Operation First Casualty Patrols NYC Streets

May 31, 2007

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War hit the streets of Manhattan to launch Operation First Casualty which simulated sniper fire and mass detentions. In the process producing some fantastic anti-war theatrics and bringing the reality of the war back home for all to see.

Watch Video #1

Watch Video #2

Picture of the Day

May 31, 2007

The Police perform during the opening concert of the Reunion Tour in Vancouver, Canada.

Voice of the Day

May 31, 2007

“We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: “Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice”

-Julia Ward Howe

The Short Life of José Antonio Gutierrez

May 30, 2007

José Antonio Gutierrez was one of the 300,000 soldiers sent by US Army to war in Iraq. A few hours after the war began, his picture was broadcast all over the world: he was the first American soldier to be killed in the war.

He was there as a so-called ‘green-card soldier’ — one of approximately 32,000, fighting in the ranks of the US Army for a foreign country.

Searching for the images and stories that made up this life, we set out to retrace José Antonio’s path — from Guatemala through Mexico and into the USA. This story is told by the people who knew José Antonio: his friends from the street, the social workers at the orphanage, his sister, his foster family, his comrades at Camp Pendleton in the United States Marines.

But the narrators of the film are also the people we encountered as we were repeating José Antonio’s odyssey from the world of the poor to the world of the rich. People who day after day join the endless stream of emigrants — with no identity, no papers — equipped with nothing but their ability to work and their willingness to turn their backs on home and family forever.

José Antonio’s story is no adventurer’s tale. It is the story of an attempt to survive — on both sides of the world.

Official Website

Cartoon of the Day

May 30, 2007

The Memorial Day Massacre of 1937

May 30, 2007

Carl Bunin
Peace History

1000 striking steel workers (and members of their families), on their way to picket at the Republic Steel plant in south Chicago where they were organizing a union, were stopped by the Chicago Police.

In what became known as the “Memorial Day Massacre,” police shot and killed 10 fleeing workers, wounded 30 more, and beat 55 so badly they required hospitalization.

The Memorial Day Massacre of 1937

The 1930s was a period of economic unrest for the United States. Following the prosperous “roaring twenties”, the Great Depression hit the general population hard. Many employees were fired and those who were not lost much of their former salary.

Then, in 1933, as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the National Recovery Act was passed. One of its most important concessions to laborers was the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.

The number of strikes nationwide grew to the highest amount in American history.

When the National Recovery Act was declared unconstitutional in 1935, Congress was still sympathetic to the young labor unions that had been formed under it. They soon passed the Wagner Act, or National Labor Relations Act, to reassert the rights of the laborers.

By the 1930s the steel industry had survived much adversity, yet there were still changes to come.

The Committee for Industrial Organization, (CIO), was founded in November 1935.

Encouraged by the CIO, the steel industry became one of the first to begin organizing under the Wagner Act. Accordingly, on June 17, 1936 The Steel Workers Organizing Committee, (SWOC), was created.

The industry itself did not accept this movement.

Many companies began to stock up on tear-gas, firearms, and ammunition as well as, refining their espionage and police systems.

After a long struggle for further organization and acceptance within the steel industry, the United States Steel Corporation, (the leading producer of steel, dubbed “Big Steel”), signed an agreement recognizing SWOC.

This contract allowed for five dollar a day wages in addition to a 40-hour week with time-and-a-half for overtime. By May 1937, there were 110 firms under contract.

Still, some companies refused to sign. In response, SWOC called its first strike involving 25,000 workmen against Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation. Thirty-six hours later, the corporation agreed to a Labor Board election.

The union won 17,028 to 7,207.

Despite this enormous victory, a combination of “Little Steel” companies including Bethlehem Steel, Republic Steel, Inland Steel, and Youngstown Sheet & Tube, refused to sign.

Their leaders had strong anti-union attitudes and felt that the U.S. steel decision to “surrender” to SWOC was a betrayal. Tom Girdler, chairman of the Board of Republic Steel, was one particularly influential anti-union spokesperson.

The company anticipated a strike so they placed a stockpile of industrial munitions at various plants of Republic Steel.

Then, on May 26, 1937, SWOC decided to strike three of the “Little Steel” companies: Republic, Youngstown Sheet & Tube, and Inland. Most of the plants ceased production during the strike; they were willing to wait it out because the steelworkers’ union strike benefits were meager.

Picket lines were set up at these plants to prevent any attempt to reopen them.

However, Republic Steel remained defiant and refused to close all of its plants. They even housed non-union workers in the plant, so they could continue working without the hassle of picket lines outside.

One of these plants was the Republic Steel South Chicago Plant.

One half of this plant’s 2,200 employees had joined the strike. When the walkout began on May 26, the police interfered in an attempt to prevent other non-committed workers from joining the cause.

The SWOC organizers attempted to form a picket line in front of the gate.

Police Captain James Mooney, despite the fact that the picketers were peaceful, broke up the line and arrested 23 people who refused to move. The rest were forced to 117th Street, 2 blocks from the plant.

Because of this action, the police no longer played an impartial role in the strike. Instead, they were clearly supportive of Republic.

Strike headquarters were established in Sam’s Place, at 113th and Green Bay Avenue.

Chicago mayor, Edward J. Kelley, announced in the Chicago Tribune that peaceful picketing would be permitted.

In response to this article, the strikers attempted to establish pickets, but were turned away.

On the next day, at around 5:00 PM, another attempt was made to picket. The marchers marched from Sam’s Place to 117th Street. There were a few policemen present, but the marchers continued west towards Burley Avenue.

Once the marchers reached Buffalo the police line had strengthened a great deal. The workers continued and fighting broke out. The police used clubs to fight the workers back. A few had drawn revolvers without orders and discharged them in the air. No one was killed, but there were several bloody heads.

May 28 was a quiet day, but the marchers were upset with police actions.

Nick Fontecchio, a Union leader, called for a mass meeting at Sam’s Place the next day, Memorial Day Sunday. Captain Mooney received an anonymous report that on Sunday an attempt would be made to invade the plant to drive out the remaining non-union workers. He did not check the rumor, but proceeded to station 264 policemen on duty at the Republic Steel Mill.

By 3:00 p.m. on May 30, 1937, a crowd of around 1500 strikers had gathered. It was a sunny, warm day with the temperature at around 88 degrees.

Many of the union members and supporters had brought along their wives and children to join in this almost festive gathering organized by SWOC leader Joe Hunt. Several speakers addressed various labor issues most importantly, the right to organize and picket.

Some resolutions were approved to send to government officials concerning police conduct at the Republic plant. It was then moved to march to the plant and establish a mass picket.

When this was approved about 1000 people went into formation behind two American flags. Instead of marching south down Green Bay Avenue, they turned onto a dirt road across a open prairie chanting, “CIO, CIO!”

When the police, saw this they moved their position from 117th street between Green Bay and Burley Avenue to across the dirt road, just north of 117th on Burley.

The 200 police were in double file and watched the approaching marchers with their clubs drawn. The Republic mill had armed some of the officers with non-regulation clubs and tear gas.

The marchers met the police line and demanded that their rights to picket be recognized by the police letting them through.

