Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Washington Post Article Refutes the Claim That Obama Is a Lightweight

Sadly, some people are believing stories that Obama is not strong on policy. So in case you run into those folks, here's a Washington Post article you can use to refute those lame claims....


There's the Beef

By Steven Pearlstein
Friday, February 22, 2008; D01

During the course of our endless presidential campaigns, lots of silly things are said by the candidates and the press. But few are more ridiculous than the idea that Barack Obama is just an empty suit.

We're talking here about a former president of the Harvard Law Review. Have you ever met the people who get into Harvard Law School? You might not choose them as friends or lovers or godparents to your children, but -- trust me on this -- there aren't many lightweights there. And Obama was chosen by all the other overachievers as top dog. Compared with the current leader of the free world, this guy is Albert Einstein.

Given his youth and relatively short time in government, it's fair to ask if Obama has the wisdom and experience to be president. But it's quite another to suggest that he has no vision, no program, no specifics.

Let's begin with the fact that he has written two books (all by himself, unlike a certain other candidate). The first offers a compelling personal narrative that, for some reason, is dismissed as puffery by a presumptive Republican nominee who first ran for office on the strength of his compelling personal narrative. The second book is a thoroughly readable, intelligent and well-reasoned discourse on politics and policy that offers a fresh perspective on a wide range of issues.

Obama has participated in 18 televised presidential debates in which he has managed to hold his own not only with Hillary the Wonkette, but also with the Senate's leading light on foreign affairs, a former United Nations ambassador and a former vice presidential candidate who was a skilled trial lawyer. I watched most of the debates, and while I didn't agree with everything he said, I don't recall thinking that Obama was in over his head.

Now that Obama is sprinting toward the finish line in the Democratic marathon, his opponents are suddenly asking, "Where's the beef?"

If it's beef you like, all you have to do is go to, where you will find a refrigerator case packed with prime policy meat. That may come as something of a surprise to you, considering how utterly lacking in substance the reporting and analysis has been over the last year. But it's all there -- as much as or more than is offered by other candidates and certainly as much as any voter would require.

There is, for example, the 11-page, single-spaced energy plan that features a cap-and-trade system that would require businesses to purchase credits for 100 percent of their carbon emissions, along with a requirement that all electric companies produce a quarter of their juice from renewable resources. Obama would also invest $15 billion annually -- a big chunk of change, even by federal standards -- in biofuels and other forms of clean energy. He wants to change the way electricity rates are set to give utilities more incentives to save power rather than produce it.

Those aren't uniquely Obama's ideas -- in one form or another, they've been part of the Democratic congressional agenda for years. And considering how fiercely they are opposed by industry and free-market Republicans, they aren't going to produce the kind of across-the-aisle compromise that Obama promises to deliver. But it's hardly like there's nothing there.

Or perhaps you'd like to curl up with a copy of Obama's 15-page, single-spaced health-care plan, including 65 footnotes. You'll find a cogent analysis of what ails the health-care system, along with the best thinking of Democratic health-care reformers on how to fix it: disease management, computerized medical records, radical reforms of the insurance market, tax subsidies for low-income families and federal reinsurance for catastrophic illness. There's even a requirement that businesses either offer health insurance to their workers or pay into a universal health-care fund.

The plan would be expensive and involve a major federal intrusion into the marketplace, and there is a legitimate question as to whether the plan would work better if everyone were required by law to buy health insurance. But by any measure it is a serious plan that would win the support not only of labor but also of major parts of the business community, including hospitals and health insurers.

Finally, there's the 40-plus-page economic agenda that outlines Obama's proposals for avoiding a recession, helping homeowners avoid foreclosure, restoring the rights of workers to form unions, improving public education, combating poverty and shifting the tax burden from the middle class to the upper class.

Once again, Obama has borrowed liberally from the standard Democratic policy playbook, adding a few twists of his own. He's willing to gently challenge the teachers' unions on merit pay, the trial lawyers on medical malpractice and liberals on raising Social Security taxes rather than pretending there's no problem with the retirement program. But this is hardly the kind of challenge to Democratic interest-group politics that Obama's "change" rhetoric suggests.

Particularly disappointing is his willingness to parrot the labor movement mantra about labor and environmental standards, which is really nothing more than protectionist code. And there's no way Obama can do all that he proposes and get anywhere close to balancing the federal budget.

But such shortcomings are hardly unusual for a political campaign; the Clinton economic program is no better. And as we're all about to find out, it's far better than the thin gruel offered so far by John McCain, who, God help us, plans to bone up on economics by reading Alan Greenspan.

McCain's economic program consists of extending the Bush tax cuts, cutting corporate tax rates and banning taxes on the Internet and cellphones. His "comprehensive" health-care reform program consists of two pages of platitudes with no specifics and no way to pay for itself. And while he calls for "tough choices" in reining in entitlement spending, he still hasn't found one he's willing to share with us.

Barack Obama isn't a saint. He's not a savior. But in substance as well as style, he's the most impressive presidential candidate to come along in quite a while.

Steven Pearlstein can be reached

Remember W.E.B. DuBois 1868-1963

W.E.B. DuBois was born on this date on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. DuBois died in Accra, Ghana in West Africa on the very same day of the famous 'March on Washington' on August 28, 1963 at age 95. The following statement recognizes the extraordinary achievements of this great African American intellectual, scholar, and revolutionary activist whose iconic work spanned over seven decades:

W.E.B. DuBois and the Afro-American Spirit: The Soul of Art

Historian, sociologist, cultural critic, political theorist, activist, essayist, journalist, teacher, editor, scholar, and poet, William Edward Burghardt DuBois (1868-1963) remains the single greatest intellectual figure in the history of Afro-American letters. The author of over 30 books of literature, sociology, history, cultural criticism and political analysis; founder/editor of the legendary Crisis magazine for over twenty-five years for the NAACP (which he co-founded in 1909), DuBois wrote many of the seminal books of the 20th century, including The Souls of Black Folk (1903), The Negro (1915), The Gift of Black Folk (1924), Black Reconstruction (1935), Dusk of Dawn (1940), and The World and Africa (1947). His role as advisor and mentor to the new generation of young black writers to emerge in the early 1920s is considered to be indispensable to the public recognition of such stalwarts as Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Alain Locke (Rhodes scholar and leading cultural archivist of the period), and Countee Cullen.

What makes DuBois’ work so important is that it provides us with a conceptual framework for understanding what the underlying aesthetic and philosophical values and concerns of this generation (known as the ‘New Negroes’) were. What emerges from an inquiry into the historical sources of their ideas and strategies is an affirmative articulation of what is independent, precious, and of human value within the cultural forms and structures of Afro-American life and art. No longer is the black artist only concerned with the defensive posture of protesting the interpretation and definition of his/her experience by white American society, but with fully revealing the beauty and strengths of one’s own legacy and present creative power. DuBois is at the forefront of this bold, new climate of self-assertion over and against the oppressive limitations of racism and imperialism. He accomplishes this in a stunning series of essays that he writes as an extended examination of “art, culture, politics, philosophy and education” within the national Afro-American community at the turn of the twentieth century. The result was the classic entitled The Souls of Black Folk, published to widespread acclaim and controversy in 1903.

In this major work DuBois delineates in loving detail many of the major themes and concerns that would be taken up directly and forcefully by the ‘New Negro’ generation some twenty years later: 1) The use of ancestral knowledge and communal wisdom passed down through the ages by oral means (e.g. folklore, prov¬erbs, colloquialisms, tales, legends and myths); 2) An insistence on the right to a critical perspective that stems from one’s own cultural/social experience and reality; 3) An active commitment to the liberation of oppressed and colonized peoples through art and politics; 4) The revelation and exposure of the power and depth of Afro-American culture through the creative use of the imagination and the innovative expression of form and content; 5) Recognizing and using the techniques and methodologies that have been devised and created in the Afro-American cultural tradition to enhance one’s own art; 6) Emphasizing the transformative qualities of art through attention to both spiritual values and uncensored secular activity.

An important new book dealing with DuBois's radical leftist politics and his longtime friendship with fellow revolutionary artist/activist Paul Robeson has been recently published by Nation Books (2007) entitled The Professor and the Pupil: The Politics and Friendship of W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson by political journalist, teacher, and author Murali Balaji


“They were always telling me for years to play commercial, be commercial. I’m not commercial. I say play your own way. Don’t play what the public wants—you play what you want and let the public pick up on what you’re doing—even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years.”
--Thelonious Monk

“Monk is a virtuoso of the specific techniques of Jazz, in challengingly original uses of accent, rhythm, meter, time and of musically expressive space, rest, and silence…He is a major jazz composer, the first since Duke Ellington…His repertory abounds with intriguing melodies, truly instrumental pieces…To play Monk properly, musicians justly testify, you have to know the melody and the harmony and understand how they fit together…It is a sign of the great Jazz composer that his sense of form extends beyond written structure and beyond individual improviser, to encompass a whole performance…So it is with Monk.”

