Saturday, September 03, 2005

 

Local Catch-Up

1) The Times' Saturday Metro section had this interesting feature on developer Bruce Ratner/Forest City Ratner's "Brooklyn Standard", an ersatz paper with a raison d'etre of boosting the downtown Brooklyn development project -- of Forest City Ratner!

The publication looks like a newspaper -- a cross between the daily freebies Metro and AM New York and, oh, The Onion.

Anyway, the FCR paper is a rah-rah Brooklyn-booster that happily glosses over controversial issues attached to the project -- like eminent domain, which I talked a little about over
here. (John Cole talks about how Texas has swiftly moved to counter the ramifications of the Supreme Court's Kelo vs. New London decision.)

Ironically, some local activists believe that that is something it shares with, yes, the New York Times. The activists have put together an indepth
report decrying what they believe is the NYT's falling down on critically reporting FCR's Atlantic Yards project.

Among the many detailed sins -- rarely mentioning that the FCR is building the Times' new midtown headquarters. And, no, there is no such disclaimer in the Saturday story! Ironically, at least "The Brooklyn Standard" identifies itself as a "Forest City Ratner publication"!

2) My latest Post piece
connects the Katrina aftermath with the city's big West Indian Day Parade on Monday. After noting how the country paused after 9/11, I wondered about the contrast between thousands of black folks continuing to suffer in the South while millions will be partying on Eastern Parkway at the parade. Organizers and other locals share how they will address the ongoing tragedy.

3) The NYT
endorses ex-Bronx Borough President Ferdinand Ferrer in the September 13 Democratic mayoral primary. Aside from the editorial's tepid tone, it's placement tells a lot about how the paper really feels -- on a Saturday (lowest circulation day) of a holiday weekend. If there is any better way to help minimize an endorsement's impact, I can't think of it.

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Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies at Home - AP

Wow. Not a shock, of course. But, in the middle of everything else, still somewhat startling.

The Roberts hearings on Tuesday will be even more interesting now.

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After The Flood: 9/11/01-9/02/02

If one day made George W. Bush's presidency, one awful week in late summer four years later may have completely unraveled it. And the offhand comments of the person second-in-succession to the White House may have spread the damage even further.

Yes, presidencies can collapse on big things. But, often it is the smaller incident that becomes the proverbial straw the broke the camel's back. The immediate Katrina fallout -- the tardy initial response, the FEMA funding backstory, his Wednesday speech -- all that might have been withstood. A case could have been made that lack of communication between the federal, state and local authorities might have contributed to the chaos. And, even despite New Orleans' recent gang-related
backsliding to its Murder Capital days, the violence perpetrated against relief workers is truly something that couldn't have been anticipated. That's something that the Congressional Black Caucus could have at least mentioned during their reflexive political attack.

However, the backbreaker of the Bush administration and -- if serious steps are not undertaken across the board -- the current Republican governmental ascendancy is now very clear to see. When as many as thousands are dead and dying, the President of the United States can't say
this:
We've got a lot of rebuilding to do. First, we're going to save lives and stabilize the situation. And then we're going to help these communities rebuild. The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch. (Laughter.)
As Andrew Sullivan says:

Just think of that quote for a minute; and the laughter that followed. The poor and the black are dying, dead, drowned and desperate in New Orleans and elsewhere. But the president manages to talk about the future "fantastic" porch of a rich, powerful white man who only recently resigned his position because he regretted the failure of Strom Thurmond to hold back the tide of racial desegregation.
A casual move around the cable universe and one notes that this is a rare moment when the American media speak as one. Whether it is CNN's Anderson Cooper, MSNBC's Martin Savidge or Fox's Shephard Smith and Geraldo Rivera -- there is a unified voice of outrage and horror at seeing human beings tossed into a hell beyond description. Some people remain trapped in the convention center, others outside, not to mention the "forgotten" victims -- those not "lucky" enough to be in the once-picturesque New Orleans, that for all its suffering is still getting 90 percent of the media attention.

Andrew's gut instinct is right. This image of Bush and those around him is the perfect opposite of the social dynamics of the tragedy itself -- it isn't completely racial, but it definitely has a racial element to it. The tragedy hit the poor hardest -- and there happen to be more black poor than white. In the broader picture of humanity those facts shouldn't matter. Alas, in our contemporary political and social construct they do.

The president was pretty much surrounded by people of certain privilege. He felt comfortable and made a joke. Those around him laughed (albeit, perhaps nervously). They were mostly white. In the broader picture of humanity those facts shouldn't matter. Alas, in our contemporary political and social construct they do. Forget about it being Trent Lott or the various racial elements. Seeing or hearing this, why won't the average person think, "How many houses do senators have? Even if it's only one, should the president joke about something like that? What on earth is he talking about hanging out on the guy's 'fantastic porch'? What happened to our president?"