They were “commanded in the name of the law to disperse”, but the picketers persisted. This continued for several minutes. While marchers armed themselves with rocks and branches, foul language was passed between the two parties. Tension was mounting.

Recording all of this was cameraman Orland Lippert. Unfortunately, he was changing lenses at the start of the actual violence. This has caused some dispute as to which side initiated the fighting. The following account, determined at the hearings under Senator Robert LaFollette, is generally accepted.

Police were trying to prevent marchers from outflanking their line.

As some strikers began to retreat a stick flew from the back of the line towards the police. Instantaneously, tear gas bombs were thrown at the marchers.

The next few moments were total chaos.

More objects were thrown at the police by the marchers.

Acting without orders, several policemen in the front drew their revolvers and fired point blank at the marcher’s ranks, many of whom were beginning to retreat.

The actual shooting only continued for fifteen seconds, but the violence did not end there.

Using their clubs, the police beat anyone in their paths, including women and children.

During this time, arrests were also made. Patrol wagons were filled to twice the mandated capacity of 8 prisoners. The injured were not even taken directly to local hospitals.

As a result of this atrocity, four marchers were fatally shot and six were mortally wounded. Thirty others suffered gunshot wounds.

Thirty-eight were hospitalized due to injuries from the beatings and still thirty more required other medical treatment.

It is noteworthy that all but four of the fifty-four gunshot wounds were to the side or back and one victim was shot four times.

There were minor police casualties with thirty-five reported injuries, (no gunshot wounds), but only three needed overnight hospital care.

After the riot, sympathetic strikers fervently protested the police brutality. On the other hand, the press, especially the Chicago Tribune, portrayed the marchers as communist conspirators who had essentially attacked the police and attempted to throw out non-union workers.

The LaFollette Committee investigated this tragedy and came to four conclusions.

First, the police had no right to limit the number of peaceful pickets and that the march was not aimed at freeing remaining plant workers.

Second, the police should have halted the march with limited violence, if this action is even justifiable.

Third, the force used by the police was excessive and the marcher’s only methods of provocation were abusive language and throwing of isolated missiles.

Fourth, the police could have avoided the bloodshed.

In addition to those killed in the Memorial Day Massacre, 6 other union members lost their lives in pickets of the “Little Steel” strike of 1937.

In fact, the “Little Steel” strike is surpassed by few in the areas of viciousness, press distortion, suppression of rights, and police brutality.

The strike was called off when the many hardships suffered began to demoralize union workers. However, in August of 1941, under legal pressure, the Little Steel companies agreed to cease the committing of unfair labor practices.

A year later, they signed their first contract recognizing the new union, United Steelworkers of America.

The massacre has been referred to as the “blackest day of modern labor history”, but the sacrifices of these workers were not in vain. Little Steel had only delayed the inevitable march of unionism in America.

Voice of the Day

May 30, 2007

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


May 30, 2007

The new issue of the RRC newsletter is out and as always it is loaded with interesting articles, record reviews and the usual mix of music and politics.

If you wish to subscribe free of charge send your email address to rockrap@aol.com

Below is an edited version of the newsletter.


No. 220 / June 2007

WATCHING THE DETECTIVES… On April 19, rapper Wise Intelligent sent out an email which included the following: “It has always been my position that the black rapper is NOT allowed to address or lend his voice to any issue that confronts the community from which he comes, knowing that if he did, like Don Imus, he would lose his major corporation sponsorship, i.e. his contract!”

The immediate provocation for Wise Intelligent’s statement was a mid-April interview of Young Buck by Angie Martinez on New York’s Hot 97. Buck told Martinez that Interscope had refused to allow him to include the track “Fuck tha Police” on his new Buck the World album. Buck said “they blamed it on the lyric committee, so I researched to see if it was a real lyric committee…the lyric committee is in Interscope’s building.”

Although this important story was ignored by the media, it was still the first time in nearly fifteen years that lyric committees had been publicly mentioned by anyone.

By the end of the 1980s, under pressure from Al and Tipper Gore’s PMRC, the police, and the FBI all major labels had set up in-house lyric committees to censor music. “For every song that’s recorded we ask for copies of the lyrics from the artist,” Paul Atkinson, former Zombies guitarist and then head of A&R at MCA told the New York Times in 1990. “The recording then gets listened to not only by the A&R department buy by someone in business affairs.” At the time, that someone at MCA was lawyer Lawrence Kwensil, who claimed that artists were glad to be censored.

Within just two years, the lyric committees played a direct role in getting the likes of Ice T, Kool G Rap, Body Count, Paris, and Almighty RSO dumped by major labels for criticizing the police in song. Several other rap artists were forced to alter or delete songs about the cops.

As night follows day, hip hop inexorably turned away from socially conscious themes toward bling bling, a process initiated by the major labels and their lyric committees. This trend was reinforced by threats, picket lines, and violence by police at rap shows and against individual rappers.

Now Young Buck has proven what we have always suspected—that the lyric committees have not gone away and that they continue to do their dirty work in secret. Young Buck has also shown the world that the uproar over hip hop lyrics has nothing to do with alleged concerns about women or violence, it’s about the fact “that the black rapper is NOT allowed to address or lend his voice to any issue that confronts the community from which he comes.”

Since the music industry has pressured our political representatives in Congress to not only give them unprecedented legal power to target file sharers but also to receive massive tax breaks, don’t we as citizens and taxpayers have the right to know who is on these lyric committees, when they meet, and what actions they take?

In the wake of the May 1 police riot at a Los Angeles immigration march, which is just the most notorious recent example of rampant police abuse, we should all insist that our artists be allowed to tell the truth about violence and who perpetrates it. We should also be prepared to support those artists when the backlash from the police and their friends in the music industry hits the fan.


VICTIM OF THE IN-HOUSE DRIVE-BY… It’s hard to imagine any space less friendly to hip hop than public radio and public television, and the fact that NPR’s Talk of the Nation devoted an episode to the PBS-showcased documentary Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes wasn’t reassuring. Neither was the transcript I read later that day for Paula Zahn’s story on the documentary—Hip Hop: Art or Poison?

Still, when I started to watch I gave filmmaker Byron Hurt the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the movie would point out that hip hop and R&B led the way when women took over the pop charts for the first time in history in the early 90s. Certainly someone would point out that black women have the strongest female voices in our popular culture.

In the early moments of the documentary, Slick Rick made me optimistic by pointing out how rap broke ground for presenting black masculinity in popular music. And academics Michael Eric Dyson and James Peterson made great points about the relationship between masculinity and violence in the dominant American culture. Chuck D kept pointing the issue back at the power structure, and Hurt made some nice connections to Donald Trump and George Bush.

But more telling were Hurt’s many oversights. First, the film is essentially one long patronizing lecture from academia and “conscious rappers” toward ostensibly un-“conscious” rappers and rap fans. If Hurt talked to any Southern rappers, maybe they would have talked about the significance of the crunk world’s parking lot dances. If Hurt had bothered to talk to any black women rappers, maybe they could have explained how they held their own in the dialogue and why they often choose to present themselves as sexy (a tactic dismissed here with all the rigidity of the Taliban).