--Martin Williams

By 1955 the legendary pianist-composer Thelonious Sphere Monk (b. October 10, 1917) had been playing music professionally for over twenty years. Like everything else about him--from his highly original name to his stubbornly independent, innovative, and utterly idiosyncratic approach to nearly every aspect of his extraordinary life and career--Monk was his “own man” from very early on. Moving with his family from North Carolina to New York at the age of five in 1922, the precocious Monk always went his own way and made his own decisions about how he wanted to live—even as a child. Thus, during his junior year in the spring of 1934 Monk left the acadmically rigorous and prestigious Stuyvesant High School in New York (which was and is a very competitive citywide magnet school which only admitted the best and most gifted students in the city) to pursue a professional career in music. He was just 17 at the time but had already impressed a number of his teachers and musical peers as a young man of great talent and potential. Coming from a very proud and independent black working-class family who loved music and insisted that their three children take music lessons (both of Monk’s parents worked and Thelonious, Sr.—Monk’s father--also played piano), Monk initially resisted his mother’s suggestions that he play violin and later the trumpet (neither of which Monk liked). However, young Thelonious was utterly fascinated by his sister’s Marion’s piano lesons which she took on the family’s upright piano and the ten year old much preferred listening to her, especially when her music teacher came to their house. By the age of 12 in 1930 Monk had already learned to play the piano very well on his own by ear and keen observation. Highly impressed, the music teacher, a Mr. Wolfe (who was then a student at New York’s famed Julliard School of Music), told Monk’s parents not to waste any more money on their daughter’s lessons since Marion had no real interest in playing music, but it was very apparent to the teacher that her younger brother Thelonious had “a prodigious talent.” This quickly led to the highly precocious youngster enrolling in music courses in school and taking professional lessons from a series of private teachers. Since Monk also excelled academically in math and physics it wasn’t long before Monk began formally composing music, using his command of harmony and melodic ideas to augment his already extraordinary rhythmic sense. By the time Monk turned 19 in 1936 he had already written a number of major compositions, most notably “Ruby My Dear,” that were destined to become Jazz classics.

In 1936 Monk began playing on the road as a touring professional with an evangelist(!) from the Santified church named Reverend Graham (who was known publically as “The Texas Warhorse”) who sang and preached in various churches while Monk’s trio played rollicking gospel and rhythm and blues tunes behind her. It’s important to note that as early as 1934 Monk and his trio had already worked at small gigs and dances in New York, usually earning small amounts in tips and cover charges. Monk remained with the evangelist’s troupe for over two years traveling all over the country in both cities and small rural towns alike. This day-to-day immersion in the challenging demands of black folk vernacular styles as both accompanist and ensemble leader gave the dedicated young musician very valuable experience and provided the early aesthetic foundation for his eventually unique and independent styles of composing and improvising music in the Jazz tradition.

In 1938 Monk, homesick from the lonely rough and tumble life of the road, returned to his beloved New York and soon based his own playing style on the stride piano traditions established by such living African American piano legends (and Monk’s personal idols) as James P. Johnson (who happened to live near Monk’s west side Manhattan neighborhood at the time) and Fats Waller. In addition Monk was being deeply influenced by the pianist/composer/bandleader Duke Ellington who also rooted his piano style in the stride tradition, a profound black vernacular music aesthetic of the early 1900s. It was the highly innovative modernity of Ellington’s fecund ideas in piano harmony, rhythmic structure, and orchestral arrangements that inspired Monk in a particularly special way and revealed the possibilities for him to continue and expand on his own experimental efforts.

In 1940 the now 22 year old Monk became house pianist at Minton’s Playhouse, a small Harlem nightclub and nightly gathering place for many aspiring young Jazz musicians and composers who came together on a regular basis at the club to jam and experiment with new musical ideas during afterhours at all night and early morning sessions. These sessions soon became legendary as the place where in the mid 1940s the revolutionary Jazz style ‘Bebop’ was born. Monk’s deep involvement with this movement during endless jam sessions in the early and mid 1940s made Monk’s name well known to other musicians who became very familiar with his challenging compositions and unusual solo playing. This was of course long before the general listening public became aware of his talents. From 1940-1945, an intensely creative period in which Monk wrote many new compositions including his signature classic “’Round Midnight” in 1941, Monk continued to work in relative obscurity at Minton’s and other small clubs in Harlem and in the famed midtown 52nd street clubs and bars where Monk and his angular dissonant harmonies, dynamic rhythms, and soaring, lyrical melodies quickly made him a leading and influential figure among the modernist Jazz cognoscenti. Working closely with such fellow pioneers of this exciting new music as the extraordinary drummer Kenny “Klook” Clarke, revolutionary guitarist Charlie Christian, iconic saxophonist Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, and trumpet legend John “Dizzy” Gillespie, Monk soon became a major mentor to many young emerging musicians like the then newly arrived 19 year old Miles Davis in 1945. By this time scores of musicians were experimenting with new harmonic structures, melodic ideas, and rhythmic conceptions. The intense cross-fertilization of styles, ideas, and musical structures were deeply rooted in the modern experimentations with form and content that were sweeping all the arts of the period in literature, painting, dance, and cinema and “Bebop” (or as the musicians themselves simply called it “modern music”) was at the forefront of this cultural and aesthetic revolution.

It was abundantly clear, as Monk himself told a number of interviewers, that his style was “more original” than many of the standardized, generic, and conventional forms of the Bebop movement. Yet Monk was already one of the primary architects of the best and most creative aspects of this movement and was a major source of distilling, synthesizing, and extending the ideas and structures from the myriad of historical musical sources that this generation of modernist musicians consciously absorbed, honed, and developed: Jazz swing styles inherited from the 1920s and ‘30s (e.g. Louis Armstrong, Ellington, Art Tatum, Lester Young, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, etc.) both ‘popular’ and ‘avant-garde’ advances in 20th century classical music (e.g. Stravinsky, Varese, Hindemith, Ives, Bartok, Prokofiev, Ravel, Debussy, etc.), and new black vernacular uses/appropriations of the rich blues and rhythm and blues/rock ‘n roll traditions, as well as various forms of gospel/spiritual music.

All this and more went into Monk’s complex and powerful compositions that while quite intricate and even difficult in harmonic terms, somehow remained both very lyrical (if quirkily idiosyncratic) melodically, as well as creatively connected to black vernacular dance rhythms. This combination of stylistic elements became a trademark of Monk’s compositions and improvisations and led him to finally getting an offer in 1947 to record as a leader of his own ensembles. Now thirty years old and a mature young artist in many respects (though still unknown to people outside of the music), Monk recorded two albums worth of his original compositions (and a few standards) with the small recording label known as Blue Note. Boldly entitled The Genius of Modern Music, Volumes I & II these records put Monk on the mainstream music map for the first time and introduced the man often rather archly referred to in Jazz publications and the mainstream media as “The High Priest of Bebop,” to a new Jazz audience that were just beginning to respond to the innovations of the modernists in the music. Despite this new, limited recognition Monk was still barely making ends meet and was desperately struggling to stay above water economically. However, Monk categorically refused to give up his musical identity or compromise his artistic vision in any way despite many pressures to do so. His first recordings were often lauded (or greatly misunderstood) by the critics and journalists who continued to interview and write about him for a wide range of magazines and newspapers both in and outside the general Jazz world. The laconic, witty, and candid pianist was always considered great copy for the media. However Monk remained almost invisible to any mainstream audience of music lovers.

This situation of severe commercial isolation and economic marginalization during a very creative and productive period of composing and performing his music was juxtaposed to a concomitant rise in status and prestige by fellow musicians, composers, and critics that continued well into the 1950s. Monk continued to record on a regular basis for the important small recording labels Blue Note, Prestige, and Riverside. Thus he began the series of major, classic recordings that quickly established his reputation as one of the most significant Jazz composers and soloists in modern music. It was also during this time that Monk first began to be mentioned as the most important composer in the music since the great Duke Ellington revolutionized the Jazz orchestra in the 1920s. At the height of the Bebop craze from 1948-1954 and the justly rapid ascension of Charlie “Bird’ Parker and Dizzy Gillespie as living icons of the movement, Monk made an equally revolutionary breakthrough himself in an utterly independent personal style that drew from bebop conventions (as it did from swing, rhythm and blues, classical, and gospel traditions) but were at the same time completely fresh and different in form and content from his numerous influences. These recordings were made with many of the most important, original, and talented musicians in Modern Jazz--Parker, Gillespie, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Percy Heath, Max Roach, and Kenny Dorham, among others--and in many ways served as the basic creative and aesthetic foundation of where Jazz was to evolve and grow after 1955.

