Political MoJo

Hip-Hop On the Couch, PBS Tonight

| Tue Feb. 20, 2007 7:48 PM EST

Don't miss Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a documentary on violence, sexism and homophobia in hip-hop, airing tonight on PBS. Including interviews with some big timers -- Mos Def, Fat Joe, Chuck D, Russell Simmons -- as well as a slew of hip-hop insiders and rap fans, the filmmaker goes there, and some balk (like Simmons and the head of BET).

Byron Hurt, a novice documentarian but veteran hip-hop head, calls out his fellow black men asking how the bravado that encourages guns, violence, sexual violence and homophobia is also the pride of the community. Rap artist Jadakiss asks in response, "Do you watch movies? What kind of movies do you watch?" pointing out that what sells in hip-hop is no different than what sells in Hollywood: sex and violence. In one scene Hurt asks some unknowns to rhyme for him and all they spit are lines about sex, drugs, killing. He calls them on it and one of them starts rhyming about poverty, and drugs in the community, then stops and says, "no one wants to hear that." And more to the point, no one can get a record deal rapping thusly.

Sexism? Just look at politics -- there's a clip of Schwarzenegger's "girly man" comment illustrating that hip hop is not misogyny's first, or only, rodeo. Homophobia, says Hurt and others, comes in part from the macho over-the-top display of physical dominance in hip-hop that means power, where powerful white men, like say Donald Trump, can hide behind the desk (and hair) and still have power.

Other scenes are set in Daytona Beach at BET's annual Spring Bling and show firsthand the sexism at play, and the disconnect between the music and message. Hurt talks with one white kid from suburbia whose blasting rap from his dad's truck. The guy says he's loved hip hop "since forever, the beginning," identifies with it, then in the next breath refers to Byron and black folks as "colored people." (Hurt calls him on it.)

Hurt is knee deep in this one, expressing his conflicted feelings about making the documentary, feeling such allegiance to the medium, hip-hop being part of him, but also wanting to ask the questions no one seems to be asking.

Indeed, there are lots of questions, for every level of the industry, really provocative stuff. And if you are a teacher, or an educator, or a provider of some kind who has an audience for the film Independent Lens is putting together an educational program to match, check it out here.

And for a steady stream of posts on music, films to watch, and general cultural commentary bookmark The Riff.

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Not So Fast Senator...I Was Wondering If We Could Discuss That War

| Tue Feb. 20, 2007 3:10 PM EST

Via the New York Times' political blog, the Caucus, we find out this week's Congressional recess will surely not be a break from the Iraq war debate, or er... lack of debate. Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, a multi-million dollar coalition, consisting of Moveon.org, the Center for American Progress, and other anti-war groups, doesn't plan to allow Congressmen and women to escape from this important issue for even a second. The group has put together 300 events across the country, "an exhaustive schedule of town-hall-style meetings and public appearances." The list of events has been sent to local supporters in hopes they will attend and "in an e-mail alert, the group also urged activists to 'pummel' lawmakers with phone calls." Happy Recess!

I'm Already Bored of Republican Flip-Flop Coverage

| Tue Feb. 20, 2007 1:12 PM EST

Right now, it's all ideological reversals, all the time:

McCain: "Which side am I on? As John McCain eyes the White House in '08, he is at war with himself over Bush's escalation in Iraq." Salon, Feb 20, 2007.

McCain: "Welcome to McCain's flip-flop express." Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 18, 2007.

Romney: "The Talented Mr. Romney." Washington Post, Feb 20, 2007.

Romney: "Governor Romney, Meet Governor Romney." Newsweek, Feb 26, 2007 issue.

That's just stuff I found surfing the web today. If you have been paying attention, you'll have noticed coverage of Romney and McCain's flip-flops at this nefarious institution.

Late Update: It's two in two days for the WaPo editorial section! "Mitt Romney's Extreme Makeover" Washington Post, Feb 21, 2007.

John McCain (Consistently?) Against Abortion Rights

| Tue Feb. 20, 2007 11:13 AM EST

When John McCain made a campaign stop the other day and said "I do not support Roe vs. Wade. It should be overturned," I thought it was old news. MoJoBlog had already written about how McCain's new support for criminalizing abortion was at odds with his previous position and that the whole thing was a part of McCain's attempt to redraw his own image in a more conservative way.