As it is, a few female rap fans in bathing suits at Daytona on spring break speak for all non-academic black women, and one of them makes one of the more important claims in the film—“I know what I am.” She is dismissed out of hand as being wrong about that.

After that hour was over, I switched to MTV Jams and received a blast of fresh air from a righteous Beyonce not only enjoying being sexy but cross dressing like her boyfriend Jay Z. This was followed by Young Joc flirting with a sweet looking girl in a diner and then Jennifer Hudson delivering a devastating riot act to Jamie Foxx.

This was followed by Southern rappers Tum Tum dancing in a parking lot with girls in shorts, no men laying a hand on them (just dancing along too). Then Mike Jones taking a similar crunk approach and building a video about the American Dream out of contrasting shots in front of mansions and shacks, his back up singers wearing heavy winter coats. Female Southern R&B star Ciara weighed in with some cross dressing of her own and stood up to a man without the help of academics.

Then the show took an even more international turn with K’Naan’s video showcasing Africans in abject poverty dancing along to hip hop, and this didn’t help Hurt’s case at all. So I turned over to watch the entire 90 minutes of 106th and Park’s BET Top 10 video countdown for the misogyny I’d been promised.

There was Keisha Cole dressed head to toe black leather and stealing the show from Diddy. Then Memphis rappers Huey did the lean back with a group of children and a variety of girls who didn’t look anything like models or “bitches” or “ho’s.” Then the half male/half female Southern rap crew Crime Mob traded verses and points of view before Musiq Soulchild tried to get some fully dressed, sexy, independent woman to believe the line he was handing her.

The new singles from Fabolous and Young Jeezy (with R. Kelly, uh oh) featured some dancing girls with shorts and lots of bling, but it was hard to see how that was so much different than the classy males dancing back up for Beyonce and Ciara in their videos repeated that hour.

The two hours ended with Bow Wow crying over a girl he couldn’t get “Outa My System” followed by Omarion wailing ‘cause he’s “got an icebox [where his] heart used to be.”

Watching with me, my wife asked, “Where are black males represented by our culture in a more well-rounded way than they are in hip hop? These men are sexual and romantic, tough but dancing” ….and vulnerable and funny and whole and human and, yes, sometimes vulgar but just as often refined.

In fact, Hurt’s theory that hip hop keeps men in a box might be better borne out by virtually any other group of males in any other genre of music. That’s because the real problems remain systemic and hip hop’s dialogue between the sexes, as well as the way it builds and nurtures community among those looked down upon by the system are its strengths, not its weaknesses.–D.A.

A version of this article was originally published at livingstereo.com, an important new site run by longtime RRC contributing editor David Cantwell.


FBI GIVES IT UP AND TURNS (SOME OF) IT LOOSE… I don’t know what Phyllis Pollack expected when she filed a request for James Brown’s FBI file under the Freedom of Information Act. I figured she might find some information about his international connections, his work in the civil rights movement, and his meetings with President Nixon and Vice-President Humphrey.

There is nothing in the file she received about any of that, which doesn’t mean that the Bureau doesn’t have it. FOIA requests are routinely given the back of the government’s hand, especially by the F.B.I.

What the feds have released about James Brown is dynamite, though. All of it relates to an accusation made in January 1989 by his then-wife Adrienne. Mrs. Brown accused local police and judges in South Carolina and Georgia of violating her husband’s civil rights. The FBI pursued the case for about ten days and then so listlessly that to call the investigation superficial would give it way too much credit.

Both James and Adrienne Brown tell a very different story than what the public heard. Only an article by Jesse Jackson in Jet got it anywhere near straight. The charge that sent James Brown to prison was a so-called “blue light violation.” It’s all but unprecedented to be given six years in prison for such a crime (refusing to pull over for the cops), let alone receive that punishment from two states. (A young white man sentenced for the same violation the same day received a suspended sentence.)

James Brown wasn’t sent to prison because he was a PCP-crazed soul man with a gun. He went to prison because he fled the cops, all right, but he fled them with good reason, For eighteen months Brown had been targeted for harassment by cops in Aiken, South Carolina and Richmond County, Georgia, which sits right alongside Beech Island, SC, where the Browns resided. It began when Brown got into a fender bender on the Georgia highway he had to use to get home. That one resulted in Brown being jailed after some very dubious proceedings, and allegedly being punched in the mouth.

The FBI report also reveals that Brown did not lead cops on a high speed chase through two states. The police admitted that they followed Brown but they never “chased” him–they never even turned on their lights or sirens. Nevertheless, there were 17 bullet holes in the cab of Brown’s truck when it was over. Brown did have a shotgun, of course. It was unloaded and “inoperative.” Allegedly, the police shot into his car while it was parked in South Carolina, where Brown came to a stop and began talking to local officers. (One Georgia officer took the trouble to knock out the glass in the passenger window with the butt of his gun.)

The allegation that Brown was high on PCP came from a local police analysis of an improperly administered blood test. The cops first said that it showed Brown high on cocaine, then changed their story. The next day, when Brown was again arrested, he was not out careening around the countryside high on anything. He was at the Georgia War Veterans’ Home in Augusta, visiting his father.

There had been a couple of police visits to the Brown home. Adrienne offered credible explanations for each of them. One wound up with Brown agreeing to put on a benefit concert for local disabled children but it was “a failure due to the fear of the local black population of the police, who boycotted the concert.”

Brown’s version of the incident that sent him to prison conforms in its essentials to his wife’s. Brown adds that, while handcuffed, he was punched in the jaw by a cop.

Adrienne Brown also claimed that the trial was unfair, the judge strongly involved in jury selection, a change of venue denied even though 90 local news reports had carried only the police version of the events. Brown had left the country for a European tour, but returned, ill-prepared, for the trial. Nevertheless, the judge forced him to spend the entire trial in the local jail.

You may think that this is just James and Adrienne Brown’s attempt to rationalize his misbehavior. That’s what you’re supposed to think. You’re also supposed to think that James and Adrienne Brown had a terrible relationship, that he abused her and may have fired his gun at her. If that’s true, then why would Adrienne step up to try to get James out of prison? Why do James, interviewed in prison, and Adrienne Brown, interviewed in an FBI office, tell essentially the same story? Why is there no record in the FBI report of a contrary version of the story from the police? Because the Feebs held it back to protect the guilty officers? Or because they didn’t bother to talk with the Georgia and South Carolina police on the record?

Most important, why did no one except Jesse Jackson manage to put even a semblance of the Browns’ side of the story into print when America’s greatest living musician was sent to prison?

Most mysteriously, where is the FBI’s account of the rest of the political and social activism that occupied James Brown’s attention during the late 1960s and much of the 1970s?—D.M.


POP LIFE…. At a South Carolina town hall meeting on April 25, Senator John McCain answered a question about whether or not there was a plan to attack Iran by saying: “You know that old Beach Boys song, Barbara Ann?” Then he sang: “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.” While it’s easy to dismiss McCain as the lunatic he is, his views are quite compatible with the liberal mainstream.