Thus by the mid-fifties Thelonious Sphere Monk II was a man who already had a very clear and completely masterful command of the modernist and vernacular traditions that characterized the revolutions in both popular and avant-garde music during the post WWII era. This knowledge and understanding on both an innovative theoretical and performance level profoundly transformed the 1955-1975 era in Jazz and made Monk, along with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, and Ornette Coleman the leading musical figures in a particularly tumultuous and exciting period of American art and culture.

The visionary quality of Monk’s musical aesthetic lay in an intensely self conscious and self reflexive effort to simultaneously question, critique, and fundamentally rethink the traditionally specific roles and identities of harmonic structure, melodic form, and rhythmic content in modern music and reassert/reclaim SOUND itself as the most important individual and collective element in both improvisational and composed ensemble settings alike. For decades since the 1890s both African American and European/white American popular, vernacular, and (semi)classical musics had been dependent on inherited conventional modes of organizing musical patterns through the predominance of either harmony (songform structures), melody (songform lyrics), or rhythm (fixed metrical time). By the early 1900s various avant-garde practices in the United States and Europe had begun to overtly upset and challenge these conventions somewhat (by breaking up and/or distorting/rearranging the forms themselves) but still largely in terms of the central role of fundamentally Western conceptions and methodologies that favored a critical embrace (dissonance) or dismissive denial (atonality) of the diatonic scale as a ‘negative’ reference (e.g. Schoenburg, Ives, Webern, etc.). However, through the then revolutionary interventions of such major figures as Louis Armstrong and Ellington by the early 1920s, Jazz began creatively embracing and appropriating conventional music structures and ideas from a myriad of western sources while subtly transforming and subverting them with highly idiosyncratic (and African derived) methods of either using dissonant or unorthodox harmonies as well as crosscutting and constructivist architectural rhythms (a structural and expressive device known as ‘riffing’) in both compositional and improvisational contexts. It’s crucial to note that the major black Jazz composers, improvisors, and arrangers of the 1920s and ‘30s (Jelly Roll Morton, Ellington, Sidney Bechet, Art Tatum, Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins) were very adept at using these sources while also creating and improvising entirely new ways of expressing melodic lyricism and ‘pop’ song forms such as Louis Armstrong’s brilliant inventions of ‘scat’ singing and ‘swing’ instrumental styles.

Out of this historical maelstrom of multinational aesthetic and cultural traditions and conceptions, Monk consciously critiqued, individually reworked, and creatively extended and subverted the conventions of 20th century modernist and vernacular sources (including those of ‘Bebop’) to forge his own vision of what constituted ‘modern music.’ The first principle was a reliance and insistence on changing the sound of the piano (and by extension other instrumental voices in the ensemble) through an entirely new approach to note articulation, timbral dynamics, and use of temporal/spatial elements in his own improvisations and composing material for other musicians in his groups. As a result many early listeners to Monk’s music--musicians, critics, and general listeners alike-- thought that Monk was not a very technically accomplished pianist (again in the strictly Western European traditional/classical terms which were the canonical norm in the United States).26 This misunderstanding and profound ignorance of the actual sources of Monk’s methods and approach to instrumental expression and compositional structure was an impediment to many people in jazz circles until the critical and listening Jazz public (and many musicians as well) finally ‘caught up’ to many of Monk’s innovations by the late 1950s. By then Monk was already an established twenty-five year jazz veteran whose once radical contributions to voicing, phrasing, and tempo were finally the ‘new modern mainstream’ of the Jazz tradition.

The extraordinary recordings that Monk made from 1955-1965 only further solidified and cemented this reputation and suddenly made his work de rigueur for the young, emerging innovators and radicals of the period. In 1955 Monk finally began to receive the commercial attention (and monetary success) that had previously eluded him without compromising himself by ‘going commercial’ in any way as an artist. This reality completely validated Monk’s famous assertion that one must ‘play [your] own way’ and ensured that he would enter the rarefied pantheon of the greatest musicians and composers in the history of his art completely on his own terms. It was a profound lesson in artistic integrity, dedication to craft, and disciplined perseverance that would serve as a beacon for an entire new generation of gifted, ambitious players and composers in the 1960s, the ‘70s, and beyond who recognized that Monk’s greatest and most significant contributions lie not only in his fierce aesthetic commitment but in not allowing himself to be corrupted and distracted by the relentless demands and pressures of the marketplace. The result was one of the most singular, influential bodies of work in the entire canon of 20th century music.

(This essay is an excerpt from a new book-in-progess by Kofi Natambu entitled A BRAND NEW BAG: How African Americans Revolutionized U.S. Culture & Changed the World, 1955-1975)


MILES DAVIS 1926-1991

“That period between the mid-1950s and the mid-1960s was an era in which the resources of Jazz were being consolidated and refined and the range of its sources broadened. Some of the Jazz of this period reached across class and age lines and unified black audiences. Young people could see this music as “bad” in much the same sense that James Brown used the word, and older black people could see its links to black tradition.”
--John Szwed

To the yang of ‘hard bop’ Davis brought stillness, melodic beauty, and understatement; to the yin of ‘cool’ he brought rich sonority, blues feeling, and an enriched rhythmic capacity that moved beyond swing to funk. By refusing to color-code either his music or his audience, Davis rose at the end of the 1950s to the summit of artistic excellence.”
--Marsha Bayles

“What is there to say about the instrument? It’s my voice—that’s all it is…”
--Miles Davis

On July 17, 1955 at the second annual Newport Jazz Festival Davis was literally invited at the last minute to join a group of prominent Jazz musicians in a staged twenty minute jam session that had been organized by the Festival’s famed music director, impresario, and promoter George Wein as part as an “opening act” for the then highly popular white headliner Dave Brubeck. Scheduled merely as a quick programming lead-in to stage changes between featured performances by the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ), the Count Basie and Duke Ellington Orchestras, Lester Young, and Brubeck, nothing special was planned in advance for this short set which, like most jam sessions, was completely improvised by the musicians performing onstage. Davis was then the least well known musician in the assembled group which was made up of Thelonious Monk, individuals from the MJQ, and other individual members of various groups playing in the festival. Wein just happened to be a big fan of Davis and added him because he was “a melodic bebopper” and a player who, in Wein’s view, could reach a larger audience than most other musicians because of the haunting romantic lyricism and melodic richness of his style. Wein’s insight turned out to be prophetic. Despite the fact that most of the mainstream audience on hand had only a vague idea of who Davis was, he was a standout sensation in the jam session and his searing performance was one of the most talked about highlights of the festival. Appearing in an elegant white seersucker sport coat and a small black bow tie, thus already demonstrating the sleek, sharp sartorial style that quickly because his trademark (and led to his eventual appearance on the covers of many fashion magazines in the U.S., Europe, and Asia), Davis captivated the festival throng with haunting, dynamic solos and brilliant ensemble playing on both slow ballads and intensely uptempo quicksilver tunes alike. Taking complete command of the setting with his understated elegance and relaxed yet naturally dramatic stage presence, the handsome and charismatic Davis breezed through two famous and musically daunting compositions by Thelonious Monk (“Hackensack” and “Round Midnight”), and then ended his part of the program by playing an impassioned bluesy solo on a well-known Charlie Parker composition entitled “Now is the Time.” which Davis had originally recorded with Bird in 1945 That cinched it. He was a hit. Miles had returned from almost complete oblivion to becoming a much talked about and heralded star seemingly overnight (of course this personal and professional recognition had been over a decade in the making). After a long, arduous struggle as both an artist and individual that began in his hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois when he started to play trumpet at the age of 13 in 1939, Miles Davis had finally “arrived.” For the first time since 1950 he was completely clean and off drugs. No longer addicted Miles now played with a bravura command and creative clarity that he had been fervently searching for well before he had become addicted to heroin. It would be the beginning of many more incredible triumphs and struggles that would catapult the fiery young trumpet player to the very pinnacle of his profession and global fame and wealth over the next ten years.

