Monthly Archives: February 2008

Politics

Clinton gets sarcastic, mocks Obama

Clinton gets sarcastic, mocks Obama « – Blogs from CNN.com

In a pretty obscene move, Hillary Clinton has lashed out at her Democratic rival. Just days after Clinton freaking out about the “Karl Rove tactics” used by Obama in mailers sent out that negatively portrayed her stances on trade and health care, she has decided that the best way she can hit back is with sarcasm.

Check out the video below.

I have to admit I find it highly entertaining. She does a good job of pointing out what some people have been thinking all along. Obama, inspiring though he may be, does bring with him a touch of naivety.

Clinton has said:

“Now, I could stand up here and say, ‘Let’s just get everybody together. Let’s get unified,'” Clinton said to laughter of the crowd.

“The skies will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect,” she said dryly as the crowd erupted.

“Maybe I’ve just lived a little long, but I have no illusions about how hard this is going to be,” Clinton continued. “You are not going to wave a magic wand to make special interests disappear.”

It does seem to be a pretty pessimistic view of the political system, so I may actually prefer Obama’s optimist approach. If nothing else, he does do a pretty good job of making people feel as if the system has a chance.  Clinton and her so-called realist approach does none of that.  It is one of her more effective attacks to date.  Far more than her feeble attempts at calling Obama a plagiarist, this little outburst may sway some voters who have been secretly worried that Obama’s message of hope is nothing more than idealism.  Then again, it is much more likely that this will not amount to anything, and that it will not help Clinton escape her 11 consecutive defeats.

Geek Music

Windows 98 sounds + nerd = music

This is pretty hilariously nerdy.

Some kid, somewhere in the world (and most likely in their parents house) managed to piece together an entire “song” entirely out of Windows 98 system sounds.

All the days we here at 4080 spent making beats were tough enough, I can’t imagine sitting down and trying to make something like this.

Awareness Music Politics

Hip-hop may save Bronx homes – Los Angeles Times

Hip-hop may save Bronx homes – Los Angeles Times

The credit crunch in the US has slowed down the housing market to some degree, but that doesn’t necessarily stop the gentrification of low-income areas.  In fact, since the bubble burst and people are feeling  a little pinched in terms of the amounts they can borrow, it makes these lower value properties even more enticing.

Gentrification, for those who don’t know, is basically a process where lower-income people are displaced from their neighbourhoods due to an influx of higher income dwellers.  These people are attracted by low prices, and tend to involve a lot of yuppies and artists as the first wave.  As the values increase, more and more individuals tend to move in, and thus pushing the original inhabitants further away.

Condo developers tend to love this, because they can demolish low-rent buildings and put up those concrete monstrosities you see all over the place and then put the units on the market for a much higher rent.  High density urban housing is very attractive at the moment, and this has the unfortunate side effect of removing affordable housing from all over the city.

The LA Times is reporting that the Bronx is feeling this push at the moment.   They’re highlighting the fight to save 1520 Sedgwick Ave (pictured above).  This address may not really mean anything to you yet, but it is widely credited as being the birthplace of hip hop.  Clive Campell (eventually known as DJ Kool Herc) started throwing parties in this building and eventually began to DJ for them.  He was the first to introduce “breaks” and try to extend tracks by mixing two copies of the same record together for people to dance to.

It’s not that the parties stayed in this building for too long or anything, but it does have a special place in history.  On top of that, the mere notion that this affordable housing building is going to be no longer in the rent-control program is troubling.  A lot of the residents could not afford the new rent prices, and it seems like a travesty to have to move them.

But Michael Bloomerg and NY City Hall has the ability to overrule the sale of this building to a upmarket property developer, and I sincerely hope they do.  Seeing as it is the birthplace of hip hop, Kool Herc is on board helping the tenants raise money to purchase the building themselves as part of a tenant’s association.  Many politicans, including local Congressmen are taking up the fight as well.

You see this kind of thing happening in most cities across North America, from Toronto to Tampa Bay.  But here’s hoping that these people win this fight.  After all, people deserve a place to live.

