As if US drug laws weren’t already bafflingly punitive, here we have a prime example of another terrible method of enforcement. A few months ago, the owner of a head shop in Scotia, New York was arrested for possession of crack cocaine after being apprehended by an informant.
Luckily, store owner Donald Andrews had security video of the entire thing. Despite having no prior record, Andrews faced up to 25 years on felony drug charges and spent three weeks in county jail before his lawyer got through to the grand jury with the exonerating footage. The incident didn’t really make waves until recently, as community groups and activist organizations are citing the case as evidence against the use of paid informants.
This particular paid informant has been used in seven other operations, two of which lead to convictions. The police were quick to assure reporters that no other cases were compromised, at least, “to the best of [his] knowledge,” but they can’t exactly conduct a full investigation, since the informant skipped town, and has yet to be apprehended. Way to go, Scotia, PD! Serve and protect!
“I said, ‘calves the size of cantaloupes’! Are you feelin’ me, CPAC?”
For those unfamiliar, the DREAM Act’s titular acronym stands for “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.” It’s a bi-partisan piece of legislation pioneered by a Republican with the express intent of providing a path to citizenship for undocumented youth who have already done most of their growing up in the US. However, Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King (who is chairman of the House’s immigration subcommittee) is very much against the proposal and recently decided to make that point crystal clear with some crazy, explicit racism. Like, old-school racism.
The kind that makes mere casual racists go, “Woah dude! Not cool!”
It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians, they weren’t all brought in by their parents. For every one that’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.
What’s baffling is that Republicans have an entire glossary of terms they use to say racist things so that it doesn’t sound like they have a white hood in their closet, and King just went, “Nah, let’s kick it old school.” In case you thought the Congressman might have had some sort of mini-stroke or early-onset dementia that made him forget how to hide white supremacy in coded political dog whistles that only registered Republicans can hear, last night he decided to defend his comments on talk radio, saying:
It’s not something that I’m making up. This is real. We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they’ve been doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back.
If those who advocate for the DREAM Act, if they choose to characterize this about valedictorians, I gave them a different image that we need to be thinking about because we just simply can’t be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people.
What a relief Steve King’s here to show us that different image! Thank The White Baby Jesus that he’s here to illuminate the other component of immigrants, by describing Mexicans like a pitiful race he invented for his poorly written Middle Earth fan fiction!
During his concert Sunday in Quebec City, Stevie Wonder declared he would not be playing Florida again until the abolition of “Stand Your Ground,” the law that allowed George Zimmerman to go free after murdering Trayvon Martin. His impassioned speech to the crowd:
The truth is that—for those of you who’ve lost in the battle for justice, wherever that fits in any part of the world—we can’t bring them back. What we can do is we can let our voices be heard. And we can vote in our various countries throughout the world for change and equality for everybody. That’s what I know we can do.
And I know I’m not everybody, I’m just one person. I’m a human being. And for the gift that God has given me, and from whatever I mean, I decided today that until the “Stand Your Ground” law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again. As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.
Because what I do know is that people know that my heart is of love for everyone. When I say everyone I mean everyone. As I said earlier, you can’t just talk about it, you have to be about it. We can make change by coming together for the spirit of unity. Not in destruction, but in the perpetuation of life itself.
Wonder is no stranger to artistic boycotts. He was a part of a wave of musicians who refused to play South Africa’s Sun City resort to protest apartheid, even penning a song, “It’s Wrong (Apartheid)” to raise awareness. It’s possible Wonder’s declaration could spark a trend of boycotts to shame Florida into overturning its draconian laws.
Of course, boycotts today don’t really have the same cultural context they once did for Apartheid. Last November, Wonder himself played a concert for Israeli Defense Forces, in spite of emphatic demands from activists for artists to boycott Israel in protest of the Palestinian occupation. Overwhelming international public sentiment opposed Apartheid, which was easily identified as cut and dry racial segregation, but for the west, the topic of Israel is mired in Islamophobia, and is much more difficult to organize around. Likewise, we have a lot of paranoid, reactionary gun nuts in this country, and artists might argue that playing Florida isn’t an endorsement of a single law. Regardless, I do think famous spokespeople (for better or worse) help steer the national dialogue, and we need to do everything we can to keep focus on the abolition of the “Stand Your Ground” law.