On a different late-summer day, after an initial post-attack stumbling, the President of the United States
found his voice on September 14th during a walk through Ground Zero. He told a crowd of exhausted firefighters, one arm around a grizzled FDNY veteran, with a bullhorn in his other hand: "I hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."

The words of 9/14/01 were egalitarian, firm with a common-touch; those of 9/2/05 were elitist, flip and completely out-of-touch. The former suggested resolute leadership; the latter, cavalier disengagement.

It was followed by perfunctory stops and statements in other affected areas, with constantly changing comments on the quality of the overall response. Nothing -- not even a hearty "
hang in there" to two homeless young girls -- could really expunge the memory of the earlier inappropriate levity. Indeed, his end-of-the day remarks in New Orleans about his younger-years days visiting the city where he enjoyed himself "occasionally too much" were almost as maddening. With all that, his departing "I'm going to fly out of here in a minute, but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen," rang pretty hollow.

In a vacuum, this could be attributed to a bad day by one man. But, all this transpired on the same day the national media picked up Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's
casual comment about the disaster area: "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed." Of New Orleans, he adds, "How do you go about rebuilding [the] city?...We ought to take a second look at it."

An obviously-anguished spokesman (who, ironically, previously caught flak for Trent Lott) sought to "clarify" Hastert's remarks: "The speaker believes that we should have a discussion about how best to rebuild New Orleans so as to protect its citizens."

Alas, you can't unring a bell. The speaker is talking process when -- as the above mentioned media personnel are pointing out -- people are dying. As a Republican senator
surmises that fatalities could hit 10,000. An overstatement? Perhaps, but at least David Vitter is actually thinking about the humanity and not already formulating the next round of urban renewal. No one's asking for Hastert to put forward some phony, bite-your-lip, types of "compassion." A major American city is essentially dying (if not dead): Isn't there an internal political common-sense brake that normally kicks in to prevent a national leader from talking about "bulldozing" before the corpses are buried, the suffering are alleviated and the hungry are fed?

No surprise that a New Orleans native recognizes the
damage Hastert has done to Republicans in Louisiana -- and it probably extends around the rest of the country too.

The CBC,
Jesse Jackson and other auto-pilot Bush critics are just demonstrating their political stupidity. As they pull out the "federal government doesn't care about blacks" racial card, others less interested in the history of black plight might feel obligated to bring up the looting and the shooting at rescue helicopters (though the race of those people may not be known). No, the Bush critics would be far better served following the advice of the famed strategist and Republican National Committee chairman, Lee Atwater: "Never get in the way of your enemy when he is self-destructing."

Because, the words of George W. Bush -- and to a lesser extent, of Dennis Hastert -- will resonate in a destructive fashion for some time. They will be used to paint the administration, the congressional leadership and the party whose principles they purport to uphold as clueless, callous and -- given most of this week -- incompetent.

A Bush-voting Democrat
wonders, if the Republican-run Department of Homeland Security can't deal with a natural disaster, how can they deal with a terrorist-initiated attack? That's a serious concern for supporters of the president to deal with. The words of two leading Republicans have created a political breach far greater than that arising over a simple policy dispute.

Over a few days in September four years ago, the security "brand" was indelibly attached to George W. Bush and Republicans at large. This week culminating in the first couple days of this September may cause people to wonder if the "security" shield prevents one from seeing "humanity" on the other side.

Kanye West can say
idiotically: "George Bush doesn't care about black people." But over the next many months, Republicans have to prepare themselves to address the question, "Do you and your leaders care about people, period?"

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No Kanye Do...

In my touting earlier this week Kanye West's virtues over those of gangsta wannabe 50 Cent, I forgot an important aspect of the rap world. The so-called "conscious" rappers are the ones most likely to go off on some stupid-fool political rant that can make an-already tense situation worse.

On the other hand, gangsta-rappers are, despite their shoot-em-up, chasin' hos lifestyle, just as likely to be in-the-closet
Republicans -- in all senses of the phrase. Hmmmm, come to think of it, I can think where that sex&violence image got someone else.

That said, NBC had no business editing out West's rant. What he said wasn't obscene. It may have been wrong and inappropriate, but that type of corporate censorship is also worse. Put up the disclaimer afterwards saying how West's comments don't reflect the views of etc. etc...but don't muzzle the guy.

