Wednesday, February 27, 2008


This brother attended Benedict while I was at Carolina and we would occasionally rock the same party....He even joined me onstage at the old ACME about 10 years ago. Brother can freestyle about ANYTHING and make it make sense. He's using his music for POSITIVITY. As long as brothers like him keep doing this kind of work, I know that Hip-Hop is still alive at the grassroots level (even when the mainstream is pimping the culture)

Peep the link in my sidebar for more info (L.I.F.E. Project)

About SPECTAC (Mervin A. Jenkins) was born in rural South Carolina, USA. His mother, a retired school teacher, and father, owner/operator of an auto shop, both encouraged him to strive for excellence in all his endeavors. Jenkins attended high school in Holly Hill, South Carolina and went on to attend Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina where he received his undergraduate degree in Art Education. Not long after completing his program of study at Benedict College, he took a full-time teaching position at a middle school in Charleston, SC. It was during this time that he also enrolled in a graduate program at Charleston Southern University and completed his graduate degree in Secondary Educational Leadership.

During the years when he was attaining advanced degrees and teaching school, Jenkins developed strong ties in the entertainment arena. Under the stage name Spectac, Jenkins most recent studio recordings with 9th Wonder (NC producer - Jay-Z, Destiny's Child, Pete Rock) have led to the much anticipated release of his debut album Spectac, Starring in Superman for Life.

Mervin Jenkins is now Principal at Horton Middle School in the Chatham County School System located in Pittsboro, NC. Prior to that he served as an Advanced Learning Opportunity Coordinator and was also an Assistant Principal at Chapel Hill High School, both located in Chapel Hill, NC for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School System. After only one year in his position as Principal at Horton Middle School, Jenkins was voted the 2007-2008 Chatham County Principal of the Year.

Jenkins will be the first to admit that it is not easy dividing his life between educator and musical entertainer. Nevertheless, he brings energy and passion to them both, making it no surprise that people of all ages and backgrounds are so touched by his live testimonials.

In 2006, Life Through Music was born. Jenkins created this lecture-performance program as a way to provide today's youth, in both public and private institutions, the opportunity to hear how he overcame the negative influences of drugs, alcohol, and the numerous other temptations often associated with peer pressure.

The LTM performances are tailored to suit each group's needs, interests, and age. Mervin Jenkins will work with your staff to create the most workable and desirable combination of lectures, hip hop and freestyle performance, and interaction with your young people.

LTM lecture-performances are perfect for students and adults of all ages. An important message, presented through music and language that young people respect, understand, and thoroughly enjoy.

Visit for more information and to book your school, company, or organization's Life Through Music performance today.

After Apartheid, Much Hasn't Changed.....

Courtesy of The BBC

Several white students in South Africa face criminal charges after allegedly forcing black campus employees to eat food that had been urinated on.

A video has surfaced which appears to show the students instructing five elderly workers to drink beer and perform athletic tasks.

At one point, the University of Free State employees are apparently forced to eat food which has been urinated on.

The rector at the university has strongly condemned the video.

Students and staff joined a protest march at the campus in Bloemfontein, and student groups say they are now planning to call nationwide anti-racism demonstrations.

The video was reportedly recorded in protest at moves to integrate black and white students in the same residences at the University of the Free State.

The BBC's Mpho Lakaje says the university is known for having predominantly white students since the days of apartheid.

In recent years it has encountered difficulties trying to integrate people from other racial groups, and the latest incident is viewed by many as a clear indication of racial intolerance, he says.


The video shows five black people allegedly being instructed by a group of white students to down full bottles of beer, reports our correspondent, who has watched it.
The university workers are then led to a playing field where they are told to display their athletic skills.

But it is the final extract of the film that has angered members of the public. It shows a white male urinating on food, and then - shouting: "Take! Take!" in Afrikaans - apparently forcing the campus employees to eat the dirty food, and causing them to vomit.

The alleged perpetrators are current or former students at the University of the Free State, say reports.

Its rector, Frederick Fourie, told the BBC that he was "extremely upset about the incident".

"We are having a management meeting. And there's a strong condemnation of this from everybody concerned," he said.

The university says it has begun procedures to suspend the students allegedly implicated in the video, and says the alleged victims have received psychological support.


