Monday, December 6, 2010

Post Continues Misleading About Wiki Founder Charges

Without seeking comment from any Swedish authorities regarding their investigation, The Post continues to spread the unproven falsehood that Wikileaks founder Assange is a sexual predator, by claiming in an article published today that Assange is being sought for questioning regarding the "sexual assault" of two women. The Post frames this story as a simple sexual assault, as contrasted with other more nuanced press accounts, such as one by UK publication The Guardian, outlined a complicated case wherein a Swedish prosecutor dropped one rape charge against Assange and reduced another (only to be overruled by a superior a week later, leading to a reinstatement of charges) and that both women admit the sex was consensual (a fact that the Post neglects to mention until near the end of its article). The Post then muddies the issue by stating that (according to an unnamed Swedish source) the women "conceded that sex with Assange started as consensual but allege that it later became non-consensual". Yet The Post was not able to get (or declined to publish) more details from their unnamed source about what exactly led to the purported withdrawal of consent, presumptively in mid-act?

Perhaps The Post decided not to explain the issue further because polling shows almost 50% of Americans have difficulty equating withdrawal of consent with rape, which would ruin what amounts to an attempt by the Post to present the matter as an open-and-shut case among an American readership that would be confused by extenuating details if the paper cited accounts that Assange is allegedly being accused of continuing with sexual activity post-consent after a condom broke (in one instance) and after a condom somehow was removed (in the other). Even those accounts (none of which are based on quotes from the women involved) may not tell the whole story, as other independent media outlets have reported that the charges in question are based merely on Assange engaging in consensual sex without wearing a condom at all, which is apparently an act punishable in Sweden with two years imprisonment (a state of affairs that would no doubt confuse the average American reader, whose definition of rape and sexual assault involves the absence of consent, not the absence of a prophylactic).

The Post also naturally neglected to report on (or investigate claims that) the issue is further muddied by apparent accounts that after the alleged assaults occurred, Swedish prosecutors got ahold of texts and Twitter messages celebrating sexual liaisons with Assange written by the women involved (both named in other publications but who I shall keep anonymous until their accusations are resolved).

This is not to mention the decision by the writer in this article to only focused on one leak (regarding American installations sensitive to attack) out of the thousands of leaks Wikileaks has provided, an act that would be oversimplified even if one decided to label it an oversimplification.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

WikiLeaks Article In Post Glosses Over Censorship Concerns?

The Washington Post unsurprisingly limited its coverage of claims that government leak site Wikileaks was being targeted by the U.s. Government to one quote in its three page article on problems besieging the site, since that publication often acts as the bullhorn of official Washington (especially during the run-up to wars, such as when they re-published with little criticism the WMD claims in Iraq).

Although the U.S. government, embarassed by round after round of leaked documents provided by Wikileaks, is the most likely suspect behind several denial-of-service attacks, the author of this Post article laughably stated:

WikiLeaks has been brought down numerous times this week by what appear to be denial-of-service attacks. In a typical such attack, remote computers commandeered by rogue programs bombard a website with so many data packets that it becomes overwhelmed and unavailable to visitors. Pinpointing the culprits is difficult. The attacks are relatively easy to mount and can be performed by amateurs.

Well, sure, a lone hacker *could* perform a denial-of-service attack, but the U.S. government has the most reason to perform these acts. Why no U.S. official was even asked about whether the attacks were government-sponsored is a basic indicator of how much the "fourth estate" has merely morphed into the lapdog of the establishment. At this point, corporate media will not even ask incendiary questions and print the predictable (and often later proved false) denial.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Racialized Thinking: Bringing Up Race For No Reason

There is a shade of difference between racialized thinking and racist thought, usually the former occurs with the absence of conscious insidious intent. The latter usually involves a negative thought about someone or a group based on their perceived racial identity. Racialized thinking is when race enters someone's thought process for no logical reason.

How does racialized thinking play out?

Let's take a discussion of three movies in a Hollywood film site,

In an article on the opening week of three films - Megamind, Due Date, and For Colored Girls - see if you can determine a specific difference in how the audiences for the three films are discussed (they are discussed in the same order as in the article, from highest grossing to lowest).


"Megamind," which scored an A- CinemaScore rating, played evenly with auds aged both over and under 25, with slight preference among women (57%).

Due Date:

With males constituting 53% of its audience, "Due Date" saw 59% of its opening come from moviegoers under 35.

