Tag Archives: Politics


McCain’s advisor promised to leave campaign

Well, only sort of.  This is an extremely long overdue post (especially since Obama is now actually the Democratic nominee).

Back in May, almost exactly a month ago, Mark McKinnon kept his promise that he would leavve the McCain campaign if Obama was going to win the nomination. read more »

Music Politics

New York Sun writer is ignorant about hip hop

John McWhorter is an “author” who writes for the New York Sun. He’s got a book coming out called About the Beat: Why Hiphop Can’t Save Black America and in an effort to stir up some attention about it he’s written an article claiming that conscious hip hop is a myth.

In his incredibly awkward (I’m talking puberty-level awkward) rant, he fundamentally misunderstands the argument in support of hip hop and conscious hip hop in particular. With a flawed understanding, it’s no surprise that he arrives at his arrogant conclusion.

Here’s what he says: “But conscious rap fans are making the same mistake as the suburbanists in Britain. They think of it as unquestionable that for black people, politics must be about challenging authority, taking to the streets, the upturned middle finger. The problem is that the days when this orientation fed or taught anyone anything are long past. They miss other kinds of black politics that actually help people in the real world.”

What he doesn’t understand is not that so-called black politics is about challenging authority, but rather that hip hop became a very useful tool for disaffected people to express their opinion. African American youth, in particular, were best able to use hip hop as a tool to make their voices known.

McWhorter picks lyrics from various hip hop songs and attempts to use them to prove his point. “For example, Pete Rock grouses that “library broken down is lies buried,” while Dead Prez tells us that high school is a “four year sentence” with teachers “tellin’ me white man lies.” Message: black people should be wary of education. Deep. “Politics.” Sounds good set to a beat.”

His hasty jump to an absurd and embarrassing conclusion is that these artists are telling black people to beware of education. However, in most circles the message is not that. The message is that the education system has been failing blacks. More importantly, it’s been failing individuals of any ethnicity who are forced to go through some of the under-resourced public schools, especially in low-income areas. He cites the charter schools in Harlem that are having remarkable success with their graduates. Perhaps, he’s actually not really arguing so successfully. If anything, the development of charter schools or any other alternative to the traditional crumbling P.S. 106 is exactly what dead prez or Pete Rock is talking about. Plus, as any student who’s ever seen a revisionist history book, libraries aren’t exactly always full of truth. There have been hundreds of examples of people trying to rewrite history to suit their needs or to erase their transgressions.

McWhorter picks and chooses particular lyrics that he feels would suit his petulant theory. He ignores the dozens of examples any true hip hop head could cite about conscious hip hop. Like KRS-One leading youth away from gangs through hip hop. Or hip hop activism trying to encourage black youth to vote. He could quote Common’s Retrospect for Life, where Com raps about abortion, an insanely difficult issue. Or Gang Starr’s What I’m here 4:

“A lot of shit has happened, since I started rappin
There’s been enough beef, and enough gat clappin
There’s been mad signs, for this brother to heed
and while some choose greed, I choose to plant seeds
for your mental, spirit and physical temple”

I could probably go for days and keep pointing out just how wrong this guy is. He accuses people that are “learning their politics from conscious rap” of being inferior. As any loyal reader of 4080 knows, I think we’ve pointed out more than enough examples to prove him painfully wrong.

And we all know that hi hop has done far more for politics and to raise social consciousness than Mr. McWhorter could ever hope to dream of. In the meantime, let him keep writing his books.

[Source: Gawker, NY Sun]


The Clinton Divorce

A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a pretty interesting article about what they call the “Clinton divorce”. This will be what they see as the inevitable split with the party if Clinton is denied the nomination.

Already we saw fractures appear in the way the party was dealing with the issue of who the candidate should be. When Bill Richardson came out in support of Obama, for example, Bill Clinton was practically frothing at the mouth while he raged about what a traitor Richardson was.

This piece is not exactly unbiased, but is still a fascinating look at the situation, especially as it was written back on May 9th.

Slowly but surely, these Prisoners of Bill and Hill are now walking away, urging Mrs. Clinton to leave the race. Chuck Schumer damns her with faint support by saying any decision is up to her. Columnists from the New York Times, which endorsed her when she looked inevitable, now demand that she exit so as not to help John McCain. With Mr. Obama to ride, they no longer need the Arkansas interlopers.

If the Clintons play to their historic form, they will ignore all this for as long as they can. They will fight on, hoping that something else turns up about Mr. Obama before the convention. Or they’ll try to play the Michigan and Florida cards. Or they’ll unleash Harold Ickes on the superdelegates and suggest that if Mr. Obama loses in November she’ll be back in 2012 and her revenge will be, well, Clintonian.”

