Thursday, January 31, 2008

Here's To You, Rudy...

Is John McCain Dr. Strangelove?

Judge for yourself:

Hulkster Endorses Obamanator!

This election is OVER! Hulkamania has joined Obamamania to create an unstoppable political force! Move over Huck and Chuck. Step off McOld, Sly and Ahnuld... You've got nothing on this tag-team!

Barack Obama and Hulk Hogan: Real Americans

In lieu of debates, how about a series of steel cage matches?!??

Brian DePalma's "Redacted" (on DVD Feb. 19)

See what they don't want you to see.

"An amazingly vigourous work" - TIME

A fictional story inspired by true events, REDACTED is a unique cinematic experience that will force viewers to radically reconsider the filters through which we see and accept events in our world, the power of the mediated image and how presentation and composition influence our ideas and beliefs.

Official Redacted Website

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thank You, John!

John Edwards has decided to abandon his quest for the presidency today by heading back to where it all began for him, New Orleans. I want to take this opportunity to STRONGLY praise Edwards and his campaign, particularly for raising the two issues that are closest to my own heart: the tragic link between race and poverty as well as the undemocratic influence of corporations on our political system. It was a noble campaign that just could not break through against the two other celebrity candidates. It is a shame, but his voice was, and continues to be, an important one.

Here's to you, John! Thank you.

By the way, how does Attorney General in an Obama administration sound?

David Bowie Takes on Presidential Change...

This is fun. Watch it all the way through:

Here's an older video set to U2's "Sunday, Bloody Sunday". If you are prone to seizures, you might want to skip this one:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jimmy Carter "Lavishes Praise" on Obama...

This is as close as Jimmy Carter gets to an endorsement. In most cases, he stays out of the endorsement game, instead giving public indications of support for politicians he likes. For instance, many months ago, Carter introduced John Edwards at an event, a move that people took as a sign of Carter's approval of his campaign. So, this is as close as it is going to come to an endorsement from the former Prez...

Here is the full article: Carter interview

New Obama Ad Features Two Kennedys

Flaming Lips - "Do You Realize"

This is a really beautiful song.

If you have never seen the Flaming Lips live, you really owe it to yourself to catch them. An amazing experience, chok full of streamers and glow sticks and people dressed up as animals and superheroes and aliens and santa claus, and strange videos, Wayne Coyne talking about God knows what... Awwwwww, forget it. There is no way to adequately explain it in words. Just trust me. Go see 'em...

NY NOW Trashes Kennedy over Endorsement

Well, here we go again. Apparently, the race-baiting didn't work out too well in SC, so the NY chapter of NOW is attempting to play the gender card against Obama; divide and conquer. This letter appeared after Ted Kennedy stunningly endorsed Obama yesterday. It is so far over the top - offensive, even - that the national organization felt compelled to release a statement distancing themselves from the NY statement. Interestingly, though, neither mentions Obama's excellent record on gender and sexuality issues. I guess I will simply ask: Is this the kind of politic you want? Is this the way to a better and different future? Is this the way to overcome our historic divides? Is this the politics of change and transformation? Is this feminism in the 21st century?

Here is the NY NOW screed:
“Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal. Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, the Family Leave and Medical Act to name a few. Women have buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. We have thanked him for his ardent support of many civil rights bills, BUT women are always waiting in the wings.

“And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one). ‘They’ are Howard Dean and Jim Dean (Yup! That’s Howard’s brother) who run DFA (that’s the group and list from the Dean campaign that we women helped start and grow). They are Alternet, Progressive Democrats of America,, Kucinich lovers and all the other groups that take women’s money, say they’ll do feminist and women’s rights issues one of these days, and conveniently forget to mention women and children when they talk about poverty or human needs or America’s future or whatever.

“This latest move by Kennedy, is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation - to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’”

Here is the national NOW conciliatory statement:

Statement of NOW President Kim Gandy
January 28, 2008

The National Organization for Women has enormous respect and admiration for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D- Mass.). For decades Sen. Kennedy has been a friend of NOW, and a leader and fighter for women's civil and reproductive rights, and his record shows that.

Though the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee has proudly endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for president, we respect Sen. Kennedy's endorsement. We continue to encourage women everywhere to express their opinions and exercise their right to vote.

Ted Kennedy's endorsement speech (excerpted)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Open Thread: Endorsements

In light of the spate of high-profile endorsements for Barack Obama, do you think endorsements make a significant difference in the presidential race? If so, how and why? If not, why do we go through this ritual? How do you think the endorsement game is playing out thus far in the election?

Post a comment...

BREAKING: Toni Morrison Endorses...

Nobel Prize-winning author, Toni Morrison, who in a 1998 New Yorker article famously (or infamously) declared Bill Clinton "the first black president," has decided to endorse Barack Obama for president in 2008.

In that article, many took offense at the suggestion that a southern white guy might be "the first black president." Others complained that the comparison was based on Clinton's embrace (exploitation?) of African American culture, or a set of ideas tying black masculinity to infidelity. Some were angry that Morrison suggested that Bill was "blacker than any actual person who could ever be elected in our children's lifetime." To many, Morrison appeared to accept limits on black political empowerment.

Well, no longer. On the day Senator Ted Kennedy is not only set to endorse Obama, but to vigorously campaign for him acros the country, Morrison has stepped forth to embrace Barack, as well. Remember, this is one of our leading artistic minds; Morrison is a brilliant writer. Here is an excerpt of her letter to Obama:

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Caroline Kennedy: "A President Like My Father"

In today's NYTimes, John F. Kennedy's daughter and sole living heir, strongly endorsed Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, comparing him directly to her father. It is also expected that Senator Ted Kennedy will soon endorse Obama.