For Colored Girls:

Lionsgate's "For Colored Girls" skewed heavily toward adult African American females, with 87% of moviegoers over 25, 81% African-American and 82% female.

Why is race only discussed for one of the three films? Unsurprisingly, the film with the predominantly black cast and black director? I have never seen Variety make a point of noting when an audience "skews heavily" towards a white audience.

In some ways, this is a subtle way of indicating that certain groups are "the other", implicitly making white "normative" (it's a reflection of the instance I noted in one of the screenshot comments in my prior entry, where I point out to an Atlantic commenter that he/she inexplicably distinguished between "people" and "the black community", as if these were mutually exclusive groups). There is an odd tendency in the mainstream media to present matters without race involving white people, but to always point out race where it involves other people. This is racialized thinking.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Accepting The Lie Even As You Fight For Truth

It's rare that I criticize the same media source twice in so close a time frame, but Ta-Nanehisi Coates has struck again with another highly inflammatory quote hidden in the middle of a piece on policing, worse than his attempt at attributing what he imagined to be Malcolm X's gender position into a statement about Malcolm's definitive thoughts regarding women.

The first paragraph of the piece is fine, but the second paragraph is where Coates starts going off the rails. First, he inexplicably states that he initially ignored reports of NYPD engaging in disproportionately stopping and frisking Blacks and Latinos to meet citation quotas (and the story of a NYPD officer who alleges he was institutionalized for failing the meet quota). After this puzzling confession, Coates suddenly (and even more inexplicably) states "If [B]lacks and Latinos commit most of the crimes [in New York City], it stands to reason they'll be overrepresented among the stop and frisks." There are huge sections of New York City that are almost entirely white (particularly in Staten Island and Queens), so how could anyone with any remote understanding of the demographics there believe that Black and Latino offenders comprise the majority of criminal acts *committed* in New York City (as opposed to the number or arrests or convictions, which are controlled by the discretion of officers who arrest and prosecutors who file charges)?

Starting a hypothetical with the words "If blacks and Latinos commit most of the crimes..." is as wildly unprovable as starting a hypothetical with the words "If the government ships in all the drugs...". One is a widely accepted and unproven stereotype and the other is a mass-media derided and unproven conspiracy theory. Coates, as a mainstream journalist, would never proffer the latter premise, but is comfortable proffering the former. Why? No study has definitively proven that Blacks (capital B, by the way, Mr. Coates) and Latinos commit most of the crimes in any American city, because there is no reliable way to track every crime committed in any geographical area. Any impartial (read: non-racialized) observer is intelligent enough to realize (1) that crime includes every act prohibited by local, state and federal statutes in a locality and (2) that in New York City, Blacks and Latinos could not possibly comprise the majority of the people violating those statutes, which criminalize everything from insider trading to jaywalking. So, why would Coates present such a ludicrous hypothetical?

When confronted on the issue in the comments section, Coates confessed that "obvious falsehoods crept into my thinking", but he does not endeavor to explicitly state the falsehood of the claim that "Blacks and Latinos commit most of the crimes [in NYC]", nor does he explain the (perhaps more troubling) issue of how this falsehood crept into his thinking at all.

These questions don't even begin to reach larger societal questions, such as how such a falsehood could be presented, without stating that it was false, in a piece on a respected media site. Or how none of the persons who commented on the piece (present company excluded) responded to the presence of such a bold-faced lie or challenged it, despite a massive number of responses.

Update: He banned me from the comment section after I thoroughly, yet politely, deconstructed the shortcomings of his piece there. My response that was deleted and apparently led to me being banned went as follows:

The post is weakened by your explicit failure to *explicitly* note that the statement "Blacks and Latinos commit most of the crimes in NYC" is a falsehood. The piece would be strengthened considerably if you noted that in brackets somehow. Otherwise, your piece presents, unchallenged, the same falsehood that leads to disproportionate arrest and prosecution of Black and Latino citizens in New York, feeding a monster of a lie that leads to the problem you decry as the central theme of your piece.

Absent that explicit denunciation of that statement as a falsehood, the source of your shame is also a mystery, beyond some inexplicable initial decision to ignore the first wave of reports on this story. Stating directly that Blacks and Latinos *do not* commit the majority of crimes explains why focusing inordinate police resources against these communities, out of proportion with their actual criminal activity, is both morally wrong and counterproductive to the maximum success of any crime-fighting strategy.