In 2004, John Kerry offered him the vice-presidential slot even though McCain’s a Republican and in 2005 Rock the Vote gave McCain its Rock the Nation award… While the music industry continues to sue penniless music fans for alleged downloading, Rancid’s Tim Armstrong is using the Internet to give away all the songs on his debut solo album, A Poet’s Life. “The idea behind this record was that I wanted people to have it as a thank-you to all of those who have supported me and Rancid over the years,” Armstrong said…. Larry Partee is 58 years, has AIDS, and lives in the Priess-Steele housing projects in Durham NC.

Last year Partee began to show DVDs in a common room because many tenants were either too poor or too disabled to go to the movies. Because Partee is the president of the residents association at Priesse-Steele and has been very active in trying to force the Durham Housing Authority to improve the deplorable conditions there, he was dragged into court and charged with selling pirated DVDs. The fact that Partee hadn’t sold DVDs of any kind didn’t matter—he was evicted from public housing the week before Christmas. In late March, Partee, who was facing 15 months in jail and a $150,000 fine, was acquitted in a jury trial, a trial which cost taxpayers $5,005… The guys in U2 aren’t the only musicians who are using Dutch tax shelters to avoid taxes. According to Lynnley Browning in the New York Times, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts have paid just $7.2 million in taxes on earnings of $450 million over the past twenty years, a tax rate of about 1.5 percent.

And it isn’t just musicians—EMI Music and CKX, Inc.—part owner of American Idol and the Elvis Presley estate—also utilize Holland’s legal tax dodges. The Dutch government very proactively solicits artists and corporations to participate. Meanwhile, the social safety net funded by taxes in the countries where these entertainers and companies are based, not to mention the countries they fled, is rapidly disappearing due to a lack of funding… England’s top eight symphony orchestras are jointly promising that they will give every schoolchild free entry to a concert as part of a ten year plan to promote classical music.

How many takers will there be? Researchers who recently conducted a survey of students’ musical taste at England’s National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth said that they were surprised to find that “intelligent” genres such as classical and jazz were the least popular. Instead the winner was heavy metal, with Slayer and Slipknot getting the most mentions. According to The Independent, heavy metal was especially popular “if it had an emotionally charged or overtly political message behind it.”… Prosecutors are increasingly using rap lyrics written by criminal defendants as “evidence” that they are guilty. In both New York and Alabama, young men have been given the death penalty based on violent lyrics they are said to have written. “It’s about boasting, it’s about exaggerating…it’s about acting,” says defense attorney Michael Coard of Philadelphia, who also teaches a class on hip hop at Temple University. “If Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, or Marlon Brando are charged with shooting somebody, are they going to be playing clips from The Godfather in court?”


IN A SILENT WAY… “Taking music in school isn’t to make everybody into a musician,” says trumpeter Carvell Holloway, head of music at Compton’s giant Davis Middle School. “It’s so that you understand more about yourself culturally, more about your own creativity, more about everything around you. If you only deem certain kids worthy of that information, then there’s a big problem in society.”

The size of that problem–the elimination of school music programs in the U.S.–was dramatized last year when Frank Bruno, a piano teacher in Salinas, California, was sentenced to give 300 hours of free piano lessons to needy kids after he was convicted of hit-and-run driving.

There are a lot of musicians who don’t need a judge to make them help out. Benefits for music education programs in just the past year have featured, among countless others, Queen Latifah, Bruce Springsteen, James Hetfield, Macy Gray, Eddie Vedder, Ozomotli, Marilyn Manson, Charlie Haden, Jackson Browne, Collective Soul, Ray Davies, and Take 6. The Game and 50 Cent have each given $100,000 to Compton’s music programs. East Bay rapper E-40 gave $12,000 to the drumline at his high school.

Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has founded the Silver Lake Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles to provide free/cheap music instruction. Phish’s Trey Anastasio has formed the Seven Below Arts Initiative in Vermont and Paul McCartney has launched the Music Lives Foundation. VH1 and Guitar Center also raise money for music education.

Musicians know up close and personal why they help out. “I’m the son of a custodian and a maid,” says Boyd Tinsley, violinist for the Dave Matthews Band who gives $75,000 a year to Virginia schools. “I’m very thankful for everything that was given to me. I just feel I need to give back.”

“I want people to know that it’s cool to be in the band because there is a shortage of musicians nowadays,” adds E-40. “Music stimulates the mind, and it’s therapeutic and healing. People need to realize the importance of music programs in public schools—I played in the band growing up, Too Short played, Dallas Austin did too.”

This is the American way–you see a problem and rush in and try to solve it. The volunteerism that is a defining characteristic of our national character is truly a beautiful thing. There’s only one problem—it doesn’t work.

The annual School Music Matters survey of music teachers tells the story. Music funding was cut, from already criminally low levels, by 30% in 2005, 23% in both 2006 and 2007. Public funds now only pay for 57.6% of music education expenses. Where does the rest come from? 82.4% of music teachers now go into their own pockets to help fund their own programs.

The situation is made much worse by No Child Left Behind, the 2001 law which mandates that schools raise test scores in so-called “core” subjects (i.e. not music and art). This has forced school administrators to further gut music programs. More and more, our children’s school experience resembles an endless bar exam, creativity be damned.

We need billions of dollars, which is far beyond the generosity of all musicians, to solve the problem. But the money is already there, it’s just spent on the wrong things. There’s no way to fund music education except at the expense of our prison industrial complex because, in a majority of states, prison spending now exceeds spending on education.

Our schools will continue to go silent until the money poured into the Iraq war (and the funding for U.S. military bases in 129 other countries) is returned to the communities it came from.

This requires more than volunteerism. It requires a massive political movement, such as the immigration marches which rocked America in 2006. Who will lead such a movement? Not the Democrats. When No Child Left Behind was passed, only six Democrats in the Senate and ten in the House voted against it. Senator Edward Kennedy stood by George Bush’s side when the President signed the bill, hailing it as a “legislative tour de force.” A movement for music education will have to be led by people who love music, and the Democrats only interest in music is to censor it.

On the other hand, what would happen if all the artists who are playing benefits for music education also helped to mobilize their collectively massive fan base to demand that we make music, not war? Old school, new school, all colors, all genres, all ages. A guitar army with a hip-hop beat. Would you volunteer to join it?


MYTH AMERICA… Ted Nugent was the final act at Texas Governor Rick Perry’s black tie inaugural ball on January 16. Nugent ignored the dress code, appearing in a cutoff Confederate flag T-shirt while shouting out racial insults at the Spanish-speaking help. Gov. Perry, previously known rock-wise for frequently hosting actor Russell Crowe’s stunningly mediocre band 30 Odd Feet of Grunts, defended Nugent afterward.

In mid-March the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra canceled a July 14 concert by former Dukes of Hazzard stars Tom Wopat and John Schneider because it would include the “General Lee” car emblazoned with the Confederate flag.

After a century-plus of “Lost Cause” propaganda the Stars and Bars has come to be seen in many quarters as a harmless cultural icon of a bygone era. Bullshit. The Confederate battle flag stands for slavery and the casual discard of millions of Southern and Northern lives. It also stands for the brutal exploitation of millions of Southern poor whites who had legal rights but often lived little better than the slaves. The spirit of that flag dominates both political parties today.

