Cash Rules Everything Around Me

All Hail The Queen?

Is your crown too tight honey?

Okay Beyonce, you’re starting to get on my nerves a little.

As regular readers of The Mad (political) Scientist know, I try not to acknowledge the existence of Beyonce Knowles-Carter whenever possible.

I do this for two reasons: one, because the only piece of her music I have on my I-Tunes library is one that I was forced to download on behalf of one of my students for my Media Arts class.

The second reason is because I don’t always feel like dancing on the Third Rail of African American entertainment that Beyonce has become. She’s kind of untouchable to her legion of fans…almost to the point that saying anything other than “She’s the queen and we all need to worship her,” has been known to cause arguments of all kinds.
 
But sometimes, I get a piece of video or audio from Queen Bey that just demands my own special brand of snark. Yesterday was one of those days and it came to me from a variety of sources.
 
I invite you to listen to Beyonce’s new single. On her new record, she decides that it’s time for her to let the R&B music world know that it’s her world…we’re all just living in it…
 
Now let’s take this apart for a moment.

We have Beyonce, a woman so unthreateningly black that her image is on everything from Pepsi cans to hair dye, an FOB (Friend of Barack’s) and someone who gets fashion tips from First Lady Michelle, (tips that I wish she’d pass on to her mama Tina, I’m just sayin’)  cursing on a record, telling people to bow down to her.

If that doesn’t make you laugh, you’re better than me.

I mean, hey, the most truly hardcore thing she’s ever done is marry a truly hardcore dude in Jay-Z…and even then, they did the whole “get married, have a baby” thing in the proper order.

Add to this the fact that she’s from an affluent,two-parent family in Suburban Houston and you get why I had to be picked up off the floor when I heard this piece of nonsense yesterday. It makes about as much sense coming out of her mouth as it would, well, M.C. Hammer’s.

Now I know that the mention of M.C. Hammer is gonna send some of you running to The Google, so let me save you some time. Hammer was, well, the Beyonce of early 90s rap. His material was G-Rated, he was a decent dancer, he advertised everything from sneakers to soft drinks, and was generally well-liked.

But because he had the money management skills of a crackhead and couldn’t say no, something that led to his having half of Oakland on his payroll, Hammer ended up having to sing “Turn This Mother Out” in Bankruptcy court.

Proper…

(That was a Hammer-ism…)

Anyway, Hammer needed to make some money. The only way he could make the kind of money he needed was by entertaining. Since his old record company was one of the people he owed, that was out. So he ended up with the Patron Saint of Broke Rappers….

Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight.

Now there was a time where the idea of M.C. Hammer, Snoop Dogg (who he was before he becamed the Lion…) Dr. Dre and the late Tupac sharing a label would have never been a thought. But poverty, or in this case poverty by millionaire standards, can make strange bedfellows.

It can also produce stuff like this, unfortunately…



This is probably the single worst example of what can happen when you try to be something you’re not. Hammer was trying to be a hardcore gangsta rapper in this video.

But all we remember is how silly he looked in those leopard print bikini trunks.

If we were to apply this to Queen Bey’s commandment to “Bow Down”, complete with all of the “bitches” contained therein, we would fully expect to see a music video complete with buff, topless men, a chaise lounge, and lots and lots of feathered fans.

In other words, it would be an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race complete with the Pit Crew…

And it wouldn’t be a good look.

Let’s be honest here. Do we know that on some level Beyonce does indeed rule the world? Yes. I mean, hey, you could at least criticize MC Hammer without anyone threatening to kill you. Try that with Beyonce and you might need a bodyguard.

But on the other hand, the difference between those you meet on the way up and those you meet on the way down is that on the way up they’re laughing with you.

On the way down, they’re laughing at you. Kinda like a lot of us are doing with this record.

Last I looked, MC Hammer was doing infomercials and had some sort of IT company, so he’s managed to bounce back in a way. I fully expect to see him on Dancing With The Stars, Celebrity Apprentice, or some other reality show staffed by has-beens, never-wases and people who made their bones by being involved in a scandal of some sort or by posing nude (or worse yet, having sex with Hugh Hefner).

If that’s not the fate you’d like for yourself Beyonce, you might want to put the scepter down for a moment…

Because if I were someone who could actually sing and you were aiming this record at me, my response to you would be a phrase that’s two words long.