I just realized something: funnily enough, even in this reply, you do not explicitly state the idea that Blacks and Latinos commit the majority of the crimes in NYC is a falsehood. You just say some unnamed falsehood crept into your thinking. Sigh.

Or view it as a screenshot (oh, he didn't think I'd be able to preserve that?):

American censorship and refusal to debate, even politely, at its finest. If you can't win, find a way to stop the other side from speaking. Sad.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ancestor Worship vs Context vs Blemishing Legacies

There is a fine line to walk when one revisits the legacy of a beloved historical figure. In the black community, we have often seen our beloved figures demonized in the press, so a defensive reaction to protect those figures from "attack" is completely understandable. Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at the Atlantic, endeavored to take another look at revered Black leader Malcolm X's political beliefs in a multi-part series on After reading his piece on Malcolm's gender politics, which focused on a handful of passages in the four hundred-plus page Autobiography of Malcolm X (which in itself only tells part of the story of Malcolm's politics, inherently, due to space limitations). After reading his piece, I tweeted to Coates that a few passages were not sufficient to explain Malcolm's entire gender philosophy. He urged me to blog a response, which I now endeavor to do.

The first passage from the autobiography that Coates relies on to form his opinion on Malcolm's gender politics involves Malcolm explaining what johns told prostitutes working for him when he was a pimp about their wives. This is third hand information, based on a sample size of men who frequent prostitutes, hardly a good source for inferring the personal beliefs of a revered figure like Malcolm.

The second passage cited by Coates mostly involves Malcolm reflecting what prostitutes think of men, also not pertinent to Malcolm's personal views, but there is a bombshell at the end of the passage, presumptively from Malcolm directly (we'll assume Haley transcribed this correctly): "All women, by their nature, are fragile and weak: they are attracted to the male in whom they see strength."

Malcolm wasn't known for qualifying his statements and that one is as overarching as a generalization can get.

Unfortunately, Coates doesn't spend much time ruminating on that quote and, even more unfortunately, spends no time at all putting it in context with the time in which this statement was made, before the modern feminist movement and at a time when male/female relationships were still being placed in the context of man-as-breadwinner/woman-as-dutiful-housewife throughout the mass media. Would Malcolm have made the same statement in 2010 after decades of feminist protest, writing and scholarship and a sea change in media representation of women? That is doubtful, in my mind (but we'll never know, unfortunately).

Coates then goes on to make a huge generalization before presenting the next passage in his piece, stating as an introductory remark: "I think this passage is fairly typical of Malcolm's attitude". It is hard to determine how someone who never met Malcolm and is relying solely on one book written by the source "as told to" a third party (Haley) can reliably draw an inference on whether a passage is "fairly typical" of the attitude of a man who passed away 45 years ago. Stretching logic at this level should never be acceptable in a major media outlet. In any case, the prefaced passage in question continues the theme of the prior quoted passage about male domination:

Now, Islam has very strict laws and teachings about women, the core of them being that the true nature of man is to be strong, and a woman's true nature is to be weak, and while a man must at all times respect his woman, at the same time he needs to understand that he must control her if he expects to get her respect.

It is unclear whether Malcolm's interpretation of Islam above is filtered through the teaching of the Nation of Islam (whose beliefs were not in Malcolm's lifetime considered mainstream Islamic interpretation by any source I can uncover). What seems more clear, however, is that his understanding of gender roles fits in quite well with the media portrayal of gender roles in his time and, if minimal female participation in Congress and most positions of power at that time are any indication, this interpretation appears to be the mainstream male view of the mid-sixties. At this point in his piece, Coates briefly places Malcolm's statement in historical context ("It was not an atypical thought at the time."), then abruptly implies, conclusively and without proof, that Malcolm's views were somehow harsher than the contemporary views of the time ("But from The Autobiography, there is this sense that, even in the Nation, Malcolm was seen as particularly harsh in his views of women."). This conclusory statement is made without citing any evidence that Malcolm was considered the "harsh(est minister in the Nation) in his views on women" or whether his views were harsher than those held by other popular figures (spoken or unspoken) in the general milieu of sexism that pervaded popular American thought at the time. Considering that Malcolm was actively training ministers at mosques throughout the Nation of Islam infrastructure, it's hard to accord second-hand accounts that Malcolm was harsh with the conclusion that Malcolm was the harshest to some unreasonable degree (it would be more likely to assume that the ministers Malcolm trained would be fairly in line with his own speaking style).