This is a guest post by Melissa Sweat from the DM archives. It seems timely again so we’re re-posting it
“It might be interesting to judge people today by the color of their eyes. Would you like to try this? Sounds like fun doesn’t it?” –Jane Elliott
The class of third graders are told that blue-eyed people are smarter and better than brown-eyed people. Blue-eyed people get an extra five minutes of recess, and the two groups aren’t allowed to play with one another on the playground. The brown-eyed children wear fabric collars so they can be identified from a distance. When, during recess, one of the children calls the other “brown-eyed” as an epithet and the child retaliates by slugging the taunter, Jane Elliott does what any good teacher would do: the child is reprimanded, but the overall exercise continues.
It was the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968 that Elliott ran her first “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise in her Riceville, Iowa classroom. In 1970, Elliott would come to national attention when ABC broadcast their Eye of the Storm documentary which filmed the experiment in action. Below, is a portion from the 1985 PBS Frontline documentary A Class Divided which features the ABC footage as well as clips of a class reunion.
Elliott would earn further renown appearing on The Tonight Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show and speaking at over 300 colleges and universities throughout her career. Her landmark exercise helped pioneer the field of diversity training and anti-racism education in which she still works to this day.
Watching Elliott perform her social experiment on her class of young children, it’s easy to notice her determined reserve—and also just how psychologically deep she’s treading as she instigates the discrimination amongst her students. One can’t help but wonder if an exercise this controversial would even fly in today’s classrooms, and how many parents back then might have complained that this lesson was too forward and inappropriate for their children. Perhaps they didn’t want their kids being taught outside the “three Rs” curriculum, or about the difficult subject of racism in such a fervent time. Maybe some thought it didn’t pertain to their small, all-white towns.
Certainly Elliott garnered criticism for teaching and treading against the grain, though her impact reached well beyond her Iowa classroom because of it.
Billing itself as a gathering that will bring together “grassroots Americans from across the political spectrum” to march against immigration reform, the so-called “March for Jobs,” heavily promoted by Brietbart.com (who are webcasting the event live) will feature/is currently featuring speeches from anti-immigration reform members of Congress, fun fun peeps like Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Mo Brooks (R-AL), and not to mention former Florida Republican Congressman Col. Allen West.
Talk about a Republican brain trust… If not for Harvard Law grad Cruz, the collective IQ of that bunch would be about 250…
One of the speakers today is “Progressives for Immigration Reform” executive director Leah Durant. Durant, who also helms the “Black American Leadership Alliance,” is frequently heard on rightwing talk radio and Fox News, and preposterously billed as a “progressive” voice(!!) for the most regressive and intellectually indefensible bullshit that reichwingers just LOVE to hear black people spout, such as Durant’s greatest (s)hit, the debunked myth that the Senate’s immigration reform bill would disproportionately spike African-American unemployment rates (despite plenty of studies which show that the opposite would, in fact, occur):
Durant told Breitbart News on Sunday evening that this event is meant to ensure that all working Americans, especially black Americans, get a voice in the immigration debate. “At a time when nearly 22 million Americans are either out of work or underemployed, it is our strong belief that now is no time to engage in policies that would artificially add millions more workers to US labor markets, dramatically increasing competition for scare U.S. jobs,” Durant said. “At 13.8%, black unemployment is nearly double that of the national average. Our coalition - the Black American Leadership Alliance reflects the views of everyday middle-class Americans rather than the political elites and big business interests from both the right and left, that have championed large-scale immigration to the US.”
Honestly, who cares how cynical she is? This march looks not only to be one of the least influential events to take place in Washinton, DC this entire year, these people are preaching to the goddamned choir anyways. Look at that photo above, tweeted by sad Brietbart toady Matthew Boyle. The entire event, it seems fair to wager, will see more African-American faces on the stage than off it.
Do dip into the LiveStream webcast on Brietbart, it’s really interesting, trust me. As are the live comments whizzing past. Here’s one I just caught:
“When an honest man finds he is wrong, he either stops being wrong, or stops being honest. Allen West chose to stop being honest.”
Someone else puked up “Amnesty is just another name for slavery for the Mexicans!” via their Cheetos-stained keyboard…
The camera angle being used by Brietbart livestream doesn’t allow the viewer to see how few folks turned up, but tweets from the event like “Standing ovation of Col. Allen West!” are given away by the “plop plop” nature of the applause that you can (barely) hear. Here’s a link to the “March for Jobs” LiveStream, if I embed it, it’s on auto-play.