But there is another myth that is equally dangerous—that Southern whites were and are a uniformly reactionary mass of ignorant rednecks who rock the Confederate flag in their hearts even when it’s not on their pickup trucks. This was never true—over 100,000 Southern whites fought for the Union in the Civil War while hundreds of thousands more deserted from the Confederate army as their wives led bread riots across the South.

More recently, Southern whites were a key part of the heroic resistance of Tennessee residents against the end of their health care coverage, sitting in at the Democratic governor’s office for over three months. They also form part of the ranks of the Rock and Rap Coalition in Jackson, Mississippi. According to a study by the Institute for Southern Studies, the South is now the most anti-war section of our country. 30 per cent of Southerners believe the U.S. should “withdraw completely” from Iraq. The figure for the North is 26 per cent.

It might be argued that in all this the white Southerners are joined by their fellow Southerners who are black. True. That’s exactly the point.


Don’t Mess with the Dragon, Ozomatli (Concord)—One of the albums of my dreams. The greatest party band on the planet is also one of the great political bands, and also making maybe the most coherent stew out of salsa, rock, hip-hop and whatever else comes their way. “After Party” is the kind of almost-slick soul move no one puts together any more, “When I Close My Eyes” is a kind of tribute to what was great about L.A. punk, “Here We Go” revs up to a kind of reggaeton. Nor do they sing only in English; “La Temperatura” and “La Gallina” (about a kind of revolutionary dancing chicken) are two of the record’s most smashing touches. I think this is the best band there is right now, especially Ozo move ever closer to making records as completely head-spinning as their incomparable live shows. – D.M.


THIS MONTH’S DOWNLOADING PROSPECTS… Ultra Payloaded, Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party (Columbia)—Farrell says he wants to move beyond punk and post punk because they are only “antagonist” and without solutions. Here he concocts a concept album about a musician who survives police brutality only to escape to the heavens where he forges a massive coalition to stop global warming and save the earth. The music is some new mutation of dance rock—dense and airy, shamelessly taking from the Bee Gees, Rare Earth, and others. Yet Farrell utilizes an orchestra without resorting to 70s pop-soul orchestral clichés while former Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt pushes things along with both big muscles and subtle nudges. An album as uplifting as it is unexpected.

Across the Water, Prince da Baby Boy (Universal Republic)–Baby Boy’s West Bank New Orleans suburb Marrero may have escaped Katrina’s floodwaters, but the perfect storm of urban neglect exposed last September hit there long ago. And just as the buoyant guitar and popping bass of the hit single “This Is the Way I Live” makes apparent, this is a survivor’s party record, unapologetically raunchy and overflowing with the kind of hopeful spirit and playfulness most necessary in the face of despair. None of which quite prepares listeners for the nightmarish blues, “A Rose,” which closes the album with a desperate anger and pain that further deepens all that’s come before.

Rhinestoned, Pam Tillis (Stellar Cat)—There’s no room at the big Nashville stables for a thoroughbred honky-tonker like Tillis but that’s not gonna stop here from doing what she’s always done so beautifully and powerfully. “Down by the Water,” “Life Has Sure Changed Us Around,” and “Something Burning Out,” show Pam, with no need to pursue Clear Channel’s stupid idea of a hit single, free to do some of the finest singing she’s ever done.

Blues de Musicien, Pine Leaf Boys (Arhoolie)—Five young guys from Louisiana who obsessively study Cajun musical and social history (including nearly extinct dialects), all in the service of further improving their dense, intense musical gumbo. Their chops can be jaw-dropping but, like a good club DJ, it’s about keeping the dance floor packed and happy. Highlights include the title track’s sad tale of the musician’s life and “Ma Petite Femme,” a raunchy, wrenching blues.

Mind Control, Stephen Marley (Tuff Gong/Universal Republic)—Somewhat similar to brother Damien Marley’s masterful 2005 Welcome to Jamrock, which Stephen helped to write and produce. But this mélange of roots and dancehall is, with its pop and world flavorings, more gentle and nuanced, a soulful suite both personal and political. He also comes across as a contemporary of his father Bob. Quite an achievement.

Live in Dublin, Bruce Springsteen and the Sessions Band (Columbia)—Where a 20 piece band playing folk songs turns out to mean Waylon Jennings’ “Love of the Common People,” his own “If I Should Fall Behind” as a waltz, and Cindy Mizell testifying her heart out on “This Little Light of Mine.” The best backing band he ever has had only got better as the players got more familiar with one another, as this end of tour document proves. Hats off to Larry Eagle for making Bruce swing at last.

Buck the World, Young Buck (G Unit/Interscope)–Like the single “Get Buck” that builds its energizing attack out of cascading rhymes, choral backing and marching band (bass drum at the bottom, exuberant horns at the top), this album consistently sounds fresh, often lively with melody, always strong. This is warrior music that makes room for dealing with the fight to survive’s sad toll on the family and, in one of the richest rhymes here, “Slow Ya Roll,” counsels caution and even a Zen-like gratefulness. Still, it ends with the rapper, surrounded by “all this material shit” and quietly despondent. He loads a clip and, saying, “fuck the world,” sounds like he’s ready to give up….Then he thinks, “Nah, buck the world/Yeah, buck the world/I like that,” and he finds his voice again. The second time through, it’s obvious that the power in Young Buck’s vocals stems from nothing less than the fight for his life.

War and Peace, Butch Hancock (Two Roads)—The most passionate record of the great Texas songwriter’s career, devoted entirely to grappling with the current war. “Damage Done” is as good as anything similar that came out of early Dylan, and “Between Wars” and “That Great Election Day” are nearly its equal.

“Dad’s Gonna Kill Me,” Richard Thompson—Available only as an I-Tunes download (that’s where his website sends you), this jaunty piece of acid-tongued folk-rock is RT’s contribution to the growing bag of songs against the Iraq war. The song’s about a kid who makes the mistake of enlisting, but it’s also about the people in D.C. and London who run the war as if murder had no consequences. Thompson at his best—feels like he knocked it off in half an hour.

From Beale Street to Oblivion, Clutch (DRT)—You can feel the guitarist’s pick upon the strings as much as hear it. The riffs repeat, repeat and then mutate on the wings of effects that come more from the days of accidental discovery than from digital design. It’s driven into your soul by huge slabs of Hammond B3 and Hohner clavinet and torrential outpourings of harmonica. These Maryland maulers are obsessed by the land and the streets and those whose work and blood has nourished both. Their attitude is summed up in “You Can’t Stop Progress”: “Sometimes it’s such a hassle / To sit patiently outside the open gates of a loaded castle.”

Joya, Funky C (Sonic 360)—First solo album by the former leader of Chile’s legendary Los Tetas has been accurately described by author Rickey Vincent as “monstrous funk.” A working band with a live drummer that’s seamlessly subsumed by computers and drum machines, the sound is alive and organic–no hyphens come to mind in listening to its glorious mix of everything from rap to jazz. Funky C (Cristian Sol Maraga Farias) is a multi-instrumentalist who is dazzling on guitar where combines all of James Brown’s guitarists’ styles with Frank Zappa’s. If Earth Wind & Fire were to debut in 2007, they would probably sound a lot like “Viviendo El Dia” or “C-Funk 93.”