I just hope fear of revenge won’t affect voting choices from the superdelegates. Whoever they do choose should be chosen based on their chances of success, not because they are the most vicious in retribution.


South Africa is burning

This is absolute madness.  The LA Times (among many, many others) is reporting on the newest batch of violence gripping South Africa.  Apparently there has been a huge wave of anti-foreigner sentiment that started in Alexandria, a suburb/township near Johannesburg and has spread across much of Kwa-Zulu Natal and some of the Northern Areas of South Africa.

Much of the xenophobic violence is targeted at immigrants from Zimbabwe, or so it seems.  For now, Western and Eastern foreigners (from Europe and Asia) seem to have escaped the brunt of the violence, but it’s still probably a good idea to lay low.

Some of the victims have been actually burned alive while a mob watches, and that is pretty horrifying.  It’s reminiscent of necklacing, a tactic used during the struggle against apartheid to punish “snitches” and still used in other places (including the slums of Brazil).  It’s a brutal form of violence and one that is especially shocking from a democracy like South Africa.  Especially in a time of what should be peace.

I guess the motivation behind the violence is that the township residents accuse the Zimbabwean immigrants of “stealing their jobs”, much the way that xenophobic sentiment in North America (specifically the US) is focused on illegal immigration from Mexico.

The South African government and many other notable figures (including Bishop Desmond Tutu) have condemned the attacks.  The government has also said they would try to protect foreigners from this violence.  They’re accusing the mobs of not actually being xenophobic, but using this as an opportunity for criminal behaviour.  There have been a string of arrests and they’re on the verge of deploying the army.  They’ve already called in reserve police and brought in reinforcements from other regions to help combat the violence, but I think it’s about time martial law was declared.  In a situation like this, good people could easily get swept up and start doing terrible things, so it’s important to nip the situation in the bud.  It would be much, much different if the mobs were protesting, or even if they were just destroying property.  Then maybe we could tolerate it for a little longer.  But cruising around already poor neighbourhoods and murdering people is unacceptable.

The violence must end.


Senators say whether they’d agree to be vice president

TheHill.com has somehow managed to ask all 97 sitting Senators whether or not they would consider the VP nod from the presidential candidates.

They’re reproduced (verbatim, they claim) the responses from all the Senators.  Here’s a couple of nice little jewels:

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah)
“Of course. Big house, big car, not much to do. Why not?”

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)
“I would be honored to be asked. I’ve got to appraise the position in considering it. But I haven’t gone to the step of saying whether I would or wouldn’t at this point … I’d probably take away from the ticket, too. There’s always pros and cons. I’m strong pro-life, pro-marriage, and some people would say, ‘Well, I don’t like that.’ But really, people vote for president. Not vice president. I think vice president can hurt you more than it can help you. I can’t remember any time in my lifetime where I voted for a president because of the vice presidential nominee.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)
“Yes. Sign me up. I’ve been kidding people for years: The hours are better, the wages are just as good — whoever heard of a vice president getting shot at? — and it’s a great opportunity to travel. And actually since time has gone by, the job is robust … So sure. Anybody here would, if they’re going to be honest. The chances are slim to none. But I promise you, I would deliver all three of Delaware’s electoral votes.”

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho)
“I would say ‘No, Hillary.’ ”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
“No, I’d have Jon Stewart stand in for me. Jon Stewart. That’s my guy.”

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii)
“If I were asked, I would say, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ ”

There’s tons more of these in the article above.  Really, these answers cast a whole new light on the US Senate.  For one, there are a lot of insanely old Senators.  There was one talking about how he was shortlisted for a VP spot back in ’76, and a few more who’ve been around at LEAST that long.   There’s self-deprecation, with one Senator saying that there are lots of capable people, and he’s not one of them.

It’s a good read, so definitely check it out.


Hip hop activism in Africa – Dakar, Senegal

4080Records is no stranger to the idea that hip hop is extremely influential all over the world.  Back in February the Guardian (one of those major UK papers) ran a story about Didier Awadi, a fairly militant Senegalese rapper.

Awadi is no stranger to activism, and perhaps that’s why he’s gotten so much respect.  His latest album, Sunugaal, tries its best to represent Senegalese culture and deal with several heavy political issues.  Here’s part of what the Guardian has to say about some of the political leanings of Awadi’s album:

On Sunugaal, several tracks feature samples of speeches by iconic African political leaders, including Senegal’s Léopold Sédar Senghor and Ivory Coast’s Félix Houphouet-Boigny. These form a kind of prelude to his forthcoming project, Présidents D’Afrique. The album, due for completion later this year, celebrates the work of legendary anti-colonial leaders who fought for the right of African states to self-government between the 1950s and 80s. Archive audio recordings of such figures as Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara and Congo’s Patrice Lumumba are sampled by Awadi, who responds to their ideas with his own lyrics in French and Wolof.

