Saturday, May 28, 2011

Musician-Poet Gil Scott-Heron dies at 62

Musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron, whose biting and lyrical fusion of verse and rhythm made him a formidable forefather of rap and hip-hop, died Friday in New York. He was 62. Friend Doris C. Nolan told the Associated Press that Scott-Heron died at St. Luke's Hospital in Manhattan after becoming ill upon his return from Europe. A cause of death has not been determined.

Scott-Heron's fiery fusion of soul, jazz and free-flowing versification , inspired by such black literary precursors as poet Langston Hughes - led to his recognition as one of the most forward-looking black musicians of the '70s. Best-known for his mordant critique of race in the media ''The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,'' he essayed such topical concerns as nuclear power, apartheid and Ronald Reagan's presidency in his pointed work.

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.
Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
About a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Study: Whites say they face more racism than blacks

By David Edwards
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 -- 3:01 pm
Whites in America now believe that they face more racial bias than blacks, according to a recent study.

Samuel Sommers of Tufts University and Michael I. Norton of Harvard asked 208 blacks and 209 whites to use a 10-point scale to indicate how much they thought blacks and whites were a target of discrimination each decade from the 1950s through the 2000s.

Less than 2 percent of blacks and whites gave anti-white bias the maximum score in the 1950s. More than 9 percent of both groups also gave anti-black bias the maximum score for that same decade.

Blacks and white agreed that racism against blacks decreased as the decades progressed. But whites, unlike blacks, felt that anti-white bias had increased along with the drop in anti-black bias. Eleven percent of whites rated anti-white bias at the maximum during the 2000s, while only 2 percent of blacks did.

"We propose that Whites' belief about the increasing prevalence of anti-White bias reflects a view of racism as a zero-sum game," researchers wrote, "which can be summed up as 'less against you means more against me.'"

"[N]ot only do Whites think more progress has been made toward equality than do Blacks, but Whites also now believe that this progress is linked to a new inequality -- at their expense," they concluded.

"While affirmative action advocates don't perceive of such preferences as anti-white discrimination, many whites do," George Mason University Law Professor David E. Berstein told The New York Times.

"Given the overt nature of such preferences, and many whites’ own perceived self-interest in the matter, it's not terribly surprising that whites subjectively perceive discrimination against members of their own group as an especially significant and growing problem, even though, objectively speaking, bias against blacks is far more pervasive, problematic and ill-intentioned," he added.

The study "Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing" was published in the May edition of Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Image credit: Flickr/bandita

Monday, May 23, 2011

Baptist Group: Oklahoma’s Sharia Ban Is Unconstitutional

Last year, Oklahoma became the first state to ban the non-existent threat of Islamic Sharia law, jeopardizing Native American rights, Oklahoma businesses, and even the Ten Commandments to do it. But state Republicans’ fervor for this “preemptive strike” — known as the “Save Our State” amendment — hit an inevitable snag of constitutionality, compelling a federal judge to block the law’s implementation. Nevertheless, Oklahoma election authorities appealed the judge’s injunction to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Regardless of what Oklahoma Republicans may think, numerous religious groups view the law as a clear infringement on the First Amendment and are now taking a stand. Last week, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) signed on to an amicus brief urging the 10th Circuit to invalidate the law as it has “the unambiguous effect of communicating official disapproval of Islam“:

“The BJC’s brief argues that the Oklahoma amendment violates the Establishment Clause for two separate and distinct reasons. First, “the amendment’s purpose plainly is to disapprove of the Islamic tradition.” Secondly, “the amendment’s dual specific references to Shari law – and to no other religious tradition – have the unambiguous effect of communicating official disapproval of Islam.”

Both reasons put the Oklahoma amendment in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lemon Test which is used to determine whether a law is in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”

The American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, Interfaith Alliance, Union for Reform Judaism, and several civil liberties groups joined BJC in signing the brief. Viewing fear as the “driving force” behind state Sharia bans, Texas Baptist pastor Bob Roberts Jr. urged Christians supporting anti-Sharia laws to put their faith in God rather than in legislation. “When we fear to that degree, then we start pushing laws because somebody else’s beliefs make us nervous,” said Roberts.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Right-wingers flood teen who challenged Bachmann to a debate with threats of violence

You all remember that high-school sophomore who challenged Michele Bachmann to a debate (because she knew full well she'd be able to kick wingnut butt)?

