Losing Alabama — the choice between Doug Jones and Roy Moore

Who is Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones?

Not sure if his supporters care to know much beyond the two most obvious things.

He’s not his Republican opponent, Roy Moore.

He convicted the [1963 Birmingham] church bombers.”

And there’s that ridiculous campaign piece designed to convince readers how Jones is sharp on the issues most important to Black folks, and is ready to lead. Or something.

People of color seem to often find themselves caught in this kind of game.

One where your team is playing a prevent defense while losing — and it’s not even halftime — prompting your field optics to forge an alternative vision for victory: limit the amount of future damage and keep the other team’s scoring to respectable blowout margins.

I don’t fail to see this as a remix of the 2016 presidential elections where Democrats’ messaging was built on the “Clinton isn’t Trump” premise.

But in fairness, Democrats haven’t been this close to winning an Alabama Senate seat in years, and no one has yet accused Jones of preying on teenage girls.

My problem is what I don’t see when I visit Doug Jones’ campaign website: ANYTHING.

There is a disturbingly scarce amount of specific mention regarding issues unique to Alabama. I saw one, perhaps, which dealt with healthcare.

His priorities, as he calls them, could have been lifted from any Senate campaign in the country.

It’s as if Jones never walked around his own state, or his handlers presented him with a tunnel for creative freedom when crafting a message.

So, I’m going to help this discussion along by presenting two specific Alabama problems.

Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, toured cities in Alabama last week and declared the living conditions in parts of the state’s Black Belt “very uncommon in the First World.”

Alabama’s majority-Black Lowndes County has been so severely relegated to developing-world poverty status that more than a third of its residents have been tested positive for the hookworm parasite.

Meanwhile, Doug Jones reaches out to Black Alabama with this campaign ad:

But it’s not like the evangelicals and poor White people of Alabama — the state that ranks number four among its peers in household poverty and hovers around the bottom decile in national education attainment — enjoy the luxury of choice in this Tuesday’s election. They’ve made accused child predator, Roy Moore, their choice for Senate.

I can’t even fake a surprised expression about Moore being mute on hookworms in Lowndes County, or not proposing a micro-Marshall Plan for Alabama’s Black Belt as a component to his broader Make America Great Again vision.

But Moore’s supporters have been coached to know that he isn’t Doug Jones and that the fate of the Republic rests on how many abortions can be limited, how many people can carry guns and how many times a metaphorical slave-chasing, suspected pedophile can publicly praise God before he can seem more credible than all of his accusers.

I can only hope that a higher moral force will guide the victor after Tuesday.

Otherwise, Alabama will continue to lose …

song currently stuck in my head: “dark” – nicole miglis

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Atlanta, inequality, Keisha Lance Bottoms and this strange fascination with an airport

Atlanta’s mayoral race is one of those stories I should have rapped about a long time ago. Just never got around to it.

I couldn’t predict Keisha Lance Bottoms’ victory but I also didn’t think Vincent Fort — my choice — would be the next mayor.

Most of the candidates appeared neither confident nor specific about how they would extract the poor and people of color from the whirlpool of income inequality and exodus from the city with one of America’s highest Gini coefficients.

This aforementioned thought then made me consider how Tuesday’s election was going to become a two-track contest.

One — who’s going to finish outgoing mayor Kasim Reed’s job of gentrifying whatever remains of Black and Brown Atlanta.

Two — who will big businesses trust most to manage the city’s airport concessions, which generate over a billion dollars a year in retail revenue, not to mention the highly lucrative and linked airline terminal construction contracts.

From the time that the second and former wives of respective mayors William Hartsfield and Maynard Jackson won a contract to open a video arcade in an Atlanta airport terminal in 1980, to the recent scandal which found engineering firm PRAD Group raided by federal agents and the city’s chief procurement officer busted on bribery charges, Atlanta’s airport concession and construction businesses’ longstanding financial ties to city politicians have been deemed unusual, at minimum.

This is why I became curious about the airport concession businesses’ interest in supporting Keisha Bottoms’ candidacy.

I mean, big businesses don’t typically bet on horse races for feel-good humanitarian reasons.

Assuming Bottoms survives the recount called by opponent Mary Norwood, we’ll have to see how this airport relationship and city revival will play out.

But I will say that Bottoms can’t address gentrification in the manner she recently described without resolving the income inequality issue.