Below, note how many actual black people have showed up for the Black American Leadership Alliance’s event. Notice also, if you will, how much of the audience appears to be related to Ted Nugent, or each other for that matter. Just sayin’
Does the GOP have any intention of becoming more than a party of older white people? They “say” they want to change and be “more inclusive” but do they really? Really? It doesn’t look that way based on pretty much all of the evidence. Off the top of my head I can’t think of even one minor area where any change has become evident in the Republican Party, but there are dozens upon dozens of examples every week of mentally-deficient, racist, authoritarian, blindly anti-science, voter suppressing Republican hi-jinks.
How many votes, really, can the so-called “Southern strategy” still squeeze like turds out of a bloated, hick white electorate, when younger and better-educated whites aren’t inclined to want to buy what the obviously IQ deficient Republicans want to sell them force on them in the first place? And the House seems ready to kill any sort of immigration reform, so they’ve written off Latinos. As in “fuck you, you’re never going to vote for us anyway” written off.
I don’t think Republicans realize how stupid they look to the rest of us. The “marketing message” they send. If they did, why would they continue to humiliatingly beclown themselves, often on a national stage? Did you watch the live webcast of the Texas Senate abortion filibuster? I was glued to it for hours and one thing that struck me was (literally, I’m not trying to be arch) how terribly DUMB the Republican pols looked. They appeared, as a group, to the naked eye, to be excessively thick.
When they’d switch the camera over to where the Democrats were, the ‘crats looked like normal people who were frankly astonished at the authoritarian idiocy of what the GOP pols were getting up to. It was some of the most riveting “reality TV” I’ve ever seen.
But talk about a reality check: Surely there must have been plenty of pro-life Americans who watched that webcast, too, and they saw the same thing everyone else saw, normal people on one side and the residents of Hooterville (with a supermajority in the Texas Senate!) on the other. At a certain point, issues like pro-choice and pro-life will become separated from matters like forcing corporations to pay “living wages” and more economic/survival matters. Will even pro-life Christians still side with a GOP that, for instance, doesn’t believe in the minimum wage?
What has traditionally worked for the GOP on a national level no longer works and they are wildly flailing, without a fucking clue about what to do about it. A coalition of idiocy can only really last so long…
Even if the GOP won every southern state and Indiana, that still relegates them to a regional party status and one that will become increasingly marginalized as red states like Texas flip blue in coming years and as more deeply red states turn more, shall we say, er, Confederate.
The writing is on the wall in Texas, with her Latino population (and newly energized Democratic women). Racist or anti-immigration politics were popular with California Republicans within recent memory, keep in mind. Look what it got them, a permanent Democratic super-majority in the state. The chances of the GOP having a resurgence in California are dead. The GOP is basically dead here. They can’t will elections and they don’t even try anymore.
In the clip below, Rachel Maddow brilliantly sets up the white Republican pins and then knocks them all down. First up the new revelations about Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s openly racist staffer.
Via Raw Story:
The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication, reported Tuesday that Rand Paul’s director of new media was an avid supporter of the Confederacy who celebrated John Wilkes Booth’s birthday. The aide, Jack Hunter, had served as a chairman for the League of the South and warned America would no longer be America if white people were not the racial majority.
The same aide was hired by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) to write a book. Maddow noted that DeMint was now head of the Heritage Institution, which faced criticism earlier this year after publishing a report on immigration that was co-authored by a man who believed Hispanic people were inherently less intelligent that white people.
“Should the Republican Party be just the party of aggrieved white people, even to the extent that it may stray occasionally into Confederate territory in order to do that?” Maddow wondered. “Do you want that in order to maximize every possible white vote you can get out of an electorate that is less and less white all the time?”
Apparently they do. What other options do they realistically have?
As becomes increasingly obvious with every passing day since the news of her past use of the “N word” was heard ‘round the world, the career of TV chef Paula Deen has been deep-fried. Burnt to a crisp, beyond all hope of redemption. Just today the former longtime Food Network star was dropped by Target, Home Depot and Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company who had idiotically hired the sugar and butter-loving Deen to be the spokesperson for a new drug for diabetics last year.
Let me be clear: I personally don’t give a flying fuck about Paula Deen. I view her as a vaguely preposterous person, I would never be interested in her recipes or any of the products that she endorses (or rather endorsed, past tense). I have never paid the slightest bit of attention to her, other than when it was revealed that Deen, the high priestess of America’s shitty high-sugar, high-salt, high-fat dietary habits had diabetes herself and yet had hypocritically signed on to promote the very diet that caused her own ill health for profit! (Novo Nordisk didn’t exactly get the right profile from Deen’s involvement in their “Diabetes in a New Light” campaign, did they?)
