Tuesday, July 29, 2008

KNIGHT OR KNAVE?

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Andrew Klavan praises the recent film The Dark Knight, and makes flattering comparisons between the film's superhero protagonist Batman and sitting U.S. President George W. Bush:
http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB121694247343482821.html

Well, God bless Mr. Klavan for enjoying the movie. One of the great things about pop-culture films is that people from "both" sides of the political fence can watch and be entertained.
Still, while I am amused by Mr. Klavan's logic model, I would have to disagree. To me, our Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush is less like Batman, and more like one of the Dark Knight movie's villains, Harvey Dent a.k.a. Two-Face. In the film, Harvey Dent is an elected official--a crusading District Attorney who wants to rid Gotham City of its criminal element, especially the Mob. Dent hides a dark side, however, and when he is kidnapped and disfigured in an explosion, he goes mentally over the edge, seeking lethal revenge against anyone who he feel has crossed him-- he lets his enemies live-- or die-- based on a coin toss. With the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nationwide home foreclosures, wallet-busting gas prices (no, $3.95 a gallon compared to $4.30 isn't really a great deal) and other sad states of affairs home and abroad, it could be argued that many of President Bush's choices have been made with all of the depth of flipping a coin, that's for sure. Bush originally ran for office back in 2000 based in part on his carefully crafted image of a 'compassionate conservative'; in the years since then, Bush quickly settled into the far-right comfort zone of the Neo-Con club, compassion be darned. Talk about two-faced, eh?

But in the spirit of fun, let's see who else from Batman's Rogues Gallery has something in common with the most prominent people in the Bush White House cabinet:


  • Dick Cheney (vice president.)- The Penguin: in the comics, the Penguin owns legitimate businesses while conducting all kinds of skulduggery behind closed doors. As a key stakeholder in Halliburton, war and related mayhem has apparently made good for profits for Cheney and company.
  • Karl Rove (former senior adviser)- The Riddler: Thanks in great part to his labyrinthine plans, the United States invaded Iraq to find Weapons of Mass Disappearance (er, Destruction), and some five years later, the riddle hasn't been solved- why are we still here?
  • Donald Rumsfeld (former Secretary of Defense)- Mad Hatter: In the comics, this crook has high-tech gizmos to control people's minds to do his bidding, with sinister results. I'll leave it at that.
  • Robert Gates (current Secretary of Defense)- Scarecrow: In the comics, this villain uses 'fear dust' to make people unduly scared. What does the color-coded terror alert say today? "Be afraid. Be vary afraid. Of Everything! Hey, is that an Al-Qaeda operative or your shadow?"
  • Condoleeza Rice (Secretary of state)- Poison Ivy: In the comics, she's beautiful to look at, but deadly to touch. Dr. Rice will smile and say that things are going better than ever in Iraq; wait, wasn't there another suicide bombing yesterday?
  • Michael Chertoff (Secretary of Homeland security) - Joker: Certainly, homeland security has been a joke for a long time, the Katrina tragedy being only the most glaring example.
  • Henry Paulson (Secretary of Treasury)- Mr. Freeze: With the United States currently having a deficit of nearly $500 billion (http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008807280333) layoffs and unemployment strangling even the middle class, the country's economy might as well be in an Ice Age.

Needless to say, we'll have to wait and see what develops next- Same Bush time, same Bush channel?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

THE BOSS & THE BADGE

Well, let’s see—circa ’95, I was working at a Super K-Mart, in case anyone is thinking about blackmailing me.

As revealed in a report at The Smoking Gun, popular Florida-based hip-hop star Rick Ross apparently did an 18-month stint as a correctional officer in the Florida Department of Corrections. So far, Mr. Ross has vehemently denied this, going as far as claiming that a photograph of a younger Ross shaking hands with a D.o.C. official must have been doctored. State of Florida transcripts say otherwise:
http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2008/0721081rickross1.html?link=rssfeed

I will stake my own non-profit agency meager salary that there is not a single rapper in the business who comes from a background of selling dope along the lines of a Tony Montana (people know he was fictional, right?), Freeway Ricky Ross (the real guy from L.A.) or Frank Lucas. There is also not a single rapper who came from a gang background who was remotely touching anything that a John Gotti was involved in. All of the neighborhood Bloods, Crips, Disciples, Vice Lords, and Latin Kings combined aren’t touching the real Mob outfits. If heads were in the game that deep, they wouldn’t need to rap to make money, if they were smart enough. Hustlers with the really big dough invest in entertainment companies, construction, sanitation, real estate, etc., they aren’t hawking demo tapes!

I don’t have any of Rick’s albums yet; from the stuff I hear on the radio and video channels, it’s decent and catchy enough for current Dirty-South rap. Still, I have to chuckle when these guys talk about how they were allegedly pushing mad weight back in the days. I don’t see why people have to come up with such elaborate backstories to justify getting into the rap game. Then again, I guess that’s where the business is at now. Who knows if Rick came up with this by himself or if he had help from the A&R folks at Slip-N-Slide/Def Jam.

I guess the question is, now that the truth has been revealed, what will his response be? Own up to having a 9 to 5 job that wasn’t great but paid some bills? Continue to deny the revealed facts as an elaborate hoax? Maybe try to awkwardly spin this into some street credibility (“I was a crooked C.O., handling weight on the low, ya feel me?”)? I can only imagine what his publicist is going to try and say, if anything. More intriguing, is how his fans are going to react, and why. Will they be ‘disappointed’ that he was, for 18 months anyway, pushing steel gates closed instead of pushing narcotics? Is some teenager’s dream crushed because his idol was apparently not the uber-coke merchant referred to in his favorite songs? Will fans who are actively involved in drug & gang activity feel ‘betrayed’ now that ‘one of their own’ used to be on the other side?

