Friday, February 23, 2007

Thank you, Gentlemen!

I'd like to send an appreciative pat on the back to a handful of men who have stood up and had the chutzpah to point out the disturbing imagery and misogyny in Hip-Hop music and videos. Not that its existence comes as a surprise to any of us. Simply tune on MTV at any given hour of the day, as well as the once more grown-up version, VH-1, which have become indecipherable from the other, and you will find scantily clad, mostly black, women gyrating and being photographed at all angles. This, all the while being called "bitches" and "hoes". The clear statement of the plethora of these types of videos that our youth are being bombarded with is that women are to be used for sex and that they have no other worth beyond that. It has even become commonplace to use the word "pimp" to mean the ultimate in cool.

Having worked in the music industry for most of my adult life, I know what an unpopular position it is to be in to point out an artist's responsibility in the message they deliver. I worked for Tower Records during the whole PMRC implementation of warning labels on CDs. Washington State even passed a bill briefly that could send an unwitting clerk to jail for selling indecent material to minors. The bill was subsequently repealed, much to the relief of myself and others, especially since not all product was even stickered at the time. While I obviously was not in support of the bill, I didn't think that labeling the product was such a bad idea. Problem was, while all songs and albums were not alike, all of the stickers were. If one song on the album contained the dreaded "F" word, even though it may not have even pertained to sex, it received the same sticker as those with songs where women were raped, killed, and dismembered (no, I'm not kidding). I had always thought that it should be done more like the movie industry in that it gave you a clue to age appropriateness. For instance, what is okay for my 14 year-old to listen to, might not be alright for my six year-old. Many times I found myself debating the fact a sticker in and of itself does not constitute censorship as long as it is still available to buy.

This brings me to the efforts of filmmaker Byron Hurt. His expose of the crude depictions of misogyny, homophobia, and violence in rap are captured in his documentary, "Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes" and is being shown on PBS (please see for dates and times in your area.). Hurt takes a brave look and asks that we accept responsibility. Another refreshing voice is that of Chuck D., of the seminal rap group, Public Enemy. Long known for his outspoken political views, he has been around almost since the birth of Hip-Hop and has watched it evolve. Many of the current young multi-million dollar recording artists have Chuck to thank for paving the way. While another of Public Enemy's founding members, Flava Flav, stars in a reality show where young women embarrassingly degrade themselves in an effort to win Flav's affections, Chuck D. has been continually speaking out against the many abuses that we place upon one another. He hosts a radio talk show on AirAmerica called "On the Real" with Gia'na Garel (please see for times in your area) where he touches on many topics that concern all of us. He has also spoken out against what he sees as the negative effects of rap music today.

While these topics are not limited to Hip-Hop by any means, it does lend itself to perpetuating not only negative stereotypes of women, but of black culture as well. We, as a society, reward the artists and the record companies handsomely for their questionable contributions. Don't get me wrong, I believe that art and music are necessary for our well-being, but I also have to ponder the effects of the constant bombardment of these messages on our youth and what it does to shape the individuals they become. Yes, ultimately it is the parents' responsibility, but I know that there are messages that have come from the artists that I love that have helped to form my views and point me in the direction to educate myself on certain subjects.
Bob Geldof brought to light the starvation in Africa, Peter Gabriel helped me to discover Amnesty International, Maynard James Keenan of the band Tool made me take a little closer look into the teachings of Carl Jung, and Spearhead's Michael Franti teaches messages of peace and muti-culturism that are so welcomed today. So, too, the many women, including Janis Joplin, Siouxsie Sioux, and Johnette Napolitano have taught me that women have a place in music - and not just as scantily dressed boy-toys begging to be used and discarded.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ms. Magazine - "Paradise Lost", Making a Difference for Women in Marianas

I received this in an email from Ms. Magazine and wanted to share it with all of you. I am attempting to post this as they sent it. Please take the time to read and respond.

This is a very important subject and needs to be kept alive. This is not the only place stuff like this is happening, so let us not stop here.

Dear ...,

"Paradise Lost" - the explosive Ms. magazine investigative report on the appalling conditions of guest workers in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory - is making news again as Congress finally acts to stop the worst abuses. Congress has already delivered a victory for the guest workers in the Marianas by including them in the recently passed minimum wage increase.