On hand for that historical summer concert in Newport, RI. was George Avakian a young music producer from the large corporate recording company called Columbia (now Sony). Miles had been after Avakian for over five years trying to get a recording contract with Columbia which was then the largest and most successful music company in the United States, but Avakian had been cautiously waiting for a sign that Davis had conquered his personal problems and was ready to commit fulltime to his music. Clearly Miles was now ready. Avakian’s brother Aram whispered to George during the concert that he should sign Davis now, before he became a big hit and signed with a rival company instead. Miles himself was nonplussed about the critical acclaim he was now receiving, wondered what the fuss was all about and maintained that he was simply playing like he always had. While there was some truth to this assertion it was also clear that Miles highly disciplined demeanor, new responsible attitude, and impeccable playing now indicated his intent on making a new commitment to living a life strictly devoted to his art. Avakian and Columbia representatives met with Davis two days later on July 19, 1955 to sign him to a new contract with the understanding that Davis would first fulfill the remainder of his contract with the Prestige label by doing a series of recordings in the fall of 1955 and the spring and fall of 1956 while at the same time making his first recordings with Columbia that would not be released until after the public appearance of the Prestige sessions. These small label recordings for Prestige would immediately become famously known as the “missing g” sessions (so-called for the dropping of the letter ‘g’ in the titles of these records, (e.g. Walkin’, Workin’, Cookin’, Steamin’, and Relaxin’). Featuring Miles’ first great, legendary Quintet this young aggregation (the oldest member of the group was 33 years old) featured then relative unknowns John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. From the very beginning this group and Miles himself would remake Jazz history and become an innovative and protean musical harbinger of great changes to come in the music as well as the general culture. As with all great musicians the creative basis and structural foundation of this new cultural and aesthetic intervention would be Miles unique, highly individual sound on his chosen instrument, the trumpet.His was a sound that embraced the entire history of Jazz trumpet in its meticulous attention to the demanding technical and physical requirements of the instrument yet also sought a creative and expressive approach that openly allowed for more subtle emotional nuances to emerge from his playing than were common traditionally on trumpet. Miles brought a highly burnished lyricism that was both deeply introspective and fiercely driving all at once. A major characteristic of Davis’s playing was a new and different way of phrasing in which a major emphasis and focus on the relationship of space to tempo and melody (and the intervals between notes) became the hallmark of his style. In the process Davis dramatically redefined and expanded the expressive and creative range of the tonal palette and instrumental timbre of the trumpet. By shifting the traditional emphasis from the heraldic and bravura functions of the instrument to a more diverse and expansive range of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic ideas Miles was able to openly express the anguished conflict, sardonic irony, restless desire for cultural and social change, and questing existential/psychological anxiety of the modern age. This intense attention to the broader expressive possibilities of both musical improvisation and composition also turned the feverish search for new forms and methods that characterized the era into a parallel personal quest for discovering a wider range of emotional and psychological contexts in which to play. The sonic exploration of the complexities and ambiguities of joy, rage, love, and melancholia was a major hallmark of Miles’s style. Central to Miles’s vision and sensibility was an equally exhilarating appreciation for the balanced expressive and intellectual relationship between relaxation and tension in his music. By focusing specifically on the spatial and rhythmic dimensions of melodic invention Miles developed musical methods that called for, and often resulted in, a precise minimalist approach to playing in which each note (or corresponding chord) carried an implied reference to every other note or chord in a particular sequence of musical phrases. Through a technical command of breath control and timbral dynamics induced by his embouchure and unorthodox fingering of valves Miles could maintain or manipulate tonal pitch at the softest or loudest volumes. By creating stark dialectical contrasts in his sound through alternately attacking, slurring, syncopating or manipulating long tones in particular ensemble or orchestral settings ( a technical device Miles often referred to as “contrary motion." Miles was able to convey great feeling and emotion through an economy of phrasing and musical rests. This rapt attention to allowing space or the silence between note intervals to dramatically assert itself as much or more as the notes themselves created great anticipation in his audience as to how these tensions would be resolved (or not). In this respect the insightful observation by the French Jazz critic and music historian Andre Hodeir that Miles’s sound tends toward a discovery of ecstasy is a rather apt description of Davis’s expressive approach. What emerged from Miles’s intensely comprehensive investigation of the creative possibilities of the instrument was a deep and lifelong appreciation for the tonal, sonic, and textural dimensions of playing and composing music. These aesthetic concerns as well as Miles’s innovative creative solutions to the rigorous challenges of improvisational and composed ensemble structures alike in the modern Jazz tradition soon revolutionized all of American music, and made Davis one of the leading and most influential musician-composers in the world during the last half of the 20th century. However Davis’s widespread social, cultural, and political influence didn’t end there—especially in the black community. Davis also quickly became a social and cultural avatar whose highly personal combination of cool reserve, fiery defiance, detached alienation, intellectual independence, and striking stylistic innovation in everything from clothes to speech embodied, and largely defined for many, the ethos of ‘hip’ that pervaded the black Jazz world of the 1950s and early 1960s. But Miles, while remaining very hip, at the same time also lived and worked far beyond the insular world of hipsterism and avant-garde bohemia. He was unique in that his stance was simultaneously existentialist and engaged. As many observers, fans, scholars, friends, and critics have noted Miles became in many ways what the critic Garry Giddins called “the representative black artist.” of his era. John Szwed, Yale University music professor and author of a biography in 2002 of Miles entitled So What: The Life of Miles Davis speaks for a couple generations of writers, fans, artists and musicians when he states that by the late ‘50s, early 1960s:

“Miles was becoming the coin of the realm, cock of the walk, good copy for the tabloids, and inspiration for literary imagination. Allusions to him could turn up anywhere…Tributes to him sprang up in poems by Langston Hughes (“Trumpet Player: 52nd Street”), and Gregory Corso…Young people ostentatiously carried his albums to parties and sought out his clothing in the best men’s stores. In person, his every action was observed and read for meaning…A discourse developed around him, one that bore inordinate weight in matters of race—Miles stories—narratives about his inner drives, his demons, his pain, and his ambition. Invariably, his stories climaxed with a short comment, crushingly delivered in a husky imitation of the man’s voice, capped by some obscenity…He was the man.”

Among many black people Davis’s outspoken, defiant social stance and hip, charismatic aura signified a profound shift in cultural values and attitudes in the national black community that also had a lasting political significance and influence. This was especially true for the emerging adolescent youth and radical young adults of the era whose overt displays of rebellion and defiance of white society’s racism and repression were becoming pervasive with the rise of the Civil Rights, and later Black Power, movements. Miles quickly became a major symbol of this modern revolutionary spirit in African American culture and was seen by many as an important artistic leader in this struggle and its widespread social and political demands for respect, justice, equality, and freedom for African Americans that marked the period. Thus it is not surprising that many of the various musical aesthetic(s) that Davis devised and expressed during the late ‘50s and throughout the ‘60s consciously sought to advance specifically new ideas about the structural, formal, and expressive dimensions of the modernist tradition in contemporary Jazz music. These changes would openly challenge many of the orthodoxies of this tradition in terms of both form and content while at the same time asserting a radically different set of ideological and aesthetic values about the intellectual and cultural worth, use, and intent of the music that in attitude and style sought to resist or go beyond standard notions of both high art and commercial popular culture. Simultaneously however, Davis sought to consciously establish an even more socially intimate relationship with his black audience (and especially its youthful members) that would embody and hopefully expand Davis’s views on the broad necessity for deeply rooted political and cultural change within the African American community and the U.S. as a whole.

In the quest to critique many of the philosophical assumptions governing conventional modernist discourse in art while still retaining a fundamental aesthetic connection to other important aspects and principles of modernism—especially those having to do with with the continuous necessity of creative change and revision—Davis epitomized the ‘progressive’ African American Jazz musician’s desire to use black vernacular sources, ideas, and values to engage these modernist traditions and principles on his/her own independent social, cultural, and intellectual terms. In such major recordings from the 1957-1967 period as his orchestral masterpieces Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, and Sketches of Spain (made in collaboration with his longtime friend and colleague, the white composor and arranger Gil Evans), and his equally significant and highly influential small group Quintet and Sextet recordings, Milestones, Kind of Blue, Live at the Blackhawk, My Funny Valentine, Four & More, E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Live in Berlin, Live in Tokyo, Live at the Plugged Nickel, and Nefertiti, Davis was at the forefront of those African American artists of the period in all the arts who were feverishly looking for and often finding fresh, new modes of pursuing aesthetic innovation and social change. By dialectically synthesizing and extending ideas, strategies, methods, and structures culled from such disparate sources as 20th century classical music, the blues, R & B, and many different stylistic forms from the Jazz tradition (i.e. Swing, Bebop, ‘Cool’ and ‘Hard Bop’ etc.)—many of which Davis himself had played a pivotal role in developing and popularizing—Miles helped bring about a new creative synthesis of modern and vernacular expressions that greatly changed our perceptions of what American music was and could be.