Here is what Caroline Kennedy wrote:

January 27, 2008
A President Like My Father

OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.

Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.

I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Caroline Kennedy is the author of “A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love.”

Spread the word...

"Yes, We Can!"

If you haven't seen and heard it, Obama gave another amazing victory speech last night. Please take 18 minutes and watch it below. Seriously, are Hillary and Edwards even in the same ballpark? Dag. Imagine this guy, with this vision in the White House. Think of what his presidency would mean at home and abroad. This is closer to the America I'd like to live in...

Take a look and spread the word...

Obama victory speech in South Carolina - "Yes, We Can!":

Visit Barack Obama's website and please consider a donation.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Beware: The Race Card is Still in Play...

For sure, it was a HUGE victory for Obama tonight in SC and he gave another spirited and moving speech. It was exactly what was needed: a surprisingly big win and a rousing, positive, transcendent speech. Obama feels back in the game. I hope he can now parlay this into some momentum going into the February 5th contests. But, beware... the race card is still in play. In fact, what happened tonight is a part of the Clinton plan to "blackenize" Obama.

"What??!!?!?" you say... "He won by 29%!! You are crazy! The SC numbers were a clear repudiation of the Clinton's divisive race strategy. Everyone is talking about it."

Indeed, Obama won by a much larger margin than anyone thought possible. Shocking, really. And, it is true, he won with a bigger than expected proportion of the white vote, particularly in some key constituencies (under-30s, white men, etc.). So, I suspect he'll argue that this victory proves that his appeal transcends race and that he can, indeed, put together a winning coalition in the fall; and he might. But, the point all along for the Clintons after Iowa, was to "blackenize" Obama. To knock him off the race-transcendent groove and reduce him to a more narrowly defined "black candidate." In recent history, it has been proven again and again that "black candidates" do not garner much white support. Now, the Clintons have known for some weeks that Obama was going to win in SC. So, their plan, by playing all this racial crap, has been to racially polarize the electorate, which they have successfully done. They have tried to brand Obama as the "black candidate" and denigrate the SC primary as essentially a narrow "black primary." Here is the twist. By Obama winning so big, and with damn near 80% of the African American vote, the Clintons can argue, subtlely and not so subtlely, that this is just a black guy winning the black vote. I already heard a report that the Clintons are banking on the fact that "in SC Democrats vote for black guys, in CA they vote for white women." The Clintons are hoping that she can win the women, white and Hispanic votes in the remaining states. Even if he continues to get 80% of the African American vote, she wins.

What, you still don't buy it? You still think tonight was a repudiation of Clinton's racial innuendo? You think he has to back off?

Exhibit A: Bill Clinton tries to minimize Obama' landslide by equating (read, dismissing) him with Jess Jackson in '84 and '88.

Or, click here, or here, for a text analysis of the same issue.

Exhibit B: According to AP, here is how the Clintons spun the massive loss in SC:
Clinton campaign strategists denied any intentional effort to stir the racial debate. But they said they believe the fallout has had the effect of branding Obama as "the black candidate," a tag that could hurt him outside the South.

Ahhhhh, yes. Deny that you are playing the race card, but then suggest someone else might play it later... Either way, the racial doubt is put out there into the political ether. This way, the Clintons claim plausible deniability. Classic psycho-politics. Classic Clinton.

Still think they aren't playing the divisive race card?

Keep your eyes on the prize. In politics, never get distracted by the sideshow... or the smiling face and twinkling eyes.

It remains unclear which politic will carry the day, ultimately. The good money is still on Hillary. She has the structure to do well in the Feb. 5th elections and that is key. She also has polarized the electorate, at least to a degree. While not unanimous, we do see broad patterns in the SC vote: white men voted for Edwards, African Americans for Obama and white women for Hillary. She has been racking up large polling numbers among women, whites and Latinos in the Feb. 5th races. This bodes well for her. Yet, tonight's numbers suggest that this is at least a partly risky strategy. Obama did win enough of the white vote and he won overall by a decisive enough margin, that he just might be able to change the tide and...

Stay tuned. This just got REALLY interesting...

Grateful Dead - "The Music Never Stopped" (Las Vegas, NV, 6/24/94)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Picture This...

I participate in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) listserv. If you don't know about SNCC, go here:

SNCC history site
SNCC Wikipedia entry
Civil Rights Movement Veterans

Probably not surprisingly, many former civil rights movement activists are supporting Obama's candidacy and have been disappointed to see the destructive racial politics thrown his way recently. With all the negative stuff, one person wanted to send a more positive reminder of what an Obama candidacy can mean, particularly within the black community. Take a good look at the photo above and read what she had to say:

I realize that some folks are supporting Hillary Clinton and if you are you need to read this.

The attached photo inspired me to turn off my clock and sit down and write this to you. To me this photo is a picture of a strong black man who, in the face of a setback, is cherishing a moment with the support of a strong black woman who is 100% behind him. Together they are making history. This is the America I want to live in. This is what our families should be like and can be like.

If this photo moved you the way it moved me, forward it to every black person you know...

Please spread the word...

Obama Does "Top Ten" on Letterman

Ethics, Clinton-Style: The Money Angle

So, I'll leave aside, for now, the clear racial (racist?) strategy the Clintons have employed to take the lead in the Democratic race for presidential nominee. Or, the fact that the Clintons have decided to unleash Bill as the modern incarnation of Spiro Agnew, Nixon's henchman.