On Wednesday, hundreds of black students and workers from the institution handed over a list of demands to management.
Siviwe Vamva, from the South African Students Congress, said the group was planning to call a national strike on Thursday 6 March to raise the profile its anti-racism campaign.

He said racism was also still a problem in other universities.

"It's not only the University of Free State," Mr Vamva said.

"We are saying that all these issues must be brought forward so that all the people of South Africa can see that racism is still a dominant feature in South African society."

The South African Institute of Race Relations has said this incident and several others over the past month could threaten general improvements in race relations since the end of apartheid.

The institute also condemned the shooting of four black people by a white youth, and the decision by the Forum for Black Journalists to evict a white journalist from a meeting.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Has Dancehall Betrayed Reggae???

Ian Boyne, Contributor

Reggae Month cannot end without someone's saying that the dominant trend in dancehall represents a betrayal of reggae; the tragic case of the child doing violence to his mother.

Reggae differed from mere pop music which was for entertainment and frivolity. Reggae was serious without being sombre. What has accounted for reggae having this phenomenal impact on the world is not just its pulsating beat and hypnotic rhythm, which it certainly has. There are other great rhythms which have not had reggae's impact on the world.

Reggae is message music. The classic reggae artistes were acutely aware that there were not just minstrels. Their songs had us singing along and rocking, most definitely. But there was a message, which represented not just 'brawta'; it was its life force. For it came from the bowels of the working class experience with oppression, injustice, dehumanisation and exclusion.

Reggae artistes did not have to read philosophy to carry a strong philosophical message. Their life experience - harsh, brutal, but hopeful - gave them a natural mystic. Reggae could be claimed as a potent source of inspiration by Southern Africans struggling for liberation from apartheid, as well as for middle-class white people in America and Europe because reggae was a universal language understood by all.


Reggae's appeal is its innate humanism and universalism. For in decrying oppression, colonialism, imperialism and injustice, it was saying, forcefully, that these features are alien to our common heritage as human beings. This was not how humans were supposed to live. We were not supposed to be segregated by class, race, gender, religion and nationality.

Bob Marley's astounding appeal to the world cannot be separated from his message. He certainly did not have the finest voice in reggae. His rhythms were not unique. There was - there is - something about Bob Marley which just resonated and still resonates with mankind.

It was not just Bob Marley. Another great artiste who has never received the just recognition he deserves in this country is the great Max Romeo. Max Romeo, Bob Andy, Burning Spear, Joseph Hill, Dennis Brown, the Mighty Diamonds, Half Pint, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, among others, have a timeless appeal.

What is the message of dancehall today in its most dominant trend? It's about the "gal dem business", the objectification and commodification of women, the glorification of promiscuity. It is about power over women's bodies. As Buju Banton has put it:

"Hear weh me tell di girl seh if unnu look good

Hear weh me tell har seh

Gal me serious

Mi haffi get yu tonight

Even by gunpoint"

Rape, in other words. But in the dancehall, women's bodies are not their own. They are merely allowed to beautify them and take care of them for men to use. The dancehall trends have to do with lyrics glorifying dons; glorifying the shottas, bad man; worshipfully describing the various guns with relish and lyrical eloquence. The dancehall has to do with shaming youth and youth who can't "tek it to dem".

No encouragement

So at a time when we need peace in the inner cities; when old people need to sleep peacefully rather than having to risk heart attacks and strokes at night; when children need to study their books so they can leave their lives of wretchedness rather than bawling out for "gunshots!", what we have are communities and corners set ablaze with no encouragement from the music - as the dominant trend - for "the youths dem to 'low' the glock," as Tarrus Riley pleads. The top deejays - the ones currently ruling the dancehall - the Mavados, the Bounty Killers, the Vybz Kartels, the Assassins, the Baby Chams, the Bling Dawgs - are not shouting to the youth "be careful of yu guns and ammunition".

Instead, what we have in the dancehall is the glorification of the gun; the inciting of violence. And when we don't have the vulgarity which is hailed as the expression of 'female liberation' and the gun talk, we have the promotion of bling bling and Western materialistic and hedonistic values - the values of Babylon.