(This essay is an excerpt from a new book-in-progress by Kofi Natambu entitled A BRAND NEW BAG: How African Americans Revolutionized U.S. Culture & Changed the World, 1955-1975)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

AsianWeek Endorses Obama

AsianWeek's cover story this week features the staff's endorsement of Obama. The article points out that the mainstream media polls don't accurately portray the opinions of Asian Pacific Americans.

Here's a link to the story and the article pasted in below:

Asians for Obama!

By: AsianWeek Staff, Feb 21, 2008

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama scored a triumphant landslide win Tuesday in his native Hawai‘i, the state with the largest percentage of Asian/Pacific Islanders in America. Obama garnered 76 percent of the vote in Hawai‘i, which has an APA population of almost 71 percent.

This win is only the latest real evidence that Asian Americans are moving decisively toward a candidate whose platform is change. Former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, who served in Bill Clinton’s Cabinet, also endorsed Obama, calling him the only candidate who will both “change and unite America.”

Obama’s candidacy stands not just for change, but the ability to make change. That is the message which resonates with Asian Americans: We want change, and we have the intelligence and ability to make change happen. Indeed, the simple act of voting provides a chance for Asian Americans to do something to make change. And, as Tuesday illustrated, they’re doing it in droves.

It’s sad that the mainstream news media is so out of touch with our community, that their reports have consistently challenged Obama’s support among Asian Americans. Using polls of questionable validity, they have splayed on about Asian Americans widely supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton. But those pollsters have always misread the APA vote. The problem is methodology: English-only polls undercount those who speak primarily an Asian language. Multilingual polls underrepresent English-speaking Asian Americans.

No doubt, the diversity of language and culture make it difficult to gauge APA political sentiment, but this calls for more careful methodology, not the false media hype about Asian Americans voting against Obama. Even Time magazine was momentarily carried away in the hysteria, jumping to the conclusion that AsianWeek had endorsed Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, despite AsianWeek’s strong front-page endorsement of Barack Obama (Time quickly issued a correction).

It is true that many Asian immigrants arrived in America during the 1990s, making them more familiar with Bill Clinton’s presidency. But no one should discount how Obama has energized APA political involvement to levels we have never seen before, particularly among the next generation of young Asian Americans.

Obama has brought tangible hope to all Americans. The reality of Asian American support for Obama presages the destiny of this country. Within our lifetimes, most Americans will be people of color, including the president of the United States.


MALCOLM X (born May 19, 1925) was assassinated on this date (February 21, 1965) in New York city. He was 39 years old. Please remember his profound life and work by honoring and extending his legacy.

A link to a biography of Malcolm X.

A link to Malcolm X's official website.

A few quotes from Malcolm X.

Further reading
By Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. With the assistance of Alex Haley.
New York: Grove Press, 1965.
By Any Means Necessary: Speeches, Interviews, and a Letter by Malcolm X. George Breitman, ed. New York: Pathfinder, 1970.
The End of White World Supremacy: Four Speeches by Malcolm X. Benjamin Karim, ed.
New York: Seaver Books, 1971.
Malcolm X: February 1965, The Final Speeches. Steve Clark, ed.
New York: Pathfinder, 1992.
Malcolm X: The Last Speeches. Bruce Perry, ed.
New York: Pathfinder, 1989.
Malcolm X Speaks Out (A Callaway BoundSound Book with Compact Disc). Nan Richardson, Catherine Chermayeff, and Antoinette White, eds.
Kansas City, MO: Andrews and McMeel, 1992.
Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements. George Breitman, ed. New York: Merit Publishers, 1965.
Notes from the Frontlines: Excerpts from the Great Speeches of Malcolm X (Compact Disc). BMG Music, 1992.
The Speeches of Malcolm X at Harvard. Archie Epps, ed. New York: Morrow, 1968.
The Wisdom of Malcolm X (Compact Discs). Black Label, 1991.

Parks, Gordon. The White Devil's Day is Almost Over. Life, May 31, 1963.
Speakman, Lynn. Who Killed Malcolm X? The Valley Advocate, November 26, 1992, pp. 3-6.
Vincent, Theodore. The Garveyite Parents of Malcolm X. The Black Scholar, vol. 20, #2, April, 1989.
Handler ,M.S.Malcolm X cites role in U.N. Fight. New York Times, Jan 2, 1965; pg. 6, 1.
Montgomery, Paul L. Malcolm X a Harlem Idol on Eve of Murder Trial. New York Times, Dec 6, 1965; pg. 46, 1
Bigart, Homer. Malcolm X-ism Feared by Rustin. New York Times, Mar 4, 1965; pg. 15, 1
Arnold, Martin. Harlem is Quiet as Crowds Watch Malcolm X Rites. New York Times, Feb 28, 1965; pg. 1, 2
Loomis, James. Death of Malcolm X. New York Times. Feb 27, 1965; pg. 24, 1
n/a. Malcolm X and Muslims. New York Times, Feb 21, 1965; pg. E10, 1
n/a. Malcolm X. New York Times, Feb 22, 1965; pg. 20, 1
n/a. Malcolm X Reports He Now Represents Muslim World Unit. New York Times, Oct 11, 1964; pg. 13, 1
Lelyveld, Joseph. Elijah Muhammad Rallies His Followers in Harlem. New York Times, Jun 29, 1964; pg. 1, 2
n/a. Malcolm X Woos 2 Rights Leaders. New York Times, May 19, 1964; pg. 28, 1
n/a. 1,000 In Harlem Cheer Malcolm X. New York Times, Mar 23, 1964; pg. 18, 1
Handler, M.S. Malcolm X Sees Rise in Violence. New York Times, Mar 13, 1964; pg. 20, 1
n/a. Malcolm X Disputes Nonviolence Policy. New York Times, Jun 5, 1963; pg. 29, 1
Apple, R.W. Malcolm X Silenced for Remarks On Assassination of Kennedy. New York Times, Dec 5, 1963; pg. 22, 1
Ronan, Thomas P. Malcolm X Tells Rally In Harlem Kennedy Fails to Help Negroes. New York Times, Jun 30, 1963; pg. 45, 1
n/a. 4 Are Indicted Here in Malcolm X Case. New York Times, Mar 11, 1965; pg. 66, 1
Handler, M.S. Malcolm X Seeks U.N. Negro Debate. Special to The New York Times; New York Times, Aug 13, 1964; pg. 22, 1