That phrase?

Bitch, please!

I leave you with Her Royal Highness, Aretha Franklin…

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We Almost Lost Detroit…


 Imagine this scenario:

You live in a pretty decent sized town. The elected officials in your town aren’t the greatest. The town’s budget is a bit of a mess. Jobs have left that probably won’t be back because the industry they were connected to no longer exists in the form it used to. There’s been a few instances of corruption and some of these local officials have found themselves taken away in handcuffs for their malfeasance. So your town has an election, and you, and your fellow townspeople, vote to throw these bums out and replace them with people who have a plan designed to fix the budget, drum up some business….and by extension some jobs. And to put a cherry on top of this new hot fudge sundae, they’re probably the most ethical folks in your town, so you know their hearts are in the right place.

Now imagine that despite the fact that you and your fellow townspeople have done what they could do on a small-“d” democratic level to get the town back on track, the governor of your state decides that your efforts aren’t enough and armed with a law that his political cronies worked hard to get implemented, nullifies the intention of the voters in your town by installing an overseer with unlimited power that can do anything he or she wants…and your taxes are forced to pay for his decisions.You have no way to protest this person’s actions and they can’t be voted out.

Now if you’re a longtime resident of Washington, D.C., this particular scenario is probably something you’re far too familiar with. Depending on who the current occupant of the White House is and which party holds the majority in Congress, you either have a say in how your taxes are used on the federal level, which means you have some actual control of your budget, or you’re basically told, “We own you bitch! Shut up and take it!”…which is something that I’m sure that Newt Gingrich probably said when he was Speaker of the House in the 90s.

But if you’re a resident of one of the 50 states that make up the rest of United States of America, you probably never thought that you’d ever have to deal with this scenario in any way, shape or form. I mean, why would any governor decide that he or she was not only going to take over a town government and give the citizens in said town no say in how their government, a government that’s supposed to represent them, conducts itself?

If you live in the state of Michigan however, that’s the reality you’re currently living under. Especially if you’re living in the towns of Flint, Pontiac, Hartranft, Ecorse, Benton Harbor, and Three Oaks. Under the Emergency Manager Law, one of those draconian measures that always seem to go hand in hand with what I like to call “bully government”, Gov. Rick Snyder can decide unilaterally that he doesn’t like your town’s government, have it removed, and replace it with one he likes…one that isn’t accountable to you, the citizens.

Now we here in Philadelphia have our own smaller scale experiences with things taken over by state-sponsored entities that have no accountability to us as citizens despite the fact that they are financed through our taxes. The School District of Philadelphia is the biggest example of this, followed closely by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

But just like in Michigan, state takeover hasn’t equalled excellence. Heck, we here in Philly could have told them that. The School District of Philadelphia has been operating at a deficit ever since the Commonwealth took it over, as are the towns that have been subject to this particularly heinous power grab.

The Detroit School District, which has been under state receivership for a while, is still a mess.

So imagine the horrified looks on the faces of the folks in the City of Detroit, a city that managed to survive Kwame “I don’t wanna be a freak, but I can’t help myself” Kilpatrick, the greed of GM, and a whole host of other things, when they found out that despite electing a new mayor, Dave Bing, a new city council, and trying to put its own house in order, it and another town, Inkster, are Gov. Snyder’s next takeover targets.

Wow.

There are a lot of things not to like about this law. We can talk about how it’s a total subjugation of democracy. We can talk about how it doesn’t give towns in Michigan an incentive to try and clean up their governments on their own because they know, no matter what, the Governor will take over the town if he doesn’t like their choices. We can talk about how political in the most grotesque sense this is.

But what really stood out to me about the consequences of this law was this: if Inkster and Detroit join the ranks of Michigan’s takeover targets, 50 percent of the state’s African American community will be living in towns governed by officials they didn’t elect, can’t un-elect, and aren’t accountable in any way to them.

Wrap your head around that for a moment. I’ll wait…

That means that 50 percent of Michigan’s African American community has no say so in their own governance.

Getting it now?

As times get harder and towns find it difficult to keep up, it would be no surprise to me at all if more laws like this found themselves being proposed in state legislatures.

But in the words of the Rev. David Bullock, one of the leaders of a march to Gov. Snyder’s Ann Arbor home in protest of the law, it would be a bad idea to use a lack of funding as an excuse to take away the right of a municipality to govern itself.

