Wednesday, July 28, 2010

President Wyclef Jean?

In a story that appears too good to be true, rumours are swirling that hip hop superstar Wyclef Jean is considering a run for the presidency of his home nation of Haiti. With the 2010 presidential election upcoming, many are watching Wyclef closely to see whether he will enter the political arena formally. For the past three years, Wyclef has represented Haiti as an "ambassador-at-large," a post to which he was appointed by current president René Préval.

As reported previously on, Wyclef has been intensely involved in the reconstruction efforts ongoing in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that crippled the island nation.

In a statement to the press, Jean's family indicated that "Wyclef's commitment to his homeland and its youth is boundless, and he will remain its greatest supporter regardless of whether he is part of the government moving forward. . . . If and when a decision is made, the media will be alerted immediately." The deadline for declaring as a presidential candidate in Haiti is August 7, 2010.

Could President Wyclef Jean become a reality?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"It Ain't My Fault": Calling Out the Blame Politics of the BP Oil Spill

Much has been made of the following question from the BP Oil Spill: whom exactly do we blame? In the months since the Deepwater Horizon sank and the well began spewing oil, BP and its corporate partners went to great lengths in front of Congress to point fingers at each other for responsibility for the disaster. It was quite clear that this was meant to stake out positions for the lawsuits to come seeking to assess liability for the disaster.

In reaction to this Blame Posturing, the “Gulf Coast All-Stars” (including Mos Def, Lenny Kravitz, Trombone Shorty, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and actor Tim Robbins) performed an old New Orleans standard with new hip-hop lyrics that call out the hypocrisy of these blame politics: It Ain’t My Fault.

This song was written as part of the Gulf Aid benefit concert held this past May to benefit the thousands now facing the end of their livelihoods. Mos Def describes the motivation for the song this way:

[I]t’s an old New Orleans classic we use it to speak about the current situation that’s going on in the Gulf and . . . [to] speak up about the situation that prevails in the world today.

Even after the Gulf Aid concert, the Blame Posturing continues. It is a story we now know all too well: BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, in a series of gaffs, went from contrite to cagey about BP’s responsibility for the disaster. As the New York Times reported on June 23:

He initially minimized the impact of the disaster, then publicly wished he could “get my life back.” Most recently, he took a day off to watch a yacht race in Britain even as Louisiana shrimpers were kept off the water by a fishing ban because of the oil spill.

In a move that came as a surprise to no one, BP quickly completed its plan to remove Hayward from dealing with the crisis. (BP = Bumped Prez!) Hayward’s conduct ratcheted up the desire to make BP pay for the spill, and it is clear that its establishment of a settlement fund is BP’s effort to get ahead of the liability curve. Moreover, as has been discussed on the Corporate Justice Blog, the legal issues surrounding the liability for the spill (coupled with the ongoing financial crisis) potentially will transform the approach to corporate liability generally. (Indeed, BP took the remarkable step of withholding dividends from its shareholders in anticipation of having to pay for this disaster; a smart move, as Professor Dorothy A. Brown argued.)

Moreover, the blame game has become Blame Politics. It began with President Obama expressing his frustration at BP’s finger pointing. In the same breath, President Obama ordered the revamping of the regulatory scheme for oil drilling to attack the “cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill.”

Yet, as the response of the government unfolded from May to June, which included the role the President undertook to change regulation, reconsider drilling policy, and facilitate the creation of the BP Settlement Fund, pundits and polls blamed President Obama for not being angry enough. (Was the message to President Obama “Be Perturbed”?) At the same time, other pundits cautioned Obama to remain measured because he risked being perceived as “the angry black man.” (The contradiction here is worth further exploration in a later post.) Moreover, some Republicans defended BP and criticized Obama (while others objected to this “defense”) for running a “shakedown” of BP through helping to negotiate the $20 million settlement fund. (BP = Bad Politicians?)

The Blame Pastime of the last two months misses the larger point—the Gulf Coast has been Battered Plenty. It Ain’t My Fault is a pointed reminder of this fact. Mos Def reminds us that the BP oil spill, possibly the biggest oil spill ever (as well as the failed levies of Hurricane Katrina) is somebody’s fault, and the mechanisms for corporate and governmental accountability once again appear to be insufficient to solving the problem. While blame is passed around, it is the Besieged People of the Gulf Coast region that are suffering—through Katrina and now through the Deepwater Horizon disaster—while litigation and political posturing continue.

It is no surprise that the American people are near the Boiling Point.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Camille Nelson Chosen as Dean at Suffolk

One of our very own has made it to perhaps the pinnacle of the professoriate as the newly selected Dean of the Suffolk University Law School. The full announcement from Suffolk is here:

This is a tremendous accomplishment and a great honor. Nelson is the first womyn and first person of color to hold this position in Suffolk's 104 year history.

You can view Professor Nelson's Hofstra faculty page here:

Perhaps there's a correlation between presenting at The Evolution of Street Knowledge conference that gave birth to this blog and career advancement. It may be too early to tell.

Three cheers for Dean Nelson! This is truly a great accomplishment and I'm sure I speak for all bloggers when I say, "Best of luck and congratulations."

-- Nick J. Sciullo