“What I’m trying to do is use hip-hop as an entertaining way to get Africans to reappropriate their history,” he explains. “Which is why I take a speech by Kwame Nkrumah and mix it over a beat where I’m rapping, so it becomes a kind of inter-generational dialogue.”

Lately, Awadi’s gotten even more political active.  He’s been a major force of opposition to the EU-Africa Economic Partnership Agreements.  He’s even come out with what is ostensibly a protest song, titled “On Signe Pas” (translated, it means we won’t sign).  He’s not alone being against it, as tens of thousands protested the adoption of a document they felt threatened their local industries.  The EPA is pretty serious business for these nations, because it requires the removal of a huge amount of tariffs and quotas from African trade, which could have a devastating effect on the local economies.  Freetrade advocates would say this is a good thing, but it seems pretty unanimous among the development community that there is extreme concern that this may undermine African nation’s attempts at development.  It could raise prices across the board without any significant gain.  The Swazi Observer reports that despite this protest the Trade Ministers of many African nations have been making serious strides towards full adoption of the agreement.

Check out the video below.


Can hip hop get out the vote? – NPR Radio will tell you.

NPR radio has just run a pretty interesting look at hip hop and its tie to US Politics.

So, NPR has run this interview with “interviewer Farai Chideya, Robert “Biko” Baker (the executive director of the League of Young Voters); Sonia Murray, a music reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and DJ Drama, an Atlanta-based recording artist and DJ.” (I just copied and pasted this little paragraph from the NPR website).

Sadly, I can’t find a way to link directly to the audio stream, so you’ll have to listen from the NPR website here.

So Biko, besides being nicknamed after one of the biggest driving forces behind the movement to end apartheid in South Africa, is also the current director of the League of Young Voters.  It’s has a pretty amazing mission, to try and turn out young voters, particularly from inner-city and other disenfranchised areas.  Youth are the people who are often the most disaffected with contemporary politics and thus the least likely to turn out.

Not being extremely familiar with NPR, I was pleasantly surprised with the nature of the interview.  Chideya asked some tough questions, and I’m glad to see it.

If you have 16 minutes to spare, take a listen.  Even if you don’t, take a listen and fast forward through parts that you don’t like.

Music Politics

Cuba – Saviour of Hip Hop?

This article by TheMorningCall.com (don’t worry, I’ve never heard of it either) has a pretty informative examination of the Cuban hip hop scene. Like many places, young Cubans have always identified with the pretty revolutionary and socially critical nature of hip hop.

Tanya Saunders (pictured at left) is a researcher at Lehigh University who’s been studying the growth of underground hip hop in Cuba. She makes a point of calling it underground, because she wants to make sure you know it’s not the commercial stuff that you sometimes hear coming out of these countries.

She goes on to make some pretty strong claims about the strength and nature of Cuban hip hop. I do find it fascinating that she speaks to the theory that Cuban hip hop has much more to do with race theory than anything else. It’s a method for Cubans to identify with [some of] their black roots.

Apparently, in her words, race has not had much discussion in Cuba. There is a lot of black heritage in a lot of Latin/South America, and it’s interesting to me that it hasn’t been until now that it’s really begun to be deconstructed.

Here’s a little quote from the article:

Interestingly, the Cuban hip-hop movement began through that government’s unique approach to culture. Says Saunders, ”The Cuban government has a strong leftist segment that is adamant about freedom of speech and the importance of culture and art. Cuba’s art education system is highly respected throughout the Americas. Art is decentralized at the local level — every neighborhood has a ‘casa cultura’ where all materials needed to do a community art program are provided.”

”This encourages independent artists to do their work through their local ‘casa cultura,”’ continues Saunders. ”So you can actually disagree with the government, yet still be provided with amplifiers, microphones and a space to perform. The equipment might not be the best quality, but you’ll still get it. Compare this to the poor inner-city neighborhoods of the United States — those kids have no place to go, no place to learn art or anyone to teach them to think critically.”

Never having been to Cuba, I can’t speak with any firsthand experience about how true this is. Since my knowledge is limited to whatever the media has spun, I must say that this is a bit of a surprise to me. Considering the…restrictions that Cuba has placed on expression in other forms of expression and political protest, I find it hard to believe that they’d really allow such strongly political statements.

