The Ali Shuffle, The Ropodope:, Or Random Thoughts of The Week of The President

I’m just wondering what it’s been like to be the Commander-in-Chief over the past week. 

Obviously it takes a special person to be president of these United States.  I’m reminded of Seth Meyers’ comments at the White House Correspondence dinner the other night when he talked about how Michelle Obama looks even better today than she did during inauguration; while the president was looking a bit aged.  Said Meyers’ to The President, ‘If your hair gets any whiter the Tea Party is going to endorse it!”

With crazy gas prices, Gaddafi Gate, two wars, budget deficits and ‘birther’ bashing led by ‘The Donald’, President Obama has definitely been taking some lately.  But like Sugar Ray Leonard in Leonard/Hearns 1, and Jordan in the 4th quarter of a pivotal playoff game, Obama put some work in that dazzled supporters and critics alike!  He proved once again that in the world of politics, sometimes it only takes a little to turn shit into sugar.  Just a few days revised this President’s potential legacy from pre-lame duck to WFT just happened.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Thursday April 29, 2011:

Obama releases long form birth certificate:

Though I was initially conflicted by this decision, I can’t help but believe that the ends justify the means.  While most Americans understood that the birther movement was a ridiculous play on race, and that Donald Trump was behaving like an idiot, some gullible yet well meaning citizens may have started to believe it was an issue.  The rules of basic propaganda are that if one repeats a lie long enough many will take it for truth.  The media gave coverage as if it were possibly legitimate.  And so as to not allow it to continue to be a distraction the administration put it to rest – thus shutting the mouths of birthers for good.  Now the question of citizenship and conspiracy of his mother in 1961 (I know it sounds ridiculous doesn’t it) are permanently put to rest.

The Obamas visit Tuscaloosa:

Unlike the previous presidential initial reaction to Katrina, Obama got to Alabama pretty quickly after one of the most devastating tornados in our nation’s history.  The Midwest has experienced tornados, storms and lots of flooding.  Unfortunately this is not new to us.  But what has happened in The South last week is on another level.  When I saw the footage of the tornado that hit Alabama, it seemed as if it were actually alive as it reeked what seemed like intentional angry destruction.  It’s expected that federal dollars will be given to aid with the rebuilding of these devastated communities.  But having The President’s presence there so quickly was encouraging to many.  He showed himself to be in touch with the suffering of his citizens.

April 30, 2011: Obama roast Trump at Correspondence Dinner:

I can’t get over the timing of this event.  ‘The Donald’ was brashly on television trying to perpetrate a fraud with this certificate thing.  He even threw in some racial basketball and affirmative action shots to boot to question the president’s intelligence.  Unfortunately on a typical day, the president can’t just respond to some reality TV hack whose major decisions have to do with evaluating the job performances of Little John, Hulk Hogan and Gary Busey.  But on this once yearly occasion the president is free to get off on anyone he chooses, and still remain presidential.  And as long as it’s funny it rocks.  The fact that Trump was arrogant enough to show up and get some of that in person was classic.  The President straight got in him unapologetically.  And the truthfulness of his remarks made it even more hilarious.  I thought of Sergeant Waters’ comment on “A Soldier’s Story” to Peterson after Peterson smarted off at him in the barracks.  “Peterson!  I ain’t forgot cha boy.  I’m going outside and wait for you geechie!  And when you come out, I’m gonna whoop yo Black White Southern Ass.  Let the whole company watch too!  You need to learn respect for these stripes!”  Needless to say, Obama beat that ass … in front of the whole company of the same people Trump previously spouted off in front of, the press.

 

On top of that he got it from Seth Meyers too!

May 1, 2011: Obama leads military in killing Bin Laden from the Situation Room of The White House while pre-empting Trump’s show:

Is this karma at the utmost or what?  And while I doubt that it was purposely timed to cut The Donald’s balls in the ratings department, I do know it to be ironic at least.  Even with all of the information and misinformation coming to the forefront regarding details of the actual mission, one thing is for sure;  The administration was able to keep this operation completely under wraps with no leaks whatsoever as to what was going on.