Now, imagine you are a poor ghetto youth struggling to find food to have just one meal a day; struggling to find clothes; struggling to eke out a subsistence under Babylon's oppression to find food for your youth. The music being played all around you is telling you and your neighbours that you are nobody because you don't have certain name-brand things. You have no value because you don't have a certain type of car, can't flash the dollars and can't drink expensive European champagne. You are nothing if you have nothing. You are traced in the lyrics, especially the women.

When the reggae pioneers were saying "Natty never get weary" and to "hold di struggle", these modern-day traitors of the revolution are telling you the opposite: Babylon is really right, uptown is right after all, join the rat race, life is about what you possess, how much money you have in the bank, what you wear, eat, the "stush area" you live in, etc. This is what the music has come to in its dominant form.

'Ghetto authenticity'

And this is what is not being critiqued by the academics at the University of the West Indies who are teaching reggae studies. They are so busy celebrating and bigging up 'ghetto authenticity' that they have failed to grasp how dancehall represents - in its dominant trends - the betrayal reggae.

Now, dancehall defenders say they respect ghetto people. It is people like me who disrespect ghetto youth. Yet, I respect them enough to believe they can do better than just reflect the worst of what they see around them. I believe they have brains which they can use to go in a positive direction. The UWI academics apparently believe that they must mechanistically and deterministically follow their environment. They are Skinnerians (after the famed Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner) with black masks.

Another canard is that people who criticise negative dancehall just despise everything Jamaican and black and display Eurocentric tastes. As someone who is one of the most ardent vintage fanatics in Jamaica and who has attended more stage shows than many 'worldians,' this could not apply to me. I enjoy dancehall music. I totally disagree with those who believe there is no creativity in dancehall music and that it's all monotony. People who say that have a limited exposure to dancehall. The dancehall lyricists - including the negative ones - are some of the most creative pop artistes in the world today.

Negative dancehall

What I am saying is that we should not uncritically support the music just because it is part of our culture and comes from the inner city. There are some things in the inner city which hold us back and which represent a kind of self-hatred and self-injury. Negative dancehall is in that category. Peace is a public good - it is not just 'Christian fundamentalism,' a term Carolyn Cooper (Professor, pardon me) uses as a conversation-stopper.

Music which lionises shottas and badmen who are a terror to poor people is not good. Music which encourages violence for the slightest dissing; music which preaches a message of death to homosexuals or any group is not a good thing; music which encourages "gal inna bungle" is not a good thing because of its effects on our sisters and even on our brothers. Music which makes poor people feel small because they can't bling out is not good. This has nothing to do with 'middle-class values'.

In fact, the UWI academics and my colleagues at TVJ don't live in the inner cities. They can glorify dancehall music from their ivory towers and television studios but the poor, defenceless ghetto people who have nowhere to hide and no friend in high society have to contend with the gunshots and the mayhem - not created by dancehall but certainly not helped by it. Another blindsiding argument is that the violent lyrics in dancehall represent a kind of cry of the oppressed. Nonsense. The kind of revolutionary lyrics against oppression and 'downpressors' is not the dominant trend in dancehall. Peter Tosh was a rebel and was no pacifist, but Tosh was not talking about blowing out people's marrow because "dem dis him woman". He did not trivialise violence. He took it seriously to be used selectively and strategically.

None of the reggae practitioners did that. Even when Bob did some songs hailing the 'rude boys' of the 1960s - and was rebuked by fellow Trench Town giant (and my rocksteady idol) Alton Ellis in Dance Crasher and Cry Tough - Bob was not glorifying nihilistic violence. The comparisons by the UWI academics are grossly overdrawn.

The UWI academics are guilty of overcompensation. They have seen the music snubbed and scorned in decades past by the middle class and they now feel psychologically and morally obligated to give 'full hundred' endorsement to our indigenous music. But in doing so, they have taken daredevil liberties with intellectual rigour and have done a disservice to reggae.

Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist who may be reached at


The schism between Bob Marley and Mavado
with Charles Campbell
Sunday, February 24, 2008

In his article titled From Bob Marley To Mavado in the In Focus segment of the Sunday Gleaner, February 17, 2008, Ian Boyne certainly threw down the gauntlet to the dancehall academia when he stated that "we need to bring a serious social scientific analysis to the music, rather than the emotionalism and glandular reflexive defence of dancehall against its supposed middle-class despisers". I endorse this call and agree with a lot of what he said in his article concerning dancehall music.
Boyne's essential point is that unlike reggae, dancehall has "lost its revolutionary and transformative force and has become reactionary". Boyne further states that "nobody has the guts to deal with these issues", so during Reggae Month, "we are busy holding concerts, exhibitions and talk shops, without seriously engaging the issue of our music and its impact on socio-economic phenomena".
While this may be true, in regards to dancehall academics - and I have no proof - Ian can rest assured that in some sections of the reggae fraternity, this is a very sore point' a subject discussed ad nauseam. The problem is that these discussions do not filter down to the average citizen. As for dancehall's practitioners and fans, they are largely totally oblivious to the debate.
I know, for instance, that the leadership of both the Jamaica Federation of Musicians (JFM) and the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA) are very concerned, do not support and agonise constantly about the violent lyrics and bigotry of dancehall, which aid to brand Jamaica as a crime-infested and sadistic society. Also, if you speak with the more successful tour managers, or the artistes who regularly tour, they will tell you, without any prompting, the negative impact the unsavoury content of dancehall is having on their careers, as well as the medium term prospects of the industry.
But let us be clear on what is the real source of our problems, for fear we shoot the messenger. Ian himself alluded to this when he proffered that "Dancehall is a reflection of the society - both downtown and uptown. An uptown devoid of any ideology outside of hedonism and atomism; an uptown driven by crude commercial and market-driven interests, sold downtown the ideology of materialism and hedonism."
Surely this column cannot be accused of not having "the guts to deal with these issues". Interestingly, I assumed that by now, my own views on the matter were nothing short of reiterant and point to two of my more recent articles in support. In an edition of this column titled Neo-Liberalism's Gift To Dancehall (Sunday Observer, April 1, 2007), I advanced a similar, yet deeper polemic, "Existence in Jamaica, for the majority of our people today is nothing short of brutal. By the 1980's neo-liberalism was embraced as the world's new doctrine and religion. Henceforth, the credo was "money talks and bullshit walks".
Talk of Blackness, Africa, Nkrumah, Garvey and fashions like the dashiki and Nubian knots were taboo- except where it was on conspicuous display in our quaint tourist capitals. The new approach to government was minimalist and public funding of social organisations was either severely slashed or completely withdrawn. Since the 1990s, we have reaped the whirlwind. The vacuum in our community life left social space only for sex, drugs, violence and the tagline 'the almighty dollar rules', all mirrored by our music". a by-product of poor education and deficient socialisation.
In A Longing For Self-Worth (Sunday Observer, May 27, 2007), my fundamental analysis was, "in order to change the lyrics and orientation of the Dancehall artistes, the society has to begin to repair the oppressive, brutal underlying, social conditions and stimuli which [de]motivates and inspires their work." This, while bearing in mind that by the time they are six years old, 30 per cent of our children residing in the inner cities of Kingston and St. Andrew, have witnessed a death by violent means.
Further, "forty years of minimum economic growth in the formal sector of the economy, contraction of agriculture and the consequent erosion of rural economies and communities, injustice, unemployment, social displacement, the lack of [social] infrastructure which facilitates integration, the destruction of quality family life, urban squalor and continuous political and gang violence have left psychological scars on our youth population tantamount to ictus."
I also made the point in Neo-Liberalism's Gift To Dancehall that similarly, "as a consequence of the same pervading social conditions across the American continent, we have witnessed the birth of Reggaeton - influenced by Hip Hop and Dancehall and even more degenerate, violent and sexually explicit - in the barrios of Panama, Puerto Rico and other Central and South American countries." Thus, the albatross that is dancehall is not necessarily a unique phenomenon.
In developing strategies to address this schism, I suggested that "the best way to counter the decadence and derogation promoted in some aspects and music of the dancehall is not censorship but the deliberate projection of quality works of artistes who seek to carry on in the vein of the musical style and positive - even in protest - messages of self-worth of the founders like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert, Burning Spear and Culture." [A Longing For Self-Worth] "There is a very strong counterculture seeking to be heard however, and those of us interested in 'reviving' dancehall must do more to promote this trend, even if sometimes, the images it portrays are foreboding." [Neo-Liberalism's Gift To Dancehall]
"I am referring to recording artistes/performers who have successfully adapted the Reggae form and messages to make it appealing to this generation and get good responses in the Dancehall sphere when their songs are played. Let us remember that there was a time in the 90's when roots music and artistes were relegated to the back burner. Their songs were not promoted on radio, their records did not sell and even when these artistes appeared on stage shows, patrons barely tolerated them- impatient for the appearance of the more raunchy acts." [A Longing For Self-Worth]
So in my view, there are positive signs, this progressive counter-intuitive stream that has forcibly injected itself into Dancehall is the right medicine; and a good seed that needs nourishing for a renewal of dancehall music