Politics

Kenya Power Sharing Agreement!

In an amazing twist of fate, something good has actually come out of peace negotiations. Since a widely deplored election a month or so ago, there has been massive waves of unrest in Kenya. Over 1500 people have died as a result of the civil unrest and widespread attacks on various ethnic groups. Even worse, they estimate that 600,000 people have been displaced by the violence.

The incumbent, President Mwai Kibaki had decided he won the election despite irregularities and some possible less-than-ethical behaviour at the polls. This infuriated the challenger, Raila Odinga. Further complicating things was the fact that these two men came from different tribes, Kibaki from the Kikuyu, and Odinga from the Luo.

The Luo have felt they were cheated out of power, and that the Kikuyu have always tried to keep all the influence for themselves. This led to violence all over Kenya, with the Kikuyu being chased out of various cities and Kikuyu-owned businesses and homes being burned to the ground. There are reports of individuals being hacked to death with machetes and other atrocities.

This was a major cause for concern, obviously! Foreign governments were surprisingly slow to react and no one seemed willing to step in. Kenya had always been the anchor of stability for East Africa, surrounded by less than stable countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Having this economic powerhouse begin to slide into chaos would have tragic repercussions across the continent. So in steps Kofi Annan.

The Ghanian former UN Secretary-General has, at least in a lot of people’s opinion, managed to accomplish more in his first few months after the UN than he had in his tenure as the Sec-Gen. Annan went to Kenya and managed to convince both sides to come to the negotiating table. Normally this results in months of slow talks and really nothing gets down. But somehow, he managed to work his magic.

Somehow, the two warring sides have agreed on a power-sharing deal to bring an end to the conflict. The details are below, from the BBC article here.

    POWER-SHARING DEAL

  • New two-party coalition government to be set up
  • Division of posts in new government to reflect parties’ strengths in National Assembly
  • Raila Odinga to take new post of prime minister, can only be dismissed by National Assembly
  • Two new deputy PMs to be appointed, one from each member of coalition
Cool Music

4080Records Presents: Radiohead remix!

Okay okay, I take it back.  As every day goes by I think I get more and more attracted to mashups.  This is the latest in our growing series of random internet compilations.

Radioheads latest album, In Rainbows, made music history when the the band decided to cut out the middleman and release the album directly the public.  When it first came out, this album was available to download from the Radiohead website on a pay-what-you-want basis.

That’s right.  You could pay whatever amount you wanted for the album and could download it.  That’s incredible.  And while it appears that no one really is sure how well the album sold online, it seems as if it went decently enough!  And the album is now available to buy in traditional methods (CDs, iTunes etc) and so you can pick it up at your corner record store.

AmpLive, one of those internet phenomena, has decided to do a little remixing of this album.  At first, in traditional legal strategy, Radiohead and/or affiliates tried to put the kibosh on the project.  Cease and desist letters rained from the electronic skies onto this poor kid.

However, after a pretty impassioned plea from AmpLive, Radiohead decided to show their class (which no one doubted) and allow the album to be released.

Here’s AmpLive’s own words about the project:

“Rainydayz Remixes is composed exclusively of source material pulled from In Rainbows, re-envisioned by Amplive and complimented by vocal work from Too $hort, MC Zumbi of Zion I, Chali2na of Jurassic 5, Codany Holiday, and Del The Funky Homosapien.”

Sounds pretty dope to me.  How can you go wrong with some of the best underground hip hop talents rapping over some of Radiohead’s beats?

Download the album below, but be sure to check out AmpLive’s site here.

http://www.onesevensevensix.com/download/AmpLive_Rainydayz_album.zip

And if you’re interested, check out AmpLive’s online plea to Radiohead.

Awareness Music

Stuff White People Like – Mos Def

Stuffwhitepeoplelike is a surprisingly controversial blog, but I guess for pretty obvious reasons. If you take it as the tongue-in-cheek satire that it is intended to be you may actually get a bit of a kick out of it.  But be warned you may be offended by some of their content.