Glitter in the Gutter, Jesse Malin (Adeline)—Malin’s finally found a way to balance his rock’n’roll legacy, which is half Joey Ramone, half Bruce Springsteen (with a little Johnny Marr in the guitar). The result is sometimes glorious, as on “In the Modern World” and sometimes just fascinating, as on the concluding “Aftermath.” By that time, he doesn’t sound like anyone but himself, which is to say, a man who’s finally come into his inheritance and begun to spend it, wisely and well.

The Breax Are Ruslan, Beleaf, and Mic B (Eye Am)—This crew is different from most Christian hip-hop because their music has nothing to do with church music and because they deal with issues such as poverty and homies who get kidnapped into the prison system. Highlights include “Ask a Simple ?,” where they show that they know how to make a great track by shamelessly riding a powerful sample and “Cold War,” the 22-year-old Ruslan’s tale of life in his native Azerbaijan in the full throes of disintegration and the drama he encountered in the streets of San Diego, his new home.

Poison’d, Poison (EMI)—They can’t sustain it, but from the opening “Little Willy” (originally by the Sweet) and “Suffragette City,” and along the way, with “What I Like About You” and “Rock and Roll All Nite,” this is the best of the spring season’s oldies remake albums. Why? The energy level is high, the singing is still pretty fine, the guitars are made of razor blades (the old-fashioned double-edged kind) and there’s an utter absence of pretense. Maybe Poison was born to be a cover band. But that’s more fun than listening to poets moan.

This is Ryan Shaw, Ryan Shaw (Columbia)—“Do the 45” (originally by the Sharpees) rocks the soul right out of East Coast journeyman Shaw, but that’s OK, because he keeps the beat driving right through Jackie Wilson’s “I’ll Be Satisfied” and a “Lookin’ for a Love” that splits the difference between J. Geils and the Womack Brothers. The originals aren’t as good, but then, whose are? Ryan Shaw may never have another moment this fine but it’s a delightful moment and sometimes that’s plenty.

Hogging the Covers, Lowen and Navarro (Red Hen)—Singer-songwriter duo turns its mind to greater things: “Walk Away Renee,” “Drift Away,” a pretty nervy “When Something is Wrong with My Baby,” a very very very nervy “Into the Mystic” and an absolutely unbelievable transformation of “Blitzkrieg Bop” with a beautiful steel guitar intro by Lowen.

Slang (myspace.com/slangmusic)—LA five-piece puts hip-hop in a time machine and transports it back into a 1970s instrumental funk band. Keyboardist/turntablist Charles “Chuck Boogie” Moore has monstrous chops he uses not to show off but to push emotional buttons. Twenty-something percussionist Miguel Ramirez has already traveled to Cuba to study with the masters. They are the center of a group which, as evidenced by it live shows, is already evolving upward from the music on this CD. Get in on the ground floor.

Shrunken Heads, Ian Hunter (Yep Roc)—Strongest record he’s made since Mott the Hoople. In fact, you might say that Mott at its best had just this mix of styles—a little Lennon tongue-lashing, a little laconic Dylan, some tasty organ licks (is that the Band or Sir Douglas leaking through?), a Stones-like rhythm section. Hunter no longer over-reaches to prove he’s a great rock singer so…he sounds more like a great rock singer. If you get through the first two tracks, “Words (Big Mouth)” and “Fuss About Nothin’,” while sitting still, you didn’t like this kind of music enough in the first place.

Urban Africa Club, Various Artists (Out Here Records)–For all of its radiant, fresh flavors, this remarkable collection of African pop makes plain just how vibrant a musical conversation takes place through globalized hip hop. Tanzanian Bongo Flava hip hoppers Professor Jay and Ferooz sound like they’ve been trading verses with Twista and Jay-Z, while another artist from the same movement, Mangwea offers a sexy guitar-laced erotic stomp, “Mikasi,” that might have come straight out of the Dirty South. Even more crunk are the sounds from Liberian and Ghanan crew Scientific. Meanwhile, Kenyans Necessary Noize sound like they’d tear it up in the studio with Shakira and Wyclef. Further proof that today’s youth have a thing or two to teach their elders about the big picture.

Blues, Waltzes and Badland Borders, John Platania (Train Wreck)—Its lineage is Duane Eddy meets Ennio Morricone, and its concern is justice. The finest things here are the narrative pieces, “Child Heroes” featuring Ruben Ramos (the Willie Nelson of tejano tells the story of the Mexican Revolution) and the concluding “In Memory of Zapata,” with a vocal by Lucinda Williams backed by Alejandro Escovedo, who also tells the story of Zapata, beginning with his execution.


DC Larson writes: Waiting On Judgment Day, Lost Immigrants (Shiner/Palo Duro)–Ground-zero poetry painting real-world yearnings and dejection, typified by the tale of an anonymous Wall Street functionary fallen between the Cost Of Freedom cracks. “If you see me walkin’ your way/ go ahead, cross the street/ I’ll be in heaven long before you/ I’m the ghost, the ghost you can see.” Acoustic-dominated, populist country that feels. Life somehow goes on in the face of a stacked deck. [DC Larson is an RRC subscriber who lives in Waterloo, Iowa]


THIS MONTH’S USED CD BURNING PROSPECTS… Crystal Visions….The Very Best of Stevie Nicks (Reprise)—Begins with Waddy Wachtel’s killer guitar riff on “Edge of Seventeen” and ends with Wachtel’s orchestral arrangement for a live version of the same song with the Melbourne Symphony in 2006. In between, Nicks subverts the paint by numbers greatest hits format by presenting her monster Fleetwood Mac hit “Dreams” in a 2005 Deep Dish dance remix version, along with live cuts (including Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”) and obscurities. It all works because of that urgency in her voice, her craft as a songwriter, and her utter conviction that she is channeling the thought or emotion that you need right now. Her liner notes about song histories reveal influences that include the Spinners, Sly Stone, Waylon Jennings, and Prince.

Fujiyama Mama, Anisteen Allen (Capitol)—There weren’t many women who could front a rock band like Elvis or Buddy Holly in the ‘50s, but that’s partly, maybe mainly, because there was a horde of female R&B singers, headed by Ruth Brown, making the joint jump just as hard. So many, in fact, that a great one like Anisteen Allen, with her best shot at the top of the charts (the title novelty) pilfered by Wanda Jackson, almost gets lost. She shouldn’t be. Anything Brown or LaVern Baker could do, Anisteen could keep up with.

The Sound of Nate Dogg (K-Town)—Long Beach’s honey-toned Nate Dogg is probably hip-hop’s best pure singer, having added heart and soul to the songs of countless West Coast artists. On his own, he draws from the raw well of G-funk expression, but his themes are classic ones of unity (“Friends,” “My and My Homies”) and redemption (“I Don’t Wanna Hurt No More”). “Never Leave Me Alone” is hip-hop’s “Mama Tried,” a heartbreakingly beautiful jail cell lament. It doesn’t hurt that Nate Dogg is an excellent songwriter and gets more out of collaborating with Snoop than anyone since Dr. Dre.