Thursday, February 21, 2008


It's always been here; it's just been buried

By Will Moredock

History, like theology, inspires the passions and genius of some, the scorn and ridicule of others. Also like theology, history is never concluded. It periodically must be re-imagined, reconstructed, and rewritten to keep it fresh and relevant.

Anyone who thinks that history and theology are closed books clearly understands neither. Modern Christians are embarrassed by their 19th-century white southern counterparts who justified the institution of slavery with chapter and verse from the Bible. White southerners had to rationalize the peculiar institution; their society and economy were built on it.

White southerners have also rationalized a lot of history over the centuries. Anyone raised in South Carolina a few decades ago was exposed to the history books of Mary C. Simms Oliphant. This little woman — the granddaughter of poet and southern apologist William Gilmore Simms — held the franchise on the South Carolina history textbooks used in state public schools from the 1920s to the 1980s.

In her books, Oliphant managed to recount the story of South Carolina from 1670 to the time of Strom Thurmond with barely a mention of black people or slavery. In a state that was built on the labor of black people, a state whose politics and culture have been defined by the need to control the black population, Oliphant managed to reduce that population to a handful of references.

But sometimes change has to come — even in South Carolina.

"You can almost feel something bubbling under the surface," Simon Lewis said in an interview last week. Lewis is director of the Program in Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW), and his antennae are more sensitive than most.

CLAW is a group of scholars seeking to rediscover the Charleston of the 16th and 17th centuries before it was redefined by southern politics and regionalism. They are also trying to rediscover the role of black people in this city at a time when they were the majority and connected to the wider world by commerce and culture.

Charleston 200 years ago was a great spoke in the wheel of Atlantic commerce that reached from Northeastern port cities to Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean, Lewis said. It was a cosmopolitan and multinational city, looking outward to the wider world. One of its chief imports was African slaves. It is estimated that 40 percent of all slaves brought into the United States came through the port of Charleston.

The rise of the abolitionist movement — in Britain and the northern U.S. — began to alter Charleston's place in the world and the place of black people in Charleston, Lewis said. Faced with increasingly hostile attitudes toward slavery, Charleston began to withdraw from the wider world; it began to look inward. The city's role in the opening of the Civil War cemented its place as a quintessentially "southern" city. It remained southern and provincial until recent decades when it once again emerged as an important international port.

At the same time Charleston was redefining itself, it was redefining black people. White people's fear of abolition led to the ideology of racism and the "science" of racism in an effort to justify slavery. Lewis quoted cultural historian Nancy Stepan: "As the battle for abolition was being won, the battle against racism was being lost."

The ideology of racism — which permeated every niche and crevice of white society — effectively dehumanized black people. Not only were they stripped of all legal rights and protections, they were effectively written out of history. This "whites only" view of history is what generations of southerners — black and white — have been taught in public schools and public celebrations.

But today that is changing. Lewis sees the changes in many ways, large and small. He sees it in the ceremony two weeks ago to dedicate the new African-American Cemetery Memorial on the College of Charleston campus. He sees it in the comment in Gov. Mark Sanford's recent State of the State address that it is time for South Carolinians to come to terms with the past. He sees it in the recent biracial family reunion at historic Drayton Hall plantation and in the opening of the Old Slave Mart Museum downtown.

There are a hundred aphorisms and epigrams to define history. I like Edmund Burke's: "History is a pact between the dead, the living and the yet unborn."

It is our responsibility to be faithful to one another and to that pact. We can do that only by keeping our minds and hearts open to the possibilities and by understanding that the final word will never be written.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Is The Country Ready???

I'm encouraged by the progress that has been made, but I know that Jim Crow isn't completely dead.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dumb & Dumber ???

Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?
courtesy of NY Times

A popular video on YouTube shows Kellie Pickler, the adorable platinum blonde from “American Idol,” appearing on the Fox game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” during celebrity week. Selected from a third-grade geography curriculum, the $25,000 question asked: “Budapest is the capital of what European country?”

Ms. Pickler threw up both hands and looked at the large blackboard perplexed. “I thought Europe was a country,” she said. Playing it safe, she chose to copy the answer offered by one of the genuine fifth graders: Hungary. “Hungry?” she said, eyes widening in disbelief. “That’s a country? I’ve heard of Turkey. But Hungry? I’ve never heard of it.”

Such, uh, lack of global awareness is the kind of thing that drives Susan Jacoby, author of “The Age of American Unreason,” up a wall. Ms. Jacoby is one of a number of writers with new books that bemoan the state of American culture.

Joining the circle of curmudgeons this season is Eric G. Wilson, whose “Against Happiness” warns that the “American obsession with happiness” could “well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation.”

Then there is Lee Siegel’s “Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob,” which inveighs against the Internet for encouraging solipsism, debased discourse and arrant commercialization. Mr. Siegel, one might remember, was suspended by The New Republic for using a fake online persona in order to trash critics of his blog (“you couldn’t tie Siegel’s shoelaces”) and to praise himself (“brave, brilliant”).

Ms. Jacoby, whose book came out on Tuesday, doesn’t zero in on a particular technology or emotion, but rather on what she feels is a generalized hostility to knowledge.

She is well aware that some may tag her a crank. “I expect to get bashed,” said Ms. Jacoby, 62, either as an older person who upbraids the young for plummeting standards and values, or as a secularist whose defense of scientific rationalism is a way to disparage religion.

Ms. Jacoby, however, is quick to point out that her indictment is not limited by age or ideology. Yes, she knows that eggheads, nerds, bookworms, longhairs, pointy heads, highbrows and know-it-alls have been mocked and dismissed throughout American history. And liberal and conservative writers, from Richard Hofstadter to Allan Bloom, have regularly analyzed the phenomenon and offered advice.

T. J. Jackson Lears, a cultural historian who edits the quarterly review Raritan, said, “The tendency to this sort of lamentation is perennial in American history,” adding that in periods “when political problems seem intractable or somehow frozen, there is a turn toward cultural issues.”

But now, Ms. Jacoby said, something different is happening: anti-intellectualism (the attitude that “too much learning can be a dangerous thing”) and anti-rationalism (“the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion”) have fused in a particularly insidious way.

Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don’t think it matters.

She pointed to a 2006 National Geographic poll that found nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds don’t think it is necessary or important to know where countries in the news are located.

So more than three years into the Iraq war, only 23 percent of those with some college could locate Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel on a map.

Ms. Jacoby, dressed in a bright red turtleneck with lipstick to match, was sitting, appropriately, in that temple of knowledge, the New York Public Library’s majestic Beaux Arts building on Fifth Avenue. The author of seven other books, she was a fellow at the library when she first got the idea for this book back in 2001, on 9/11.

Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, she said, overwhelmed and confused, she stopped at a bar. As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day’s horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:
“This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said.
The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?”
“That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied.
At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, “I decided to write this book.”

Ms. Jacoby doesn’t expect to revolutionize the nation’s educational system or cause millions of Americans to switch off “American Idol” and pick up Schopenhauer.

But she would like to start a conversation about why the United States seems particularly vulnerable to such a virulent strain of anti-intellectualism.

After all, “the empire of infotainment doesn’t stop at the American border,” she said, yet students in many other countries consistently outperform American students in science, math and reading on comparative tests.

In part, she lays the blame on a failing educational system. “Although people are going to school more and more years, there’s no evidence that they know more,” she said.

Ms. Jacoby also blames religious fundamentalism’s antipathy toward science, as she grieves over surveys that show that nearly two-thirds of Americans want creationism to be taught along with evolution.