No, Paula Deen’s past use of the racial epithet—reported as cavalier by the media, but not characterized that way by Deen herself in her deposition—didn’t surprise me, even with my limited knowledge, but then again who was shocked by it?
Were you personally shocked that a 66-year-old rich white woman raised in Georgia could have used that word? Puh-leeze. It’s distasteful sure, but were you shocked? Of course not, no one was. And because no one was really surprised by this flap in any way shape, or form, it’s difficult to imagine anyone truly outraged by it either. Did you see the line of people waiting to get into one of Deen’s restaurants on CNN over the weekend? A fair number of them were African-Americans. Many were willing to stick up for Paula Deen on camera. That may seen counter-intuitive at first glance, but it’s not: They simply did not care.
Bearing that in mind, I think it’s fair to say that most people don’t give a shit about Paula Deen using the “N-word” or even her ridiculously oblivious plans for an antebellum plantation-themed wedding for her younger brother Bubba. So if no one is really getting all that worked up over it, then how to explain the media furor and her instantly lifeless career if Deen’s use of a racial epithet is not really the issue?
Personally, I think it’s because Paula Deen represents willful ignorance and gluttony, specifically the particularly vile intersection of someone who has deliberately made a career of consciously promoting morbid obesity—if Deen isn’t the avatar for every blubbery hoarder riding around Wal-Mart on a scooter, I don’t know who would be—and then double-dipping by taking money to endorse a diabetes medication. With those big pharma dollars rollin’ in, you butter believe it, ole Paula Deen’s got ‘em comin’ and goin’!
She’s a walkin’, talkin’, sobbin’ on the Today show metaphor for rapacious late-stage capitalism. Karl Marx in his most cynical moment couldn’t have imagined a creature as obscene or as avaricious as Paula Deen. I think this is the primary factor in why the Internet wants to tear this human centipede limb from limb.
With her personal brand in tatters, the real Paula Deen has been revealed, and if not the woman herself, at least the corporate Ouroboros that she now so starkly represents. Not in an abstract sense, either, but literally—Deen’s personal gravy train has sopped up millions upon millions of dollars for her and for her investors by clogging the arteries of her most ardent followers, encouraging over-indulgence and driving up the costs of private healthcare, all done while partaking herself in the very same things that will eventually kill her, too.
In Dante’s Purgatorio, the gluttonous penitents were tied-up and made to lie face down for their pursuit of earthly goals. If the Italian poet were alive today, perhaps he’d come up with a more nightmarishly appropriate 21st century vision: Today’s Wall Street tycoons and media barons—the ones who enabled the Paula Deen empire of shit in the first place with millions and millions of investment dollars—being force fed Ooey Gooey Butter Layer Cake at The Lady and Her Sons until each, deservingly, became a Mr. Creosote, purging their karmic guts out in buckets and then repeatedly stuffing their pie holes to the point of puking over and over again for all of eternity.
Just days after the Food Network decided to drop Paula Deen, QVC may now follow suit:
“QVC does not tolerate discriminatory behavior. We are closely monitoring these events and the ongoing litigation. We are reviewing our business relationship with Ms. Deen, and in the meantime, we have no immediate plans to have her appear on QVC,” they said.
I wonder if the LOL video below going viral might hasten QVC’s decision?
Inspired by interviews I gathered in my research for that piece, and my general love of watching videos clips of the dancing, sharing audio of the best music, and generally just watching geeky interviews, I have started a new blog dedicated to vogue and ballroom culture in its many forms. It’s called CVNTY and you can find it here: http://c-v-n-t-y.tumblr.com/
While Paris Is Burning is one of my favourite movies ever, for many, it seems to have frozen vogue culture in a late 80s/early 90s time warp, something that is easier to digest as a retro scene. Of course, the era depicted in that film WAS a golden age, but voguing is a hugely vibrant culture right now, and I aim to show both the past AND the present, and maybe even a little bit of the future, if I’m lucky. There are already exclusive interviews up on CVNTY with kingpins of the modern ballroom sound MikeQ and Vjuan Allure, along with many others I interviewed for Boing Boing but whose contributions didn’t get used, as well as cross posts to pieces I have written for other sites such as Red Bull Music Academy and Dalston Superstore. I will keep the remit of this blog to dance music artists whose work touches on issues of queerness/race/class/otherness, although there will always be room for posting music, people and things that just fucking fabulous. Needless to say, my own production and dj work as CVNT will pop up from time to time.