They cover the gambit of things that “white people like” and it varies from silly things like recycling to slightly more obtuse characterizations like irony. But one of the funnier posts I’ve seen is their post on Mos Def. They claim that white people like Mos Def for a number of reasons, and I have to say I find bits of their post prety entertaining.

He is everything that white people dream about: authentic (”he’s from Brooklyn!”), funny (”he was on Chapelle show!”), artistic (have you heard “Black on Both Sides?”), an actor (”he’s in the new Gondry film!”) and not white (”I don’t see race”)

If you find yourself in a social situation where you are asked to list your favorite actor or artist, you should always say Mos Def. This way you can name someone that everyone has heard of and you don’t look like you are trying to one up anybody. The only possible negative consequence is some white people might think “I wish I had said that first.”

Now we all know to not take this too seriously, but on some level it may actually highlight just how Mos has been openly accepted all over the place.  It’s true.  I think every person I know is willing to accept Mos as an artist; it doesn’t even matter what kind of music they tend to favour.

Art

4080Records Presents: Urban Street Photography

Urban Street Photography is one of those Web 2.0 spawned artistic endeavours, residing deep in the belly of the beast known as Flickr.

Here’s an example of some wicked street photography.

Flickr is a website where users can post whatever photos they want. They can also join “pools”, which are groups of users who contribute photos to a common collection based on a theme. Some of them, like USP, are pretty moderated. In this group, the editors select a few pictures per day to publish. In some ways I think this makes it a bit more of an honour if your photo is selected.

It has to be one of the better quality photo pools I’ve seen on there, but much like everything else, it all comes down to a matter of taste. You should take the time to browse around the site a little, and I strongly recommend you use PicLenspiclens.JPG which is one of the best add-ons I’ve ever seen for Firefox. It’ll transform your internet experience and make Flickr, Facebook, and google images look like something out of a movie. Check out the pic to the right if you don’t believe me.

Cool Music

The World’s First Album Cover

Undependent™ » The World’s First Album Cover – Alex Steinweiss’ Greatest Hit

The Undependent is a pretty solid blog that claims to try and keep tabs on and bring exposure to internet-based artists. That’s something noble in that endeavour, and 4080 stands behind them 100%.

One of the cooler posts I’ve seen, the one linked above, is all about the very first album cover in history.

Alex Steinwess, a then 23 years old designer, convinced Columbia’s suits to create the first true album cover. Until then, 78s were sold in generic sleeves.Recently, I came across an apparently original edition of this album and was able to pick it up for almost nothing. Someone unwittingly dumped it onto eBay for chump change. I mean, if they’d known what they had, I would’ve at least expected the auction to include “World’s First Album Cover!” and a reserve price of $100, $500, who knows? Instead, I picked it up for less than $30. –Source

It’s amazing how such a simple idea took so long to come about. And yet, in a lot of ways, this thing that revolutionized music when it came out is now a dying art. The age of mp3 has reduced the art involved in an album cover. Apparently this first cover, when closed, looked identical to a hardcover book. So it would fit in perfectly on that shelf of yours.

Now, album art still exists, and most of the new fancy mp3 players will do their best to display it for you. There are heaps of programs out there to download the art automagically and all that jazz, but it’s just not the same. Now every traditionalist and vinyl enthusiast in the world will tell you that album art and liner notes are part of what is so special about the physical music disc.

So, good on you Alex Steinweiss. You really did a lot to improve the music industry, so thank you for that. Now I hope we all keep our fingers crossed that album covers don’t just disappear into obscurity.

Politics

Ralph Nader enters the race!

In what will likely be a disaster for the Democrats, Ralph Nader has entered the US presidential race.

You political historians out there will remember Ralph from such events as the 2000 and 2004 Presidential races. This is a pretty contentious issue, but there are many many people out there who believe that his mere presence in the race is what cost Al Gore the election. The logic behind this is that that the people who choose to vote for a self-proclaimed consumer advocate are statistically more likely to emerge from the Democratic base than from the Republicans.