But I want to draw your attention to this post on TAPPED, which makes the case that McCain's past moderate statements on abortion aside, he's always been pretty thoroughly a foe of a woman's right to chose. A snippet:

...it should be pointed out that his record is in fact fundamentally consistent: he's for it [criminalizing abortion]. He has a 0% NARAL rating. He's never met a federal abortion regulation he doesn't like. He voted for Robert Bork, which would have meant Roe being overturned 15 years ago. He favors a constitutional amendment banning abortion. It's true that he has said that he wouldn't want his daughter forced by the state to carry a pregnancy to term, but basically all American social conservatism comes with an implicit self-exemption for rich white people, and John McCain's daughter won't have a problem obtaining a safe abortion if Roe is overturned.

Fair enough.

Update: I missed this old blog post from Brad Plumer way back in the day. He made all these points a year ago, and added this salient note:

Look: In 2008 this country will elect a new president. Presumably sometime shortly thereafter the 86-year-old John Paul Stevens will retire from the Supreme Court. Replacing Stevens with a pro-life judge would provide the fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Do we really think that as president John McCain, a man who voted without hesitation to confirm Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito despite serving in a pro-choice state—and a man who, as president, would be under unimaginable pressure from conservative interest groups and would need to satisfy "the base" to win re-election—would really nominate a pro-choice justice?

Waziristan in the News as Al Qaeda Chiefs Regain Power

| Tue Feb. 20, 2007 10:56 AM EST

The lede from one of yesterday's big NYT stories:

Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

Anytime news outlets talk about Al Qaeda regaining power on the Pakistan-Afghan border, they are almost talking about the near-lawless tribal territory of Waziristan. They are in this case, anyway. In 2004, Mother Jones published a stunning photo essay from Waziristan, documenting the perverse (and tenuous) relationship between the war on terror and truth: Essentially, America promised Pakistan billions in aid if it could produce Al Qaeda operatives, which meant the Pakistan army marched into Waziristan and demanded that the tribes there start handing over terrorists, no matter what. Under pressure, the tribes started turning on each other, and pretty soon places like Guantanamo and other American prisons were filled with tribal Pakistanis with little connection to anything.

Text is here, photos are here.

The Rape of Sabrine

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 6:57 PM EST

In the southern part of Baghdad, Sabrine Al-Janabi, a young Iraqi woman was taken from her home by security forces -- the ones Bush and Rice love to talk about -- who proceeded to gang rape her. From shame and fear, many Iraqi women would remain silent. But Sabrine went on Al Jazeera and in a hoarse voice, with only her eyes visible, told what happened. What follows is a translation of what she said provided by Riverbend, who writes the girl blog from Baghdad. You can read it at riverbendblog.blogspot.com.

"…I told him, 'I don't have anything [I did not do anything].' He said, 'You don't have anything?' One of them threw me on the ground and my head hit the tiles. He did what he did -- I mean he raped me. The second one came and raped me. The third one also raped me. [Pause- sobbing] I begged them and cried, and one of them covered my mouth. [Unclear, crying] Another one of them came and said, 'Are you finished? We also want our turn.' So they answered, 'No, an American committee came.' They took me to the judge."
Anchorwoman: Sabrine Al Janabi said that one of the security forces videotaped/photographed her and threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the rape. Another officer raped her after she saw the investigative judge.
Sabrine continuing:
"One of them, he said… I told him, 'Please -- by your father and mother -- let me go.' He said, 'No, no -- by my mother's soul I'll let you go -- but on one condition, you give me one single thing.' I said, 'What?' He said, '[I want] to rape you.' I told him, 'No- I can't.' So he took me to a room with a weapon… It had a weapon, a Klashnikov, a small bed [Unclear], he sat me on it. So [the officer came] and told him, 'Leave her to me.' I swore to him on the Quran, I told him, 'By the light of the Prophet I don't do such things…' He said, 'You don't do such things?' I said, 'Yes'."
[Crying] "He picked up a black hose, like a pipe. He hit me on the thigh. [Crying] I told him, 'What do you want from me? Do you want me to tell you rape me? But I can't… I'm not one of those ***** [Prostitutes] I don't do such things.' So he said to me, 'We take what we want and what we don't want we kill. That's that.' [Sobbing] I can't anymore… please, I can't finish."

