Sharp Notes March 05 2003

No Bombs Over Baghdad. Clearly, George W. has never heard OutKast's 3-year-old treatise regarding diplomatic credibility. "Don't pull your thang out, unless you plan to bang," opined Andre 3000 on the single, "BOB." "Don't even bang unless you plan to hit something/Bombs over Baghdad."

At the time, Dre was actually drawing his money-where-your-mouth-is metaphor from the Clinton administration's empty threats toward Iraq. But Bush has proved himself far more reckless in waving his Dick (Cheney) around. For many months, of course, he's been putting on his squint-eyed cowboy face and mustering up his limited powers of articulation to utter things like, "Time's running out," or "We're coming to get you Saddam" (at least he doesn't accent the first syllable, Sad'm, like his dad). It's as if he said, "I'm gonna count to five" and he's currently on "four-and-seven-eighths, four-and-fifteen-sixteenths ..."

Of course, the problem isn't so much with the "plan to hit something" part — the administration would like nothing more than to use its weapons to "bang" a little. The problem is with Bush's rush to "pull his thang out." Because now that it's becoming clear that following through on the threats means acting without the world's (maybe even the country's) approval — and facing some disastrous consequences for it — it must be dawning on the White House that maybe they shouldn't have been running their mouths about the certainty of military action. Now, whether Bush goes forward and acts against the will of the world, or whether he backs down from the rhetoric he's been spewing, either way he's got a credibility problem. Such is the diplomacy of dunces.

If only he had been listening to OutKast.

Now he's got a second chance. Andre and Big Boi have thrown their names in with a group of artists — including Lou Reed, David Byrne, Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, and fellow Georgians R.E.M., Bubba Sparxxx and Kandi Burruss — calling themselves Musicians United to Win Without War. As with the larger Win Without War coalition of anti-war organizations, the group advocates that the Bush administration put its thang back in, and refrain from banging it until further notice.

Presumably, the group is referring to us as the party who should "win without war," as opposed to Saddam Hussein (who, at this point, probably has better odds of winning if there's no war). As is typical of the anti-war argument, there aren't any specifics on what the alternatives would be — that is, if "winning" involves freedom for the Iraqi people.

But music-industry executive-turned-activist Russell Simmons, who's spearheading the Musicians United group, believes we have more pressing concerns than freeing Iraqis. "We are threatened as Americans because of the way our president carries himself," he said at the group's press conference. "Saddam is the Iraqis' problem. George Bush is our problem as Americans."

MAKING IT CLEAR. The FCC is currently holding hearings to address further media deregulation. Over the next few months, it'll be deciding whether to let radio and other media simply suck, as they do now, or whether it should get rid of all ownership rules. That would enable conglomerations to control a majority of the media in a single city — so that the media could be allowed to actually bite ass.

But while the FCC mulls over that important decision, we should take a moment to thank Clear Channel (whose website says it owns nine Atlanta radio stations, even though the current legal limit is eight). For what, you ask?

Well, if Clear Channel wasn't the behemoth it is — boldly sucking up thousands of radio stations and music venues since 1996 and slashing local staffs in the name of streamlined homogeneity, all the while developing innovations in payola as if nothing can stop it (nothing can) — then there's a good chance most Americans would never have noticed a subtler, more gradual decay in the quality of information and entertainment we get from the mainstream media.

Thanks to Clear Channel, all this has become jarringly obvious. Kudos!