Acuna, Rodolfo. Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.
Alkalimat, Abdul. Malcolm X for Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers, 1990.
Als, Hilton. "The Women." (a chapter on Malcolm's mother)
Asante, Molefi K. Malcolm X as Cultural Hero: and Other Afrocentric Essays. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1993.
Baldwin, James. One Day, When I Was Lost: A Scenario Based On Alex Haley's "The Autobiography Of Malcolm X". New York: Dell, 1992.
Breitman, George. The Last Year of Malcolm X: The Evolution of a Revolutionary. New York: Pathfinder, 1967.
Breitman, George, and Herman Porter. The Assassination of Malcolm X. New York: Pathfinder, 1976.
Brisbane, Robert. Black Activism. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson Press, 1974.
Carew, Jan. Ghosts In Our Blood: With Malcolm X in Africa, England, and the Caribbean. Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1994.
Carson, Claybourne. Malcolm X: The FBI File. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1991.
Carson, Claybourne, et al. The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader. New York: Penguin, 1991.
Clarke, John Henrik, ed. Malcolm X; the Man and His Times. New York: Macmillan, 1969.
Cleage, Albert B., and George Breitman. Myths About Malcolm X: Two Views. New York: Merit, 1968.
Collins, Rodney P. The Seventh Child. New York: Dafina; London: Turnaround, 2002.
Cone, James H. Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or A Nightmare. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991.
Davis, Thulani. Malcolm X: The Great Photographs. New York: Stewart, Tabon and Chang, 1992.
DeCaro, Louis A. Malcolm and the Cross: The Nation of Islam, Malcolm X, and Christianity. New York: New York University, 1998.
DeCaro, Louis A. On The Side of My People: A Religious Life of Malcolm X. New York: New York University, 1996.
Doctor, Bernard Aquina. Malcolm X for Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers, 1992.
Dyson, Michael Eric. Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Essien-Udom, E. U. Black Nationalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962.
Evanzz, Karl. The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1992.
Franklin, Robert Michael. Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment And Social Justice In African-American Thought. Minneapolis, MN : Fortress Press, 1990.
Friedly, Michael. The Assassination of Malcolm X. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992.
Gallen, David, ed. Malcolm A to Z: The Man and His Ideas. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1992.
Gallen, David, ed. Malcolm X: As They Knew Him. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1992.
Garrow, David. Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. New York: Vintage, 1988.
Goldman, Peter. The Death and Life of Malcolm X. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979.
Hampton, Henry, and Steve Fayer. Voices of Freedom: Oral Histories from the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s Through the 1980s. New York: Bantam, 1990.
Harding, Vincent, Robin D. G. Kelley, and Earl Lewis. We Changed the World: African Americans, 1945-1970. The Young Oxford History of African Americans, v. 9. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Hill, Robert A. Marcus Garvey: Life and Lessons. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987.
Jamal, Hakim A. From The Dead Level: Malcolm X and Me. New York: Random House, 1972.
Jenkins, Robert L. The Malcolm X Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.
Karim, Benjamin, with Peter Skutches and David Gallen. Remembering Malcolm. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992.
Kly, Yussuf Naim, ed. The Black Book: The True Political Philosophy of Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz). Atlanta: Clarity Press, 1986.
Kondo, Baba Zak A. Conspiracys: Unravelling the Assassination of Malcolm X. Washington, D.C.: Nubia Press, 1993.
Leader, Edward Roland. Understanding Malcolm X: The Controversial Changes in His Political Philosophy. New York: Vantage Press, 1993.
Lee, Spike with Ralph Wiley. By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of The Making Of Malcolm X. New York, N.Y.: Hyperion, 1992.
Lincoln, C. Eric. The Black Muslims in America. Boston, Beacon. 1961.
Lomax, Louis. To Kill a Black Man. Los Angeles: Holloway House, 1968.
Lomax, Louis. When the Word is Given. Cleveland: World Publishing, 1963.
Maglangbayan, Shawna. Garvey, Lumumba, and Malcolm: National-Separatists. Chicago, Third World Press 1972.
Marable, Manning. On Malcolm X: His Message & Meaning. Westfield, N.J.: Open Media, 1992.
Martin, Tony. Race First. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1976.
Myers, Walter Dean. Malcolm X By Any Means Necessary. New York: Scholastic, 1993.
Natambu, Kofi. The Life and Work of Malcolm X. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2002.
Perry, Bruce. Malcolm: The Life of A Man Who Changed Black America. New York: Station Hill, 1991.
Randall, Dudley and Margaret G. Burroughs, ed. For Malcolm; Poems on The Life and The Death of Malcolm X. Preface and Eulogy By Ossie Davis. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1967.
Rickford, Russell J. Betty Shabazz: A Remarkable Story of Survival and Faith Before and After Malcolm X. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2003.
Sales, William W. From Civil Rights To Black Liberation: Malcolm X And The Organization Of Afro-American Unity. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1994.
Shabazz, Ilyasah. Growing Up X. New York: One World, 2002.
Strickland, William, et al. Malcolm X: Make It Plain. Penguin Books, 1994.
Terrill, Robert. Malcolm X: Inventing Radical Judgment. Michigan State University Press, 2004.
T'Shaka, Oba. The Political Legacy of Malcolm X. Richmond, Calif.: Pan Afrikan Publications, 1983.
Tuttle, William. Race Riot: Chicago, The Red Summer of 1919. New York: Atheneum, 1970.
Vincent, Theodore. Black Power and the Garvey Movement. San Francisco: Ramparts, 1972.
Wolfenstein, Eugene Victor. The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution. London: Free Association Books, 1989.
Wood, Joe, ed. Malcolm X: In Our Own Image. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.
Woodward, C. Vann. Origins of the New South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967.

Don't Believe What CNN Says About Asian Americans and Barack Obama

I found out about this CNN story from a member of the Asian American Journalists Association. I hadn't heard about this report. As always, beware of stories saying that Asian Americans wouldn't vote for Barack Obama. Not true!! There's now a petition circulating in the Asian American community asking for a new segment with balanced reporting. Here's the story from New America Media:

Asian Americans Outraged by CNN Election Report

New America Media, News Report, Jun Wang, Posted: Feb 14, 2008

Editor's Note: A CNN report that blames Asians' support of Clinton on their hesitancy to vote for a black president is insulting and inaccurate, argue Asian Americans.

Asian Americans are outraged over a recent CNN report that attributes their support for Hillary Clinton to their hesitancy to vote for a black president.

The three-minute video piece, “Asian Americans to Vote for Hillary Clinton Across the Nation,” aired on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees on Feb. 8.

People with different Asian accents unanimously spoke out one name -- “(Hillary) Clinton” -- when asked for whom they planned to vote. The report identified two major causes for Asian Americans’ support of Clinton, according to viewers: that they were “fearful of a black presidential candidate and/or fearful of change.”

Samson Fu, 27, a health care project manager with no former political experience, started circulating a petition among the Asian community on Feb. 10. The petition gained sponsorship from the “80-20 Initiative,” an Asian American political action committee headquartered in New York.

The petition called CNN’s coverage “a misleading portrayal behind why 75 percent of Asian Americans voted for Sen. Hillary Clinton. Gary Tuchman (the reporter) seems to insinuate those Asian American votes as racially motivated and/or fearful of change.”

On the contrary, the petition points out that Asian Americans, especially first generation immigrants, “by their choice to come to a new land, are by and large the least fearful of changes.”

It urges CNN to take the video off of their Web site and run another segment with balanced reporting and include the rise of political cohesiveness within the Asian American community.

The petition collected more than 2,000 signatures and about 900 comments in two days. A copy of the petition letter, with more than 800 pages of signatures and comments, has been sent to CNN.

Samson Fu and S.B. Woo, the former lieutenant governor of Delaware and founder of the “80-20 Initiative,” have been in conversation with CNN’s top executives. John Liu, New York City councilman, plans to hold a press conference late this week if CNN doesn’t respond to the petition.

The CNN video is “biased, more of an opinion piece than investigative reporting,” Fu told New America Media. “CNN should be held responsible for making Asians appear racist, which is not true. Fu added that many of his friends were equally insulted by the report. “I initiated the petition to capture their feelings.”

Asian American viewers were also critical of CNN’s choice to interview only Asian Americans with heavy accents. One comment on the petition asks, “What is up with white people choosing only the non-fluent Asian population for the interviews… making Asian people look like dumb-asses, who don’t know English? I’m thinking prejudice and racism… What do you think?”

Another comment on the petition agrees, saying, “Many Asian Americans are educated and speak English very well. Perhaps you should represent our community more accurately.”

From Filipinos to Asian Indians, Asian Americans are a diverse group, says Samson Fu. They come from dozens of countries and cultural backgrounds. In cities like Seattle, Fu adds, it isn’t hard to interview a larger variety of Asians – instead of just talking to people in a Japanese teahouse.

Born in Hong Kong, Fu came to the United States at the age of five and spent 19 years in South Carolina before moving to Los Angeles three years ago. He says he didn’t know any other Asians in South Carolina.

“South Carolina’s population is black and white,” he says, “but I experienced no racial tension there at all. My black friends invited me home and cooked for me. They treated me like everyone else.”

As an Asian American growing up with black friends in South Carolina, Fu says he appreciates the idea of having a black president of the United States. “If you’ve ever traveled outside this country, you know that when people talk about America, they think of Caucasians, white people,” says Fu. “A black president will let people know we’re a multiracial country.”

Asian Americans have supported Clinton in large numbers for a variety of reasons, Fu argues in his petition. “One important factor in Asian Americans’ preference of Sen. Clinton over Sen. Obama may be the endorsement of Sen. Clinton by the 80-20 Initiative, because she signed an iron-clad promise to bring equal opportunity in workplaces for all Asian Americans a month and a half before Obama did.”

The election is “not about race and skin color,” Fu adds. “We African Americans, Asian Americans and other racial groups are one America.”

S. B. Woo, who was born in Shanghai and moved to the United States in 1956 at the age of 18, shares Fu’s perspective of the unity of Americans and is hoping for a “win-win” resolution with CNN.

But with the American civil rights movement deeply rooted in his heart, Woo is more interested in uniting all Asians. His wish, reflected in the name “80-20 Initiative,” is to direct 80 percent of Asian Americans’ votes in one direction for the equal opportunity of all Asian Americans and the benefit of the nation.

When he moved here in the 1950s, Asians represented less than one percent of the American population. They were almost invisible. In half a century, Asian Americans have increased to more than four percent of the U.S. population, but their voices have still largely gone unheard.