Seems she's attracted the usual right-wing response -- threats and thuggery:

Several media outlets reported on Myers' challenge. As a result, she said, people have threatened violence against her and threatened to publish her address online, the Courier Post reports. Myers' high school has also reportedly received inquiries regarding Myers' letter.

"A lot of them are calling me a whore," Myers said of the online remarks against her. Added her father Wayne Myers: "I personally did not think there would be a reaction like actual stalking and the vitriol that's coming out."

The worst was reading the work of trolls at right-wing sites, the girl's father said:

Amy and Wayne Myers said the comments on conservative websites alarmed them most. Several commenters threatened to publish the Myers' home address.

Others threatened violence, including rape, they said.

"They're targeting me just because I'm challenging Bachmann," Amy said.

Amy's challenge is arguably unrealistic: Few if any sitting members of Congress would actually agree to debate a teenager.

Bachmann, talked up by the Republican right wing as a 2012 presidential contender, is often the subject of unflattering press. An aide said Tuesday the office would have no response to Myers' challenge.

The Courier-Post had scheduled a video interview with Amy Thursday. On Wednesday, a somewhat panicked-sounding Wayne Myers phoned to cancel, citing the alleged threats.

"I got a call from the principal that the main office received threatening mail," said the computer programmer and single father.

Such a classy bunch. Especially when you consider their fondness for depicting the Left -- and especially unions -- as a bunch of thugs.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

According to his wife’s financial disclosure forms, Newt Gingrich had a revolving charge account of between $250,000 and $5000,000 at Tiffany’s. How did Newt spend over $250,000 at Tiffany’s? I’m guessing it wasn’t on breakfast. A 6-figure jewelry charge account—at Tiffany’s. That doesn’t look good when you’re running for office. Newt, you want to connect with the common man—you should have had your half million dollar jewelry charge account at Zales. The numbers were included in the financial disclosure forms of Newt’s wife, Callista. I’m assuming the jewelry was for his wife too, unless Newt Gingrich has some very exotic piercings that we can’t see. OK, now I’ve made myself sick to my stomach.

Now pundits are saying that Newt Gingrich might be too undisciplined to run for president. Right. Here’s another news flash—Newt Gingrich might be too out of shape to qualify for the US Olympic track and field team. Everybody knew that Newt Gingrich was going to screw up eventually. But not too many people had him giving himself a first round knockout. Really, if this was a pay-per-view prize fight, people would be asking for their money back. Newt did a mea culpa on Fox News. That makes sense. Anyone who is watching Newt’s troubles on anything other than Fox News is simply doing it to enjoy watching Newt squirm. On Fox, Newt said “The budget vote is one that I am happy to say I would have voted for.” Newt, if you had done that, you’d be just as screwed in any election as you are now anyway. That’s why they’re so touchy about it.

Here’s a classic from Newt: “Any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood, because I have said publicly those words were inaccurate and unfortunate.” Translation: if I shouldn’t have said something, then as far as I’m concerned, I never did say it. Evidently if you quote Newt Gingrich, you are, by definition, misquoting him. Or by Newt’s definition, at least. I think Newt wants to float everything he ever says out as a trial balloon first. If it doesn’t end up being stupid and hurting him, then he’ll tell us “OK, that one is a keeper.” Here is what it’s come down to—in order to salvage his campaign, Newt Gingrich will have to refuse to comment on anything involving Newt Gingrich.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

REPORT: Sen. Tom Coburn Actively Negotiated Multi-Million Dollar Hush Money Package For Ensign’s Mistress

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)
After a 22-month investigation, the Senate Ethics Committee released a report on the conduct of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), who resigned early this month. The report contains voluminous evidence suggesting Ensign may have violated several laws in an effort to cover up an affair with a member of his staff. The committee has referred the matter to the Department of Justice.

