Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bill Clinton: "Wah-Wah-Wah-Wah!"

A recent article in the UK's Telegraph newspaper suggests that Bill Clinton is still acting like a petulant little child following the defeat of Hillary Clinton by Barack Obama in the Democratic primary. Here are some highlights of the Telegraph article:

• "The Telegraph has learned that the former president's rage is still so great that even loyal allies are shocked by his patronising attitude to Mr Obama, and believe that he risks damaging his own reputation by his intransigence."

• "But his lingering fury has shocked his friends. The Democrat told the Telegraph: "He's been angry for a while. But everyone thought he would get over it. He hasn't. I've spoken to a couple of people who he's been in contact with and he is mad as hell...

"He's saying he's not going to reach out, that Obama has to come to him. One person told me that Bill said Obama would have to quote kiss my ass close quote, if he wants his support.

"You can't talk like that about Obama - he's the nominee of your party, not some house boy you can order around.

"Hillary's just getting on with it and so should Bill."

• Another Democrat said that despite polls showing Mr Obama with a healthy lead over Republican John McCain, Mr Clinton doesn't think he can win.

The party strategist, who was allied to one of the early rivals to Mr Obama and the former First Lady, said Mr Clinton was "very unhopeful" about the nominee's prospects in November.

"Bill Clinton knows the party will unite behind Obama, but he is telling people he doesn't believe Obama can win round voting groups, especially working-class whites, in the swing states," the strategist said.

"He just doesn't think Obama will be able to connect with the voters he needs."

• Joe Klein, the author of Primary Colours, a fictionalised account of Mr Clinton's 1992 election, who has known the former president for 20 years, said he also heard that he was "very, very bitter", from people who have spoken with him.

"It's time for him to get over it or go off and do his charitable work. He knows the rules of the road. What's going on now is kind of strange. I think his behaviour is really, really shocking."

Oh, and there are other sources that detail similar behavior by the ex-Prez. For instance, Bill, who has long been a very close friend of Oprah Winfrey, remains chilly toward her, too.

Thomas Edsall, in an article titled, "It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To," suggests that Bill Clinton - who is busy playing the victim card - has no clue that he brought his troubles on himself:
"Some say Bill Clinton not only wants Obama to reach out to him, but to also promise to lift the cloud of alleged racism -- an accusation that continues to eat at the man once dubbed the nation's "first black president." