Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Tyranny of the Conservative Majority

Originally posted by Nadir at

Supreme Court Diversity RulingConservative America has scored another resounding victory in its war against racial and economic diversity in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, has turned the promise of 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education on its head.

The conservative majority of the Court - Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Uncle Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. - rejected diversity plans from Seattle, Washington and Jefferson County, Kentucky - a school district that was once racially segregated by law. Ironically, the majority relied heavily on the landmark Brown v. Board decision that made segregation illegal in U.S. schools, even as they undermined the spirit and principles of that monumental Supreme Court ruling.

The court overturned lower court judgements which had sided in favor of the two school districts. A white woman in Louisville complained that her son was denied a transfer to attend kindergarten in a school that didn’t have enough Black pupils to keep its Black population at the district’s required minimum of 15 percent. A group of Seattle parents had opposed their district’s “tiebreaker” system, which aims to keep the nonwhite proportion of its ten high school student bodies within 15 percentage points of the district’s overall makeup, which is 60 percent nonwhite.

According to The New York Times,

Chief Justice Roberts said the officials in Seattle and in Jefferson County, Ky., which includes Louisville, had failed to show that their plans considered race in the context of a larger educational concept, and therefore did not pass muster.

“In the present cases,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, recalling words from an earlier Supreme Court ruling, “race is not considered as part of a broader effort to achieve ‘exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints.’”

“Even as to race,” he went on, “the plans here employ only a limited notion of diversity, viewing race exclusively in white/nonwhite terms in Seattle and Black/other terms in Jefferson County.

“Classifying and assigning schoolchildren according to a binary conception of race is an extreme approach in light of this court’s precedents and the nation’s history of using race in public schools, and requires more than such an amorphous end to justify it.”

Of course, Roberts’ statement ignores America’s history of white privilege and white supremacist control. This is the very reason that there was a need for Brown v. Board of Education and diversity plans in the first place. His effort to place the blame on the districts is disengenuous and violates the essence of Brown v. Board.

The dissenters recognized this, and voiced their disappointment in emotional terms.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that today’s result “threatens to substitute for present calm a disruptive round of race-related litigation, and it undermines Brown’s promise of integrated primary and secondary education that local communities have sought to make a reality.”

“This cannot be justified in the name of the Equal Protection Clause,” Justice Breyer went on, alluding to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which bars states from denying people “the equal protection of the laws.”

Justice Breyer’s dissent was joined by Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens, the tribunal’s longest-serving member, who wrote a separate dissent that was remarkable for its feeling.

“While I join Justice Breyer’s eloquent and unanswerable dissent in its entirety, it is appropriate to add these words,” Justice Stevens wrote. “There is a cruel irony in the chief justice’s reliance on our decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.”

Today’s ruling breaks faith with the 1954 ruling, Justice Stevens asserted. “It is my firm conviction that no member of the court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision,” he wrote.

The legacy of George W. Bush’s presidency will include many a “cruel irony”, not the least of which is his appointment of Supreme Court Justices who may very well help conservatives reverse all of the gains of the civil rights, women’s rights and environmental movements before they are finished. In an America that remains polarized by race and class, this ruling will cause many school districts to rethink their diversity policies, which, at least on paper, sought to strike a balance between white privilege and nonwhite social ascension.

The systematic dismantling of affirmative action in a nation with vast economic and educational disparities will prove to be a huge mistake as the United States struggles to maintain its status as an elite economic power. The American middle class is disappearing, but instead of working to preserve it, conservatives are using the deprivation of educational opportunities as a weapon to increase the divide.

The New York Times: Use of Race in School Placement Curbed

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cheney’s ‘Tortured Logic’ and America’s Apathy

Originally posted by Nadir at

What is it going to take for Congress, the media and the American people to wise up and impeach Dick Cheney?

Obviously it isn't enough that he lied us into an illegal, unjust and immoral war. It doesn't matter that he ignored a Congressional subpoena and still refuses to release details of his energy task force that may have outlined the administration's imperial oil-grabbing tactics pre-911. It makes no difference that the vice president ordered the outing of the undercover CIA operative in charge of finding Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" because her husband publicly refuted the administration's falsehoods about said wmds.

The fact that he lead the military in its use of interrogation tactics that amount to torture (until Congress allowed the administration to change the definition of torture), is apparently irrelevant. No one seems to care that Cheney was in charge of war games on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 that may have slowed military and air traffic control response to plane hijackings. And shooting that guy in the face? Well, it could have happened to any experienced hunter shooting caged quails.

Now it is revealed the vice president hasn't been complying with an executive order that requires executive branch employees to report on the nature of the classified documents they create. The VP justifies his noncompliance by claiming that his role as President of the Senate separates him from the executive branch. Who cares what the Constitution says, right?
Read more »

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mr. Omowale Goes to Washington

This is the image of a man making a pained and impassioned plea to his government.

Every US citizen should go to Congress in Washington D.C. and lobby for a cause they believe in.

On June 18 and 19, I met with congressional staffers to tell my story and advocate for the revision of Internet radio royalty rates - a cause that could change the very nature of my business and my life. For more background on the issue click HERE.

By walking through the House and Senate office buildings, and participating in the lobbying process, I got a much better understanding of what really goes on at the Capitol. I also understand why those of us who DON'T have lobbyists working on our behalf are constantly beaten by those who do.

Here's how it works.

Most Americans might be surprised to learn that congress members don't read or write the bills that are presented to them for legislation. Instead they have teams of staffers - mostly young adults between the ages of 23 and 31 - who read and write many of the bills and proposals that are submitted to them. Those staffers then present those documents to the congress member who makes the executive decision about whether to support or not support a particular measure.

This is where the lobbying process becomes supremely important. The lobbyist, of course, is there to sway the opinions of staffers and members of the House and Senate. (NOTE: This point also took on greater meaning for me after watching Thank You For Smoking last night.) Lobbyists relate the facts to staff and congress members, but those facts are spun to benefit the client who is paying the lobbyist.

So you have representatives and senators who don't have time to pay close attention to all of the legislation that is in front of them. Next you have young people, often fresh out of school, who have the awesome responsibility of determining right from wrong, and who often only have the information that is presented to them by lobbyists. Then you have lobbyists who are paid to promote the position of their clients. Finally, you have the rest of us, the people who are affected by all of the wrangling behind the scenes, and who most often don't have our own advocates on the hill working on our behalf.

The Internet radio issue is an interesting case study for this. SoundExchange is the organization that collects royalties for the record labels and artists. They are also the group that created the royalty rate structure that could bankrupt the Internet radio industry and completely usurp independent artists' ability to use net radio for marketing.

The congressional staffers I met told me that SoundExchange lobbyists claimed to speak for artists when they presented their side of the issue. In reality, they most actively represent the RIAA, the corporate music industry's lobbying group. Yes, these are the same people who are suing college students and grandmothers for downloading music online. The RIAA is losing market share to independents as the Internet has begun to level the playing field.

The SaveNetRadio Coalition, is a coalition of webcasters, artists and listeners that was formed to combat the outrageous royalty increases proposed by SoundExchange on behalf of the corporate industry. My own perspective falls squarely on the SaveNetRadio side, but SoundExchange told congress that they spoke for me and the thirty-one artists who took to The Hill in an effort too preserve the freedom of Internet radio. If we had not been there to speak for ourselves, these staffers wouldn't have known the difference.

Though this issue was taken up by independent artists and small webcasters, other SaveNetRadio Coalition members are large media giants like Yahoo, Microsoft, NPR and AOL. Without their dollars supporting this effort, there may not have been any lobbyists to speak on behalf of the small business owners like me who are most affected by these royalty changes. The big boys stand to lose a lot of money. The rest of us stand to lose our livelihood.

What happens in an issue where large corporations and "the little people" are on opposite sides of the bill? When it comes down to it, big business has a lot more capital to spend putting lobbyists into play on Capitol Hill.

All of the staffers I met were sharp, intelligent individuals, but if they are only presented with one side of an issue, how can they act on anything but the facts they are given?

This is how America has become what Fannie Lou Hamer described as a nation "with a handful, for a handful, and by a handful." Who speaks for the rest of us? When we don't have our own lobbyists and activist organizations, and when we don't stand up and speak for ourselves, no one does.

I know now that flooding congressional offices with calls and emails does help. The calls some of the staffers received from their constituents had a great effect in moving them closer to the right side of the Internet radio issue. But I can also see where these calls have to be strong and consistent. Media pressure and face to face lobbying hold a lot more power than an email or an irate phone call.

I will definitely go back to The Hill to lobby Congress again. I'm convinced that if anything is going to happen on a legislative level, that's the best way to get it done. You have to get in the faces of the staffers, representatives and senators. When your position is nothing but an abstract image, there is no way you can win.

Though we often don't want to believe it, the people who run our government are human beings. They can be moved by the emotional pleas of people whose lives will change because of decisions that are made on their behalf. The large corporations know this. That's why they put as much money as possible behind their quest to own the US government, lock, stock and barrel.

But We, the people, should not underestimate our power to create change. We just have to get up and make it happen.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Operation Eight Mile

Originally posted by Nadir at


21 area law enforcement agencies have just completed Operation Eight Mile, three days of military-style police maneuvers along the 8 Mile Road corridor from the Detroit area suburbs of Harper Woods to Farmington Hills, Michigan. This unprecedented show of force - complete with tanks and helicopters - netted 289 arrests.

Police impounded 109 vehicles, made 122 arrests for narcotics and morality crimes, seized 1,460 grams of marijuana and 187 grams of cocaine, 19 guns and $20,375 in cash. Officers also arrested 22 fugitives who were wanted on warrants.

Police officials said the operation resulted in the most arrests, perhaps in history, of any regional sweep.

The campaign didn’t just target the hardened criminal element. Officers wrote 512 tickets the first day of the operation, just to show the average area resident that they meant business.

“I see Operation Eight Mile as an opportunity to get the police and community together to make the area safer,” said Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans, whose department coordinated the effort.

“A safe and vibrant Eight Mile corridor is critical to the region as well as to the image and perception of the area people have around the country.”

Military-styled operations like this certainly add to the image and perception of Detroit just a few short weeks ahead of the 40th anniversary of the Detroit Rebellion of 1967. The State sends a strong message that they will protect the mythical dividing line that separates “the Haves” of the northern suburbs and “the Have-Nots” in Detroit.

In many ways those “Have-Nots” are being further isolated by the powers that be with water shut-offs, high taxes and now police-state tactics. The crime that plagues Detroit is symptomatic of its status as one of the poorest big cities in the country. Yet no one seems to be attacking that poverty like they attack the city’s residents themselves.

Officials promise more sweeps of this kind in the future. Operation Eight Mile was a symbolic demonstration of authority. “They” don’t want anyone to forget who is boss.

Detroit News: Police crack down on 8 Mile

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fight to Save Internet Radio

Next week I'll travel to Washington D.C. to meet with my congressman and senators in an effort to Save Internet Radio.

I will be working with the SaveNetRadio Coalition to make sure our already limited music choices don't dwindle even further. On May 2, 2007, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) dramatically increased the amount of royalties that Internet radio services must pay record labels and recording artists.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering why I would be concerned that the government is telling the Internet radio stations who have been playing my music that they should pay me more money.

The reality is that the major record labels and their royalty collecting agency, Sound Exchange, convinced the CRB to increase royalty rates by 300-1200%. This will increase broadcasting bills for net radio broadcasters to levels that will put many of them out of business. The Internet radio broadcasters who have supported artists like me would be eliminated by the major corporations who have lost their monopoly on the distribution and promotion of music largely because of the freedom of the Internet.

Bay area commentator Davey D cites the following examples of the effect this will have on Net Radio:
Just to give you an idea of how that looks, locally based Soma FM in a recent Eastbay Express article explained that they had an annual webcasting bill for 10 thousand dollars. Under the new rates they would immediately owe 600 thousand dollars. I spoke with owner Rusty Hodge who noted that the high rates are the result of him having lots of people who listen for long periods of time. He also noted that if he manages to stay afloat in 2007 he will owe the labels over one million dollars.

The largest Internet Radio company Live 365-also locally based explained to the Washington Post that their annual 1.5 million dollar bill would increase to 6 or 7 million and bankrupt the company.

What makes this new ruling even more insidious is that all webcasters no matter how big or small would be required to pay 500 bucks annually on top of the increased rates, meanwhile commercial broadcasters who have in recent months been aggressively pushing their own online stations and HD broadcasts along with satellite radio would NOT be paying these increased rates.
Where would this leave us? If the increased royalty rates are allowed to go into effect in July it would put largely independent Internet radio into the hands of the same commercial broadcasters who already refuse to play independent artists unless they are placed in a head lock by regulators.

If this rate increase goes through, the currently diverse and expansive Internet radio landscape could end up sounding like the barren wasteland that is modern commercial radio. Consumers would be left with fewer choices, and fewer places to hear new music.

What can you do to help?

Everybody: Two bipartisan bills are being pushed in Congress, HR 2060 in the House and in the Senate S1353, the Internet Radio Equality Act, in an effort to change the law before the new royalty rates go into effect on July 15. Call or write your congress member and ask them to support it. Click HERE for more information.

Musicians/Artists: You can join the SaveNetRadio Coalition. Click HERE to find out how you can help.

Detroit Area Artists: The SaveNetRadio Coalition is making a special effort to lobby Detroit Congressman John Conyers.

Click HERE to download a letter from Detroit musical performers to Rep. John Conyers.

When you sign the letter include your
Band name
Email address/website

You can send the letter by email to:

International Artists and Listeners: If you listen to Internet radio or if you promote your music on Internet radio, this act will affect you as well. Let your voice be heard! Click HERE to find out how.

Now is the time to act. In just a few short weeks, the many choices that we have grown accustomed to with the power of the Internet may be eroded if you don't do something to stop it. Independent artists could have a very important marketing and promotional avenue erased.

Political Favors: The Real Paris Hilton Story

The Paris Hilton saga is only news because the famous, privileged rich kid got off when so many people arrested for similar violations would be rotting in jail for much longer than 45 days, and certainly wouldn't be released after serving only a few hours because they were crying to mommy.

But the real story of this Hilton soap opera may be WHY she was let go in the first place.

According to this report on (from Agence France-Presse), Hilton's billionaire grandfather donated to Sheriff Lee Baca's re-election campaign. Was Paris' release the payback?

And it turns out Lee Baca has been accused of favoritism toward Hollywood's rich and famous before.
He was the officer who failed to report actor Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade after the star was arrested for drink-driving.

Gibson had filmed television advertisements for one of Sheriff Baca's pet causes - an education fund for policemen's children.

Celebrities including Sylvester Stallone and Dustin Hoffman have also backed Mr Baca's election campaigns since 1998.

With all of the coverage this case has received, will the mainstream media pick up this story or will they protect the sheriff, the rich kid, her grandparents and themselves? Why was Paris Hilton Released?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Russell Simmons’ Knock Down, Drag Out Book of ‘Love’ Tour

Originally posted by Nadir at

Russell Simmons
Talk about poor timing.

Russell Simmons released his book, Do You: Laws To Access The Power In You To Achieve Happiness And Success, right as the argument about hip hop’s often misogynist lyrics reached a fever pitch.

The result? He is answering (or dodging) more questions about hip hop lyrics during his book tour than he is being asked about his book.

So when the hip hop mogul sat down recently with NPR’s Farai Chideya, he got so flustered she thought he was going to walk out.

…when he’s asked if he feels that the kind of music his company produces can have harmful effects, the conversation can turn volatile, as it did during our sit-down. At one point, Simmons characterized our discussion in less-than-family-friendly terms.

You’ll have to listen to the interview to get Simmons in full feather, but let me take you into the studio at that moment: Russell is sitting a few feet from me, wearing spotless white athletic shoes, a shirt with a yoga theme, and a crisp baseball cap tilted to the side. While he is going off, he is leaning off — away from the mic, that is. He’s talking to his assistant in studio, complaining about the interview, and I’m thinking, “Is he about to run the heck out of here?”

Luckily, he didn’t. In the end, after a long back-and-forth, Simmons explained that his role is to promote all of hip-hop, good and bad, not to be a judge or a gate-keeper.

“Did they tell you why I came here?” Simmons asks once things cool down. “My job is as a servant of hip-hop. That’s my job, and people who criticize are not able to serve properly. I’m on the inside, so when I walk into a new business, I open doors.

Listen to Farai Chideya’s Interview with Simmons on NPR’s News & Notes

Warning! Simmons talks about “love and consciousness” when discussing his new book, but when he talks about hip hop, he uses the same “N”, “B” and “H” words that he wants off the radio.

By the way, did anyone tell Russell this was a radio interview?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Charlie Foxtrot at Guantanamo Continues

Originally Posted by Nadir at

The Bush regime’s already flimsy case for holding 385 detainees at concentration camps in Guantanamo, Cuba fell apart this week when two military judges dismissed the cases of the only two detainees who face charges.

All charges were dropped against Canadian Omar Khadr and the case against Yemeni national Salim Ahmed Hamdan was thrown out because the Pentagon failed to establish proper jurisdiction for the tribunals at its island purgatory. But this partial victory only complicates and prolongs the incarceration of the men and boys who have been held in violation of the Geneva Conventions for five years.

From the UK’s Guardian:

In his decision yesterday, Col. Brownback said the Pentagon had merely designated Mr. Khadr, a Canadian citizen facing charges of murder and terrorism, as an “enemy combatant”, not an “unlawful enemy combatant”, the term used by Congress last year in authorising the tribunals.

The Pentagon’s lapse meant the tribunal did not have proper jurisdiction to try Mr. Khadr. “A person has a right to be tried only by a court that has jurisdiction over him,” Col. Brownback told the court.

Mr. Hamdan is accused of being Bin Laden’s chauffeur and bodyguard. In his case, US Navy captain Keith Allred yesterday said Mr. Hamdan is “not subject to this commission” under legislation passed by Congress and signed by President George Bush last year.

In their haste to circumvent the Geneva Conventions and provide political cover for the camps at Guantanamo, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006. A majority, including Michigan’s junior senator Democrat Debbie Stabenow, voted to legalize torture and establish military tribunals after Mr. Hamdan won a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. This latest development has implications beyond the two cases that were decided yesterday because it calls into question the legal status of all the prisoners.

Yesterday’s rulings also suggest that none of the 385 other detainees at Guantánamo, held for more than five years without charge, can be brought to trial before the tribunals because they too have been designated merely as “enemy combatants”, lawyers said yesterday.

But if you think the Bush regime will see the error of its ways and close down its much criticized facilities at Guantanamo, you’d better think again. The charges against Khadr were thrown out “without prejudice”, which means the Pentagon can issue new charges.

The detainees who were tagged with the made-up term “enemy combatants” are cast once again into legal limbo while the government tries to figure out how to charge them with a crime. Expect renewed calls for the closing of the camps at Guantanamo from the international community. And expect the government to take its time figuring out how to justify what has so far been deemed unjustifiable.

Guardian UK

Click HERE to listen to Nadir's song "Guantanamo"