And to think that in the final days of the mission the president in addition to doing all of the things mentioned earlier, also had time to stop in to film an episode with Oprah as her last guest of her 25th and final season.  So for all the smack The Donald and his birther friends talked during the last few weeks/months, the way Americans see it now,  the president was indeed doing more than playing basketball.

As was it just me or did anybody else noticed how he just  sashayed down the walkway of the podium with the swagger straight from Chicago’s South Side to announce Bin Laden’s death?

The only thing left for Obama was to quote Shaquille O’Neal:  “Hey Kobe  Donald, tell me how my ass taste!”

Finally as we hear from the right some of the cowardly remarks trying to give much of the credit to former President Bush:  While this is certainly no middle finger towards the former president, I do have to say is this.  The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl.  Aaron Rodgers was the MVP.  You can try to give it to Brett Favre if you want to but that dog just won’t hunt.   Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove; none of them dudes have been in on the action for years now.  And while they were hopelessly looking in caves, Obama and his leadership team caught Bin Laden sleeping in a luxury compound. 

Since 9-11 this most notorious terrorist could have been named Osama Bin Missing.  And politics aside, The Obama administration didn’t have to roll with Mission Accomplished, or fake stories like Jessica Lynch or that criminal fakery that happened with Pat Tillman to rally Americans.  With no intent to deceive the American people the results now speak for themselves.  The president had his hands on this entire operation for the last several months.  And if he were wrong it would surely have cemented his legacy as a massive failure.  As it stands now, he will forever go down in history as the president that took out the mastermind of the worst terrorist event in the history of our nation.  Game, set match!

Trump Nation

“So what you have a legitimate birth certificate! My investigators tell me you not a good student, you were raised by wolves and were at the grassy knoll when JFK was assisinated!” What to know how I know? Can’t tell you now. You’ll have to watch my #1 rated NBC show called Celebrity Apprentice to find out!”

Jay-Z vs. The Game, Music, & Foreign Policy Power Tactics

I came across this story recently, and thought it quite clever and interesting.  In addition to the original post by the author Marc Lynch, there is a feature on the story from today’s Morning Edition page on NPR.org.  Basically he compares foreign policy conflicts to rap feuds.  He has a compelling argument too.

After reading the story below, you can have a little more fun with it by listening to this older commentary by music critic Steven Ivory.  This clip is from 2004 but it’s relevant he touches on Kim Jong Il and how to avoid a nuclear war with North Korea if our president takes him out for a good time.

Enjoy!

Jay-Z vs the Game: Lessons for the American Primacy Debate

by, Marc Lynch of ForeignPolicy.com

Late last week, the Los Angeles rapper the Game launched a blistering attack against the legendary New York blogger rapper :>) Jay-Z.   At a series of European shows, the Game led crowds in cheers of “F*** Jay-Z” and “Old Ass N*****”, and at one point went into an obsenity laced (but rather wickedly funny) rampage against Jay-Z’s fiance’ (wife?) Beyonce.  Over the weekend, he released “I’m So Wavy [Too Hardcore to be a Jay-Z]” an inconsistent but catchy attack on Jay-Z (note: all links are to songs which are almost certainly NSFW and which you might find offensive; you’ve been warned).  When I started feeding this stuff to my friend Spencer Ackerman last week, his first take was that “the countdown to the end of the Game’s career starts today.” Mine, me being a professor of international relations, was to start thinking about how this could be turned into a story about the nature of hegemony and the debate over the exercise of American power.  (That, and how I could waste time that I should be spending on real work.)

See, Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) is the closest thing to a hegemon which the rap world has known for a long time.  He’s #1 on the Forbes list of the top earning rappers.  He has an unimpeachable reputation, both artistic and commercial, and has produced some of the all-time best (and best-selling) hip hop albums including standouts Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint and the Black Album.  He spent several successful years as the CEO of Def Jam Records before buying out his contract a few months ago to release his new album on his own label.  And he’s got Beyonce.  Nobody, but nobody, in the hip hop world has his combination of hard power and soft power.  If there be hegemony, then this is it.  Heck, when he tried to retire after the Black Album, he found himself dragged back into the game (shades of America’s inward turn during the Clinton years?). 

