barack win. Not that it would mean a total return to hip-hop’s black nationalist days of 20 years ago (though, you have to admit, it’s a coincidence that this promise comes on the 20th anniversary of hip-hop music’s golden era).

But, historically speaking, presidential politics do affect the tint of particular eras in rap music. Enough has been written about how the policies of Reagan and his Republican revolution helped usher in hip-hop’s black-is-back phase, and a Bush continuation accompanied rap’s gangsta explosion. Clinton and the record-breaking economy, which characterized his eight years, gave a boost to the ice age of commercial rap. Moreover, the tight-fisted rule of Bush No. 2 saw a smattering of consciousness come back to the music, but, still under the delusional affect of corporate love, control, and money, rap, like most of America, stuck to escapism. But now that the music industry’s in the toilet and folks, especially those of generation hip hop, are totally underwhelmed by commercial rap’s emptiness—those sagging record sales ain’t just because of downloading—maybe the music might find inspiration and fresh content with a black president in the white house.

Hell, if a misstep—or, in this case a perceived misquote—about allegiance to Barack could have a hardcore rap negro shakin’ in his Chuck’s and proving his loyalty to the streets by showing his love for a black candidate, then the possibility for a renaissance in rap might just be….

Getting Props and a Book Sale...LOL...From Chuck D

As an author you're always curious about who might possibly buy your book. Yesterday, I got word from a Canadian connection that CBC did an interview with Public Enemy's Chuck D and my book came up as a topic of discussion. And, I'm happy and proud as hell to say, dude gave ya boy some props. And he said he bought the book...LOL. Thanks, Chuck for the book sale and the 21 years of hip-hop innovation. Listen to the show below:

Will Obama’s Shifting Positions and Evolving Promises Kill His Race?

It’s funny, but now that Obama’s in the thick of campaigning as the presumptive Democratic nominee his theme of change has started to buckle, slightly, under the usual weight of political ambitions. His support of legislation to protect telecommunication companies involved in the Bush administration wiretapping program (after he vowed, during the primaries, to fight such initiatives). His slight but surprising reversal on a quick withdrawal from Iraq. His shafting of Wesley Clark for his comments on John McCain (said in the defense of Obama, no doubt). The New York Times piece reporting how Obama’s campaign snubs his Islamic supporters….All in the name of raising Obama’s patriotic quotient, but putting his supporters in the awkward position of questioning their own support

Granted, anyone paying attention to the race understands that Obama’s game has begun to morph because, well, he is in the game now, and is no longer battling for just Democrats. But his ever-expanding list of promises and off-putting reversals to win Republicans and undecided voters brings to mind (and some validity to) Adolph Reed’s anti-Obama essay in the May issue of The Progressive. Potentially, a prophetic stroke. Overall, he tags the presidential hopeful a “vacuous opportunist,” saying Obama, like any politician, will say anything to anybody to get elected and will strategically use his blackness to out-Clinton Bill Clinton’s run for the White House. (“He actually goes beyond Clinton,” Reed writes, “and rehearses the scurrilous and ridiculous sort of narrative Bill Cosby has made famous.”)

Only, unlike Bill, Reed doesn’t see a win for Obama against McCain. And, ultimately, it’s because Obama’s style of being “all things to all people” (a jab at his multi-racial background, Hmmm) threatens to expose his campaign’s theme of change as a sham. To illustrate his point, Reed uses this vivid metaphor:

It’s like what brings on the downfall of really successful con artists: They get themselves onto a stage that’s so big that they can’t hide from their contradictions anymore, and everyone finds out about the different stories they’ve told people.”

Mind you, to anyone desperate for change or hope in mainstream politics —like Edwidge Danticat in her opposing essay in support of Barack—Reed can be a buzzkill, a sobering contrarian ripping the façade off seemingly progressive moments. (Hell, at the height Clinton years—when we all loved the president—he called Bill out for his racist, unprogressive policies, and, after leaving office, Viola! Bill proved himself racist and unprogressive.) But in light of the deep center Obama’s seems to be headed in— changing positions here and ditching an outspoken supporter there—Reed’s metaphor on the cause of Barack’s downfall shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially by the Obama camp.

One thing the candidate has on his side, as we all know, is the country’s disapproval of where the country, its economy, and its military is headed. And not many people are pleased with the Bush administration or anyone who supports its policies. But, while Barack looks like the lesser of two evils (to beat a dead election phrase deeper into the ground), what happens when he starts looking not-too-different from his opponent? Mind you, a lot of shifting and backsliding and disavowing on Barack’s part can happen in four months. Then there won’t be much for voters from the other side to be swayed by. Then where will Barack and everyone’s hope for progress and change be? Barack’s strategy to play the flip-flop game with McCain could be costly, especially when Republicans don’t care about their guy changing positions when it suits them.

While, ultimately, I don’t think Barack’s repositioning will hurt him, entirely, he definitely stands to, like my man Jeff over at Zentronix implies, hurt—even kill—the theme of “change” and “progress” and “hope” so closely associated with his run.

Reading For The Holidays

I totally forgot this a holiday week. So my postings will be slim because I know folks are out (or maybe not with these gas prices). But if you're in the NYC (Soho specifically) on Wednesday, July 2, I'll be reading and discussing Somebody Scream at McNally Robinson at 7pm. Also, reading will be Alec Foege, the author of Right of the Dial: The Rise of Clear Channel and the Fall of Commercial Radio. Should be another spirited discussion.