Unfortunately, this situation just kind of highlights the silliness that goes on in today’s hip-hop landscape. In the same year that Vanilla Ice rose to stardom, he got lambasted for apparently fabricating parts of his biography (for the curious, it had to do with allegedly being a gangbanger in his Miami high school and being a winner of amateur motocross races). Needless to say, his career was never the same.

Rick, O Voluminous One, whither thine own career?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Everything in Moderation…
Except When I Don’t Feel Like It

Sour Grapes Turned to Whine?

“(He’s) talking down to black people… I want to cut his nuts off..”

These were the words which shocked the world, African-Americans in particular, when Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke to Fox News journalists concerning a Father’s Day speech made by Senator Barack Obama that revolved about black men taking the initiative to be more involved in their children’s lives and to and turn away from the ills of crime and social nihilism. For reasons which hundreds of barber shops and hair salons are debating as to why, Rev. Jackson’s comments insinuated that speeches which seemingly scold the urban poor give little weight to addressing macro concerns of corporate and government responsibility (or the lack thereof).

The Rev. Jackson’s words (which he immediately apologized for—uh, he didn’t tap the mic?) were condemned by virtually anyone with a public platform, from both conservative and progressive circles, including his own son, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Chicago). Senator Obama, for his part, publicly accepted the apology, and at a recent speech at an NAACP convention, reiterated his commitment to speaking on personal responsibility in the black American community. Much ado has been made concerning the senior Jackson’s presumed political irrelevance and his image to many as more of an opportunist than an activist. For the political left—certainly for anyone a part of senator Obama’s campaign—Jackson’s Freudian slip was a backhanded compliment—a chance to show the unconvinced electorate (among whites, anyway) that Obama is not the firebrand dashiki-in-his-bureau-drawer black candidate who goes out of his way to point the finger at Whitey. For the political far-right, it’s another confirmation of why they hate Jesse Jackson on principle—not that they were even slightly interested in voting for Barack Obama anyway.

Beneath the Rev. Jackson’s vitriol, however, just may be a granule of something worth considering: Specifically, the see-saw of stances taken by various politicians during campaigns, and the developments—or the lack of them—afterward.

I guess the jury is out on how things will continue to develop in this campaign. Senator Obama, far from a far-leftist to begin with, has crept more centrist in recent months—ostensibly, this is to woo the much-vaunted ‘moderates’ and Independents (mostly suburban and rural) who can vote either way in an election, and thus become the main people to cater to once securing the nomination becomes nearly secure. I vehemently disagree with this, as especially with progressive-minded folks, we see ‘our’ candidates seemingly flip-flopping just to appease people who have no vested interest in many (most?) of the issues that frame our point of view. Prison reform? Drug law reform? Comprehensive urban renewal? Mass transit options? Affirmative Action? Gun law reform? Forget it—they’re not interested—ambivalent at best, hostile at worst. Many of these folks are the types who apparently are easily swayed by the rumor-rhetoric that Obama is a closet Muslim, which of course, in the USA means he is a terrorist sympathizer, and his wife is apparently a disciple of the Black Panthers for doing a fist-bump. These are the ‘moderates’? The ‘everyday folk’ who represent real ‘American integrity’?

I’m not buying it.

The internal debate now among various Obama supporters is how heavily to criticize—or to criticize at all—the senator’s seeming shifts on issues like government wiretapping, the commitment of military troops to the Middle East, a blanket repeal of NAFTA, among other topics. Says one side, it’s more important to simply push to get Sen. Obama elected, and the minutia of various issues/grievances/requests as articulated by those who supported him early on will ‘probably’ be addressed in time. Says the other side, maintaining integrity and not waffling on the above-mentioned issues is more important than pandering to people who withhold committing until November. As much as I may sympathize with the former, I tend to identify with the latter. Bill Clinton was elected back in 1992 in part based on the idea that he would bring sweeping change—some of the issues at hand at the time were drug-law reform, welfare bureaucracy, a universal health care plan, and lifting the ban on ‘outed’ gays in the military. Time has since proved that Clinton was hardly any kind of Razorback-state hippie, and on select interviews Clinton fumed at the ‘liberal left’ concerning critiques on his decisions. Of course, once Monica Lewinsky told a secret, maybe the liberal lefts were among the few who didn’t look forward to roasting him at the altar of Ken Starr and Newt Gingrich.

“Since you came here, you have to show and prove…”
Rakim, “I Know You Got Soul”, 1987

How many people have accompanied someone to an event, only to have them ditch you for someone else soon after? You know, someone cooler, or better looking. That’s how a hell of a lot of progressives feel about developments like this. When Democrats regained a numerical advantage in Congress after the 2006 elections, near-immediate change on several fronts was promised again (thank you, Sen. Pelosi), only to have it more or less disappear like some Iraqi gold. Again, time will tell if Sen. Obama is simply “playing chess” to get the house keys, after which he would presumably start initiating and implementing some fair-minded reforms.

I fully ‘get’ that the senator is running for the President of the whole United States and not to be de facto president of Black America. I’m not remotely expecting him to be any kind of Mauist, either. I am, however, keeping a close eye at all these, ahem, adjustments to his policy views, and if (okay, shame on me, when) he gets elected, how all his talk compares to his walk. If the Democrats maintain a majority standing in the White House, there will be even less of an excuse for policy execution than there might be otherwise. Barack Obama being elected to the Presidency will inevitably have thousands of people rejoicing in their homes, campaign offices and in the streets—and heck, why not?

But I’m not celebrating anything if I’m not really welcome to the party.