I will point out the gross hypocrisy of the Clintons slamming Obama for his connections to indicted Chicago-land wheeler-dealer, Tony Rezko. Yet, she claims she has never met Rezko. Well, you see that guy with the mustache standing with a smiling Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton in the above photo? Uhhhhhh... that's Rezko!

Or, remember this guy? He's Norman Hsu, who Hillary once described as "a good friend." Hsu raised roughly $1M for Hillary's campaign before going on the lam, being arrested and charged on November 27, 2007, by a federal grand jury for violating federal campaign finance laws and defrauding investors "out of at least $20 million." More here: Hsu Casts Wide Net for Clinton Donors

While we are at it on experience, remember also the never-ending revolving door of corporate donors and all-around sleaze-bags that were welcomed to stay in the Lincoln bedroom... for a fee?!?? You really think another Clinton will be an agent of change, or reform?

And, did you know Hillary Clinton was a corporate shill for one of the most hated corporations in the United States: WALMART!!??? It is true. As one report stated,

The Walmart board Hillary Clinton sat on was rabidly anti-union, was exploiting sweatshop labor around the world, discriminating against women workers, forcing workers to labor off the clock and destroying communities that did not want them. This should not be a shock: Clinton was a partner in the Rose law firm, one of the most active anti-union law firms in the country.
More here: Hillary and Wal-Mart: A Love Story

Finally, if Hillary Clinton is such a threatening reformer bent on change, why is it that Right-Wing media czar, Rupert Murdock, has been raising and contributing money to the Clinton campaign? Why have several other top execs at Fox been contributing to Hillary's effort, along with corporate reps in hundreds of corporations?

For a full report on Hillary's donors, see: Open Secrets

If you think Hillary Clinton will be some kind of anti-corporate warrior, I've got some nice beach-front property to sell you in Nebraska...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

935 Lies = 1 very bad war

As if we didn't already know... a new study has counted 935 lies about Iraq by the Bush Administration in the two years between 9/11/01 and the start of hostilities in 2003. The report, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity in conjunction with the Fund for Independence in Journalism, concludes that these lies
"were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

Here's the full AP article: Study: False statements preceded war

Here's the link to the report: "The War Card: Orchestrated Deception On the Path to War"

"Housing Bubble, What's the Trouble?"

A brief overview of the housing bubble, with music and cartoons!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Compare and Contrast: The Candidates on MLK Day

Obama at Dr. King's church the day before the MLK holiday:

John Edwards at SC NAACP Rally:

Hillary at the SEIU Local 32BJ Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration in New York:

Bill Clinton sleeping through Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech on MLK Day:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

School House Rock... Rocks!

NOTE: The Democratic Party is fragmenting along race, ethnic, class and gender lines. Check the results in NV and look ahead at what is likely to happen in SC. Given the shameful role Bill Clinton has taken on in Hillary's campaign as Slimer-in-Chief (Code Name: "Spiro Agnew"), the next week and beyond looks to get very ugly as the Clinton Machine tries to recapture black votes in the South. Even party stalwarts and Clinton friends, Ted Kennedy and Rahm Emmanuel, have warned Bill to stop smearing Obama or risk fracturing the party in the Fall (and, presumably, losing the White House). Nevertheless, expect more sleaze from the Clintons... after all, it has worked this long. It is all so depressing that for now I am continuing to avoid writing about it. So, here you go. Another diversion...

If you were a kid between 1973-1986, the School House Rock educational ads on ABC tv probably left a deep imprint. They put groovy tunes together with a seventies vibe and distinctive and playful drawings and the result, if you were a kid, was magic.

If you want to walk down Nostalgia Lane, or if you weren't around then but are curious, or if you have kids now, check 'em out:

• History Rock:

"No More Kings"

"The Shot Heard Around the World"

"How a Bill Becomes a Law"

"The Preamble"

"Three Ring Government"

"Great American Melting Pot"

"Elbow Room"


"Mother Necessity"

There is also an awesome School House Rock segment called, "Sufferin' Till Suffrage," about the women's suffrage movement. It is really great, but unfortunately, I can't seem to find it online to post here; you can listen to the song and read the lyrics, though: "Sufferin' Till Suffrage"

If you can find the video online somewhere, please post the link in the comments section...

• Science Rock:

"Victim of Gravity"


"The Body Machine"

"Energy Blues"

"Telegraph Line"

"Greatest Show on Earth: Weather"


"Interplanet Janet"

• Grammar Rock:

"A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing"

Pronoun: "Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla"


"Conjunction Junction"

"Verb: That's What's Happening"

"Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Adverbs Here"

"Unpack Our Adjectives"


"Grammar Tale of Mr. Morton"

• Multiplication Rock:

"Zero My Hero"

"Three Is the Magic Number"

"I Got Six"

"Figure Eight"

"Twelve - A Dozen"

• Satirical Versions: (These are a bit risqué and/or radical, at times, so proceed at your own risk...)

"Conspiracy Theory Rock"

"Great American Slaughter House"

"Pirates and Emperors"


"MADtv: Public School House Rock - Fatty, Fatty, Fatty, Get Your School Lunch Here"

"MADtv: Public School House Rock - Dysfunction Junction"

"MADtv: Public School House Rocks - Nouns"

• Alternative versions of "Three is the Magic Number":

De La Soul - "Three is the Magic Number"

Blind Melon's version of "Three is the Magic Number"

And, for the record, Scott Berkun wants you to know that School House Rock doesn't get it all correct:

* Newton did not get hit by an apple - at best he watched one fall in his grove decades before he completed his treatise on gravity (From the song Victim of Gravity).
* Robert Fulton didn’t invent the steamboat. He was, however, one of the first Americans to make a successful business of it, much like Edison and the light bulb. (From the song Mother Necessity)
* Galileo most likely did not perform the famous falling bodies experiment at Pisa (From the song Victim of Gravity).
* It’s disputed whether Franklin ever flew his famous kite, though he did have the idea (Electricity).
* Elias Howe did not build the first working sewing machine. He was the first American to do so, but that’s not the same thing. Same for Ford and the automobile. (From the song Mother Necessity).
* Betsy Ross may not have sewn the first U.S. flag, as most claims come from her relatives. (From the song Sufferage).

Feel better? I know, it seems a bit much to be so critical of these fun little ditties ("Scott, lighten up!" you say), but I do think it is interesting to consider, particularly in the History section, the kinds of narratives - and myths - School House Rock embraces, creates and perpetuates, about America. Remember, this is a post-60s, post-Watergate, right-around-the-bicentennial kids project and reflects those cross-currents. Remember, also, that it was ok'd and aired by a major - corporate - network...

How would you "read" these as historical artifacts? What do they communicate to us about the nation at that particular moment in time, from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s? Hhhhhhmmmm...

Anyway, most importantly, enjoy...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Learning to Love You More

A few years back, I went to see "Me and You and Everyone We Know," the sweet and touching indy film written, directed and starring artist Miranda July. I really enjoyed the way the characters in the film were reaching for human connections and the overall strange etherealness that pervades July's narrative style.

... intrigued by the fact that she was an artist who became a filmmaker, I visited her website, which then led me to an ongoing web-based project that she and fellow-artist Harrell Fletcher are doing called, Learning to Love You More. Here's how they explain themselves:
Learning to Love You More is both a web site and series of non-web presentations comprised of work made by the general public in response to assignments given by artists Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher. Yuri Ono designs and manages the web site.

Participants accept an assignment, complete it by following the simple but specific instructions, send in the required report (photograph, text, video, etc), and see their work posted on-line. Like a recipe, meditation practice, or familiar song, the prescriptive nature of these assignments is intended to guide people towards their own experience.

Since Learning To Love You More is also an ever-changing series of exhibitions, screenings and radio broadcasts presented all over the world, participant's documentation is also their submission for possible inclusion in one of these presentations. Past presentations have taken place at venues that include The Whitney Museum in NYC, Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, Aurora Picture Show in Houston, TX, The Seattle Art Museum in Seattle, WA, the Wattis Institute in San Francisco CA, among others.

Since LTLYM inception in 2002 over 5000 people have participated in the project.

Sounds cool, doesn't it?

Here are a few of the many "assignments":

• Make an educational public plaque.
• Draw the news.
• Give advice to yourself in the past.
• Make an exhibition of the art in your parent's house.
• Take a picture of your parents kissing.
• Recreate a poster you had as a teenager.
• Curate an artist's retrospective in a public place.
• Grow a garden in an unexpected spot.
• Recreate the moment after a crime.
• Take a picture of strangers holding hands.

The site has a way of simultaneously uplifting and unsettling... Check it out (and do an assignment or two while you're at it):
Learning to Love You More

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Reprise: The Story of Stuff

NOTE: I posted this about a month ago, but it got lost in the initial caucus/primary shuffle, so I thought I'd repost it now as a respite from all the ugliness on the Democratic side of the presidential race... oops! there's that word again, "race." Anyway, I think Annie Leonard's short film about consumption offers an alternative model to the politics of destruction and negativity we are currently suffering through. "The Story of Stuff" is creative and proactive, even as it levels a damning critique. This is the kind of politic that can be "transformative," because it does not trade in what divides us, but what unites us, and it offers a vision of something better that folks can rally around. If you didn't catch it the first time, I hope you will take a few minutes to watch the film, post a comment and pass the thread along to someone else... Here's to some positivity!


One of the major concerns I have about the environment and which I think often gets over-shadowed in all the (justified) hoopla about greenhouse gasses, is "our problem with stuff," our addiction to material things, to the over-consumption of non-essential goods. We simply live a massively unsustainable way of life. Any environmental movement has to confront this reality...

Annie Leonard has created a delightful short film (20 minutes total) on this issue, titled, "The Story of Stuff, " which combines animation and humor to make a very creative progressive argument. Check it out and pass along the link to your friends and family. Everyone should see this:

Ch. 1: Introduction (2:37)

Ch. 2: Extraction (2:05)

Ch. 3: Production (3:27)

Ch. 4: Distribution (1:59)

Ch. 5: Consumption (6:35)

Ch. 7: Another Way (2:04)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

It's Getting Ugly Out There...

Looks like yet another Clinton campaign surrogate has smeared Obama. This time it was BET founder Robert Johnson who smeared him on the drug stuff and for being, well, hhmmmm... he laid down this weird Sidney Poitier stuff, so I guess he meant to call Obama an Uncle Tom. Man, this is really getting ugly...

Sad: Robert Johnson Smears Obama at Clinton Endorsement Event

Or, here: Clinton backer appears to raise Obama's drug use

The Right Hook: a bizarre-o Sidney Poitier Uncle Tom charge
“That kind of campaign behavior does not resonate with me, for a guy who says, ‘I want to be a reasonable, likable, Sidney Poitier ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.’ And I’m thinking, I’m thinking to myself, this ain’t a movie, Sidney. This is real life.”

The Left Hook: the drug smear
“And to me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood – and I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in the book – when they have been involved."

So, I want to make sure I've got this straight. Hillary is on Meet the Press in the morning blathering about how it is not her campaign, but Obama's, that is playing the race card, how she is the victim of racial politics (despite 5 or 6 instances of campaign surrogates playing the race card). Then, later the same day, one of her surrogates in the battleground state of SC, where the African American vote will be decisive in a couple weeks, makes what can only be described as a complete and utter racial smear against Obama, no TWO of them. Uuuuhhhmmm... I, uh, think that, uh, maybe..., uh, suggests that... uh, the Clintons might, uh... be... playing ... the... race... card.

Look, one or two of these incidents might have been explained away as a rogue supporter who put their foot in their mouth, but now we are up to five or six or seven or something like that...

... If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

what do you think?

UPDATE: This is probably not helpful from the Obama camp:
Obama Staffer Plays Jay-Z Song at Event


Friday, January 11, 2008

Dick Gregory for President!??!!

Given all the hoopla over a prospective Obama presidency, I thought I'd pay a little tribute to some of the previous African Americans who made a run for the highest office in the land. In this post, I focus on Dick Gregory, who ran in 1968 with Mark Lane on the Freedom & Peace ticket.

Dick Gregory was born in St. Louis in 1932. While in the Army, Gregory's commanding officers noticed he was a joker and encouraged him to take his comedic skills to the military talent show, which he won several times. After completing his service, he worked at the Chicago Playboy Club, where Hugh Hefner was impressed by Gregory's ability to wow white audiences. Here was the portion that impressed Hef:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night.

Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, "We don't serve colored people here." I said, "That's all right. I don't eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken."

Then these three white boys came up to me and said, "Boy, we're givin' you fair warnin'. Anything you do to that chicken, we're gonna do to you." So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, "Line up, boys!"

The Playboy Club launched him to national television notoriety in the early-60s as one of the first comics to find success in front of black and white audiences. In 1964, Gregory published an autobiography, controversially titled, Nigger, which sold 4 million copies. Gregory's comedic and personal style was inflammatory and uncompromising, titillating many, shocking others and angering some. Around the same time, Gregory became active in the civil rights movement and participated in many of the most significant marches and demonstrations of the era.

Here is a speech he gave in Birmingham in 1963 on the day more people got arrested than any other day in the entire history of the civil rights movement: Speech at St. John's Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, 1963

Ultimately, Gregory also became an ardent opponent of the war in Vietnam and championed numerous other progressive causes. In 1967, Gregory ran an unsuccessful campaign for Mayor of Chicago against notorious political boss, Richard Daley.

In 1968, Dick Gregory again tried his hand at politics, this time as the Presidential nominee for the Freedom & Peace Party a splinter group from the Peace & Freedom Party, a party that emerged out of the civil rights and anti-war movements. Interestingly, the Peace & Freedom Party elected Eldridge Cleaver in '68, the incendiary Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party. During the campaign, Gregory supporters at the Operation Breadbasket office in Chicago created fake dollar bills with Gregory's face on them. They are really funny. Here it is (click to enlarge):

Not surprisingly, the feds didn't have much of a sense of humor about the whole thing, particularly after some made it into circulation, but the stunt did gain the activist some easy publicity at a time when many were more than willing to stick it to The Man. It also landed him on Nixon's master list of political opponents! Gregory earned more than 47,000 votes in the election, or .06% of the total, including one from hunter S. Thompson. He finished just behind the Socialist Labor Party candidate, but ahead of Prohibition Party and Communist Party candidates. Sadly, George Wallace, the racist Democratic Governor of Alabama and godfather of modern conservatism, received about 210 times more votes (almost 10 million!) than Gregory...

The same year as the campaign, Gregory wrote, Write Me In! The book is really funny and interesting and worth a read, even today. Here are a few of the things he put forth:

• Gregory argued that the one qualification we should seek in a Presidential candidate is "a sensitivity to human need."

• He encouraged citizens to smash the two party system. Gregory wrote that he did not vote in the 1964 Presidential election because "I refused to be the victim of having to choose between the lesser of two evils."

• In a passage that speaks forcefully to our current international predicament, he wrote, "America speaks with pride of the fruits of democracy and advocates democracy for the rest of the world. Yet we go all over the world trying to force democracy upon people at gunpoint."

• Gregory argued that the U.S. Constitution had never been fully implemented and suggested, therefore, that before we talk about changing it we actually see how life in America would change if we followed the Constitution. He wrote, "I have a dream and a vision of seeing the Constitution of the United States implemented in full for the first time in American history."

• Gregory promised that his administration would give American citizens what he termed, "The Clean Society." He wrote that one of his first acts as Prez would be to set aside half of his Presidential salary as a reward for any information leading to his arrest and conviction for wrongdoing in office. Further he proposed to place into escrow $10,000 for each Senator and Congressman also as a reward for information of wrong doing in office. This combined sum (around $5 million dollars he estimated) was small in comparison to the federal government's annual budget. Yet the rewards for taking political corruption seriously were profound.

• Gregory also proposed a corporate tax on "excess-profits."

• He also wrote, "I will propose legislation to allow American taxpayers to bring suit against the federal government challenging the spending of a sizable portion of the national budget for a possibly illegal war." And, " Any time American troops are being used overseas as a result of orders by the commander-in-chief, the question of the constitutionality of such action should be immediately raised."

• Gregory pledged to respect international law and order and to create renewed respect for the United Nations. He wrote, "I will urge a redistribution of power in the UN so that every nation has an equal voice [...] " Further he proposes that the UN flag become as recognizable as corporate logos, the flag announcing to people the world over that "colors, religions and political orientations place no restriction upon membership in the human family."

• In an interesting passage, he argued, "America must re-evaluate what is meant by developing 'stronger' nations. A nation that is well equipped militarily, yet plagued with disease, hunger and ignorance, is not really strong."

• Gregory wanted to see America taking leadership in eliminating world hunger and he proposed to have elementary school children contribute a penny a week and for adults to give up one meal each week with the proceeds from both to be used to feed the hungry.

• Gregory proposed using tax rebates as incentives for companies which establish fair employment practices.

• Gregory suggested reforms for fire and police departments as well as the criminal justice system and the courts. "As President," he wrote, "I will make every effort to free the court system from political ties. I will seek federal legislation to rule out the concept of judgeship by political appointment."

• Finally, Gregory advocated the elimination of capital punishment. He sought a criminal justice system that accomplished rehabilitation of the criminal rather than merely punishment.

Yeah, that is pretty amazing, isn't it??!!!

Gregory has continued to fight the good fight since 1968, going on numerous hunger strikes for various causes. On July 21, 1979, Gregory appeared at the Amandla Festival, otherwise know as the "Festival of Unity," held at Harvard Stadium in Boston. The idea behind the event was to show support for freedom across southern Africa and to encourage racial healing in Boston, a city torn by racial discord. Bob Marley, Patti LaBelle and Eddie Palmieri, and others, also performed. In 1980, he attempted to negotiate the release of American hostages in Iran. He and his former running mate, Mark Lane, wrote a fascinating book about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Code Name Zorro, which argued that James Earle Ray did not act alone in that historic tragedy.

More recently, Gregory has gotten a little far out at times, advocating a variety of conspiracy theories and a radical health diet that he claims saved him from cancer.

In one of the more bizarre recent episodes, Michael Jackson's father asked Gregory to advise Michael on his diet during his 2005 trial for child molestation. On June 4 of that year, Gregory brought a blood-circulating machine to Jackson's house, but Jackson refused to use it.

Here I am with Dick Gregory on September 29, 2007, in Milwaukee! Seriosuly.

What the heck am I doing with Dick Gregory? Well, we were both participating in the "March On Milwaukee" 40th anniversary celebration of the historic open housing campaign there. I am writing a book about the civil rights movement in Milwaukee and spoke at the conference. Gregory was an important activist in that movement. In 1968, he praised the Movement in Milwaukee, which many called "the last stand for an non-violent, interracial, church-based movement," and which was led by a white Catholic priest named Fr. James Groppi, for showing that Black Power was "more an attitude than a color." Mr. Gregory was amazingly kind and gracious to everyone throughout the weekend... and funny as hell. Holy Moses, this guy can let the jokes fly. He's still got the edge, too. He seemed to me to be one of those people that is simultaneously brilliant and a little mad; many of the great ones are, after all. Provocative ideas come fast and furious...

Here's to you, Mr. Gregory! Thanks for blazing a trail and fighting for justice...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

More Garbage Thrown at Barack

Well, we knew the barrage of garbage would keep coming against Obama. Here is another email that is circulating in the shadows. This one attacks his church...
Subject: FW: Obama's Church

Barack Obama mentioned his church during his appearance with Oprah. It's the Trinity Church of Christ. I found this interesting.

Obama's church: Please read and go to this church's website and read what is written there. It is very alarming.

Barack Obama is a member of this church and is running for President of the U.S. If you look at the first page of their website, you will learn that this congregation has a non-negotiable commitment to Africa . No where is AMERICA even mentioned.

Notice too, what color you will need to be if you should want to join Obama's church... B-L-A-C-K!!! Doesn't look like his choice of religion has improved much over his (former?) Muslim upbringing.

Are you aware that Obama's middle name is Mohammed? Strip away his nice looks, the big smile and smooth talk and what do you get? Certainly a racist, as plainly defined by the stated position of his church! And possibly a covert worshiper of the Muslim faith, even today. This guy desires to rule over America while his loyalty is totally vested in a Black Africa!

I cannot believe this has not been all over the TV and newspapers. This is why it is so important to pass this message along to all of our family and friends. To think that Obama has even the slightest chance in the run for the presidency, is really scary.

Click on the link below for the website of the church Barack Obama belongs to:

I'll give you one guess how many people of color go to the author of this email's church... uh... try zero. You know the old addage: "What's the most segregated hour of the week? Sunday morning at 10am"

There have been a few news stories lately about a "swift boat-style" group preparing an attack on Obama through his affiliation with this church. So, if you like Obama, get ready to fight back...

... to that end, here is an excellent and reasoned break-down of Obama's church from The Christian Century: Africentric Church: A visit to Chicago's Trinity UCC

Some folks think we should simply ignore this stuff and hope it doesn't do any damage. Some folks think posting it on a blog like this, or forwarding it on to others, only perpetuates it and gives it strength.

I'm of a different opinion. I think we need to shine light on this crap and call it what it is: a racist attack. We need to not shrink away but stand up to it. The time has come for a massive movement of people, in the face of this inevitable onslaught of divisive, racist innuendo, to say, "No more! We reject these tired politics. We will defeat you at the ballot box and make a better America. We have hope and we will make change."

I find it interesting that currently everyone is talking loud about the gender dynamics of the election, while most commentators I read and hear out there (even on the liberal/progressive/left) want to minimize the racial dynamics of this race. Don't get me wrong, sexism is very much alive and well out there and Hillary faces it. I just find it strange that folks don't want to face the racial reality, too, or as vigorously...

... for instance, while I am not sure I'd call it "racist," take Hillary's ludicrous statements that LBJ was more important to realizing Dr. King's dream than Dr. King or, by implication, the civil rights movement. Yikes!'ll write more on this later, but suffice it to say that Clinton fundamentally misapprehends the way social change happens. And, essentially, she got a free ride on that cheap shot.

NYTIMES: "Ranking African American in Congress Rethinking Neutrality in SC After Clinton's Comments on Civil Rights Movement"

Here is another thoughtful response to Clinton's misstep for your consideration:

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Democracy Now! Explores Obama, the African American Community and the Politics of Race

Democracy Now! has run two interesting segments over the past few days on Obama and the politics of race that I think are worth checking out.

Episode #1: "Barack Obama and the African American Community: A Debate with Michael Eric Dyson and Glen Ford"

Obama and the African American Community: Dyson vs. Ford
(as always, you can listen to the program, watch it or read the transcript)

Does Barack Obama present a hope for dealing with African American issues? Or has he watered down his platform to appeal to white voters? Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson and veteran journalist Glen Ford debate.

Episode #2: “I Respect the Distance He is Trying to Create”–Jesse Jackson on Why He Supports But Hasn’t Been Asked to Campaign for Obama

Jesse Jackson discusses the Obama campaign
(as always, you can listen to the program, watch it or read the transcript)

The Reverend Jesse Jackson and his son, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., support Barack Obama, but his other son, Yusuf, is a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, and his wife has just cut a radio ad for her. Why isn’t Jesse Jackson out stumping for his man? He hasn’t been asked. “I respect the distance [Obama] is trying to create for his own strategic purposes,” Jackson tells Democracy Now!

The Establishment Strikes Back! Now What??!!?

Striking a courageous blow for the status quo, it looks like the Establishment and the old blue hairs are going to make sure we won't have an insurgency or any real change AGAIN this year...

Has anyone been paying attention to the Clinton campaign over the last few days??!! Where's the outrage? They proved once again that the dirty, negative stuff always works. Smear, smear, smear. Willfully lie, distort, lie, distort, smear... oh, and then cynically play the victim by crying. Beautiful! Is that the kind of politic you want to embrace? Is that the kind of politic that embodies your vision of the Democratic Party? Is that the kind of politic out of which to build something new? It is one thing to fight back against the Republican attack machine, but it is another thing entirely to employ those same despicable tactics against a member of your own party. I am ashamed to be associated with a party and a candidate who will so clearly do anything to advance her own ambition... and the fact that so many so-called liberal/progressives have uncritically picked up the Clinton campaign's talking points about Obama is particularly disheartening.

It was a masterful display of our politics at their worst in NH.

What do you think? What happens from here...?

In the meantime, here is some music to lift your spirits:

Bob Marley, "Revolution"... ("It takes a revolution, to make a solution")

Wyclef Jean, "If I was President"

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"Public Financing of Elections Would Lead Us Out of the Partisan Swamp"

In Oklahoma City, a star-studded political cast has assembled to discuss the need for a new "independent" politics in America to help get beyond the yawning partisan divide. But Nick Nyhart over at The Oklahoman has a piece that I think is on point about what is really needed to free the system to be more democratic and responsive: Nick Nyhart, "Public Financing of Elections Would Lead Us out of the Partisan Swamp"

Here is the heart of the matter:
Big money is driving up the costs of campaigning and preventing candidates who are strong on brains, people skills, independence and vision -- but who don't have access to deep pockets--from running for and winning office. Endless fundraising steals the focus of our leaders, requiring that they spend less time leading the nation to solutions that work for all Americans, regardless of their ability to make a political donation.

And then...
Full public financing of elections would get us out of this swamp. It already has cross-aisle appeal and bipartisan leadership. In March, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., introduced the Senate version of the Fair Elections Now Act, a policy that has been implemented in seven states and two cities, often under the banner "Clean Elections."

These successful state models can show the way forward. In states as different as Arizona and Maine, candidates who collect a set amount of $5 donations can qualify for public money to run their campaigns. Participating candidates must forgo all private donations and agree to a campaign spending limit. If they face a privately financed opponent, "Fair Fight" funds are available to keep the race on a level playing field.

Dealing with the wholly undemocratic influence of private wealth on public elections is truly the reform that will make all other reforms possible. This must be the beginning of any movement for small 'd' democracy in the U.S...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Obama and the "race card"?

The prospect of the nation's first African American president is exhilarating and we shouldn't underestimate its significance. The racial dynamics of Obama's candidacy, internally and externally, are myriad and fascinating. Some have debated his "authenticity" as a black man while others have argued that America is/is not ready to elect a black president. Some claim Obama's success proves we are "moving beyond race" while others claim Obama's multi-racial identity offers a new racial paradigm for a new era. Still others have criticized the Illinois senator for not being more boldly "racial" in his political rhetoric and style and both Rush Limbaugh and (strangely) many white progressives have united in criticizing Obama as a "magical negro" who doesn't threaten whites and who is around mainly to make white people feel better about themselves. And, in other places, people debate whether Obama is the first "post-civil rights" black candidate.

Regardless of how you come down on these and other important questions, I think it is important that we each think long and hard about all of the racial implications of election '08, considering what they mean not only for Obama's campaign, but also for us all as a nation.

The last day or so has brought a few interesting media tidbits on this racial front:

• Following Obama's Iowa win, Roberto Lovato from New America Media (an "ethnic media" group) asks an important question: "Is color blindness the model we want for diversity?"

• Simon Rosenberg asks if an Obama nomination and win in November might mean a welcome end to the racially divisive "southern strategy" that has propelled Republicans to dominance over the past thirty-odd years:
"On Obama, Race and the End of the Southern Strategy"

• Back in March of '07, the Los Angeles Times published an opinion piece by David Ehrenstein, an LA-based writer on Hollywood and politics, where he suggested Obama " lends himself to white America's idealized, less-than-real black man," a.k.a., "the Magic Negro." Afterward, notorious B.I.G.O.T., Rush Limbaugh, picked up the idea and created a parody song on his show, titled, "Barack the Magic Negro." Now, strangely, I've heard more than a few so-called progressive whites use the trope against Obama.

• James Carroll, of the Boston Globe, writes about the transformative possibilities of an Obama presidency in "Obama and the Ghosts of Racism"

• Over at the conservative National Review, Jonah Goldberg illustrates the racial fears lurking beneath the surface of an Obama nomination by suggesting that if Obama were the Democratic nominee and lost in the general election "certain segments of American political life will become completely unhinged," leading to "social unraveling." Over at Salon, Glen Greenwald skewers Goldberg's "ugly innuendo." Incensed by the anti-Obama slime, Amanda Marcotte, an Edwards supporter, suggests switching to Obama as a stand against the racist right's smear machine.

• Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a Hillary-lover and Obama-criticizer, reminds us that "A President Obama No Proof that America has Finally Kicked Its Racial Syndrome"

• Throughout the primary campaign a variety of nasty anti-Obama emails have been circulating that smear him in really nasty ways... some are racist. Some play off his middle name or his childhood in Indonesia to pollute the political ether with Muslim fear-mongering. Others include sexual innuendos that are laced with racial undertones. Shortly after Obama's Iowa victory, the following email began to show up in Democratic email-boxes. It is simply a small taste of what is sure to come if he continues to have success in the process... Of course, most of this ugly crap will take place in the shadowy behind-the-scenes world of politics and the formal GOP will feign shock and offense. But it ain't just the GOP. Recall that Hillary's people have been smearing Obama for weeks now, too! Here is the text of the latest hatefulness:

Did the weakest Dem candidate for the general election won tonight? I think so.

By sending forth Hussein Osama out of Iowa, Democrats have unwittingly weakened their general election prospects.

Hussein's exotic mixture of radical liberalism, Kwanzaa Socialism, antipathy towards the unborn, and weakness against his jihadi brethren will all come back to destroy him against almost any Republican opponent, even the snake-grope from Hope.

I think we as Republicans should be celebrating tonight at the coronation of Hussein, in whose presence millions of Democrat women, from elementary school teachers to journalism majors to law school grads to dykes on bikes will go weak in their knees.

As defenders of this great Republic, and of the pinnacle of Western civilization that it represents, we should all come together tonight and agree on a common strategy that will keep the White House from becoming a madrassa.

God Bless America, Land of the Free.

• And, finally, on a more rosy note, Gary Hart writes about "Obama and the Courage of Our Convictions" and Arianna Huffington explains why Obama's Iowa victory gives "every American cause to celebrate.">

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Desperation! Clinton Grossly Distorting Obama's Abortion Record

Well, I'm not surprised, but this is pretty pathetic. In a desperate bid to somehow get back in the Democratic presidential race, Hillary Clinton has resorted to grossly and knowingly distorting Barack Obama's legislative record on abortion. Clearly, Clinton is trying to play the gender card by scaring young women away from Obama and into her camp. (Recall, Obama bested Clinton among women in Iowa 35%-30% and drubbed her among young women)

In a mailer sent to voters in NH over the past couple of days, the Clinton campaign claims "A woman's right to choose demands a leader who will stand up and protect it." It says Clinton has a record of fighting "far-right Republicans" to defend abortion rights, while Obama has been "unwilling to take a stand on choice." It concludes, "Seven times he had the opportunity to stand up against Republican anti-choice legislation in the Illinois state Senate. Seven times he voted present - not yes or no, but present. Being there is not enough to protect choice." The mailer, which clearly states "Paid for by Hillary Clinton for President," not too subtly suggests that Obama is not a strong advocate for abortion rights and women, in general.

I call "Bullshit!" This is totally disingenuous and cynical, not to mention false. Here is the reality, according to a fact-checking piece by Nedra Pickler posted at the Huffington Post (emphasis added):
"During his eight years in the legislature, Obama cast a number of votes on abortion and received a 100 percent rating from the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council for his support of abortion rights, family planning services and health insurance coverage for female contraceptives. He voted against requiring medical care for aborted fetuses who survive, a vote that especially riled abortion opponents. He also joined other state Democrats in voting present on some bills."

That's right, folks, Obama gets a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood for the range of positions he has taken not only on abortion rights, but women's reproductive health rights, more generally. This is silly. Anyone who knows anything about how the legislature works knows that there are times when, for strategic or political reasons, certain members of a party vote "present." This is all about political maneuvering and is almost always done in conjunction with a broader party strategy.

When called to task for the distortions in the mailer, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said, in classic Clintonian fashion, "New Hampshire voters.. deserve a straightforward presentation of the facts about both candidates."

To his credit, Obama spokesman Bill Burton did not throw a chair or simply tell Hillary's campaign to "Go to hell!" when asked by reporters about the smear. Instead, in another sign of the maturity of the Obama operation, "The Clinton campaign's false negative attacks were rejected by Iowa voters, and we expect that they'll suffer the same fate here in New Hampshire."

Geesh. I hope so...

This is all about Clinton's ego and ambition run amok now that her campaign is going down in flames, not about what is best for the party or the country. It is likely Hillary will NOT be the nominee, yet she is creating a false issue with which the right-wing will surely pounce. The is all downright Karl Rovian! Shame on you Mrs. Clinton. Go down with some dignity, won't you? I guess not...