Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year??

In stark contrast to romantic notions of Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men, the seemingly perennial conflict between Palestine and Israel have most recently come to an alarming height- Hamas-led militants launching missiles at Israeli communities, and Israel-led airstrikes turning Palestinian-territory neighborhoods to rubble:

Leftist conspiracy-theorist types are not pleased with the choosing of Rahm Emanuel for President-Elect Barack Obama's chief of staff. I have to admit, I was not familiar with him before his impending selection. A former member of the Bill Clinton White House cabinet and later a Chicago congressman, he was the inspiration for the Rob Lowe character on "The West Wing" and his brother Ari, a real life hollywood agent is the inspiration behind the Jeremy Piven character in "Entourage", a 'type-A-jerk' played for laughs in the show.. More on Rahm's background here:


..I'll stop short of saying that Emanuel is a closet agent of the Mossad, but it's probably fair to say that he is a hawk on Israel security (though in fairness, his reputation is that of a hawk in general, having openly derided oppositional forces like Republican congressmen and even the 'liberal' wing of the Democratic party while an advocate for President Clinton). He was apparently in favor of the original Iraq invasion, like Senator Joseph Lieberman (who initially lost in the Connecticut Democratic primary of 2006 to an anti-war platform candidate; he then he switched his affiliation to "independent" and won the November election.)

Technically, since Mr. Emanuel is not Secretary of State, he shouldn't get first dibs on foreign policy advice-- that would go to Hilary Clinton (though I'm not ultra-pleased with that choice, I'll leave it at that.)

Israeli native Daniel Barenboim released this statement recently- that there is no military solution to this ongoing conflict:

The Bush White House aggressively lays blame on Hamas, but only gives Israel the mildest admonition for seemingly reckless retaliation. Is it that because the ‘offenders’ in this conflict (Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.) are 'brown' that most Americans in general are inclined not to care about civilian Palestinian deaths, with a dismissive rationale of “Well, they shouldn’t be living in neighborhoods with terrorists.”?

An interesting article about the conflict was published in Playboy back in 2007: (scroll down after link)- http://sabbah.biz/mt/archives/2007/10/03/playboy-magazine-goes-anti-semitic/
In summary, the author (who self-identifies as Jewish) asserts that while most Americans of Jewish cultural descent, especially younger folks, may identify as political moderates or even liberals who don’t have a problem with the idea of a two-state solution and who feel that at least some of the moves made by the Israeli government are indeed wrong, most established, prominent, and politically influential organizations based around the Jewish identity tend to be very hard-line conservative, with uncritical support for Israel as their “ride or die” dealbreaker.

Contemporary Black Christian culture doesn’t really help matters in terms of awareness about the conflict. In this respect as well as others, they often take their cues from white Evangelical customs by default. Many of the most devoutly religious of black folks will talk about how it’s a dream of theirs to visit Israel. In fact, many of them don’t even refer to Israel by name, instead sticking with the Sunday sermon analogs of “The Holy Land/The Promised Land”. Most don’t mention they’d like to go anywhere in Africa but I guess that’s a discussion for another day.

Frequently, in the black American community there is relatively little intellectual research or inquiry into the history of modern-day Israel/Palestine, let’s say, for the past 100 years. All many people know (sort of) through rote memorization of passages in Revelations and a few other scriptures, is that when Armageddon/The Rapture comes, “Israel” will be at Ground Zero, so anyone who wants to get on the “up” elevator needs to be lock-in-step with Jehovah’s people. And right now, that’s contemporary Israel. Most black pastors tend to reinforce the worldview that when modern Israel was established in 1948, that it was one of the key signs of The Last Days.

A hopefully non-loaded question comes to mind: Just how are the black people treated in Israel? The black people. When you see news reports about Israel (not necessarily concerning violence, just everyday life) when do they ever show black people? If this is supposed to be such a multicultural, tolerant society (and I'm not saying it isn't), where are they? There are at least several relatively credible news articles out there detailing that the lives of native black Africans, black American expatriates and others who live there are not experiencing the romanticized “Promised Land” that Sunday school here in the States teaches us about.

War is profitable. All those who manufacture guns, bullets, rockets, bombs, will profit from the destruction on both sides. The USA needs to totally divest from any and all involvement in this conflict, and that includes ‘unofficial’ involvement, i.e. the CIA.

I am not in the camp of crazy people like Al-Qaeda, their copycats, or right-wing Islamic clerics who wish to see Israel rendered to dust. I am not a Holocaust denier. Still, I believe that American opinion and traditional U.S. stances on the Middle East matters have been severely unbalanced for far too long. What does it mean to me that Israel gets high-tech radar equipment, missiles, road construction and other help from the USA, when infrastructure is disintegrating in Gary, Detroit, St. Louis, and elsewhere? People can’t meet their basic needs here. Heck, in Baghdad plans are underway to build a subway system, while Gary and other cities are still stuck in the mid-20th century as far as transportation options are concerned.

My hope is that Barack Obama has the foresight to practice a moderate stance on Middle Eastern issues. I don’t want to see the USA dragged into World War III via Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan or whoever else overseas who has an ethnic beef. It can only cost more US soldiers their lives and cost billions to the overall US economy that is already teetering.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Trick Trick Plays "The Villain"
Artist: Trick Trick
Album: The Villain
Koch Recordings, 2008

Chris Mathis, aka 'Trick Trick', has a history of being a Detroit-area underground/local rap personality since the 1990s, and is a contemporary of people who have since come to national prominence like Kid Rock and Eminem. “The Villain” is his second official LP on a mainstream label.

Music-wise, the bulk of production on the album is credited to the artist, incorporating live keyboard and funk-bass riffs with drum-machine rhythm tracks. It will bring to mind post-millennial West Coast hip-hop. Lyrically, the usual targets are here as befits gangster-rap standards (player haters, cops, disloyal associates), amidst shout-outs to Detroit neighborhoods and Trick’s extended posse the Goon Sqwad. Perhaps incredibly, Trick also includes Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen Degeneres on his list of folks to be mad at (on the self-referential “Trick Trick”).

Trick Trick enlists various Detroit-based friends for collaborations on the album. Among them include Eminem, who contributes vocals to “Who Want It” (he also produces here as well as on “Follow Me”). Royce Da 5-9 guests on “All Around the World”. “2 Getha 4 Eva” is a posse cut featuring Kid Rock (who contributes a now-rare rap verse), Esham and the late Proof of D-12, updating Run-DMC’s “Together Forever”. Other collaborations include “Let it Fly” with Ice Cube, who makes a humorous reference to a recent political scandal involving a former Detroit mayor. One of the best songs on the LP is “Hold On”, produced by Dr. Dre’, which should have been a lead single.

One of the closing songs on the album is “Let Go” where Trick reminisces about his spiritual journey and belief in higher power. That this track is preceded by over 40 minutes of violent threats may come across as disingenuous, but like DMX before him, one can only presume that Trick is being sincere.

If there is a downer on this album it’s the relentless homophobia on certain songs. It may be par for the thug-culture worldview, but if Eminem can work with Elton John and not blink… In any case, hardcore rap enthusiasts will find a standard-bearer in Trick Trick, but this is likely not the LP to make him a breakout star like his pals.

Grade: B