 But the limits on his ability to use this power recalls the debates about U.S. primacy.  Should he use this power to its fullest extent, as neo-conservatives would advise, imposing his will to reshape the world, forcing others to adapt to his values and leadership?  Or should he fear a backlash against the unilateral use of power, as realists such as my colleague Steve Walt or liberals such as John Ikenberry would warn, and instead exercise self-restraint?  

 The changes in Jay-Z’s approach over the years suggest that he recognizes the realist and liberal logic… but is sorely tempted by the neo-conservative impulse. Back when he was younger, Jay-Z was a merciless, ruthless killer in the “beefs” which define hip hop politics.  He never would have gotten to the top without that.  But since then he’s changed his style and has instead largely chosen to stand above the fray.   As Jay-Z got older and more powerful, the marginal benefits of such battles declined and the costs increased even as the number of would-be rivals escalated.  Just as the U.S. attracts resentment and rhetorical anti-Americanism simply by virtue of being on top, so did Jay-Z attract a disproportionate number of attackers.   “I got beefs with like a hundred children” he bragged/complained on one track. 

His ability to respond actually declined as his power and enemies list grew, though. As a young 50 Cent spat at him (twisting one of Jay’s own famous lines), “if I shoot you I’m famous, if you shoot me you’re brainless.”  He’s generally avoided getting embroiled in beefs since reaching the top, only occasionally and briefly hitting back at provocations from rising contenders like 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, and others.  Responding to every challenge does not become a hegemon. Indeed, it would be counter-productive and exhausting, and would likely trigger even greater resentment among other rising rappers.  Better as hegemon to rise above the fray and accept the sniping of the less powerful while reaping the rewards of a status quo which he dominates and profits from excessively. And that’s what happened:  his wealth, status, and structural power rose inexorably despite the potshots and abuse and unmet challenges — indeed, the only real hit he’s taken was self-inflicted, the critical shrug given to the middling “Kingdom Come” album.

 When he learnt this lesson might also offer insights into how great powers in IR learn.  He changed his style after his most famous beef, and the only one which he lost:  his battle with the Queensbridge legend Nas.   The reasons for his loss are instructive.  Jay-Z launched what Nas later described as a “sneak attack” at a time when the latter’s mother was ailing. Why?  Because Nas was at the time recognized widely as the king of NYC rap, and Jay-Z (the rising power) saw that only by knocking off the king could he seize the crown for himself.   A few brief skirmishes — a Jay-Z freestyle mentioning Nas, the first “Stillmatic” response from Nas — then led to the full blast of “The Takeover”.   Rather than fold, Nas hit back with the instant legend “Ether”.  It went back and forth, and then, crucially, Jay-Z misplayed his hand. In “Super Ugly”, about 2 minutes in to a pretty good track, he escalated to a crude personal revelation about his sexual exploits with the mother of Nas’s child — prompting Jay’s mother to call in to a radio station to complain and forcing Jay to apologize.  The lesson:  just because you’ve got an ace card doesn’t mean you should play it… better to keep it in reserve, for fear of triggering a backlash. 

 But what happened next is even more interesting.  The beef actually helped both:  it lit a fire under Nas, who renewed his career, while Jay-Z continued to ascend to his current position (with the Black Album probably still standing as the pinnacle). Jay-Z acknowledged his defeat (on Blueprint 2) and learned lessons from it (while taking a few last shots, and claiming credit for reviging his rival’s career (“I gave you life when n**** had forgotten you MC’d”).  Nas opted to settle the beef, reconcile, and sign on with Def Jam Records — where he became one of Jay’s leading and most valuable artists.   In a world of unipolarity, both win through co-optation, reconciliation between enemies, and the demonstration that the gains of cooperation outweigh the gains of resistance.  

 Which brings us back to the Game.  The Game (Jayceon Taylor) is a wildly erratic, brilliantly talented L.A. gangsta rapper, a protege of Dr. Dre who started off with 50 Cent and G-Unit.  After an ugly break with them, he unleashed a barrage of brutal attacks on G-Unit and 50 Cent culminating in an epic 300 bars freestyle.  The Game clearly won the battle on its merits, but 50 Cent’s career continued relatively unharmed (he was #1 on last year’s Forbes list before being displaced by Jay-Z this year, though his reputation as a rapper has declined significantly after some mediocre albums and a humiliating defeat in a public showdown over album sales at the hands of Kanye West, of all people).  Meanwhile, the Game established himself as a solid solo act.  In that  war between a rising power and a upper-echelon middle power, both ultimately benefited.   

 Jay-Z is a bit different, given his hegemonic status and the absence of a prior relationship. The Game has always had a particularly odd, passive-aggressive relationship with Jay-Z.  His first hit “Westside Story” contained a line about not driving Maybachs (Jay’s signature car) which everyone took as a diss.  The Game panicked, and spliced into the title track of his debut album “The Documentary” a radio interview explaining that he had meant it as a shot against Ja Rule (everyone’s favorite hip hop punching bag) and that he “never takes shots at legends, that’s just not something I do.” Yeah, right.  Over the next few years, he would routinely go out of his way to say that he was not dissing Jay-Z even when it sounded like he was (“before you call this a diss, and you make Hova pissed, why would I do that, when I’m just the new cat, that was taught if a n****take shots to shoot back, defending his yard, yeah standing his ground, I’m sayin if you gonna retire then hand me the crown.”)  Think of him as a rising middle power (#13 on the Forbes list, down there with Young Jeezy, he helpfully explains on I’m So Wavy) eyeing the king, ambitious and a bit resentful, and looking for an opening.  

 So what prompted him to finally cross the line and attack Jay-Z?  There doesn’t seem to be anything in the public record to speak of — the proximate cause was a throwaway line in a Jay-Z freestyle which didn’t even attack him (“I ain’t talkin’ about THE GAME”).  His ego has always been there, and the Jay-Z obsession (in “360” earlier this year, he memorably rapped over Jay’s Million and One beat “I’m the king and you better respect it, all I need is Beyonce and a Roc-a-Fella necklace”).  Maybe he really just wants to test himself (he says on his Twitter feed “I ALWAYS FELT I WAS GOOD ENUFF 2 GO BAR 4 BAR @ JAY IN A “LYRICAL BEEF”), the way rising powers do.  Or maybe he just is hoping for publicity… wouldn’t be the first. But none of that explains the timing, even if it might account for the attack itself.  So let’s go with the IR analogies for a moment.

 The Game’s own account suggests that he saw vulnerability in Jay-Z’s over-extension.  First, supposedly Jay-Z got Chris Brown blackballed from the BET Video Awards by threatening to stay home if he performed.  Second, D.O.A., the first single off of Blueprint 3, attacked a whole generation of rappers using the Autotune program to sing (including such great powers as Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, and Kanye West as well as the hapless T-Pain). Taken together, that might add up to a growing resentment which could be exploited. Maybe he calculated that now was the moment to strike, and that the rest of the middle powers will ally with him to topple the tyrant.  

 But still, the timing is odd for a “power transition” narrative, given that Jay-Z is set to release his new Blueprint 3 album in September and has done a whole series of verses with other leading rappers in recent years (including Nas, Lil Wayne, and T.I.) which is to hip hop as “alliances” are to International Relations.  He may be old, but hardly looks like a declining power…. although perhaps Game simply detects weakness in Jay-Z’s age.  After all, he tweeted at one point that he “really don’t hate jay’s old music, but this new sh!t is convalescent home elevator music.” He clearly understands the extent of Jay-Z’s structural power, daring a long list of influential DJs to play I’m So Wavy.  

 So what does Jay-Z do?  If he hits back hard in public, the Game will gain in publicity even if he loses… the classic problem of a great power confronted by a smaller annoying challenger.   And given his demonstrated skills and talent, and his track record against G-Unit, the Game may well score some points.  At the least, it would bring Jay-Z down to his level — bogging him down in an asymmetric war negating the hegemon’s primary advantages.   If Jay-Z tries to use his structural power to kill Game’s career (block him from releasing albums or booking tour dates or appearing at the Grammy Awards), it could be seen as a wimpy and pathetic operation — especially since it would be exposed on Twitter and the hip hop blogs. 

