Sunday, February 26, 2017
Sunday, December 25, 2016
This is part two of a two part piece. To read part one, follow this link: http://peterhuston.blogspot.com/2016/12/controversy-and-censorship-meet.html
As detailed last week on this blog , a hip hop rap called "Meet the Flockers" was released in March of 2014 as part of an album called "My Crazy Life." The song detailed how to rob a home and specifically advised people to target homes in Chinese neighborhoods as Chinese have traditionally kept larger amounts of cash and valuables around the home than many ethnic groups.
Not surprisingly the song offended many Chinese Americans. This controversy grew after, as detailed on last week's blog post, a Chinese woman in Georgia shot some African Americans who were attempting to rob her house.
In this blog, I will discuss the politics of the song, the response from the Chinese community in the USA, and the the response to the response. Then I will discuss the legalities and free speech issues surrounding the song.
Responses to the song included protests outside of YG's shows as well as a petition to the White House asking that the song be banned.
"The song "Meet the Flockers" by YG encourages violence and crimes to a specific ethnic group. As one of this group in North America, I feel seriously offended and threatened. Please ban the song from public media and investigate legal responsibilities of the writer."
The petition was signed by over 100,000 people, and therefore under the rules of the "We the people" forum the White House was required to give a response.
The response was as follows:
"Thanks for taking the time to sign this petition on the We the People platform.
In other words, a form response, citing first amendment and freedom of speech concerns and a lack of authority by the White House to ban such a song.
At what point does a song, film, book, or other piece of media that discusses methods of committing crimes cross the line and lose its first amendment protection? This is an issue I've discussed before when I wrote about the Paladin Press "Hitman" book and its lawsuit for "Gauntlet" magazine's 13th issue.
[NOTE: I am not a lawyer., I am a freelance journalist. Please do not take the following as legal advice.]
In fact, this has been done. (The song even references the shooting in Atlanta, among other things.)
Then again, some would say it's best to argue these things. It's tought to day. Freedom of speech is not always pretty or safe but it's an important part of the American system. And, yes, I did look up the song and it is offensive to Chinese people.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Recently on facebook, one of my Chinese friends posted an angry post concerning a controversial hip-hop song called "Meet the Flockers," outrage over the song among the Chinese American community, and a petition to the White House to ban the son, as well as the official White House response to the petition, a response that led to further frustration among many of those who had signed the petition as the White House, citing the first amendment's freedom of speech provisions, declined to ban the song. Hear I give the background to the controversy and the song. Next time I shall describe the response.
Having a background in censorship issues and being a former contributor to the 1990s publication, Gauntlet, a publication that dealt with censorship issues in a balanced and interesting way, such issues fascinate me. Let's begin with some of the issues surrounding this controversy a bit first.
If you'd like more information on the controversy, sources include this NBC news story -
It's easy to see how such a song could cause a controversy. But of particular controversy was the line "Find a Chinese neighborhood, cause they don't believe in bank accounts." Although there actually is some truth to the idea that many Asians keep larger quantities of cash and valuables in their house than some other ethnic groups, the specific targeting of Chinese and Chinese Americans did provoke outrage among those groups, at least once they became aware of the song two years after it was released. ( For those interested, in my book, Tongs, Gangs, and Triads --Chinese Crime Groups in North America I do discuss this briefly. Although not all Chinese do this it is particularly common among groups that come from countries where the banks are not as insured as here, or among those with refugee experiences who had to grab their valuables and flee such as many of the Chinese of southeast Asia. )
The controversy around the song was made worse following a shooting in Gwinnet County Georgia USA when a 36 year old woman named Chen Fengzhu shot three African-Americans in her residence after they had entered with the intent of robbing them. Chen and her husband had closed circuit cameras inside their house and the incident was filmed. After authorities in Georgia made the film public in the hopes of catching the surviving intruders it went viral and became quite popular viewing in China apparently.
Not surprisingly the incident got media coverage, both in the USA and China.
For one source of information on the shooting and controversy, see http://shanghaiist.com/2016/09/27/chinese_american_shopkeeper_shoots_intruder.php
Next time, the reaction to the song from the Chinese-American community, the response from the US government, and a discussions of legalities and the first amendment issues surrounding the song
This is part one of Two.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Note: this was originally written over seven years ago. I took it down for a while but decided to put it back up. The refugee center in Albany is much better run now and it appears that the director, Jill Peckinpaugh, was chosen because she has management skills. By contrast when this was written the director was chosen because she was a skilled photographer with good public relations skills. (???)