Ms.'s hard-hitting cover story brought to the nation's attention the labor and immigration abuses that were the focus of a Senate committee hearing last Thursday. When we published our investigative report last spring, we spurred weeks of additional news coverage and generated widespread public outrage. Two of the women we interviewed for our report - including a young woman trafficked into the sex industry against her will - testified at the Senate hearing.

Make a special contribution to the Ms. Investigative fund today to ensure that Ms. continues to break stories of vital importance to women here in the U.S. and around the world.

Here's the background on the situation:

Although the name-brand clothing companies that contract with garment factories in the Marianas can attach "Made in Saipan (USA)" or simply "Made in the USA" labels to their clothes, until now they have been exempt from U.S. minimum-wage and immigration laws.

Women trafficked to the Marianas, mostly from China and the Philippines, work up to 20 hours a day in factories at a sub-minimum wage of $3.05/hour in often dangerous conditions. In its report, Ms. detailed how these women find themselves in a situation akin to indentured servitude as they struggle to earn enough money to pay for room and board and to repay human traffickers who charge as much as $7,000 for a one-year contract to work in the Marianas.

Moreover, with expiring trade agreements, some companies have closed down their Saipan operations to move to mainland China, leaving their workers stranded and owed months of back-pay. Ms.'s investigative report documented how, unable to make ends meet, many women have been forced to work in the islands' sex tourism industry in order to survive.

Now, with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff (who lobbied on behalf of Marianas factory owners) in prison, Tom DeLay (a leading supporter of garment-company interests) out of Congress, and other opponents of reform defeated in the November elections, Congress may finally be able to pass long-blocked reforms.

Ms.'s in-depth reporting on the suffering of women in the
Northern Marianas is the kind of ground-breaking investigative journalism that truly changes lives.
We are determined to continue to follow this story, and dispatched a reporter to cover the hearings. Look for updates on and in upcoming issues of the magazine.

Help Ms. stay strong by making a tax-deductible contribution to the Ms. Investigative Fund now.

For a Strong Feminist Media,

Executive Editor

Eleanor Smeal

Copyright © Ms. Magazine 2006

Friday, February 09, 2007

Worn in the USA pt.2

Here are a few interesting follow-ups in regards to what's being done about the corruption and abuses in the Mariana Islands:

Hopefully, we'll see some some changes made and an attentive eye kept towards maintaining the clean-up.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dying for Dollars

To those of you without cable television and are either unable to view C-SPAN (not quite sure why the one form of media where you can actually watch our government at work isn't free) or just happen to choose not to, I must tell you that there have been some incredible goings-on in Congress this week. For instance, L. Paul Bremer, the person who was in charge of the restoration and humanitarian efforts in Iraq and on whose watch billions of dollars disappeared, was actually questioned about his involvement in regards to the missing lucre. Indicted so far are three former Army officers and two civilians for their roles in diverting $3.6 million in Iraq reconstruction money to a contractor in exchange for cash, luxury cars and jewelry.

Last year, I sat in disgust and amazement as I listened to several witnesses tell their stories to a panel that included Henry Waxman (D-CA), Brian Dorgan (D-ND) and John Warner (R-VA) of the things they had seen while in Iraq. A television station that was designated to be the voice of the Iraqi people but became a media outlet for Bremer, plastic sandwich bags containing bricks of $10,000 bundles of cash that were flown in and and handed out indiscriminately, and tales of private contractors murdering innocent civilians. There was even mention of a former FBI agent who had been stripped of his gun, identification, and clothing and was dropped out in the middle of nowhere in Iraq because he threatened to report what he had witnessed.

With the change of Congress this year, Waxman now chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He has taken on these issues and while we will never see the return of the missing funds to the taxpayers, we may actually start seeing some accountability for a change.

Then again yesterday, I found Henry hard at work. This time, he was looking back into the brave faces of four women, reminiscent of the 9/11 widows that Ann Coulter so callously maligned. They consisted of a daughter, a wife, and two mothers of the four private contractors who were slain, mutilated and hung from a bridge in Falluja in March 2004. The men worked for a company by the name of Blackwater who hire people from various countries to essentially become mercenaries. While I find this practice to be offensive on many levels, I felt the anguish of these women at not only the loss of their loved ones, but also how this company has lied to the families and threatened them with multi-million dollar counter suits for daring to sue them for information. These and other private contractors act under no jurisdiction of any law, be it civilian or military, while they operate in Iraq and are free to behave in any manner they please. All the while making millions of taxpayers dollars. I must also note that of these particular men who were working for Blackwater, only one had been there long enough to even receive a paycheck. The others had only been there a few days and had been sent to the most dangerous part of Iraq with no protection.