 The Realist advice?  His best hope is probably to sit back and let the Game self-destruct, something of which he’s quite capable  (he’s already backing away from the hit on Beyonce) — while working behind the scenes to maintain his own alliance structure and to prevent any defections over to the Game’s camp.  And it seems that thus far, that’s exactly what he’s doing. We’ll see if that’s a winning strategy…. or if he’s just biding his time getting ready for a counter-attack.   Either way, I’ve succeeded in wasting a lot of time so… mission accomplished!

Charlie Bubba on AIG and Imus

It was a slow Monday evening.  No college basketball on television.  The World Baseball Classic is totally irrelevant no matter what Tommy Lasorda says about it being something we should care about.  So what was I to do?  Been a while since I’ve been over on the East Side.  So I head to one of my favorite watering holes for some special Crown.  The bartender called and told me that somehow he got a bottle of the Cask No 16 that Hines Ward was giving away to his teammates after the SuperBowl.  I was down for that!

No sooner than I walk in the door… I see my main man Charlie Bubba ghetto philosopher and street scholar of the hood.  It had been a while since I’d seen Charlie.  Or (Cholly) as we call him.  I thought to myself, “Now I know the evening will be exciting.  We can talk about the NCAA tournament.  Manny Ramirez or something.  But no politics cause I was tired of the news as it is.”  I tried to head him off at the pass when he laid eyes on me.

Me: Cholly whats up baby!  Who you got going to the Final 4?  Who’s going to take it all!

Cholly: Fuck that nigga!  That shit ain’t coming on till Thursday.  It’s MONDAY fool!  Hell who gone be president in 2012?  Who gone be Bristol Palin’s next baby-daddy.  Hell I don’t know.  Gotta wait till it get here.  Shit.

Me: Dang Cholly why you all “sensitive” today? 

Cholly: Man these fools tried to take my crib – 4Close on a nigga.  While these fuckers at AIG, (Always Is Gangsta) taking MY tax dollars for god-damn bonuses and shit?

Why did I ask?  He got me.

Cholly: Come on C!  How many times these white boys, these anti-big government, anti-government helping out anybody, anti-welfare shit on the little man leaches keep coming back to the Amerikkkan people begging for hand-outs?  I hope Bama (Obama) knows what he’s doing.  Cause last time he talked about how it wasn’t about being pissed at them, but about saving the economy even though they pissed over the last stash they got.  Now they just made an ass out of him as far as I’m concerned.  Cause the same shit keeps happening over and over again. Give them assholes money, and they put it in their pockets.  Then I hear this broad talking on TV about how they were “contractually obligated” to give these bonuses.  What?  Like they were contractually obligated to give them money for the hoes they paid for at the spa a few months back?  Right?  That’s some bullshit!  First of all, who is giving out the bonuses anyway?  The same mother fuckers who asked for the money?  The same folks who are on the board deciding that they were “contractually obligated” to pay themselves all that loot?  The same jokers who’s decisions ran the company down in the first place?  What kinda shit is that?

Cholly was really angry.  I tried to get a word in but he kept going.

Cholly: And what if somebody with some balls at the top decided that these bonuses were not going to be given out.  If the others tried to sue, what fuckin judge is going to side with them.  I know they don’t write up contracts that say, ‘Even if you run the company into the ground and we are strapped for cash, we’ll still give you millions for the trouble you put us in.’  I just don’t see that happening.  And hell if they didn’t get multiple bailouts, where the fuck would they have gotten the money?  I’m telling you man!  They say they don’t want no socialist government and shit, but they can’t be trusted to run these businesses on their own obviously!  And why is Bama nem’ keep giving them the money with no fuckin oversite?  You keep trusting the same robbers and thieves to do the right thing?  That just goes to show you.  White folks broke the mode on crime I don’t care what they say?

Me: Well man you have said a mouthful Cholly.  Care for some of this No. 16 to take the edge off? 

Cholly took the drink and swished it around his mouth before swallowing.  “This some good shit here boy!”