Stay tuned …

song currently stuck in my head: “we can live forever” – joey negro and the sunburst band

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Sunday Smack: Big, Responsible Tobacco?

Is it possible to be a “responsible company operating in a controversial industry” like tobacco?

song currently stuck in my head:“planet queen” – t rex

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To Save Society by Destroying It

al-franken-roy-moore

Evangelical White Southerners — in normal times — would cite their Christian values as they disqualify accused child molester Roy Moore’s Alabama Senate candidacy.

But … these evangelicals feel their way of life is under attack in an increasingly rotting world that’s falling under the influence of amoral Liberals. Moore is viewed as a one of the few saviors to the besieged society they cherish.

Liberals — during normal circumstances — would call for the resignation of Senator Al Franken, who’s been accused groping a woman.

But Franken is also viewed as a savior to whatever remains of a good Liberal society that’s currently under an existential attack by tyranny.

This isn’t linguistic embroidery on my part.

The current Governor of Alabama has declared herself a Moore supporter, whether or not the allegations against him are true, and justified her resolve by citing the important policies, and court decisions to be made by Senate-confirmed judges, that lie ahead.

In other words, saving society is a top-of-mind priority for the Governor.

A prominent Franken supporter and former presidential candidate — in the absence of an investigation that would filter facts from fiction in this freshly-discovered Franken allegation — attempted to find gradations of disgusting behavior with respect to sexual assault against women by saying that Franken at least apologized for his acts.

Compare that reasoning to the “it-was-a-long-time-ago” defense given to Moore.

While red and blue tribes debate over which part of molestation is less evil — sexually assaulting 14-year old girls versus doing the same to non-consenting adult women — the warring defenders of society seem to share a common mission.

To protect society by destroying it …

song currently stuck in my head: “yes lord” – hastings street jazz experience

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Donna Brazile on DNC Rigging — Lies, Realness Or What?

After looking at journalists pound the tweet button for more than a week as if it were a defibrillator — and perhaps it was — in mortal defense of the Democratic National Committee against disgraced ex-interim Chair Donna Brazile’s allegations of primary elections-rigging, I think it’s time for me to share some thoughts about simple facts that have been deliberately ignored or overlooked.

Let’s start by framing three questions.

Is there any element of truth to Brazile’s accusations?

Hell yeah. And the proof is simple we’ll get that later.

What, if anything, did Brazile get wrong?

The part about two agreements, or at least the way some journalists have spun it, doesn’t make Brazile look good.

What’s her motivation to tell on Dems today?

For the moment, Brazile’s fillip remains as much a mystery as her more recent backtracking the initial claims. I’ll place speculation to the side for this piece.

My main point helps to address the first question: the agreement Brazile referenced that gave the Clinton campaign PRE-NOMINATION CONTROL over the DNC’s operations, messaging and hiring of personnel is very real.

That’s why I’m so confused about Brazile’s backpedaling.

Instead of reading Joy Reid’s tweet novel about this episode, read the agreement for proof.

Not the the joint fundraising one that was signed in 2016.

I mean, yeah — read that, of course …

But I also want you to read the first agreement, dated August 26, 2015.

The agreement outlined how Clinton’s presidential campaign — also known as Clinton for America or CFA — will fund DNC operations with a minimum monthly “Base Amount” of $1.2 million but under certain conditions.

HFA’s obligations under this agreement, and the release of the Base Amounts each month are conditioned on the following:

One of those conditions involved hiring a DNC Communications Director deemed “acceptable” by HFA:

With respect to the hiring of a DNC Communications Director, the DNC agrees that no later than September 11, 2015 it will hire one of two candidates previously identified as acceptable to HFA.

The same “acceptable to HFA” lens applied to the hiring of DNC staff members in three departments: communications, technology and research. (Laughing) But the DNC has final say in hiring after that.

With respect to the hiring of future DNC senior staff in the communications, technology, and research departments, in the case of vacancy, the DNC will maintain the authority to make the final decision as between candidates acceptable to HFA.

August 26, 2015, folks.

More than five months before the first 2016 Democratic National Primary was held and almost a year prior to Hillary Clinton winning her party’s nomination, an agreement was signed that defined how a political candidate’s campaign team will exercise messaging and personnel control over an impartial political organization.

You don’t need a Russian hacker or Wikileaks to read the document. Just head over to NPR’s website.

The argument about whether or not Brazile had mixed up the two DNC agreements in her head quickly becomes an irrelevant exercise since the signed agreement that gave Clinton’s campaign messaging and personnel control over the DNC was took place months prior to the second agreement being finalized.

And whole I don’t want to make this piece about Bernie Sanders, it’s important to note that Sanders never entered an agreement with the DNC that had such control provisions.

The last line of defense deployed to protect what seems to be a clear case of improper campaign behavior within the Clinton camp and the DNC is the dumbest one: the agreement’s intentions toward the end of the document:

Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to violate the DNC’s obligation of impartiality and neutrality through the Nominating process. All activities performed under this agreement will be focused exclusively on preparations for the General Election and not the Democratic Primary. Further we understand you may enter into similar agreements with other candidates.

The early part of the agreement defines all this control the Clinton team would have over the DNC — in exchange for money — (laughing) and a line is tacked at the end which more or less says “We don’t mean for the agreement to appear impartial??

This is why I keep saying over and over and over and over: the DNC needs salvation, but they keep running from it …

song currently stuck in my head: “all day, all night” – carmen lundy

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Happy Born Day, Joni.

Wishing healthful birthday blessings to Joni Mitchell, who turned 74 yesterday but battling a rare and painful disease.

I’ve been playing her Ladies of the Canyon album and thinking about how her music is ageless — still enjoyed by adults of all ages. Truly one of the most captivating songwriters in music history.

Care to join me for a round of “Woodstock”?

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In Loving Remembrance of Muhal Richard Abrams

muhal-richard-abrams-dead

The passing of Muhal Richard Abrams is another one of those somber events that took me a while to process.

I have so many thoughts.

So many emotions, wrapped around memories.

Abrams’ music helped to secure my love for the avant-garde side of Jazz music.

Unlike some of you, I didn’t come out of the womb feening for Coltrane, countermelodies and abstract scales.

I grew up listening to every genre of music, with jazz being one of them.

My initial Jazz feedings came from the household, where I mostly heard Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Ben Webster.

All good stuff, but nothing exactly out there, if you know what I mean.

It wasn’t until my first listen to Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch album where my appetite for jazz began to widen.

Sure, Miles and Dizzy will always be Bad Mutha in my book.

But I also began to search for the wild stuff. Or at least a wilder variety.

And then came Abrams, in the form of “Peace on You” from his Afrisong album.

You have to be patient with me as I reminisce through a path of comparisons that may seem ridiculous today. Back then, I had no other basis for reference.

Abrams’ beautiful piano phrasing in “Peace on You” had the thoughtful soliloquy I would typically attribute to a Bill Evans piece.

That’s Evans, the pianist; not the reeds cat.

The avant-garde addiction was firmly nested in my veins after I heard Abrams’ “March of the Transients” piece. He demonstrated the chordal articulation I would normally hear on a Keith Jarrett tune, combined with lightning Cecil Taylor-like chord changes — sans the pounding.

I needed more Abrams, and found him in the album Levels and Degrees of Light.

I can’t tell you how many times I played that album, especially “The Bird Song.”

Aside from the superior musicianship, the most arresting part about all my first impressions was the way Abrams never once sounded exactly like any of those cats I just mentioned. He clearly had his own style.

And that style constantly changed.

I began to understand that Abram’s style was a natural sense of self-catalytic creation — to constantly evolve while acting on the experiences and people in his life as if they were substrates.

Think about how few artists would even consider doing something like that in 2017, where aural and visual branding have become lifelines in their way of creating familiar connections with audiences, not to mention the artists’ own limitations to changing or growing.

Abrams left clear evidence of this “evolve” manifesto through his collaborations with artists who I would eventually listen to and revere later in life.

Like the Diasporic meditations of Malachi Favors.

The sharply abstract assault of Anthony Braxton.

The chordal call-and-response musical poetry of Leroy Jenkins.

The soulfully Gospel incantations of Amina Claudine Myers.

Speaking of Myers, I think this duet with Abrams will floor you.

My personal discovery continued by understanding Abrams’ role and influence as one of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians’ (AACM) co-founders.

And that immediately led to my understanding of Abrams the composer, who created exquisitely-layered songs to be played in solo, duet, orchestra or any other setting. The emotional dynamic range of his music easily accommodated the varied styles of its performers, with each song remaining a unique and beautiful whole.

Abrams’ furious transformations continued through his later years, and has inspired new generations of brilliant musicians and other creatives.

Rest in Love, Muhal. And thank you for driving much of my personal creative transformation …

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Trump: America’s Most Unfiltered President

president donald trump close up

In my earlier piece on the Niger ambush deaths of four American soldiers, I made a reference to Donald Trump being the most unfiltered US president in modern history.

Puerto Rico’s experience with Trump and Hurricane Maria offers a close look at how unfiltered behavior works.

With all due love, Puerto Rico is a colony, not a US state, and the policy behaviors of virtually every American President since the island’s “freedom” from Spanish rule in 1898 whispers — but only on occasion shouts — “colony.”

I’ve even used the word “ho” in disgust to describe the losing end of this uneven relationship.

But Trump yells “ho” through a bullhorn, wirelessly hinged to arena speakers and transmitted to the outer regions of the known universe through electronic pulses.

There’s no subtlety to his game. There’s no filter.

Just before leaving the White House, President Barack Obama granted clemency to Oscar Lopez Rivera, a Puerto Rican separatist who fought to free his homeland from the United States.

But did you see Obama propose statehood or anything else to lift P.R. from its ho status?

That’s an American President with highly-functional filters — freeing a leader of hos as a goodwill gesture but still keeping all the hos, including the freed one, in their place.

On the other hand, it’s hard to have a filter adjustment problem where a filter doesn’t exist …

And this is where Trump’s Niger grieving problem comes in.

The simple fact that Trump has spent more time trying to hand out Twitter and TV news beatdowns of critics who say Trump hasn’t properly grieved the deaths of Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Sgt. La David Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright in Niger — rather than simply letting his actions speak grief while shutting down pundits along the way — points to an unsurprising lack of concern for the troops he deploys to face death.

And he can’t hide this lack of concern. No filters.

UPS overnight deliveries of condolences?

It’s hard to have a filter adjustment problem where a filter doesn’t exist …

I’m sure some of you will say Trump’s White House predecessors clearly demonstrated sorrow when watching the still bodies of teenagers, mothers, fathers and community leaders, returned home.

I can’t tell you what ran through the minds of those commanders in chief.

But I wonder out loud the amount of sorrow three, possibly five, US Presidents felt when learning that they were committing tens of thousand of US soldiers to die, along with up to two million civilians, based on a made-up story about American warships being attacked.

Or the amount of sorrow a President felt whenever a soldier died at the hands of a terror group where the President was warned that his chosen policy course would give birth to the same group he would eventually have to fight.

Or the level of grief a President felt whenever he saw the flag-draped casket of a service member whose death was the direct result of a war that was based on a series of lies.

Or when the approximately 160,000 deaths of US soldiers — personnel a president committed to a war in one regional theater — was precipitated by the deaths of 2,300 people in an attack where the President was warned in advance multiple times, but ignored these warnings out of a eagerness to fight.

The difference between these Presidents and Trump is in the way they can throw on the grieve filter to obscure the scent of an idea that the wars they’ve declared were conveniently wrapped in “bad intelligence” and false flags.

Trump is different: he’s the most unfiltered American president in modern US history …

song currently stuck in my head: “salbutamol (s. moreira remix)” – schematix

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Niger Blues, Another Trump Head Fake

niger-map

The Quarterback in Chief has done it again.

Unanswered questions about the ambush in Niger that resulted in the deaths of four US Special Forces soldiers once again make debates about whether or not President Donald Trump suffers from congenital bad behavior meaningless.

Trump’s rudeness is a given — and has become his tactic to successfully pull off misdirection plays.

I’ll also say he’s one of the most unfiltered presidents in modern US history.

Notice I didn’t say the words “insincere” or “mean” — unfiltered. I’ll get to that in a future post.

Trump could rob a bank and then call a Black woman teller a [b-word] on the way out.

And for the next few days, everybody will talk about how he just called a woman out of name.

A legitimate reaction, I must add.

Trump’s problems with Black Women also seem ironed to his DNA. We should never stop calling out those transgressions when we see them.

But he also ROBBED A BANK.

In the case of Niger, we don’t exactly know what he was trying to rob. Perhaps …

It’s not like anyone’s opened a discussion about the US’s strategic interests in that part of the world.

And for all the blathering Trump likes to make through the press or his favorite platform in the entire world, he’s never once discussed the US’s Niger mission or broader vision for Africa.

Misdirection. Six points.

The result: the question of why we see an expansion of US troops in Africa rushes through the public’s conversation sieve, leaving behind media battles between Trump and Rep. Frederica Wilson, or whether or not Trump even knows the names of the troops whose lives he sacrificed.

Since Bush the Second established the Africa Command on February 6, 2007, the continent has seen the US’s military presence expand from one drone command center in Djibouti to 46 military bases.

But the growth in US in military activity on the continent doesn’t seem to pace with foreign direct investment (FDI),where the US increased its commercial activity with Africa by just over 16 percent from 2010 to 2015.

Make a comparison to China — a country with no military bases in Africa (yet) but has peacekeeping troops deployed there under the United Nations’ command — and their FDI increase of nearly 170 percent during the same time period, two takeaways quickly hit you.

us-china-foreign-direct-investment-africa-trends

One — China chooses commerce over guns in Africa.

Two — the hot US export to Africa is war at the moment. Building military bases under the justification of “anti-terrorist” missions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve looked at some of the business deals China inked with African nations with a side-eyed “What the hell kind of agreement is that” expression.

But the war export option will never stop terrorism and will only breed more war. History proves this point.

We shouldn’t forget that America created the terrorist problem in Libya and Syria that spilled into Niger and surrounding areas.

And this is why an open discussion with Team Trump about its military interest in Africa — a strategy steeped in historical failure — becomes more important.

The discussion becomes especially urgent after you read the US military’s posture statement on Africa:

Just as the US pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same.  Whether with trade, natural resource exploitation, or weapons sales, we continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency and good governance.  These competitors weaken our African partners’ ability to govern and will ultimately hinder Africa’s long-term stability and economic growth, and they will also undermine and diminish US influence …

 

“ … [C]ontrary to the international norms of transparency.”

(Laughing) How many of you knew the US has 46 military bases in Africa?

And do you remember Bush the Second’s 2008 “Baloney” comment in response to rumors of the US building bases in Africa?

I’ll wildly guess that land grabs are not on Trump’s list of topics to tweet about  …

song currently stuck in my head: “ivoire” – folamour

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Name That Terror-Sponsoring Nation!

donald trump iran

Guess the Middle East country I’m describing at the moment.

The country has long-range ballistic missiles pointed at two other countries, at minimum. One of the targets is Israel.

The country is a known sponsor of the most horrific acts of global terror during the past 20+ years.

Speaking of terror, the country is known by intelligence circles and select US cabinet members to channel arms and financial support to Islamic terror groups operating in Syria.

The country is currently engaged in a war where it’s accused of committing war crimes.

The country has a regular place on the United Nations’ list of human rights abusers. One day, this country sentenced a protester to be beheaded, AND THEN crucified.

I could write a lengthy piece that just focuses on the country’s human rights record, but I won’t — there’s larger point I want to make.

Any guess about the country I’m referring to?

Iran?

Nope.

Try Saudi Arabia.

This is why I’m baffled …

… okay, perhaps in a sarcastic way …

… about President Donald Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal — even though Iran has complied with the deal’s major provisions — and then base his decision on Iran’s ballistic missiles testing, human rights atrocities and sponsorship of terror groups.

What’s good for Iran is good for Saudi Arabia, right?

Not in Trumpland. Saudi Arabia remains a friend of the US, while Iraq is viewed as a sworn enemy.

And thanks to the magic of conveniently-arranged events, Senators Bob Corker and Tom Cotton are currently sponsoring a bill that will advance the next phase of Trump’s Iran plan: disregard the wishes of the six other countries involved in the Iran nuclear deal by rewriting new conditions for compliance that would trigger new sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The truth about all this dishonest dealbreaking — aside from the two-faced stupidity of it all — points to a broader desire: setting the stage for yet another Middle East regime change project.

And that spells danger for the rest of the world …

Reference links are at the bottom of this post …

song currently stuck in my head: “power house” – chester thompson

Links:

Saudi Arabia ‘Targeting Iran and Israel with Ballistic Missiles’ — Telegraph

Exclusive:CIA Helped Saudis in Secret Chinese Missile Deal — Newsweek

The Real Largest State Sponsor of Terrorism — HuffPost

Human Rights Watch Says Saudi-Led Air Strikes in Yemen Are War Crimes — CNBC

U.N., Rights Groups Call on Saudi Arabia to Spare Man from Beheading, Crucifixion — CNN

Global War on Terror, Take 2 — mentalunrest

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