Within this blog I have made some pretty harsh condemnations of USCRI-Albany, the local refugee center, and the way it operates. Quite frankly, I don't really enjoy writing these things, then again in the last two weeks I've run into a couple people who know the center. They agree that the place is extremely disorganized and just rolled their eyes when it was mentioned. And interestingly enough, these were both people who had no idea how I felt about the center or that I had any real connection with it or even had a connection with refugees. (I spend a lot of time at events and activities that involve other cultures and so do many people who are interested in refugee concerns.)
Surely some who read this disagree or want to check for themselves.
Here's some thoughts on how to do that.
1) Check the newspaper or read blogs. Do google searches on the name of the organization. See what people are saying about it.
2) Check the rate of turn over among employees and volunteers. One way to do this is by noting the rate at which they seek volunteers. This is done through several sources, one is idealist.org , a website and e-mail service that advertises volunteer and paid positions for organizations that strive to make the world a better place. Just last week someone, a third person, noted that based on its postings in idealist.org the organization seemed to be searching constantly for volunteers of all kinds and often for the same positions. They saw this as a sign of a problem and, quite frankly, it is. Volunteers tend to burn out quickly due to the confusion within the organization. Others find they can do the same things they enjoyed doing at the center but with less hassles without the center getting in the way. (I started out teaching English there. If I understand correctly, they have gone through three different volunteer directors of their English program in the last year.)
3) Check with the agencies it works with and their volunteers. Ask for instance, their landlord, the people who rent them property and house the refugees, AAA Used Furniture, the local health clinics, the churches they work with, and the local literacy volunteer program. Ask them what they think of USCRI-Albany. Who knows? They might say something good.
4) Check with the government agencies that do business with it. These are easy enough to find. Just google "USCRI-Albany." What should soon stick out is that many of these agencies have both the address of USCRI-Albany and the name of the director wrong on their referral lists. I have toyed with the idea of making such a list of misdirected referals but it's just not something I wish to do.
5) Ask former refugees and immigrants from the ethnic groups whose members are served by the local refugee center. When I do this, even casually, it's not uncommon for people to start screaming.
6) Check with the Better Business Bureau. If you'd like their report is here. You'll note that the CEO of the national organization makes approximately $200,000 a year, which was equal to two thirds of their Albany office budget in 2006. Not very encouraging, I'm afraid. Why, I wonder, does the CEO make so much when the director of the local office has no management credentials and whose primary background with refugees prior to assuming office was to take pictures of them?
Again, don't listen to me. Please don't listen to former interns. Just do your own homework. Then make your own conclusions.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
|The walkway to the street|
|Another view of the walkway to the street.|
Sunday, November 27, 2016
|For example, will someone please tell me what the heck is this? It was on the bathroom wall.|
|Just to -provide some context.|
|And here we have a shot of the shower ring splashed with some long dried excess paint.|
|This is the bathroom window frame. Can someone please tell me how one gets paint to do this?|
It must take a lot of work.
|Another photo of the same bathroom window frame,|
More details should someone wish to reproduce the effect elsewhere perhaps.
|The bathroom light, lovingly decorated with paint and rust.|
|And what bathroom wall is not complete without a rusty nail sticking out?|
|Yet another shot of another part of the same window frame.|
|Yet another window frame in the same bathroom.|
Alas, as stated, I have moved out of this shit-hole and I sorely hope yet somehow doubt that the place will be much improved before it is rented again. Sadly, however, I suspect that the ability to even see any of this as a problem lies outside the capabilities of Wayne B. Whitney, an Albany landlord who bristles and complains and really does not like it when people refer to him as a "slumlord." much more so the ability to fix it.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Episode Number Seven: The Walls
I went to a social event today and someone asked me about this fine series. Alas, it'd be nice to say I moved on, but sadly Wayne B. Whitney, the landlord at 16 Benson Street in Albany is still out there, still renting property and still maintaining it badly. Someone please stop this man before he rents again.
As mentioned I moved into this place I was in a situation where I needed and apartment, needed it fast, and the landlord, Wayne B. Whitney, had assured me he had a nice apartment.
I should have left and run away when I looked at the walls, said, "What are you going to do about these?" and he responded by becoming offended and saying "What do you mean?"
(Which, of course, led to our verbal agreement where he'd provide paint so I could fix the walls myself, an agreement he then rescinded.)So without further ado, a few pictures of walls.
|A such loving care to detail on his property, Thank you, Wayne B. Whitney. Your tenants love you.|
|This just irritates me. Notice the bad cauling job at the joint, the splotchy paint, the poorly attached trim, the hardware that is, well, jsut there with no rhyme or reason to it.|
The light switch cover. Notice how it doesn't quite fit the paint underneath. A little bit of sanding and TLC would have made a big difference.