To lure you in, dear DM reader, here’s a rare voguing clip I’ve just posted on CVNTY, and am sharing here too, as it deserves much more than the paltry 24,000 views it currently has.
It’s called Voguing: The Message, and it is from 1989, which means it pre-dates both Paris Is Burning and Madonna’s vogue daliance. It takes a look at the emerging vogue ball scene and the pier children who attended these events, and features interview and performance footage of the legendary Willi Ninja (above.) Founder of the House of Ninja, Willi was unarguably one of the greatest voguers of all time, and hugely responsible for voguing travelling beyond the clubs and being taken seriously as a n art form. This film possibly even pre-dates Ninja’s own starring role in the video for Malcolm McLaren’s “Deep In Vogue”, one of my favourite pieces of dancing ever caught on film. More info:
Voguing: The Message traces the roots of this gay, Black and Latino dance form, which appropriates and plays with poses and images from mainstream fashion. Voguing competitions parody fashion shows and rate the contestants on the basis of movement, appearance and costume. This tape is a pre-Madonna primer that raises questions about race, sex and subcultural style.
Dir. Jack Walworth, David Bronstein & Dorothy Low 1989 13 min. USA
Founded in 1977, Frameline is the nation’s only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to the funding, exhibition, distribution and promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media arts. Frameline Voices is a new digital initiative that showcases diverse LGBT stories and expands access to films by and about people of color, transgender people, youth, and elders.
Voguing: The Message is that rare thing, an important historical document that gives insight into a time, a place, and a set of people. In other words it’s that thing we call GOLD DUST.
You can find more like this (and subscribe!) over on CVNTY, but for now GET INTO IT:
Wild. Singer/songwriter Joe Henry has co-written (along with his brother David) a biography of Richard Pryor entitled, Serious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World that Made Him, due out in November. If you’re familiar with Joe Henry’s work, then you already know why this is so cool and appropriate, but if not, then I’ll tell you…
If you don’t know who Richard Pryor was, well then, no wonder you think the universe is kind of boring and tedious. Richard Pryor was Chris Rock before Chris Rock was even born, unleashing his ferocious comedy to both white and black audiences in the 60s and 70s, way before it was “OK” to joke seriously about racial issues and about the experience of being an African American in a nation still trying to suppress the inevitable realization that its cultural roots were about as black as they were white.
Here’s Richard Pryor as the first black president of the US. Like a lot of Pryor’s comedy, you can’t quite see where it’s going until it gets there and, prior to arrival it veers into the surreal.
Wild, no? That’s from the 1970s and I’m thinking popular culture was actually somewhat less brittle back then. The ghost of left-wing culture hadn’t quite faded away yet, though of course in just a few years Reagan’s jackboots would stomp even that poor pitiful thing into the ground. Even in the early 1980s, after Pryor recovered from a disfiguring freebasing accident that left him badly burned and near death, the nation laughed when Pryor explained: “When I dunked the cookie in the milk, it exploded!”
Joe Henry, meanwhile, dedicated one of his better albums (Scar) to Pryor, and wrote one of the songs (”Richard Pryor Addresses a Tearful Nation”) in his voice. Here’s “Stop,” from that same album (If you are a Madonna fan, you may have noticed that this song has the same lyrics as “Don’t Tell Me” from her Music album, and indeed Henry wrote those lyrics. Joe Henry is, bizarrely enough, Madonna’s brother-in-law (married to her sister Melanie) and also wrote the Baywatch theme, but don’t hold that against him.)
Henry operates in a nominally popular idiom by placing scraps of jazz, rock, R&B and even country into the athanor of his songwriting craft and then melting them all down and shaping the resultant amalgam into the odd and sometimes frightening little homonculi that are his songs.
When Henry (or his “people”) made the announcement about Serious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World that Made Him on Facebook and his blog a couple of days ago, it came as both a surprise as well one of those things that seems obvious in retrospect. I’m stoked for the publication of this book and will almost certainly celebrate this news later with a bottle of Monday-night plonk and the very loud cranking of Joe Henry’s Blood From Stars album.
Here’s a rarity of sorts, of Henry singing (or pretending to be singing) the title track from hisTiny Voices album: