Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Update: Wyclef Jean argues that getting shot brought much needed attention to the Haitian election

The story's here at People.com.

Wyclef makes an interesting point about his unfortunate shooting in Haiti. Would anyone in the U.S. know there was a presidential election if 1) Wyclef hadn't attempted to run, 2) Wyclef hadn't been barred from running, and/or 3) Wyclef hadn't been shot?

Does the U.S. care about the Caribbean world or is our only interest in beaches, umbrella drinks, and the postcolonial gaze?

Like it or not the U.S is not only proximally and economically tied to the Caribbean and larger Latin American world. With debate about CAFTA prominent and debate even more polarizing on the U.S.-Columbia Free Trade Agreement (not to mention the U.S.-Panama FTA), U.S. involvement in Latin American and the Caribbean will only increase. These FTA's are important to the economic relationship amongst countries in the Americas and present economic opportunity for U.S., Panamanian, and Columbian interests. As the Panama Canal expands to accommodate new Panamax ships and positions itself as global transportation and logistics hub, one would be reasonable to argue that the U.S. should move to become apart of these opportunities. The FTAs currently await ratification in Congress and there seems to be little push for that to happen. SKFTA (South Korea FTA) is also sitting around for that mater.

Read more about the Columbia and Panama FTA's here: Western Farm Press, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Tampa Bay Tribune, and Quincy Herald-Whig.

Photo credits: Denise Truscello/WireImage/People.com

Dr. John Carlos to Speak at the West Virginia University College of Law

Dr. John Carlos, who along with Olympic teammate Tommie Smith were criticized for protesting on the medal stand at the 1968 Mexico City Games, will discuss the evolving role of African American athletes in American culture and politics in a speech sponsored by the West Virginia University College of Law Sports and Entertainment Law Society.

Carlos will speak at noon on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom in the WVU Law Center.

Specifically, Dr. Carlos will discuss the national platform athletes are given, as the American public has become more and more enthralled in the commercialized sports industries. He will discuss how and if African American athletes utilize this platform as he and Smith did in 1968. Carlos won the bronze medal in the 200-meter dash behind Smith and Australian Peter Norman. While receiving their medals, Smith and Carlos raised gloved fists as a silent protest of racism and economic depression among oppressed people in America. In response, International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage banned the two men from the Olympic Village and forced them from the United States Olympic team. Carlos and Smith were embattled for years following their bold and meaningful protest.

The event is free to the public and will be webcast live at http://law.wvu.edu/carlos.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Oklahoma Anti-Immigrant Bill Uses Drug War Tactics to Buy Police Support

A bill making its way through the Oklahoma Senate promises to bring the time-tested tactics of the war on drugs to the latest round of attacks on immigrants. Senate Bill 908, introduced by Senator Ralph Shortey (R-Oklahoma City), would authorize the forfeiture of vehicles, homes, and other property used to transport undocumented people. Part of the proceeds from the sale of seized items would go to the investigating law enforcement agency and prosecutor’s office.

S.B. 908 would also require police officers to verify the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest and would allow officers to arrest without a warrant anyone believed to be removable for having committed a crime.

The effect of a forfeiture provision is quite simple: to create a financial incentive for police departments and prosecutors to prioritize immigration policing. This, in fact, appears to be Shortey’s goal. According to an Associated Press article, Shortey said, “If you give (law enforcement) a fiscal reason why they should do it, then they're going to enforce these laws.”

Shortey wants to dangle the carrot of free money in front of cash-strapped police departments on the belief that resisting this incentive would prove daunting. Unfortunately, there is plenty of reason to believe he is probably right.

We have seen this tactic before. As Michelle Alexander brilliantly chronicles in her 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, President Ronald Reagan’s campaign against drugs did not gain much traction until police became financially invested. First they received free military weaponry, training, and grants. It was not until Congress allowed local law enforcement agencies to keep part of the proceeds of their drug investigations, however, that the war on drugs became a central feature of criminal policing. “Law enforcement gained a pecuniary interest not only in the forfeited property,” Alexander explains, “but in the profitability of the drug market itself.”

The war on drugs, of course, is better described as a war on people of color—and most aptly, a war on black men. Though brown faces and poor white people have been caught up in this vortex to varying degrees, it is at bottom a decades-long project of repainting the black male body as savage. Sadly, it has been all too successful.

Shortey and the Oklahoma Republicans who have given life to his proposal by sending it from the Judiciary Subcommittee to the full Appropriations Committee threaten to expand this strategy against today’s scapegoats—the immigrants whose Latina/o, Arab, and Muslim (this being the state that recently banned its courts from using Sharia law) images lay just below the surface of anti-immigrant rhetoric.

The lesson to be learned from the adoption of war on drug tactics to, in words Kevin Johnson used in his recent Chapman Law Review article “It’s the Economy, Stupid: The Hijacking of the Debate Over Immigration Reform by Monsters, Ghosts, and Goblins (or the War on Drugs, War on Terror, Narcoterrorists, Etc.),” the “war on immigrants” is, of course, that it is imperative to see these campaigns as related parts of a campaign against racialized outsiders—people whose very humanity is devalued in the name of law and order.

by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández
Assistant Professor of Law
Capital University Law School

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hip Hop's Far Reaching Corporate Influence

On Super Bowl Sunday last month, Chrysler dropped a cool $9 million dollars for a 2-minute commercial, the longest in Super Bowl history. The commercial showed gritty, emotional everyday pictures of Detroit and Detroiters and asked, “What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?” The commercial ended with Chrysler’s new tag line: “Imported from Detroit.”

The commercial set the internet ablaze. Traffic on Edmunds.com, the premier online automotive information site, spiked. Chrysler-related searches increased by 267% and 1,619% for Chrysler’s new 200, featured in the ad. Chrysler’s bold, profound commercial was ranked by many as one of the top commercials of the Super Bowl. When Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler, gave his execs a sneak-peak of the ad, many were reportedly close to tears.

Why was this commercial so memorable, moving and so successful (not to mention expensive and risky)? Aside from featuring a battered Detroit now purpotedly rising from the ashes and coming on strong, Chrysler decided to also feature an infamous Detroit native. Perhaps like the automobile industry itself, this Detroit native plateaued several years ago and seemed to fade in import and impact. But now, on a comeback himself, hip hop superstar Eminem can speak for a city and citizenry that are seeking to rise to a new found prominent place.

The irony in this interesting circle of corporate risktaking is that, as reported by Forbes magazine, Marchionne himself hesitated before deciding to make Eminem the face of his franchise in this expensive outlay of shareholder value. Marchionne admitted, “This was not an easy choice. . . . Apart from the money involved . . . and this is pretty expensive stuff, but you know, the choice of the topic, the choice of the characters in the thing were not easy choices. I had to think about this really long and hard. . . . You know, I love Eminem but . . . I also know that some of the choices of language that he has made are things that are not what I would consider to be commonly shared.” Marchionne necessarily treaded a delicate line in featuring the hip hop bad boy who is famous for hard-core lyrics and profanity, as well as bouts of homophobia and misogyny.

Eminem’s manager, Paul Rosenber, explained that the ad “started off as a request to license music but after . . . learning more about [Chysler CEO] Sergio Marchionne's vision, we realized there was a lot in common with Chrysler's story as it relates to Detroit and Eminem and his ability to overcome. We think the video we made with Chrysler is a statement about the passion of the company and the City of Detroit and we are proud to be a part of it."

Marchionne eventually overcame his reluctance to use Eminem as his spokesperson, recognizing how much the rapper has in common with the automaker. “[Eminem] represents part of America that I think is important as hell. I think it’s at the heart of what we are.” OK, not everyone likes the rapper’s music, Marchionne conceded, “but a lot of what he is, is us, you know? I mean there’s a sort of seriousness about that kid . . . which is true of [Chrysler]. The fact that we’re coming out of nowhere, right? A lot of people last year asked us, you know, are you still going to be here in 12 months?”

The fact that Eminem and his parallel story to Chrysler’s are generating national buzz and interest, despite the well-documented auto industry bailouts and bankruptcies last year, is a testament to the far-reaching influence that hip hop artists have nationally and internationally.

*** Cross Posted on the Corporate Justice Blog ***

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Unionist Popular Culture and Rolls of Honour in the North of Ireland: During the First World War and Other Diverse Essays

A new book has just been released entitled, "Unionist Popular Culture and Rolls of Honour in the North of Ireland: During the First World War and Other Diverse Essays." Edited by Nannette Norris, this book examines popular culture across a broad range of topics from comics to poetry, hip-hop to cinema.

Included essays:

Preface Bruce E. Drushel

Introduction Nanette Norris

Unionist Popular Culture and Rolls of Honour in the North of Ireland during the First World War Catherine Switzer

Don’t Read Those ‘toons! French Comics, Government Censorship, and Perceptions of American Military Aviation Guillaume de Syon

A History of African American Religion in Comic Books Nicholas Yanes

Conversations with the Law: Wyclef Jean, Shottas, and Haitian Jack: A Hip-Hop Creole Fusion of Rhetorical Resistance to the Law Nick J. Sciullo

Dolls with Disabilities: Playing with Diversity Katie Ellis

(Re)Thinking Gender and Sexuality in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Brian M. Peters

Women Without Men: The Separate Universe of Women's Utopian Fiction, 1915-1985 Nanette Norris

Empowered Muslim Women in the Poetry of Mojha Kahf Naglaa Saad

VideoWest: Looking Back Harshly, Moving Fast-Forward Meredith Eliassen

‘Heart o’ the City’: Mind, Body, and The Matrix Paula Young Lee