This would mean that he was taking votes away from poor Gore all over the US. Considering that Gore lost by very slim margins in more than one state, logic would dictate that Nader may have given Bush the presidency.

Now this is not to say that this is necessarily a bad thing. Even if you are not a fan of George W, you would still probably feel that democracy is the important thing. Having more than two parties represented in the race of president is a positive thing, and may even be healthy for the country. More candidates means a diverse array of views, and creates an atmosphere that promotes public discourse on major issues.

All of a sudden you may not be forced to vote for one party just because you don’t like what the other party stands for. You may actually be able to vote for someone you honestly believe in.

Or not. Maybe Nader’s presence will further fracture an already weak Democratic party. The Obama-Clinton feud appears to be heating up even further. I don’t think this will reach the levels of the South Carolina race card situation, but the recent spat about Obama’s characterization of Clinton’s platform, and Clinton’s cries about Obama’s alleged plagarism are continuing to highlight the party split.

A Party divided against itself cannot stand, especially in the face of a Republican party that appears to be coalescing around McCain. Nader’s entrance may further distract left-wing Democrats who face a tough enough choice as it is.

It appears as if the Democrats themselves agree with this statement, because Clinton has come out to say that this is unfortunate because she cannot think of anyone who would vote Republican but who would now vote for Nader. Obama was a little nicer, saying he does respect what Nader has done for consumers, but also that he believes that Nader is a bit of a nutjob.

Obama also criticized Nader earlier this weekend. “My sense is that Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don’t listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you’re not substantive,” he told reporters when asked about Nader’s possible candidacy.

“He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work.”

Overall, I don’t think this can help the Democrats. If they hope to beat McCain, a Republican who appears to appeal to moderate voters in general, they must make sure to try and minimize Nader as early as possible. This may mean introducing more liberal aspects to their platforms, which could actually be a good thing for the country as a whole. Perhaps an increased focus on the environment or on consumer rights.

It is early to be guessing like this, but we’ll have to wait and see if the “Jeffersonian revolution” brings any kind of positive result.

Politics

Fidel Castro’s Resignation Letter

As you’ve probably been reading, Fidel Castro has officially been replaced by his brother Raul as President of Cuba. We’ve done our best to cover the process, but obviously have been lacking in many ways. So here is part of our effort to redeem ourselves.

Below 4080 has reproduced the text of Fidel’s resignation letter, and I think you’ll find it a pretty interesting read. We’ve also added some colour to particular sections we found especially interesting.

Dear compatriots:

Last Friday, Feb. 15, I promised you that in my next reflection I would deal with an issue of interest to many compatriots. So this reflection comes in the form of a message.

The time has come to nominate and elect the State Council, its president, its vice presidents and its secretary.

For many years I occupied the honorable position of president. On Feb. 15, 1976, the Socialist Constitution was approved with the free, direct and secret vote of over 95 percent of eligible voters. The first National Assembly was established on Dec. 2 that same year, and it elected the State Council and its presidency. Before that, I had been a prime minister for almost 18 years. I always had the necessary prerogatives to carry forward the revolutionary work with the support of the overwhelming majority of the people.

There were those overseas who, aware of my critical health condition, thought that my provisional resignation, on July 31, 2006, from the position of President of the State Council, which I left to First Vice President Raul Castro Ruz, was permanent. Raul, who is also minister of the Armed Forces because of his personal merits, and the other comrades of the Party and State leadership were unwilling to consider me out of public life despite my precarious health.

It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis-a-vis an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of me (referring to the United States), and I felt reluctant to comply.

Later, I was able to recover the full command of my mind and could do much reading and meditation, required by my retreat. I had enough physical strength to write for many hours, which I shared with rehabilitation and recovery programs. Basic common sense indicated to me that such activity was within my reach. On the other hand, when referring to my health I was extremely careful to avoid raising expectations since I felt that an adverse ending would bring traumatic news to our people in the midst of the battle. Thus, my first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle. I kept saying that my recovery “was not without risks.”

My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s what I can offer.