Near the end of his piece, Coates makes two leaps of logic that are almost wholly unrelated to the text of the Autobiography. His first leap of logic involves Coates essentially putting words into Malcolm's mouth about "detesting" dominant women, words that are not based on statements made in the Autobiography or any other source, when Coates states, "...his older sister exactly the kind of 'domineering' and 'demanding' woman whom he seemingly detests." How can an argument be made that Malcolm "seemingly detest[ed]" women of an independent character, when the cited passages only seem to state Malcolm's belief in patriarchal family structure, a structure generally promoted throughout mass media portrayals of gender at that time? There is a stark difference between reinforcing popular patriarchial thought of one's time and "detesting" independent-minded women. Coates covers this distance in a single leap of logic, without seeking further sources to back his claim.

Coates makes his second leap by arguing that while Malcolm effusively praises his sister Ella in the Autobiography, he does so because "[i]t was almost as if to Malcolm, Ella wasn't really a woman." This, again, is based on no statement in the book or any other source. It is purely drawn from Coates' imagination. It is fine to imagine what one's historical heroes might have thought, as long as you attribute these musings to your own imagination, not to the person about whom you are imagining.

Coates' journey to re-contextualize Malcolm might be more fruitful if he seeks more sources than the Autobiography and perhaps interviews people who knew Malcolm, in order to form a more comprehensive view of the man of whom he writes. A man as complex as Malcolm X deserves a more in-depth analysis than what was presented in Coates' piece, especially before one comes to the damning conclusions Coates reached in his piece regarding Malcolm's gender viewpoint.

Addendum: Coates is an old comrade of mine from my Young African Writers Association (YAWA) days at Howard University. The YAWA experience centers around constructive criticism and I write in that spirit, so readers should respect him as such. Steel sharpens steel, however, and legacies must be contextualized properly, so here we are.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Does Political Leaning Bend Logic?

I don't know the political leanings of Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the authors of Freakonomics, but they make some interesting assumptions in their book and fail to challenge some assumptions they present uncritically that seem illogical on their face. They come out against ideas generally supported by the right (for example, by challenging the utility of capital punishment as a crime deterrent), but they make interesting inclusions and omissions of fact in different situations where one of the factors that changes is the race of the person(s) discussed.

The most striking quote that they present without criticizing its underpinnings is a quote in the book from an economist named Gary Becker who (on page 121) says, in part, "African-Americans and Hispanics commit a disproportionate share of felonies". Note the use of the verb "commit" (noting there is no accurate record of how many crimes are actually committed, since a sizable number of crimes inherently go undetected/unpunished) versus the use of the phrase "are convicted of" (which can be objectively proven with statistics regularly gathered by the Department of Justice). How could one calculate who commits every felony that occurs in America, absent arrests or convictions? You can't, unless you're omniscient. So, how did a pair of economists who spend an entire book undercutting "conventional wisdom" with unblinking logic fail to note that Mr. Becker's claim was blatantly unprovable and, worse, quote it as fact? This is the typical blindside created in a society inundated with racism where certain racial stereotypes become so accepted ("Blacks/Latinos are more likely to be criminals") that when these unproven assertions are repeated even ordinarily rational actors may fail to critique them (and, worse, may repeat them).

For the record, there is no set of data that proves African-Americans and Latinos commit a disproportionate share of the felonies committed in America. This should be patently obvious to anyone who considers the number of felonies that may be committed but never reported or even witnessed by anyone other than the criminal(s) engaging in the act (particularly financial crimes such as insider trading, tax evasion, housing discrimination, lending discrimination/redlining, etc, all of which could result in increased felony convictions if our law enforcement agencies had more resources to combat these ills). You can't determine which group is committing a disproportionate share of any set of acts without empirical data showing the overall number of said acts committed; this is simple logic, the same logic generally applied through much of the book.

Other failures in logic are less startling, such as the decision by the authors (in Chapter 3) to attempt to determine the earning level of every crack dealer in the United States from the income generated by one "franchise" of one Chicago street organization, in a 12 square block area in the South Side of Chicago, over four years. Ordinarily, this would be considered too small of a sample size from which to draw a conclusion. Of course, "experts" regularly comment on what is described as the criminal underclass without relying on the type of factual scrutiny reserved for stories about more "respectable" citizens or sectors of society.