Now to the good stuff. Saunders goes on to say that a lot of countries look to Cuba as the “rebirth of the hip hop movement”. Since they take their cue from very early, socially conscious hip hop, and apparently really emphasize and support female hip hop, it seems more progressive than in America itself. Apparently Cuba was the birthplace of the first openly lesbian hip hop group, called Las Krudas.


The Republican Super-Ticket: McCain/Rice


I wrote recently that Democrats should have no problem retaking the White House come November, despite the protracted, occasionally nasty battle currently raging between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Perhaps I spoke too soon: a recent poll conducted by Marist College and WNBC reveals that a Republican ticket of John McCain and Condoleezza Rice would win New York, even against a Democratic ticket consisting of Clinton and Obama. This is shocking, since Kerry won New York by 20 points in 2004 and Gore won it by an even greater margin (25 points) in 2000.

If the poll is true, Democrats should be seriously concerned. Although the poll only canvassed New York voters, the fact that McCain and Rice would be so competitive in a dyed in the wool Blue State is incredible. CNN’s take on the poll suggests that Rice, being both black and a woman, would trump whatever historic candidacy the Democrats will present to the American public in the Fall. Apparently, a black female Vice President is better than either a black or a female President.


Zimbabwe opposition declares presidential victory

globeandmail.com: Zimbabwe opposition declares presidential victory

In what is potentially life-changing news for a lot of people in the world, The Globe and Mail (among other news sources) is reporting that the opposition in Zimbabwe is declaring victory.

Now that I’ve started writing this article, it seems as if the OFFICIAL results agree. That’s right, the opposition, led by Morgan Tsvingrai, has taken over parliament. According to Mugabe’s government, Mugabe’s party took 97 seats and the opposition took 99, with some seats going to a smaller party also opposed to Mugabe.

Even more crazy, official AND official sources are saying that Mugabe has so far lost the presidential election as well. Now, under Zimbabwean law, if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote than the top two must compete in a run-off. The MDC (the opposition party) is claiming they won 50.3% of the vote, thus avoiding the need for one, but Mugabe’s party disagrees. My money is on them being forced into a run off, because Mugabe still has a lot of clout over the government as a whole and is not likely to go quietly.

The extreme delays in counting the votes has really made people worry about the fairness of the election. Before the election, there was concern that it wouldn’t exactly be free and fair. So far, the violence and intimidation has not exactly manifested itself, which is reassuring enough. Some experts attribute this to the presence of Simba Makoni who has some significant sway over the military as well as having some pretty powerful backers. While he only won 7% of the vote in the presidential election, the mere fact that he chose to face Mugabe may have done something to reassure voters that they can choose to vote for whomever they choose.

There has begun to be some quiet muttering about whether there are negotiations going on to allow Mugabe to retire quietly and with honour. I think that this is probably the best idea, because the ideal situation for ZImbabwe is for this election to go completely peacefully. No one wants a repeat of the Kenya debacle from a few months ago, and I think everyone wants to see Mugabe go with some dignity. Obviously he’s made some serious judgement errors in the last 10 years or so, but most people respect what he did originally to lead ZImbabwe to freedom.

Here’s some of what has happened to Zimbabwe since Mugabe took power:

Today, a third of the population depends on imported food handouts. Another third has fled the country and 80 per cent is jobless. Inflation is the highest in the world at more than 100,000 per cent and people suffer crippling shortages of food, water, electricity, fuel and medicine. Life expectancy has fallen from 60 to 35 years.

As well, something that caught my eye is an interesting little excerpt from a BBC article:

Mr Mugabe, 84, has not been seen in public since the election but Mr Matonga has denied rumours the president had left the country.

He came to power 28 years ago at independence but in recent years Zimbabwe has been plagued by the world’s highest inflation, as well as acute food and fuel shortages.

I wonder why they suspect he’s already left the country?

The sheer fact that the opposition now controls parliament (or at least is able to deny Mugabe’s party a majority) is important news, because it means that some of the more contraversial bills and reform ideas cannot be pushed through. So even if Mugabe retains power as president, he may not have the ability to push through more ideas, like his proposed notion that all businesses in Zimbabwe must be majority black-Zimbabwean owned.

So keep a keen eye on the news the next few days. If Zimbabwe settles down, that means that nearly the whole Southern tip of Africa (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe) will become much more stable. If so, there is a pretty good chance that economic growth rates will shoot up and maybe help benefit the whole region.

Also, if Tsvingrai wins, expect huge amounts of foreign aid to start pouring in. Britain, the former colonial power of Zimbabwe (back when it was Rhodesia), has been watching this election carefully, as has the EU, UN, and US.