The George Mitchell Collection: Cecil Barfield and The George Mitchell Collection: Teddy Williams (Fat Possum)—Fat Possum unearthed the tape collection of blues explorer Mitchell and, knowing they couldn’t sell many, decided to put out a batch cheap ($10 list). Barfield and Williams are the pick of the litter, which is already more than a dozen titles deep. If you like deep Mississippi blues, more song-oriented and less anarchic than the hill country blues Fat Possum has specialized in, these two in particular but pretty much everything Mitchell recorded is worth your dime.

The Strength of Street Knowledge: The Best of N.W.A. (Priority/EMI)—Disc one is seventeen of the songs that allowed Compton’s N.W.A. to break the stranglehold of New York over hip-hop and pave the way for countless new voices to be heard. As a result, the FBI tried to destroy them. Disc Two is videos and interviews. Everything from slavery to Adam and Eve is depicted and there’s smart commentary on censorship, race, and radio. The constant throughout is the brutality of the police—if America had listened to N.W.A. instead of trying to destroy them, how many more people would be alive today?

You Gotta Take a Little Love, Horace Silver Quintet (Blue Note)—A quarter century before there was such a thing as “world music,” Silver was incorporating Asian (“Rising Son”) and Middle Eastern (“The Belly Dancer”) elements. Even better are the title track and “Brain Wave,” which capture the love of humanity that Silver found in the turbulent Sixties. While the band (Randy Brecker, Bennie Maupin, Billy Cobham) is excellent and given that pianist Silver’s reputation is as a composer/bandleader, what’s striking here is how every time he takes a solo the music soars to another level.

The Best of .38 Special (A&M)—They were something like the Creedence of Southern rock. All of their hits are here, each drenched in a combination of Southern style arrogance and a convincing lovelorn sadness. Like ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, guitarist Jeff Carlisi piles notes into every corner of a song while never overshadowing the whole. His outro solo on “Fantasy Girl” contains more passion and more ideas than some guitar players manage in an entire career.

The Spoiler, Stanley Turrentine (Blue Note)—Turrentine’s an elephant who can ballroom dance—a big tenor sound delivered with grace and elegance. Pianist McCoy Tyner helps immensely with a gentle, bluesy approach much different from what he’d been doing with John Coltrane. Highlights include “The Magilla,” where Turrentine is as convincing as a notarized letter, the Latin throb of “La Fiesta,” and a cover of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” that sounds like the soundtrack to some great unmade James Bond movie.

White Lion: The Definitive Rock Collection (Atlantic/Rhino)—White Lion looked like just another hair band—long teased tresses and tight pants. But they sampled Martin Luther King speeches and wrote songs about war in El Salvador, genocide against Native Americans, and the environment. Their song about the French government blowing up the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior (“Little Fighter”) is as thrilling musically as it is inspiring politically. The fundamental dishonesty of hipsters in general and the rock press in particular is seen in the fact that the likes of U2 are lionized (pun intended) for their social conscience while bands like White Lion are ignored.

Giant Steps, John Coltrane (Atlantic/Rhino)—His first Atlantic album was also the first on which he wrote all the tunes. Many such as “Giant Steps,” “Naima,” “Cousin Mary,” and “Mr. P.C.” have become jazz standards. There is great range, too, between the stunningly gorgeous “Naima”—as moving as the most beautiful R&B ballad—and the energy rush of “Countdown.” The album title is both apt and amazing, in that these giant steps only laid the basis for even bigger ones to come.

The Player, Willie Colon (Fania)—Colon wasn’t known for his chops as a trombone player but for his strength as a leader and his hunger to extend the form of salsa. This begins with the rough-hewn “Feugo en el Barrio” (“Fire in the Ghetto”) from 1966 which is almost garage band salsa. It then traces Willie’s evolution as he shapes his band with future stars such as timbalero Nicky Marrero and adds Puerto Rican folk music, funk, rock, and the legendary singer Hector Lavoe to the mix. That’s just disc one—on disc two he uses orchestration not as sweetener but as a restless, propulsive sideman and longtime partner Ruben Blades joins in. Hunt down Criollo (unrepresented here because it was on RCA) to hear how Colon integrated all this with politics and you’ll have a full picture of an underrated master.


HOME XEROXING TIPS… Songwriter Bobby Braddock has penned thirteen number one country hits, the last for Toby Keith in 2001 but also classics like Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Braddock’s Down in Orburndale: A Songwriter’s Youth in Old Florida (Louisiana State University Press, $24.95) is a memoir about growing up in the rural South in the 1940s and 1950s. An interview Braddock, now 66, did with Chauncey Mabe of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel frames the story: “I remember Klan rallies, but I never questioned the way things were. The racism was so universal you didn’t even think about it. Mostly we were like the Germans in World War II. We looked the other way. I was well up into my 20s before I had a significant change in attitude…I started becoming less conservative on all issues, not only race but also the Vietnam War, religion, everything. My values have pretty much stayed the same since.” Country music is steeped in nostalgia for the past but, as Mabe writes: “When Braddock turns the picture around, and tries to view it from the perspective of the black people living in the Central Florida town back then, the rosy patina of a bygone time and place falls away.”


JENNI TAKES A RIDE… On Friday the 13th of April, Jenni Engebretsen was named Deputy CEO for Public Affairs for the 2008 Democratic Convention. Engebretsen comes to the job of prettifying the Dems’ ugly record from her post as Director of Communications for the Recording Industry Association of America. This appointment is in keeping with the Democrats’ contempt for the American people—according to a recent poll by The Consumerist the RIAA is the most hated “company” in America, easily beating out Haliburton and Wal-Mart.

The Democrats alliance with the wrong side in the culture wars goes back at least to the mid-1980s, when future Second Lady Tipper Gore imposed warning labels on music, along the way deliberately giving respectability to a host of right-wing cop and Christian kooks. (Anybody who thinks Tipper would have gotten away with this without her husband’s enthusiastic support must believe that carbon credit trading will solve the world ecological crisis.)

In 1988, every Democrat in Congress voted for the Child Protection and Enforcement Act, which grants the Justice Department the power to take the “community standards” of the any city in America (Dothan, Alabama, for instance) and apply them as a censorship standard to any city in the country.

In 1996, the Democratic Clinton administration proposed the Telecom bill ad got it passed. This removed most limits on radio station ownership and was the direct cause of the emergence of Clear Channel and the corruption and narrowcasting that has followed. The Telecom bill also makes it a felony to distribute or even write about music that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, or filthy.” There is no definition in the law of what these words mean.

In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed unanimously by Congress. The DMCA ended the concept of fair use and gave the RIAA the power to subpoena anyone they feel like picking on without filing a lawsuit or going before a judge first. The RIAA was quick to claim the power of a “roving subpoena” similar to the one created by the equally bipartisan Patriot Act.