One comment posted by Jo Ann from North Royalton, Ohio on CNN’s website touches on the invisibility of Asians, a race that she says “hasn’t been considered.” “It does seem that whenever we talk about race we seem to forget about the Asian-American population,” she writes. “I often wonder why it is that they never seem to complain about being left out. Shame on us for not considering them without being prompted!”

Woo says he has learned a lesson from “older Asian Americans” who he says surrendered too easily in the face of challenges. When he immigrated to the United States, African Americans were suffering greatly from discrimination. But they fought back and gained from the civil rights movement. Asian Americans, he says, also need to stand up.

“We Asians benefit from blacks. But we should not take it for granted,” he says, stressing the need for Asian Americans to take action to realize their own dreams.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Obama, Clinton & White male voters

This is a very insightful and highly informative analysis of the racial and gender dynamics of this Democratic Party election by Earl Ofari Hutchinson a longtime black political journalist, author, and activist from California. Check out his critical and trenchant analysis of the DP, Obama, Clinton, and the role of white male voting bloc. It's not only right on target and speaks to something that I've also been concerned about but it's particularly prescient on a number of levels with regard to the still very powerful realities of racism and sexism in the U.S. and their ongoing profound impact on American politics...

The Hutchinson Political Report

A hard hitting news and commentary blog on race and politics in America. The Hutchinson Report features weekly commentary on hot button national issues by political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson.


What to Make of Obama’s Strange Bedfellows, Namely Blacks and White Males

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

This is an election with some strange things happening. One of the strangest is the penchant for so many white males to join with African-American voters in a few primaries to back Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. It’s strange not because of anything Obama has said or done to get so many white males behind him. It’s strange because of the possible motive many of the men that are voting for him. Let’s put it this way. Are they voting for him because they truly buy his flowery pitch of hope, change and unity. Or, is there something darker, and more insidious at work here. The something is the deep, persistent, and widespread notion among many men that a woman is not fit to hold the highest office especially if that woman is named Hillary.

Males make up slightly more than forty percent of the American electorate, and of that percent, white males make up thirty six percent, or one in three American voters. They have been the staunchest Republican backers since Ronald Reagan’s trounce of Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Without their solid support in 2000, Democratic Presidential contender Al Gore would have easily won the White House, and the Florida vote debacle would have been a meaningless sideshow. In 2004, Bush swept Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in every one of the states of the Old Confederacy and three out of four of the Border States. He grabbed more than 60 percent of the white male vote nationally. In the South, he got more than 70 percent of their vote. That insured another Bush White House.

Male voters gave not just Bush but Republican Presidents Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon the decisive margin of victory over their Democrat opponents in their presidential races. The majority of them that voted for the GOP presidents were middle-to upper-income, college educated, and lived in a suburban neighborhood. This closely parallels the demographic of the men that are voting for Obama. But at the same time, fewer than one in five white males labeled themselves as liberal.

The reasons for the intense and unshakeable loyalty of working and middle-class men to the GOP are not hard to find. The gap was first identified and labeled in the 1980 contest between Reagan and Carter. That year Reagan got more than a 20 percent bulge in the margin of male votes he got over Clinton. Women voters by contrast split almost evenly down the middle in backing both Reagan and Carter. Most men made no secret about why they liked Reagan and what they perceived that he stood for. The tough talk, his apparent firmness and refusal to compromise on issues of war and peace fit neatly into the stereotypical, male qualities of professed courage, determination, and toughness.

Then there’s the thing that’s even less politically and gender correct to admit and that’s that the bias of many men toward women in high positions is so deep seated that they refuse to believe that they are even biased. Psychologists have testified in countless gender bias law suits that the “unconscious bias” of male managers against women, especially against women attaining power positions. The refusal of men to promote women has been the biggest factor fueling gender discrimination in corporate hiring and promotions. Male managers in charge of promotion and pay decisions unwittingly engage in "spontaneous" and "automatic" stereotyping and "in-group favoritism" that results in the most desirable jobs at the company being filled by white males.

Even if unconscious gender bias affects only a relatively small percent of men in a close contest between a male and female candidate in which the two are rated fairly evenly in competence, qualifications and experience, the refusal of many men to vote for her could harm her candidacy. Female candidates offset the male bias by getting solid support from women voters.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

posted by The Hutchinson Political Report @ 4:51 PM


Democrats Pose Greater Peril to Obama or Clinton than GOP
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

There was absolutely no surprise at the results of Super Tuesday. This writer flatly said days before the first vote was cast that Super Tuesday would be anything but super for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, and that neither would or could deliver the knockout punch.
There are two colossal reasons that virtually preordained the muddled, confused and frustrating outcome for the two Democratic presidential contenders. The first is the Democrat’s winner-not-take-all proportional system and the system of super delegates that they have dumped onto the primaries. Super delegates are at large delegates and can pretty much vote for whomever they want, and under the proportional system delegates can be divvied up according to the vote total that the respective candidate gets in Congressional districts. The idea behind that is to bring democracy with a small d to the vote process and snatch the decision about who gets the big prize out of deal making party bosses at the national convention.

But the first reason for the Democrat’s Super Tuesday muddle pales when stacked up against the second reason. And that’s the fast emerging and much alarming polarization among Democratic voters, or put another way, the hard lines between those backing Obama and those backing Clinton and the reasons why they’re backing them. Exit polls showed two clear things. The overwhelming majority of African-Americans in the South back Obama. The overwhelming majority of Latinos in the Western states back Clinton. The other is that white men in increasingly bigger numbers are backing Obama. And Democratic voters are supporting their picks with passion and zeal.

Latinos and blacks are the two big, strategically placed, and dependable voting blocs for the Democrats. In every election back to Lyndon Baines Johnson’s smash victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964, blacks have been the loyalist of loyal foot soldiers for the Democrats. With the surge in Latino voting numbers in the past two decades, Latinos have just as important to the Democrats and have been nearly as loyal to them as blacks.

The tormenting question for Clinton then is if she eventually gets the grand Democratic prize will African-American voters who have virtually turned their tout of Obama into a messianic crusade back her with the same fervor and more importantly numbers? A lackluster and lukewarm turnout by blacks for her would spell big trouble for her and the Democrats in November.

The equally tormenting question for Obama is if he eventually gets the Democratic grand prize will Latino voters back him with the same fervor and numbers as they did Clinton? The same rule applies to him as Clinton. A lackluster and indifferent turnout by Latinos would spell big trouble for him and the Democrats in November.
Then there’s the question of white male voters. They make up nearly forty percent of the American electorate. In every election dating back to Ronald Reagan’s big wins over the Democrats in the 1980s and since, they have powered GOP victories in national elections and more importantly have been the sure ticket of GOP presidents to the White House. Bush got a whopping sixty four percent of the white male vote, and he did even better among white males in the South. Their sudden like of Obama then is suspect. The perplexing question is are they voting for Obama because they are truly sold on his message of hope and change, or is there a darker reason? And that is that they hate the thought of a woman bagging the highest office, especially if that woman is named Hillary.

A dirty secret little of the campaign just may be that in this age of supposed gender enlightenment when men profess profusely that they have no problem backing a woman for president many secretly do. This is not idle speculation. Polls have consistently shown that while whites are virtually unanimous in saying that they have no problem voting for an African-American for president, far fewer say the same about a woman.

When the dust finally settles in the fall, the eventual GOP presidential nominee will do his internal fence mending in the party, and will placate the warring other presidential opponents and competing factions. He will have the usual king’s ransom campaign chest, the spin of Fox and other major cable TV news outlets and conservative talk radio jocks, the solid backing of millions of conservatives and Christian evangelicals, the sure electoral votes of most of the South and the heartland states, the X factor of race and gender working in his favor against Hillary and Obama, and the hunger to maintain Republican dominance.

The last thing that the Democrats need is a fractured Democratic Party that’s hopelessly split into two feuding, finger pointing and irreconcilable factions. That could pose an even greater peril to their bid to take back the White house than the GOP. That possibility is looming bigger and bigger.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

posted by The Hutchinson Political Report @ 8:33 AM

Wisconsin Victory for Obama

Here's a New York Times article "Wisconsin Hands Obama a Victory"

This thoroughly decisive victory in Wisconsin tonight means that Obama is not only leading in the national delegate count but holds ALL THE CARDS in determining who will be the Democratic Party nominee for President in 2008! The huge importance of this win--an astonishing ninth in a row since 'Super Tuesday' just two weeks ago--cannot be overstated: For the first time in this battle Hillary Clinton is on the ropes and now MUST WIN AND WIN BY BIG MARGINS the Texas and Ohio primaries coming up on March 4, and the Pennsylvania primary on April 22 OR IT'S ALL OVER FOLKS and Obama has the nomination in the bag. IF Obama can win at least ONE of these three major primaries it will be be damn near mathematically IMPOSSIBLE for Clinton to win the delegate race and if Obama wins at least TWO of these primaries IT WILL DEFINITELY BE ALL OVER and he will emerge victorious. The fact that Obama absolutely blew Hillary away tonight by nearly 20 points means that because the awarding of delegates in the DP are based on proportional shares of the total vote in each state Hillary will now have to beat Obama by very similar margins of at least 15-20 points in the Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania races.