“There is no connection between dismantling democracy and fixing a deficit,” Bullock said. “Democracy allows for accountability and transparency. If you take democracy off the table, you have tyranny. There is no accountability. We must also add that emergency management does not work. The Detroit Public Schools is under emergency management: still has a deficit. Benton Harbor is under emergency management: bills paid late. The city of Highland Park was under a weaker form of emergency management for nine years: still has a deficit. You cannot manage a blood loss. If I were in a car accident and I was losing blood, you wouldn’t manage how much blood I was losing. You would stop the bleeding and you would send a blood transfusion. We need targeted reinvestment in Michigan.”

Let’s hope they get some. Beats the hell out of the alternative.

"I have a dream…." and I got it for half off!

Right now as I’m writing this, folks around the country are participating in service projects, going to ecumenical services, or doing other things to benefit their communities as part of the observance of the 83rd birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Here in Philly, the folks at Global Citizen put together a series of projects that gave just about every community in the Delaware Valley some needed assistance that it probably wouldn’t have gotten due to budgetary constraints.

 Just what Dr. King would have wanted.

When the King Holiday became reality 25 years ago, and folks were trying to figure out how to celebrate it, the one concern that everyone had about it was that it might become just like every other holiday: a day off and not much else.

To try and counteract that, former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford, a man who was a contemporary of Dr. King’s and had worked with him during the Civil Rights Movement, suggested that the holiday become “a day on, not a day off”, a day of service, not a day at the mall.

And for the first 10 or so years, that’s exactly how it worked. People took to the streets to plant gardens, build playgrounds, paint school buildings, cook and deliver food to the hungry, and perform other kinds of service to mankind. Interfaith ecumenical services (because you can’t honor a minister without having some sort of church service), luncheons honoring those who work toward King’s “beloved community” and educational activities have also been a part of the observation of the King Holiday.

(There is also a full slate of NBA basketball games to commemorate the King Holiday because after a long day of giving back to the community, catching a game with your buds is a great way to unwind..)

But over the last few years, I’ve started to see something connected to the King Holiday that I was really hoping it could avoid.

What might that be, you might ask?

Well, it’s this…

Why Sears and KMart are losing market share…

This, in case the caption isn’t clear, is an ad from KMart for an MLK Day sale. I went looking for (and asked my Facebook friends to send me) ads like this after seeing Sears MLK Day appliance sale ad on television.

It’s not the only one that I saw. Everyone from clothing retailers like Betsey Johnson to car dealerships, to even the Home Shopping Network has a slew of discounts connected to the birthday of a man who would have reacted to it in much the same way that Jesus reacted to the moneychangers in the temple during Passover.

And, and I’m saying this because I’m starting to think that we can’t help ourselves, the more heinous damage from a retail perspective being done to the King Holiday, a holiday that African Americans worked hard to make possible, is, of course, self-inflicted.

Observe:

The levels on which this is wrong defy description. This is for a party in Miami. There were others, including, and this was my personal favorite, a nightclub in Washington, DC offering the “I have a dream” cocktail.

(God, do I wish I was kidding!)

Now don’t get me wrong. I know that I live in a nation where “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” is the law of the land, something that was codified when the Supreme Court decided to give corporations personhood through the Citizens United decision.

Because of this, I also know that no holiday is safe from crass commercialization. Don’t believe me? Go to any CVS pharmacy the day after Halloween. You’ll see that in one day it’s changed from spooky ghosts and witches hats to a winter wonderland, complete with motorized Dancing Santas.

I also realize that there are folks out there, many of whom are ensconced on the boards of the very corporations responsible for most of the crass commercialization of our holidays, who are still pissed off that King has a federal holiday because they saw him as a Communist agitator. Wanting to see such things as  humane treatment for workers, people being able to support themselves by making a living wage, and true equality for everyone, and being willing to take it to the streets to make it a reality, can make you unpopular in some quarters.

But I thought that we could, as a nation, at least let the King Holiday maintain the significance its supposed to have for at least a little while longer. There’s still too much that needs to be done in our communities for the holiday to become just another opportunity to hit the mall.

So what do we do? Good question.

Maybe someone can get Sen. Harris Wofford back on camera to remind us of why the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King deserved a holiday in the first place…

Me and my bud Brian Marcus at the King Memorial