Me: I’m sorry about…

Cholly: And did you get a load of that Imus bullshit he was saying about his prostate cancer?  ‘I think I got this from stressing all that media pressure at my doorstep a while back. ‘ First of all I don’t give a fuck about your prostate!  Second of all you opened your fool ass mouth and said some shit you shouldn’t have calling some black college educated women, ‘nappy headed hoes’ and then blame us for making your life stressful?  Cry me a fucking malt liquor bitch!  Sucks to be you huh? I tell you C, only in this country do white folks think such dumb ass shit.  Then he calls Giuliani about his dick getting hard.  First off Rudy ain’t getting no pussy he ain’t paid for.  Have you seen that guy? What is going to do, rub his little cabbage patch head against a woman’s…

Me: CHOLLY! That’s too much information bruh!

Cholly: Yea you know what I’m saying.  Who would want to fuck Imus anyway?  That crinkled up old dude.  Every timeI see him I think to myself, “There goes Maude!”  Look at his face, the way it looks if it can get hard he can use that!  He may want to get it circumcised first… 

Me: Alright Cholly I’m about to bounce. 

After a couple glasses of the No. 16, I was good to go but Cholly was just getting started.  This was my time to exit cause he was already on a mission as it is.

Me: Cholly man I’m sorry about the house?  What are you gonna do about it?

Cholly: Man I don’t know.  But Cholly Bubba always work thangs out.   Maybe I can catch one of them AIG niggas at the ATM machine.

I gave Cholly some dap and bid bye to he and the rest of the patrons.  Always having to have the last word though…

Cholly: Louisville!  Rick Pitino bitches!  Cardinals all the way over that robot Tyler Hansbrough for the championship!

Me: Whatever!  Carolina all the way! 

When Prayer and Consultation are Not The Answers, Google!

This is some of the funniest stuff I have ever read.  Pope Benedict XVI lifts the excommunication status of one of his bishops Richard Williamson who is an denier of history and an apparent anti-Semite.  The bishop didn’t believe the Holocaust really happened and expressed his views quite openly.  This is the funny part to me:

“I have been told that consulting the information available on the Internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on.

“I have learned the lesson that in the future the Holy See will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.”  Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to bishops.

Uhhh here is another idea dear pontiff.  If your not too sure about the cats in your camp representing the church, googling is one thing and sure there is a wealth of information there.  Some is true and some is not.  But I am sure you could have asked a few people within your organization about Williamson and there are agencies that do background checks.  You can pay a fee and they will give you any information necessary to empower you to make better informed decision.  I know that budget has been stretched a bit, but mix in a private investigator or two.  These things are avoidable. 

Come on, is that the best you’ve got?  “We should have googled dude?”  Michael Steele think’s that’s weak!

Hilarious!

Blago on Blow? I think so!

Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he considered selecting Oprah Winfrey to fill Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

What in the H – E – double hockey sticks is up with this cat?  Has he flown over the cuckoo’s nest or what? 

The Illinois governor has an impeachment trial going on.  And since he thinks it’s unfair he decided to leave the state for a host of interviews.  So far he’s laying out such gems such as he considered Oprah Winfrey for the senate seat he allegedly tried to sell.  I mean in one sense that makes sense considering she makes enough money to meet any price he may have asked – but SERIOUSLY!    Oprah? 

Not to be outdone by himself, he also compared himself to Mandela, MLK, and Gandhi.  WTF? 

Man I think this dude is doing Shrooms, LSD or something! 

He obviously does not live on this planet.  He lives in planet Blago.  A world only he understands.

I’m not sure what is more stupid – his words or the fact that some book publisher is considering whether to give Sara Palin an $11 million advance for a boring ass book about her life that she will in no way tell the truth about anyway.

Political Game of Chicken? Gov. Rod still “acting like” the Gov, Names Replacement to Senate Seat

 

In the “up your nose with a rubber hose” move of the day.  Rod Blagojevich is naming himself a Senator by the name of Roland Burris, a former Illinois Attorney General.   After serving stints in the state as a state Comptroller prior to the AG’s position, Burris has done his thing on the political consulting tip with his firm, Burris & Lebeb Consulting, LLC. 

What is the next move for the people of my home state?  Will they fight this appointment or what?  Is Gov. Rod offering him up as a trojan horse knowing he won’t get to hold the seat?  And did they have to meet in a park somewhere to agree on what the payoff would be?

That’s what I really want to know!