Contained in the 67-page report, however, is troubling evidence of the central role that current Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) played in trying to keep Ensign’s mistress and her husband quiet — evidence that contradicts Coburn’s previous public statements on the matter.

In July 2009, Coburn said he was consulting with Ensign “as a physician and as an ordained deacon” and he considered it a “privileged communication that I will never reveal to anybody.” Asked about the claim from Doug Hampton, the husband of Ensign’s mistress, that he “urged Ensign to pay the Hamptons millions of dollars,” Coburn said, “I categorically deny everything he said.”

Coburn was similarly blunt in a November 22, 2009 interview with George Stephanopoulos:

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told me flatly that he did not offer to broker a million-dollar deal between his Senate colleague, John Ensign, R-Nev., and the family of Ensign’s mistress.

Doug Hampton, the husband of a staffer with whom Ensign had an affair, makes the explosive allegation in an interview with “Nightline’s” Cynthia McFadden that will air on Monday.

…When I asked Coburn on This Week if Hampton is telling the truth, he said, “There was no negotiation,” but acknowledged that he had worked to “bring two families to a closure of a very painful episode.”

Coburn eventually agreed to cooperate with the Ethics Committee; their findings on the level of his involvement are startling. According to the committees report, Coburn actively assisted in the discussions of a hush money package, negotiating a proposed package from $8 million down to $2.8 million. The ethics committee report, on pages 37 to 38, describes the negotiation between Mr. Albregts, an attorney for the husband of Ensign’s mistress, and Sen. Coburn:

Mr. Albregts tried to get a ballpark estimate from Senator Coburn as to the amount he would be comfortable with. Mr. Albregts proposed $8 million based on a document Doug Hampton prepared. According to Mr. Albregts, Senator Coburn said that the figure was absolutely ridiculous. Senator Coburn then stated that the Ensigns should buy the Hamptons home because it is so close to the Ensigns, and the Hamptons should receive an amount of money above and beyond that to start over, buy a new home, have some living money while they were looking for new employment, and possibly some seed money to send the children off to college. Senator Coburn stated that that’s what I’ve thought from day one would be fair, but said that $8 million was nowhere close to a reasonable figure. Senator Coburn told Mr. Albregts to figure out what those amounts would be, and call him back.

Mr. Albregts then spoke with Mr. Hampton, and asked him how much it would cost to get the house paid for, and how much he needed above that figure to get started somewhere new. Mr. Hampton then came back with some figures, and estimated $1.2 million for the home, and another $1.6 million to get started somewhere new. Mr. Albregts called Senator Coburn back for the final time with this revised figure on the same day in a five-minute call. Per Mr. Albregts, Senator Coburn responded by stating that okay, that’s what I had in mind and I think is fair and said he would take the figure to the Ensigns.

The Ensigns rejected the new offer. Previous reports referenced Coburn’s role as a go-between but did not reveal the extent of his inovlement in the negotations. The report notes that “Mr. Albregts testified that Senator Coburn took an active role in the negotiations between Mr. Hampton and Senator Ensign, and this role included proposing specific resolutions.” Coburn told the committee that he was “simply going to pass information” to Ensign.

One thing is certain: Tom Coburn has a lot of explaining to do.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fox News accidentally debunks its own attacks on ‘vile’ rapper Common | The Raw Story

In the days since popular rap artist Common would be invited to a White House poetry event, Fox News personalities have been voicing their protests.

The network's editorial site, Fox Nation, even published an article headlined "Michelle Obama Hosting Vile Rapper at the White House?" The site apparently objected to Common because of some lyrics denouncing former President George W. Bush, they said, and had mentions of violence against police.

However, about seven months ago, Fox News interviewer Jason Robinson spoke to Common and praised him, saying he's "very positive."

"You're known as the conscious rapper," Robinson said. Common responded that being an artist is a "significant role."

In direct contrast to that report, Sean Hannity used his show Tuesday night to voice his outrage over Common's White House invite.

"I support his right," Hannity said of the rapper's language, "but don't bring him to the White House."

He said that the Obamas' decision to invite Common is an example of the president showing "his radical roots again and again and again. Ayers, Wright, Pflger."

Just as Fox News has pivoted its opinion of Common, from "very positive" to "vile," Hannity's remarks about Common's lyrics are in sharp contrast to his thoughts on Ted Nugent's 2007 onstage remarks that then-candidate Obama "suck on" a machine gun and called him a "piece of shit."

When guest Bob Beckel asked about Nugent's remarks soon after, and whether Hannity was prepared to "disavow this lowlife," Hannity called Nugent a "friend" and said, "I like Ted Nugent."

Friday, May 6, 2011

President Obama says he won’t release any of the photos of Osama bin Laden’s corpse. He said “We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.” No, not if by “we” he means everybody but the Bush administration. They trotted out the pictures of the dead sons of Saddam Hussein like they were hoisting the Stanley Cup. And back in 2001, the Bush Administration sent out a CIA team with instructions to bring back Osama bin Laden’s head in a box of dry ice. The problem is that Bush didn’t give them the tools they needed to accomplish the mission. Heck, he didn’t even get them the dry ice.

As President Obama put it, “We don’t need to spike the football.” You don’t want to get the most wanted terrorist of all time, and then get penalized for excessive celebration. Not only would the people in the George Bush administration have “spiked the football,” they would have done a flying chest-bump, performed an end zone dance, and jumped into the stands. But then that’s a totally hypothetical scenario. In reality, George Bush’s administration never did and never would have caught Osama bin Laden. So there’s no point in imagining what their reaction would have been.

Sarah Palin’s position is the we should publish the death photos. Sarah tweeted “Show photo as warning to others seeking America’s destruction. No pussy-footing around, no politicking, no drama; it’s part of the mission.” Wow. It’s hard to pack so much stupid into 140 characters. No pussy-footing! Yeah, Mr. President. Don’t get all namby pamby after you just took down the most dangerous man in the world, OK? I love how Sarah says that putting out the photos is “part of the mission.” I don’t think you had any input when it came to defining this mission, Sarah. I’m not sure Sarah Palin could have pulled this mission off, if her attempts at killing that caribou on her reality TV show are any indication.

Yesterday President Obama traveled to Ground Zero to honor the victims of Osama bin Laden. Glenn Beck says that President Obama is “taking a victory lap in New York today.” Beck described President Obama laying the wreath as “crass and obscene.” He has some nerve. Glenn Beck is the one who put the “ass” in “crass.” Beck is also the guy who launched the “9/12 Project” so that we could supposedly feel the same unity we did on the day after the attacks of 9/11. It just proves that Glenn Beck makes a mockery of himself better than he mocks anything else.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It Never Ends

Rightwingers are all saying that torture led us to Osama bin Laden. This is a huge insult to the hard work of the intelligence agencies, the heroism of the Navy Seals and President Obama to say that the reason we got bin Laden was the work of a few sickos with a board and a wet rag. It’s more like President Obama getting bin Laden led to the torture of conservatives, not the other way around.

During the presidential campaign both Hillary Clinton and John McCain blasted Obama for saying he would go into Pakistan to take out bin Laden. Two years later, Hillary Clinton got to sit in the room while he did it. And John McCain got a courtesy phone call telling him about it. In 2008 McCain said “You make plans and you work with the other country that is your ally and friend, which Pakistan is.” I have a feeling that if we worked with Pakistan on this one, we would have landed in a very empty compound. Candidate Obama said “if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out.” That tells you one thing—Osama bin Laden wasn’t watching the presidential debates in 2008.

Reactions to the killing of Osama bin Laden continue to pour in, from the sublime to the ridiculous, with the ridiculous being decidedly more strident. Rush Limbaugh says “The American left, the Democrat party of this country, the liberals… owe us an apology for taking every opportunity to undermine our efforts to track down bin Laden and other terrorists. Evidently, our efforts to undermine the search for bin Laden were not enough to prevent us from finding and killing bin Laden.