For more on this, please see:

Robert Greenwald touches well on this subject with his film, "Iraq for Sale - The War Profiteers"

Is Somebody Watching You?

Mirth over at has written a great piece having to do with cameras, ID, security and our government. This is a must read that should be shared with everyone you know.

Most of us have heard about some or all of the things Mirth writes about but Mirth puts them together clearly and to the point. If you are not worried about how we are gladly or stupidly giving up our rights for supposed security, then you are a fool.

Here is a taste of what Mirth writes:

Somebody's Watching Me

by Mirth Y'know those airport x-ray scanners? The ones that reveal you nude? Well, they're no longer just for passengers wanting to get from one place to another. Look up! If London is the example, then they're coming to a street near you.
>From the BBC:
Leaked documents said to have been drawn up by the Home Office and seen by the Sun newspaper say cameras which can see through clothes could be built into lamp posts to "trap terror suspects".
While Home Secretary John Reid has denied knowledge of the plans, the technology is not dissimilar to that already found in some UK airports. Currently, air security officials pick out individuals to stand in a booth while three pictures are taken of the person in slightly different positions. Within seconds, an X-ray scanner produces an image of the body, minus the clothes. What shows up is the naked human form and anything that may be concealed on the person, such as coins, a gun or drugs.

Read the rest here:

Do you care? If so, what are you going to do about it? Try starting here: is a great place to use for contacting your local and national elected officials and the media. Phone numbers, addresses and email are all there making it easy for you to take action and to be heard.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Bush says screw you to We The People!

So Bush wants all of us to sacrifice to help HIS war effort?

"Cutting the deficit during a time of war requires us to restrain spending in other areas," Bush said
Cut social and domestic spending so that he can give his friends, buddies and cronies the tax cuts and "relief" that they sooo desperately need.

Bush also said it would show that his goal of erasing the deficit by 2012 could be accomplished while making his tax cuts permanent.

"Congress needs to make this tax relief permanent, so we can keep America's economy growing. Pro-growth economic policies also play a vital role in our plan to balance the federal budget," he said.

He thinks that these tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations has helped all of us.

This increase in tax revenue has helped us cut the deficit in half three years ahead of schedule...

You mean the HUGE deficit he has put us in by cutting taxes and waging war at the same time? Cutting taxes and waging war has never been done in the history of this country because it makes no sense!

One of the known but less talked about agenda items by the Bush administration, conservatives and all neo-cons is to defund the government.

They tell you how wonderful tax cuts are while scaring you into going along with huge military spending for illegal wars and to protect us against the "enemy" (Soviet Union, communism, terrorism, etc., etc., etc. - read the book 1984).

By cutting taxes (you love those- right?), raising military spending (you want that because you are scared of all those "bad people" - right?) they put this country into a huge hole when it comes to the deficit.

So the only way to "fix" this economic problem is to make all of us "sacrifice" by cutting social programs. This is what they tell us and you believe this - right? Because you wouldn't want them to "raise" taxes, now would you? Because that would be bad for you - right?

The problem is that the vast majority of tax cuts and "tax relief" has gone to the richest of the rich and to big corporations, like the oil companies, because they are so in need of help - right?

So would this be a tax hike, raising taxes on the average American? Or would this be restoring the taxes to the level before Bush and his cronies put us into such HUGE debt that is going to cripple this country and impoverish the citizens.

So, by cutting taxes, starting wars, raising military spending and mercenary spending (can you say: contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan?), they push us into HUGE debt that can only be solved by cutting domestic and social spending. This is what "defunding" the government is all about. It is to feed the rich and powerful, kill off what they call welfare (domestic and social spending), and keep all of us "little people" too busy trying to survive that we do not have the time to pay attention to politics, the real news, etc. so we end up ignoring what they are doing to us.

More here...