To my dearest compatriots, who have recently honored me so much by electing me a member of the Parliament where so many agreements should be adopted of utmost importance to the destiny of our Revolution, I am saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept — I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept — the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief.

In short letters addressed to Randy Alonso, Director of the Round Table program on National Television — letters which at my request were made public — I discreetly introduced elements of this message I am writing today, when not even the addressee of such letters was aware of my intention. I trusted Randy because I knew him well from his days as a journalism student. In those days I met almost on a nearly weekly basis with the main representatives of the university students from the provinces at the library of the large house in Kohly where they lived. Today, the entire country is an immense university.

Here are selected paragraphs from the letter sent to Randy on Dec. 17, 2007:

“I strongly believe that the answers to the current problems facing Cuban society, which has on average a 12th grade education, almost 1 million university graduates, and real opportunities for its citizens to study without facing discrimination, require more variables for each concrete problem than those contained in a chess game. We cannot ignore a single detail; this is not an easy path to take, if the intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary society is to prevail over instinct.

“My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, much less to stand in the way of younger persons, but rather to contribute experience and ideas whose modest value comes from the exceptional era in which I lived.

“Like (Brazilian architect Oscar) Niemeyer (who turned 100 on Dec. 15), I believe that one has to be consistent right up to the end.”

Letter from Jan. 8, 2008:

“… I am a firm supporter of a unified vote (a principle that preserves ignored merits), which allowed us to avoid the tendency to copy what came to us from countries of the former socialist bloc, including the portrait of the one candidate, as singular as his solidarity toward Cuba. I deeply respect that first attempt at building socialism, thanks to which we were able to continue along the path we had chosen.”

I reiterated in that letter that “… I never forget that all the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn.”

Therefore, it would be a betrayal of my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama.

Fortunately, our process can still count on cadres from the old guard and others who were very young in the early days of the Revolution. Some were very young, almost children, when they joined the fight on the mountains and later they filled the country with glory with their heroism and their internationalist missions. They have the authority and the experience to guarantee the replacement. There is also the intermediate generation which learned with us the basics of the complex and almost unattainable art of organizing and leading a revolution.

The path will always be difficult and require everyone’s intelligent effort. I distrust the seemingly easy path of apologetics or its antithesis of self-flagellation. We should always be prepared for the worst possibilities. We cannot forget the principle of being as prudent in success as steady in adversity. The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong, but we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century.

This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the title, “Reflections of Comrade Fidel.” It will be another weapon you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful.

Thank you.

Fidel Castro Ruz

Feb. 18, 2008

5:30 p.m.

Source

It really is a fascinating read.  We can castigate Castro for any number of things, but there really is no doubt that he cares deeply for Cuba, or at least whatever idea of Cuba he has in his head.  Socialist idealism can be a very motivational force for a lot of people.

I do find it very intriguing that he claims to have always had the support of the majority of Cubans.  Obviously he can’t admit that maybe people didn’t appreciate his lead, but then again I guess it is possible that he really did enjoy widespread support.

Furthermore, at the end of his letter he mentions that he thinks Cuba has been able to avoid the problems that other socialist countries have faced in the “one candidate”.  That’s all well and good, but only a few paragraphs before he was talking about how he was careful not to raise the hopes of the people when it came to his health as he was afraid that a tragic ending would hurt the battle.  Despite his claims to not subscribe to this one candidate theory, I think it’s pretty safe to say that’s not true.

Cuba has as much of the cult-of-personality complex as many dictatorships, and while they may now be able to survive without Fidel, it remains to be seen if Raul can fill his shoes.  The problem with one-figure systems is that they tend not to nurture leadership skills in anyone who could be a rival, so I’m not entirely convinced that Raul can maintain the grip that Castro had on the population.  This hopefully will be a good thing, and now appears the time for the population to make their voices heard and push for whatever reforms they want to see.  It may be premature to assume that democracy and capitalism will take over, but at the very least we may see a little more in the way of political and journalistic freedoms.  Anything will be an improvement.

-A