Ms. Jacoby doesn’t leave liberals out of her analysis, mentioning the New Left’s attacks on universities in the 1960s, the decision to consign African-American and women’s studies to an “academic ghetto” instead of integrating them into the core curriculum, ponderous musings on rock music and pop culture courses on everything from sitcoms to fat that trivialize college-level learning.

Avoiding the liberal or conservative label in this particular argument, she prefers to call herself a “cultural conservationist.”

For all her scholarly interests, though, Ms. Jacoby said she recognized just how hard it is to tune out the 24/7 entertainment culture.

A few years ago she participated in the annual campaign to turn off the television for a week. “I was stunned at how difficult it was for me,” she said.

The surprise at her own dependency on electronic and visual media made her realize just how pervasive the culture of distraction is and how susceptible everyone is — even curmudgeons.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Example Of A True Hustler

"i sell ice in the winter , fire in hell, i m a hustla , i sell water to a whale"

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Pot & The Kettle Had A Discussion....

Does this look like the face of someone who is really done with drugs?

BERLIN — Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has offered troubled singer Amy Winehouse some free advice on kicking the drug habit.

"She should get her act together," the former junkie said during a round-table interview at the Berlin International Film Festival on Friday to promote Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones documentary "Shine a Light."

The often-addled rocker paused, then added: "Apart from that, I have got nothing to say to the b****."

Winehouse, 24, entered a London rehab clinic last month in hopes of kicking a destructive habit that has overshadowed her promising career.

Stones frontman Mick Jagger, himself no stranger to pharmaceutical experimentation and resulting legal troubles, compared the drug problems of the present generation of Brit rock stars, such as Winehouse and Pete Doherty, to his early days when drugs became an integral part of the pop music scene.

"When we were experimenting with drugs, little was known about the effects," Jagger said. "In our time there were no rehab centers like today. Anyway, I did not know about them."

Sounding a bit like the 64-year-old grandfather that he is, Richards said he couldn't understand how the younger generation, knowing the dangers of drug use, could still be users.

Sidestep The Electoral College?

By NGUYEN HUY VU, Associated Press Writer
Sun Feb 10, 2:16 PM ET

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - If John R. Koza gets his way, American voters will never again have to wonder about the workings of the Electoral College and why it decides who sits in the White House.

Koza is behind a push to have states circumvent the odd political math of the Electoral College and ensure that the presidency always goes to the winner of the popular vote.

Basically, states would promise to award their electoral votes to the candidate with the most support nationwide, regardless of who carries each particular state.

"We're just coming along and saying, 'Why not add up the votes of all 50 states and award the electoral votes to the 50-state winner?'" said Koza, chairman of National Popular Vote Inc. "I think that the candidate who gets the most votes should win the office."

The proposal is aimed at preventing a repeat of the 2000 election, when Al Gore got the most votes nationwide but George W. Bush put together enough victories in key states to win a majority in the Electoral College and capture the White House.

So far, Maryland and New Jersey have signed up for the plan. Legislation that would include Illinois is on the governor's desk. But dozens more states would have to join before the plan could take effect.

The idea is a long shot. But it appears to be easier than the approach tried previously — amending the Constitution, which takes approval by Congress and then ratification by 38 states.

The Electoral College was set up to make the final decision on who becomes president. Each state has a certain number of votes in the college based on the size of its congressional delegation.

Often, all of a state's electoral votes are given to whomever wins that state's popular vote. For instance, even someone who wins New York by a single percentage point, 51-49, would get all 31 of the state's electoral votes.

This creates some problems.

One is that candidates can ignore voters in states that aren't competitive. If the Democrat is clearly going to win a state, the Republican has no reason to court its minority of GOP voters there and instead will focus on other states.

Another problem is the possibility of a result like that in 2000, where one candidate gets more votes overall but the other candidate gets narrow victories in just the right states to eke out a majority in the Electoral College.

National Popular Vote says its plan would change all that.

"What's important to the country is that it would make presidential campaigns a 50-state exercise," said Koza, a Stanford University computer science professor.

Here's how it would work:

States forge an agreement to change the way they allocate general election votes. The agreement would take effect once it's been approved by states with a majority in the Electoral College, or 270 votes.

At that point, the states would begin awarding their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of who carries each state.

If the candidates tied in the popular vote, each state would give its electoral votes to the candidate who carried that particular state — basically the same system used now.