The extraordinary truth is that Obama is now on the verge of successfully pulling off the BIGGEST POLITICAL UPSET IN U.S. HISTORY! Meanwhile in Obama's home state of Hawaii where he born in Honolulu in 1961 he is also assured of winning his 10th straight primary victory later today...Yes, the zeitgeist is certainly speaking LOUD AND CLEAR...Seize the Time...

February 20, 2008

Wisconsin Hands Obama a Victory, the Ninth in a Row


Senator Barack Obama decisively beat Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday night, accelerating his momentum ahead of crucial primaries in Ohio and Texas and cutting into Mrs. Clinton’s support among women and union members.

With the two rivals now battling state by state over margins of victory and allotment of delegates, surveys of voters leaving the Wisconsin polls showed Mr. Obama, of Illinois, making new inroads with those two groups as well as middle-age voters and continuing to win support from white men and younger voters — a performance that yielded grim tidings for Mrs. Clinton, of New York.

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain of Arizona won a commanding victory over Mike Huckabee in the Wisconsin contest and led by a wide margin in Washington State. All but assured of his party’s nomination, Mr. McCain immediately went after Mr. Obama during a rally in Ohio, deriding “eloquent but empty” calls for change.

For Mr. Obama, Wisconsin was his ninth consecutive victory, a streak in which he has not only run up big margins in many states but also pulled votes from once-stalwart supporters of Mrs. Clinton, like low- and middle-income people and women. Voters in Hawaii were also holding caucuses, but results were not expected until Wednesday morning.

Mrs. Clinton wasted no time in signaling that she would now take a tougher line against Mr. Obama — a recognition, her advisers said, that she must act to alter the course of the campaign and define Mr. Obama on her terms.

In a speech in Ohio shortly after the polls closed in Wisconsin, she alluded to what her campaign considers Mr. Obama’s lack of experience, and his support for a health insurance plan that would not initially seek to cover all Americans.

“This is the choice we face: One of us is ready to be commander in chief in a dangerous world,” Mrs. Clinton said in the remarks, which she also planned to expand upon in a speech in New York City on Wednesday. “One of us has faced serious Republican opposition in the past — and one of us is ready to do it again.” Mrs. Clinton did not mention the Wisconsin results; she did, however, call Mr. Obama to congratulate him on the victory.

As Mrs. Clinton was speaking, Mr. Obama appeared on stage at a rally in Texas, effectively cutting her off as cable television networks dropped her in midsentence, a telling sign of the showmanship power of a front-runner.

“Houston, I think we achieved liftoff here,” Mr. Obama told a crowd of 20,000 people in that city as he hailed the voters of Wisconsin. “The change we seek is still months and miles away, and we need the good people of Texas to help us get there.”

With 90 percent of the electoral precincts in Wisconsin reporting, Mr. Obama had 58 percent of the vote to Mrs. Clinton’s 41 percent. On the Republican side, Mr. McCain had 55 percent to Mr. Huckabee’s 37 percent. And early returns in Washington State showed him with 48 percent of the vote to Mr. Huckabee’s 21 percent.

In Wisconsin, the survey of voters leaving the polls found that Democrats believed Mr. Obama would be more likely than Mrs. Clinton, by 63 percent to 37 percent, to defeat the Republican nominee in the fall.

Her latest loss narrowed even further Mrs. Clinton’s options and leaves her little, if any, room for error. Her road to victory is now a cliff walk.

By the calculation of her own aides, she now almost certainly will need to win the next two big contests, Texas and Ohio on March 4, as well as Pennsylvania on April 22 in order to maintain a viable claim to the nomination and stop so-called superdelegates from breaking for Mr. Obama. But there has been evidence this month that Mr. Obama is building momentum with each victory, and recent polls have suggested that Mrs. Clinton’s once-large lead in Ohio and Texas is shrinking.

What is more, it may not be enough at this point for Mrs. Clinton to simply win Ohio and Texas. She needs delegates to catch up with Mr. Obama; under the rules by which the Democratic Party allocates delegates, she will need to win double-digit victories to pick up enough delegates to close the gap.

Finally, Mrs. Clinton continues to struggle to find a way to try to raise questions about Mr. Obama and stop what has been a rush of voters to his side. Her Tuesday night speech about Mr. Obama’s experience level was one of her toughest yet; still, she has been making similar arguments for months now, and they have not caught fire thus far.

With his Wisconsin victory, Mr. Obama moved into a lead over Mrs. Clinton in delegates; going into the vote, he had 1,078 delegates to Mrs. Clinton’s 1,081, according to a count by The New York Times. Wisconsin had 74 pledged delegates in play, while Hawaii had 20 pledged delegates.

Although Wisconsin borders Mr. Obama’s home state, Illinois, the primary presented a challenge because of the large share of blue-collar workers, a group that he has struggled to win over. Yet the results represented a turnaround for Mr. Obama: About one-third of voters in the Democratic primary came from union households, and they split their votes evenly between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, according to a statewide exit poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky for the National Election Pool.

By contrast, in the Feb. 5 primaries in New Jersey and California, two states Mrs. Clinton won, the percentage of Democratic voters from union households was also about one-third of those surveyed by Edison/Mitofsky, but they supported Mrs. Clinton more strongly than in Wisconsin.

About 6 in 10 white men voted for Mr. Obama, while white women split evenly between him and Mrs. Clinton, the polls showed. Mrs. Clinton turned in another strong performance with voters over the age of 60, meanwhile.

In forging ahead, Clinton advisers say she is determined to win strongly among women and union members in Ohio and Texas, and cited a number of factors that they were counting on: Mrs. Clinton’s performance in televised debates in each state this month, including one in Texas on Thursday; her increasingly populist message at campaign rallies; attacks by her and her advisers on Mr. Obama’s authenticity; and her continuing portrayal of him as inexperienced.

On the Republican side, Mr. McCain declared victory in Wisconsin shortly after the polls closed and continued rolling past his last major challenger, Mr. Huckabee, toward the goal of winning the 1,191 delegates needed to seal the party’s nomination.

But surveys of voters gave evidence of misgivings about his candidacy: more than 4 in 10 voters said Mr. McCain was not conservative enough; conservative voters split their votes evenly between the two men. And Mr. Huckabee won a majority of the vote of the one-third of evangelical voters who participated in the Republican primary.

Addressing a packed ballroom in Columbus, Ohio, Mr. McCain said to cheers that he would urge the nation not to be “deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history” and warned against risking “the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate.” He did not even allude to Mrs. Clinton.

Both Democrats have been increasingly sounding populist notes recently to reflect the economic concerns of voters. In her remarks in Youngstown on Tuesday night, Mrs. Clinton allied herself with Americans working on the “night shift” — a phrase that is also the title of a new advertisement that began running in Ohio on Tuesday night. The ad ends with an image of Mrs. Clinton doing paperwork, illuminated by a lamp, as a narrator says, “She’s worked the night shift, too.”

While Mrs. Clinton drew some of her largest crowds to date in Texas, her decision to spend time away from Wisconsin troubled some of her supporters, who believed she had erred in not campaigning enough in states she lost recently, like Maine.

Mr. Obama’s audiences, meanwhile, were filled with a tapestry of supporters — young and old, black and white — many of whom said they had been following the presidential race as it unfolded in neighboring states like Iowa.

Mary Liedtke, a defense lawyer in Eau Claire, Wis., said she had been a supporter of Mrs. Clinton. But in the final weeks of the Iowa caucus campaign, she said she had become inspired by Mr. Obama’s supporters.

“Some elderly women I’ve heard say, ‘I want to see a woman president before I die,’ and I know that’s why some of them are supporting Hillary,” Ms. Liedtke said in an interview after seeing Mr. Obama last weekend in her town.

“But you know what? That’s a selfish reason to vote for a president just because you want to see a woman before you die,” she added. “What about the kids coming up? I feel we should vote for the young people.”

John M. Broder contributed reporting from Ohio, and Megan Thee from New York.