Following this mainstream media tradition, where the crimes happen in "respectable" sectors of society, race is not mentioned by the authors at all. In a chapter entitled "Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers", the authors never once mention the race of any of the employees allegedly stealing bagels sold by salesman Paul Feldman at a rate of roughly 11% (more than one out of every ten bagels!). By contrast, the entire chapter dedicated to drug dealing limits its discussion to black inner city drug dealers on the South Side of Chicago (a predominately black neighborhood) whose race is made clear to the reader because they are repeatedly quoted referring to themselves by the n-word (as if the neighborhood cited didn't already codify their race, since "South Side of Chicago" has been transformed into shorthand for "black and poor" by the Chicago and national media). Even noting the location of the drug dealer story as the South Side of Chicago is irrelevant to the larger point being made (the economics of the drug trade). Interestingly, the researcher who lived with the drug dealers on the South Side is name checked by ethnicity (Indian) upon his introduction, for no apparent reason. Feldman, curiously enough, is not described by race, nor is CPS CEO Arne Duncan. Duncan is white (Google him). Feldman has a German surname. Draw your own conclusions from this limited sample size and paucity of information about how the authors racialize their writing.

Any conclusion you might draw from that sample size and limited data is as credible as the conclusion the authors drew about bagel thieves. When discussing how the criminal occurrence of bagel theft decreased from 13% to 11% after the September 11th attacks (p. 47), the authors pontificate that this drop may have been due to "a patriotic element" or "a more general surge in empathy", although the equally likely scenario is that because "many of Feldman's customers are affiliated with national security", these workers were aware that surveillance of their worksites dramatically increased after September 11th, dissuading potential thieves who feared detection. Why are former criminals (the 2%) without a racial designation denoted in Freakonomics assigned such a beneficial motivation for their decision to cease their stealing ways? Why do the authors fail to identify any of the companies housing these thieves, but the South Side of Chicago, as a locale, is named, when neither location has any correlation to the crime being committed? After all, it would be different the authors had to tell an anecdote about coca leaves, that mainly grow in certain areas, but you can sell crack (or steal bagels) virtually anywhere, so why name one setting but not others?

When the authors make these sort of choices, is there something that can logically be deduced about their political leanings and beliefs?

They did go against the right wing viewpoint about capital punishment, after all. I wonder how they feel about liberals?

Maybe the answer can be found where the authors make a wildly unprovable claim on the bottom of page 125, where they state inexplicably "In some cases, hiring additional police was considered a violation of the era's liberal aesthetic", referring to the time period between 1960 and 1985. This is unprovable for any number of reasons. One, the author cannot cite any source wherein a unified (or any) liberal position against additional police hiring is held. Two, if "liberal aestethic(s)" controlled policy decisions from 1960 to 1985, why did the Vietnam War last so long, since liberals were vehemently opposed to that war? How did the nation's law enforcement apparatus investigate, entrap and/or assassinate so many liberal figures with impunity in this era? Why were Republican presidents in office for the majority of this period (13 years of 25)? In short, what type of inherent political bias could lead the authors to make such a claim without citing to any authority as if it were a truism?

The authors then go on to conclude, without much evidence, that a 50% decrease in police hiring and "leniency in the other half of the criminal justice system", created a "strong positive incentive for criminals", allegedly leading to a spike in crime rates. The authors talk about increased incentive to commit crime due to decreased police hiring, but cite no corresponding drop in arrests to back their claim that reduced hiring "translated into a roughly equal decline in the probability that a given criminal would be caught" (p. 126). Scrupulous with their math in other areas of the book, the authors offer essentially no mathematical data at all to prove this alleged correlation. The first problem with their assertion is, in order to determine probability that a criminal would be caught, the authors would have to know both the total amount of crime committed and the number of criminals arrested for crimes ("caught"). Without citing either data set (total crimes committed or total arrests), the authors cannot possibly believe they have proven their point about the falling probability of arrest for a criminal between 1960-1985. Further weakening their argument, the authors neither cite what the crime rates were from 1960 to 1985, what crime rates were prior to this period, nor whether crime rates remained at some constant level from 1960-1985 (with demographic changes factored in as variables), in order to establish their central thesis. Do they seriously expect readers to believe there was a spike in crime between, say, 1959 and 1960 without any numerical data? Even when discussing an area limited to the state of New York, the authors fail to note the effects of such landmark acts as the Rockefeller drug laws (which greatly increased the penalty for drug possession in New York) in their calculus of determining what affects crime rates, even though the Rockefeller laws were passed in the middle of their mythical supposedly "liberal aesthetic"-ruled period between 1960-1985.