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Randall Robinson: STFU

So, is your hatred of this Republican administration such that you will repeat the most vile things -- without any corroborating evidence? You, who talk about the need for reparations and the "debt" that America owes blacks join the media which you hate so much to dump on black people?

Yes, that's right. After all, what could possibly be worse than the media's trying to portray blacks as looters? Well, how about as
cannibals?

I don't believe it. And if it were true, I would go out of my way to ignore that "truth."

Why? Well, it would be out of respect -- for the dead, whose families shouldn't have to think about what might be happening to their loved one's bodies and, God help them, for the survivors who might have have fallen into the abyss of despair that they might consider the most horrific of human practices.

But Robinson can't temper his hatred of this administration to think about what his from-a-distance comments have done to the image of the black people he professes to love.

Thank you, so f---ing much.

It's
said that "George Bush doesn't like black people." Maybe he's right. Funny though, I don't hear George W. Bush talking about blacks as cannibals. (Please, feel free to check elsewhere around here if you think I'm some administration toady.)

No, this is what hate does -- go from hating Republicans, to hating America, to ultimately showing that you hate your own kind by slandering them.

You say: "I am a sixty-four year old African-American. New Orleans marks the end of the America I strove for."

Bullshit!!

By your own admission, you
"quit" this country years ago. You gave up.
Why don't you just stay the f--k out of the affairs of those of us who believe that there is so much of us in America -- individually and culturally -- that we choose to live here, strive here and thrive here.

Your chapter is done. Please, leave the rest of us our pride and some semblance of peace.


UPDATE: Robinson has "retracted" his comments about hurricane victims eating corpses, because the "claims" have turned out to be "unsubstantiated." However, Robinson declares that he stands behind everything else I wrote without reservation." In that same spirit, I stand behind EVERYTHING I wrote above without reservation. That Robinson doesn't even have the decency to yank -- and apologize for -- a post that begins with as much of a libel on black people as on America says volumes about the total loss of his moral core.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

 

"Weather" To Listen or Not...

I'm glad John said this.

I think it's quite true that some people don't have the option to make a "choice" that others would find obviously logical.

There are two related points that should be made:

1)The fact that James Carville said that some people "just didn't listen" shows that he's become as disconnected from the lives of 'real folks' as the fancy-cat Republicans that he always rails against.

2) Basic human nature: How many people stayed because they had become inured to previous storm warnings? How often have these sort of weather forecasts just been completely wrong? How often has it occurred that the annual Storm of The Century turns out to be some heavy, but not overwhelming, rain and some wild winds that knock over some trees -- and that's it?

It adds to the tragedy that some people may have lost their lives or remain stranded in horrific conditions because previous experiences had told them, "Well, really, what's the worst that could happen?"

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Porn Again

I somehow missed this.

I'm not quite "flabbergasted and speechless," but the misplaced priorities does seem a little...odd.

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When The Levee Breaks...

...Byron speaks. He's absolutely correct:
This month began with the deaths of 21 U.S. Marines in Iraq, continued through the Cindy Sheehan protest/media circus, and ended with Hurricane Katrina. There is no doubt that, if only from a political and communications perspective, the president would have been in a better position to deal with those issues if he had been based in Washington for much of the month. For one thing, he would have had the stage to himself, given the traditional absence of Congress. For another, he would have been better placed to make those more substantive comments about the war that David Frum and others have called on him to make. And lastly, his message would not have been subject to the distractions of all the vacation/nonvacation talk that inevitably comes up when he spends an extended period of time in Crawford.
As far as the San Diego photo-op goes, let's be thankful that the president didn't receive a gift from Charlie Daniels.

Trevino at Red State also nails it:

Fairly or not, [Bush's] perceived engagement with the de facto loss of a major American city is now the single most important issue affecting his second term agenda. It won't take long for many to make the connection that it's just this sort of de facto loss -- albeit to terrorism rather than natural disaster -- that his Administration has purportedly been preparing to handle since 9/11. That he seems disengaged, and that at the moment those purported preparations seem ephemeral indeed, together may well represent a ripping-away of the facade of the President-as-protector that won him reelection.
Which is why some folks urged the president to take more pro-active digressions from his vacation.

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I AM OUTSIDE OF MY BOX


My friend Julia passed this note along to all of her friends and I thought it worth sharing. It's the answer to "What can one person do to help when faced with devastating horror?" No, I didn't put this up just because she happened to use the cover of the newspaper for which I work. Julia says it more directly and honestly than anyone. The rest of this post belongs to Julia. ake it away, girl!

***************************************************

Morning Everyone!