Well, it looks like Glenn Beck is the first one to fully formulate a new conspiracy theory to take the place of birtherism. Or should I say, co-exist with the remnants of birtherism? Glenn asks “Is it possible that Osama bin Laden was ghosted out of his compound, and that we’re seeing a show now?” Beautiful, Glenn. Now just tie it all in with Van Jones, ACORN, and Woodrow Wilson, and you’re on your way!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Oklahoma House Finally Reprimands State Rep. Sally Kern For Saying ‘Blacks’ Don’t Work Hard

Last week, the speaker of the Oklahoma state House of Representatives refused to reprimand radical state Rep. Sally Kern (R) for saying in a floor speech that “blacks” and women are lazy. “I taught school for 20 years, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t want to work as hard,” Kern said, eliciting demands from the NAACP for her resignation. But Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele (R) said he was satisfied with the written apology Kern later issued, saying Kern “handled it appropriately and that a public reprimand was not necessary.”

Still, civil rights leaders and Democratic lawmakers kept up the pressure and yesterday, state Rep. Mike Shelton (D) — one of four African-American members of the 101-member House — successfully brought a motion to reprimand, following another apology from Kern read from the House floor:

Shelton said the reprimand was necessary because Oklahoma is working hard to improve its image.

“We are trying to be a player within the United States as well as the world,” he said. “The comments by Sally Kern make us step back and it makes people look at the state of Oklahoma as a different place.” [...]

“I made my apology, and I do understand that just saying you’re sorry does not make everything right,” Kern said.

But not everyone in Kern’s party was as accepting of the punishment as she was. Sixteen lawmakers voted against the reprimand, with state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R) saying the censure “flies in the face of every Sunday school lesson I’ve ever had.” “Kern issued a sincere apology. My faith teaches me that I’m to forgive,” he said. State Rep. Randy Grau (R), who also voted against the move, explained, “If we reprimand for what somebody says in debate we could have a very detrimental, chilling effect on free speech.”

Kern was not reprimanded nor apologized for saying three years ago that homosexuality is more dangerous than terrorism.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

As new details of Operation Geronimo leak out, we have learned that those in the White House Situation Room during the assault on Osama bin Laden’s hideout had turkey pita wraps, cold shrimp, potato chips, and soda… all from Costco. Even in the middle of all this, the President was mindful of the budget deficit. Not only would a Republican administration never get bin Laden, if they did launch an assault like this, the people in the Situation Room wouldn’t be eating food from Costco. They would fail to get bin Laden, and they would spend twice as much on snacks not doing it.

Everyone on the rightwing is rushing to give credit for the capture of bin Laden to George Bush. Ironic… during the 2008 & 2010 elections, nobody on the right was willing to admit they had ever even heard of anyone named George Bush. I’m sorry, but the phrase “we have George Bush to thank for this” should only be used in relation to economic collapse, unemployment, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most of the budget deficit.

The rightwing wants to credit harsh interrogation methods, black site prisons, and waterboarding for the intel that led to bin Laden’s killing. It’s well documented that torture results in misinformation. So the biggest clue that the intelligence that led to bin Laden was not obtained under torture is the fact that it turned out to be correct. The proof that it didn’t result from torture comes, of all places, from Donald Rumsfeld. Talk about intel—this is the only actionable intelligence that ever came out of Donald Rumsfeld. Rummy said “It is true that some information that came from normal interrogation approaches at Guantanamo did lead to information that was beneficial in this instance. But it was not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.” I’m shocked, if only because it’s a coherent statement from Donald Rumsfeld. That sentence is not only the truest sentence he ever said, I’m pretty sure it’s the shortest sentence he ever said.

The life of Osama bin Laden makes you wonder about the choices people make. Bin Laden came from a very wealthy family. He could have lived his life in luxury, using his great wealth to disseminate his hatred and his mad ideas through quasi-legal means… kind of like how the Koch brothers do it.