What more do the members of Congress need for a war crimes investigation? How many more war crimes are we going to sluff off, claiming we had nothing to do with them? These are our people. We put them there. Will McCain read Sabrine? What about Hillary? What about the brave new members of the so-called progressive Democratic party? Where is Speaker Pelosi? Levin of the Armed Services Committee? Biden? Warner and all those genteel Republicans whose consciences are stricken by the war?

Stand up ladies and gentlemen of the Congress. Let us for once hear from you.

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Columnist, Tired Of Doing the Woman Beat, Resigns From Chicago Paper

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 6:46 PM EST

In The China Syndrome, Jane Fonda's character, Kimberly Wells, is sick and tired of getting stupid assignments like covering the birthday parties of animals at the local zoo, but those are the only assignments she can get because she is a woman. Yet even Kimberly would be shocked by Debra Pickett's assignment from the Chicago Sun-Times: Her editor told her to breast-feed her son in public places and write about it.

Pickett said she didn't take the assignment seriously, and that she seen other assignments that began with "an outrageous premise" get negotiated into something workable. But this time, the situation was different for Pickett, who was close to returning to her job after taking a maternity leave. She tried to contact the managing editor, with whom she expected to negotiate the story, but she could not. Pickett says she felt the "ground had shifted" under her feet while she was gone, and her inability to reach the managing editor didn't help.

Pickett had written about her family in her column, and says that "that was fine, a lot of fun, but it's not necessarily who you want to be your entire life." She wanted to write about Africa and the AIDS problem, but says the newspaper staff kept pushing back into her husband-and-child niche. "The Sun-Times," Pickett says, "has a great staff writing about politics; an assignment to go forth and breast-feed is a pretty blunt way of being told your services won't be required for that coverage."

Kimberly Wells had her epiphany in 1979. Funny how little things have changed, despite what I hear from younger feminists.

It's Time to Point Something Out About Newsweek Covers

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 5:00 PM EST

Namely, that they are all the same.

The most recent cover of Newsweek has a single figure on a white background, with a coverline in heavy black text and a single word printed in red for emphasis. Don't think that this stark look -- with its solitary figure and harsh colors -- was chosen because it makes sense for a story on depression amongst American men. It was chosen because Newsweek has used the same look on roughly 50% of its covers in the last three months.

Take a look below. They clearly have research that tells them exactly how to sell magazines.

 newsweek_cover_1.jpg  newsweek_cover_2.jpg  newsweek_cover_3.jpg  newsweek_cover_4.jpg

Americans Vote on Top Presidents

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 11:22 AM EST

Happy Presidents' Day, everybody. Remember to get your apostrophe after the "s"!

In time for the holiday, Gallup has polled Americans on who they think are the top presidents in history. Results:

1. Abraham Lincoln (18%)
2. Ronald Reagan (16%)
3. John F. Kennedy (14%)
4. Bill Clinton (13%)
5. Franklin Roosevelt (9%)

Those five are followed by George Washington, Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Thomas Jefferson, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that those last two are a recency effect. Your thoughts?

Oh, and PS - From The Nation via Alternet, a discussion of the worst presidents of all time.

Brit Hume, Hatchetman

| Mon Feb. 19, 2007 11:14 AM EST

I couldn't agree more with this post by Glenn Greenwald at Salon. It's high time someone pointed out that Brit Hume is a vicious partisan hack, and should not be treated like a legitimate member of the objective news media.

If you haven't seen it yet, check out Hume's angry diatribe about John Murtha from over the weekend. It's petulant, pissy, and almost completely personal -- Murtha is senile, Murtha is pathetic -- and yet after Hume leaves the bloviator's realm of the Sunday morning talk show, he is welcomed back into the journalistic fold during the work week. Amazing.