I hope I have your attention with the cover of the New York Post in Manhattan. I have cried last night, this morning at my desk and again when speaking with a co-worker. As my husband knows, I wear my heart on my sleeve, and images like this and the ones I have watched on the news have touched me. I am somewhat ashamed that I have hidden my head in the sand so often at the hardships that other nations endure. In discussions with my husband, it has been pointed out to me how other countries have hardships to endure JUST LIKE this if not worse.

Last evening I said to Perry that it would be nothing for name brand corporations, IE Pepsi, Nike, etc., to drop a million dollars each to help. Many of you have received the e-mail on Bill Gates fortune and how many years it would take for him to spend all of it. I certainly pray that Bill has already donated a sizeable contribution and that others like him will follow.

Well, my reason for this e-mail is to stir some conscious thought to all that I know and ask that you copy, NOT FORWARD, this message and SEND AS A NEW BCC E-MAIL to others. Perry and I plan on sending money. I just can't see myself living in this nation only watching and not helping.

No we're not rich, BUT

...well I'm sure you could come up with a few scenarios. Just STOP! and consider not doing any of these things and just send that money to help the victims of New Orleans and/or Gulf Port, MS. If you think about it, we Americans live abundantly with extras, but don't designate them as such. And think deeper, you and I weren't hit with such a disaster, but with all that mankind has done to this planet anything is possible.

Economically, the effects of this disaster is trickling down to us all in other ways. First up and in our faces is the high cost of gas, this cost will transfer to transportation going up and it has already. Then the cost of retail expenses, IE food, clothes, housing. The domino effect is in motion and will grow, some areas subtly and other blatantly.

And yes we will all have problems, but the enormity of them is slight in comparison to this disaster. Let's all get outside of the "boxes" that we live-in and are absorbed with. THE AMOUNT is NOT IMPORTANT, but the EFFORT IS, of what you do.

REMEMBER TOMORROW IS PROMISED TO NO ONE.
Peace & God Bless - J

The following link will take you to a website page that will give you information on where contributions can be made.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9115520/ "

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

Ledger-Domain

My latest Post column concerns a uniquely New York office -- uniquely ridiculous anyway. The "public advocate" becomes acting mayor upon the death, resignation or incapacitation of the actual mayor. Absent those events, the person in the office is -- depending on your viewpoint -- either the city "ombudsman" or a do-nothing-seriously gadly.

The incumbent is one Betsy Gotbaum who, in a pair of recent
debates with the three men who want her job, showed herself to be either ignorant or willfully disingenous on a rather significant policy issue involving an area not too far from where your humble blogger resides in Brooklyn.

Anyway, you can read up on the latest sordid mess
right here. Judge for yourself whether it is more comedy or tragedy. Supreme Court-watchers, take note! Lotsa stuff on last term's most controversial case!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

 

Good For The Star...

I should have mentioned it at the time, but, hey, there are only so many blogging hours in the day. Glad I get the chance to have another go at it.

So, Ann loses her an outlet for her column! Darn.

Ann's a friendly acquaintance, but this is the line that the Arizona Daily Star rightly
found just too much: "(T)he savages have declared war, and it's far preferable to fight them in the streets of Baghdad than in the streets of New York -- where the residents would immediately surrender."

I wonder if that includes this
guy -- or the 11,000 New Yorkers on active duty?

Yeah, Ann, the satire is nice, but after a while it just becomes complete and total bullshit. Not "funny", not "politically incorrect", not "droll" -- just complete and totally unnecessary bullshit.

Enough.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

 

"Fitty's" Future...Or West's Way?

Gregory Kane rightly assails 50 Cent's new book. Indeed, he might as well go after the huge multi-meda "Fitty" roll-out: He's co-headlining the Anger Management Tour with Eminem; the book is coming out; he's stariing in his own pseudo-autobiography this fall. As Kane points out, he has managed to learn all the wrong reasons from his "success":

Fiddy was a drug dealer before he got lucky and hit it big in the rap game. Here's his assessment of street-level drug dealers, which we must assume included him when he was slinging.

"He's trying to get rich," Fiddy says of the drug dealer. "Just like that guy punching a clock, that old man driving a cab, the kid going to college to get his degree, the girl waiting tables at the restaurant."

Kane rightly assails the unthinking moral relativism in the statement that makes an equivalence between the drug-dealer and the law-abiding cab-driver, college student and waiter. But his contempt for the rapper goes beyond that:

The other [reason I'm mad against "Fiddy"] concerns one Tauris Johnson. The Curtis James Jacksons of the country, in their zeal to justify, excuse or explain away their criminality, never mention the Tauris Johnsons who are their victims.