In 2003, Democratic Senator Joe Biden introduced the RAVE Act, which passed the Senate by a vote of 98-0. The law isn’t specific to raves and can make the organizers of almost any public event liable for major prison time and a $250,000 fine at the sole whim of the nation’s most politically ambitious group: prosecutors.

Many of the worst features of these laws have yet to be enforced. But the ongoing cozy relationship of the supposedly more progressive party—the Democrats—with the thugs at the most hated company in America confirms that when the time comes no politician will try to stop the enforcement of those provisions “to the fullest extent of the law.”


The Recording Industry Association of America has sent letters to thousands of college students, encouraging them to settle alleged illegal file-sharing violations before they get sued. The RIAA has set up a website (p2plawsuits.com) where students can pay by credit card. “It isn’t a legal settlement, it’s kind of a pseudo-fee,” says Brian Rust of the University of Wisconsin. Wisconsin is one of a growing number of universities which is refusing to cooperate with the RIAA. North Carolina State has gone one step further—it’s giving legal help to students targeted by the RIAA. Pam Gerace, director of Student Legal Services at NC State, says the amount of payment demanded constantly shifts, “which makes it sound like they are making it up as they go along.” Gerace, noting that the RIAA has said it will make sure that job records are tagged with copyright violations, is warning students to remain anonymous… Taxpayers already foot the bill for the RIAA at the University of South Carolina, where there is a full-time employee who does nothing but respond to copyright infringement notices. Rep. Rick Keller of Florida has introduced the Curb Illegal Downloading on College Campuses Act, which would allocate federal funds to colleges for their collaboration with the RIAA… Republican Congressman Lamar Smith and his Democratic partner in intimidation Howard Berman were among the signers of a threatening letter sent to the 20 U.S. universities said to have the “greatest amount of online piracy.” Is it a coincidence that Smith received $7500 in campaign contributions from the RIAA in 2006, along with $2000 from Warner Music and $1000 from Sony/BMG CEO Andy Lack? Berman got $3500 from the RIAA, $6300 from the troika which owns DreamWorks, and $4200 each from Warner Music head Edgar Bronfman and his wide Clarissa, who described herself as a “homemaker.”… Debbie Foster, the RIAA lawsuit defendant who successfully fought off Capitol Records’ claims of illegal downloading, has been awarded attorney fees believed to be in the neighborhood of $50,000. Judge Lee R. West found the RIAA’s claims “untested and marginal,” the RIAA’s motives “questionable” and some of the RIAA’s legal moves “disingenuous.”… A 2006 study by Citizens for Tax Justice found that over the previous three years, a large group of Fortune 500 companies had paid no taxes despite collective profits of over $100 billion. Among those getting a free ride were record company owners Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner (which on May 7 laid off another 400 staffers).


I am a huge music fan, meaning that I would count music as being one of the most important factors in shaping and saving my life. I love listening, singing, dancing, and especially driving to it. You could say I love music as much as the next person, and if the next person happens to be a man, we might spark up a conversation. Unfortunately, most of my conversations about music with men turn into disputes, sometimes all-out wars. The war begins the second I say that my favorite music is hip hop and I get that initial insult which usually goes something like this—

“Oh, you are one of those drunken club girls, huh?”

“What, are you trying to be black or something?”

“How could you listen to music that is so insulting and degrading to women?”

And my favorite one to unleash the beast on is “Oh you just like that because your boyfriend does.”

Believe me, I have heard those insults from more than one guy. They come from men I know for a fact couldn’t name three current hip hop artists if they tried. But they could give the names of 50 “great” emo/punk bands that only the music “elite” like. I should just shake these guys off, but it burns me up to know something I love is being looked down upon like it is worthless, mindless fluff.

There are countless hip hop songs that deal with complex emotional matters just as serious and reflective as the rock counterpart. (Outkast, Kanye West, and Ludacris come to mind). But hip hop isn’t about measuring up to other kinds of music—it has its own way of dealing with issues, like facing them head on.

One thing hip hop does is to provide an open forum for men and women to be honest about relationships. Men and women are recording together dealing with the good the bad and the ugly; good like Beyonce and Jay Z’s “Crazy,” bad as in Diddy and Keisha Cole’s “Last Night,” and the ugliness of abuse as in Ludacris and Mary J. Blige’s “Runaway Love.”

Sometimes men and women back one another up and sometimes they share equal positions. For example, one song that really got my attention because of its balance between the sexes was Nivea featuring Jagged Edge’s “Don’t Mess With My Man.” Both artists are singing to an imaginary third party that has his or her eye somewhere it shouldn’t be. Nivea sings “So I thought I had to let you know; find someone you can call your own cuz now you’re walkin’ in the danger zone…”

She is followed shortly after by Jagged Edge’s verse, “So now you really better check yourself cuz messin’ with my girl is bad for your health…” That vulnerable feeling of losing your lover to another is a serious emotion beautifully and playfully expressed in this song as well as countless other hip hop hits.

What I really love about hip hop is the connections and collaborations that cross all recording boundaries. One single speaks to another because artists listen to each other and feed off the commonalities and build fresh ideas. Fat Joe’s “Lean Back” morphs into Dem Franchize Boyz’ “Lean Wit It Rock Wit It,” which transcends perfectly into Cherish’s “Do It To It,” a meld of the year’s popular dance moves illustrated in one song.

As a woman listening to hip hop, I pay particular attention to the female voice. It is anything but oppressed. Anyone who singles out women in hip hop for being degraded ignores Mary J. Blige, Keisha Cole, Lil’Kim, Cherish, Beyonce, Monica, and many others that can blow any song out of the water in terms of emotion, power, performance, and all out fire.

And it isn’t just the “strong women” songs that I pay attention to. I don’t always feel empowered and bullet proof…sometimes I want to feel like a girl and hip hop says to me that it is okay to be feminine, okay to feel sexy, and okay to be a bitch. It is okay to be human.

When someone is so bold to say that I am only into a certain kind of music because the man in my life is, it really makes me want to go for the jugular.

How can someone be so dismissive of my ability to appreciate music that I feel a connection with? Of course I dated men who love music too (having something in common is a plus when dating) but that doesn’t mean I will automatically adopt someone else’s preferences as my own (like some kind of relationship insurance that will make my man stay put). A man who would say this to me obviously needs to feel superior to women by owning some special right to music. That right doesn’t exist. Music belongs to everyone.

[Lauren Alexander is an artist, art teacher, and lifelong resident of Kansas City.]

Picture of the Day

May 29, 2007

NEW YORK—Langston Hughes, 1947.

Romanian film wins Cannes prize

May 29, 2007

Romanian abortion film wins Cannes prize

By ANGELA DOLAND, Associated Press Writer

CANNES, France – A harrowing film about illegal abortion in Communist-era Romania beat 21 movies by well-known directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Ethan and Joel Coen, and Wong Kar-wai to win the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize.

Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s low-budget film, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” depicts the horrors a student goes through to ensure her friend can have a secret abortion.

Mungiu, who was awarded the Palme d’Or by actress Jane Fonda, said he didn’t even have enough money to shoot the film just six months ago. He hoped the win would inspire other “small filmmakers from small countries.”

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