There are critics. The downside, they argue, is that a close presidential election would require recounts not just in one or two key states, but throughout the entire country.

They also say it would further reduce the influence of small states as politicians focus on such places as voter-rich California, New York and Texas.

"Any way you look at it, I think smaller populations have a greater voice under the current system than they would under a national popular vote system," said North Dakota state Rep. Lawrence Klemin, a Republican who voted against joining his state in National Popular Vote's agreement.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has not decided whether to sign his state's legislation to join the plan, his office said. When he was in Congress, Blagojevich co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College in 2000.

Legislation endorsing the National Popular Vote plan was passed in California and Hawaii but vetoed by their governors. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said it would run "counter to the tradition of our great nation, which honors states' rights and the unique pride and identity of each state."

Koza believes the agreement proposal would standardize the way states award their electoral votes, give every voter equal influence and keep candidates from ignoring some states in favor of battleground states like Ohio and Florida.

He noted that neither presidential candidate visited Illinois in 2004, even though it has a population of about 12.8 million.

"The Republicans wrote it off and the Democrats took it for granted," Koza said, "and that's typical of two-thirds of the states."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Capitalism At Its Worst.....

The RIAA Inacts Terroristic Penalties/ Cuts Artist Royalties

January 30, 2008 - The RIAA's litigious nature is well known, as is the group's habit of seeking massive damages from anyone that tries to dispute the group's accusations of file sharing but ends up losing in court. $150,000 per album illegally shared has been the ludicrously high going rate in recent court battles, but if the RIAA succeeds in pressuring Congress to pass the PRO-IP Act, statutory damages will rise as high as $1.5-million in the case of compilation albums illegally shared.

A fine of $150k is enough to put many individuals and families into the poor house. $1.5-million is pretty much a life-breaker for 99% of the population, and even bankruptcy in the face of such a claim will mean a destitute life afterwards. Illegal file sharing is wrong, but is the singular act of sharing a movie soundtrack enough to justify crushing entire lives and families permanently? The RIAA's lack of touch with reality is has been blatant for years. Sadly, the greatest defense the American people have against the entity is Congress, which, should it allow the PRO-IP act to pass, will prove itself entirely divorced from the concerns of the general citizenry.

RIAA Plans to Cut Artist Royalties

from in the UK
by Gerry Block

US, February 5, 2008 - The rather loathed RIAA, most recently infamous for pressuring Congress to pass the PRO-IP Act, has now turned its unwanted attention upon the very people the group ostensibly exists to protect. According to The Hollywood Reporter, The RIAA is now pressing to lower the royalty payments made to musicians and artists for music tracks sold via digital distribution. Though the actual artists who make the music are presently entitled to just 13% of wholesale, the RIAA thinks they should receive only 9%.

After years of PR that tried to convince the populace the RIAA is trying to stamp out piracy to protect musicians, the group has now made it blatantly clear the only individuals it aims to protect are those in charge of the major music labels, a group of aged executives who have massively failed to shepherd their businesses into the digital age. Now that the existence of both the RIAA and the major labels benefits neither musicians nor consumers, we can only hope that their decline has reached the critical mass that will drag them under the wheels of technologic progress and into the graveyard of history.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Singer Amy Winehouse has been denied entry to the United States for this Sunday's Grammy Awards, with her visa application being "rejected at this time", her publicist said on Thursday (February 7).

The 27-year-old, who is currently in rehab seeking treatment for drug abuse, was scheduled to perform at this weekend's ceremony. She has also been nominated for a number of awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year.

A rep for Winehouse released the following statement:

"The singer has been invited to appear at the event on Sunday after receiving an amazing six nominations for the prestigious awards. Unfortunately, her application for a visa to enter the United States of America has been rejected at this time by the American Embassy in London.

"Amy has been progressing well since entering a rehabilitation clinic two weeks ago, and although disappointed with the decision, [she] has accepted the ruling and will be concentrating on her recovery. Amy has been treated well and fairly by the Embassy staff and thanks everyone for their support in trying to make this happen. There will of course be other opportunities and she very much looks forward to visiting America in the near future."

Now she's gotta perform via satellite...I just hope she remembers to put the pipe away before she starts singin'.