Tauris was only 10 years old that day in 1993 when he was playing football with other boys in his East Baltimore neighborhood. Shooting between two rival drug gangs broke out. Tauris was hit in the head and died about eight hours later at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The leader of one of those drug gangs - and this shouldn't be lost on Fiddy - was from New York. The incident happened about the same time that Fiddy was doing his own drug dealing in Queens.

This, then, is the consequence of what Fiddy said at one time was his
"business" - dead bodies of children caught in the crossfire of drug gangs. Add to that senior citizens who feel like prisoners in their own homes because of drug dealers and a reign of terror against poor urban blacks surpassed only by the Ku Klux Klan and you get some sense of the scope of those consequences.

As bad as that is, the big story is in the broader rap culture. It can be seen in the "other face of rap" found on the cover of Time magazine. It is the story of Kanye West. And, the story there is of the guy who refused to use the gangsta ethos to sell his art.

But in 2002 the idea that someone like West could be a successful rapper was faintly absurd. "Kanye wore a pink shirt with the collar sticking up and Gucci loafers," recalls Damon Dash, then Roc-A-Fella CEO. "It was obvious we were not from the same place or cut from the same cloth." Says Jay-Z: "We all grew up street guys who had to do whatever we had to do to get by. Then there's Kanye, who to my knowledge has never hustled a day in his life. I didn't see how it could work."

Roc-A-Fella wasn't the only label to pass on Kanye (pronounced Kahn-yay; it means "the Only One" in Swahili) West. Executives at record companies large and small failed to reconcile West's appearance and demeanor with their expectations of what a rapper should be. They had no idea how to market him. "It was a strike against me that I didn't wear baggy jeans and jerseys and that I never hustled, never sold drugs," says West, 28, who grew up in suburban Chicago and often dresses as if he's anticipating an acceptance letter from Exeter. "But for me to have the opportunity to stand in front of a bunch of executives and present myself, I had to hustle in my own way. I can't tell you how frustrating it was that they didn't get that. No joke--I'd leave meetings crying all the time."

So, here we had, not some Johnny-come-lately off the streets. West had already built up some respect in the industry with his producing -- but the image of the gangsta permeates rap so much that a talented individual that doesn't fit that image is perceived as some alien from another planet.

Contrast this with another noted producer-turned-rapper. Dr. Dre created the influential sound upon which gangsta-rap is built. He was a member and lead producer of N.W.A. (Niggaz Wit Attitude). He went on to craft one of the most important rap albums in history -- 1993's The Chronic, a celebration of gangsta style -- gin, juice and hos. Dre also discovered Snoop Dogg and, later Eminem. Getting hit with attempted murder charges as well as drug possession enhanced Snoop's reputation, as did assault charges and the like help Dre and Eminem.

And, now we have, from the horse's mouth, the admission that many have always guessed: The gangsta image sells. It almost doesn't matter what sort of raw talent and vision that you have.

But Kanye West was determined not to accept that. He pushed his own view, got signed to Roc A Fella records (home of gangsta rapper-turned-executive Jay-Z) and put together, College Dropout, which has sold nearly 3 million and includes the acclaimed rap-meets-gospel tune, "Jesus Walks." West then used his influence to promote R&B rookie John Legend and, especially, rapper Common, who has been around for a while, but had yet to break out. The West connection boosted Common's positive-agenda style far above previous sales heights. (Contrast that also with 50 Cent hyping fellow-gangsta The Game -- before their posses had a falling out and began a 'beef" war threatening one another.)

Now, West's antics earlier this year -- whining when he lost a "new artist" award to country singer Gretchen Wilson shows that he still has a way to go in terms of maturity, no question. It also shows that he's human and not perfect. But he should still be judged on his overall product and image -- which is far more original and complex than most of his peers.

So the question is: What is rap's ultimate direction? Is it a "Fitty Future" celebrating the nearly-two decades old gangsta sensibility? Or is a "West Way" that is more thoughtful and demonstrating a greater awareness of life?

UPDATE: Okay, I hereby dub "Li'l Karol" GOP Queen Bee! Preach, sister (or "sista" or whatever...)! Can't you-know-what wit da Queen!

UPDATE II: As far as whether Fitty is a "real" gangsta (a la the NWA/Tupac stuff back in the day): Well in terms of lyrics and talent, maybe not. But given his glamorization of how many times he's gotten shot, the whole "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" schtick and the hyped-up "beef" with The Game that spills over into real gunplay at radio stations, he certainly tries to sell the image. Given that image is everything in the rap (contemporary entertainment?) world, he can be considered a "gangsta-pusher." Whether dat shit is real, yo'...well, the ugly image is real.


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