This is not even to discuss the problem of viewing side by side both the authors' acceptance of the unprovable assertion that African-Americans and Latinos commit a disproportionate amount of the felonies in our country and the authors' argument (from pages 115-145) that legalized abortion post-Roe led to the steep drop in crime in the 1990s. Read together, these two ideas seem to imply that killing a sizable proportion of African-American and Latino fetuses before they are born is a good crime prevention tactic. Freakonomics, indeed.

Post Script: Did I mention that the persons identified as black in the book include a crack gang, an abusive lover who knocks a woman's teeth out and an academic failure? How can such a selection of characters amongst a set of 30-plus million people be justified in a non-racialized way? Ah, I neglect to mention an anecdote about Kareem Abdul-Jabaar (not identified by race, but whose race is obviously known to most of the American population). And the naming chapter identifies five more characters as black: a police detective, a felon with three dozen arrests, a black teen girl arrested for "bringing men into the home while her mother was at work" (the sole black female in the book just happens to be sexually promiscuous, a traditional black female stereotype), and an economist who pushes a still unproven theory that disproportionate poor test scores amongst blacks is explained by their fear of "acting white". So, that's a crack gang, an abuser, a long-time felon, a promiscuous black teen girl, an intellectual failure, a police detective, an economist and a basketball player.

Mathematically, except for the inclusion of the economist, the authors succeeded in including almost every black stereotype in their book (with police detective and the economist being the sole exceptions, although the economist is pushing a borderline racist theory and the black police detective is becoming a "positive" stereotypical role as it appears to be one of the main roles a black lead actor can get in a film: cop or criminal). Out of seven persons in the book identified as black people, five are criminals. The one person identified as a Latino is a drug trafficker (Oscar Blandon). Is it mathematically possible that these were the only Black and Latino people in the entire country that the authors could chose to profile, if they had a racially unbiased approach to presenting their information? Or is something else behind their curious selection of persons to profile? You do the math on that one.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

When Sampling Goes Wrong: Reducing Struggle To Zero

One of my all-time favorite Doors songs is a rocking tune by the name of "Five to One", where Jim Morrison outlines the theory that the youth in the world outnumber the older ruling class by five to one and predicts a victory over the current ruling class because "they've got the guns, but we've got the numbers"! Few rock hits have been as political in recent memory (due respect to Rage Against The Machine), so I recently reflected with some regret at Kanye West's decision to sample "Five to One" for Jay-Z's "Takeover", where he wastes the propelling soundscape behind his vocals to belittle then rival rappers Nas and Mobb Deep, reducing a song about youth uprising to a petty call for his record label to take over the rap industry. Perhaps the karmic forces controlling the universe decided this was too absurd to accept, because Jay-Z's record label (Roc-a-Fella) wound up imploding a few years after "Takeover" came out.

To add an additional bit of historic irony to the proceedings, one might care to note that Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was assassinated by Chicago police in his sleep the same day that Jay-Z was born. This has to go down in history as the worst soul-for-soul trade in human history. We lost a leader who could unite street organizations in Chicago with progressive organizations from multiple races (Black, Latino, Native American and White) in his original Rainbow Coalition and we got a guy who has amassed a massive fortune mostly based on rhyming about misogyny and the drug trade, selling liquor and overpriced clothes, and generally being as apolitical as possible even as his music became less openly destructive. One can only imagine what Fred Hampton could have accomplished politically from 1969-2010, as sadly contrasted with what Jay-Z has failed to accomplish politically in that time. Big up to him for doing that one MTV special on clean water in Africa and that one verse song on the levee failure in New Orleans, though. One verse for a tragedy, three verses for a rap battle. Better than no verses, I suppose. Sigh.

160 Years Late, Someone Goes To Jail For Slavery

This country being built on slave labor, the recent fervor over (and spanking new slavery synonym) "human trafficking" warms my cynical heart. No one trying to stop this admittedly horrible practice seems to be on board with the reparations movement, but there's plenty of outrage in this media account of a West African man who (in what some would say is historic tradition) enslaved some poor souls from his continent and brought them here to work for nothing, under fear of physical assault, i.e. the American Way circa 1492-1865. Unfortunately for this guy, he wasn't born without melanin and with property 300 years ago; he could have been carved into Mount Rushmore.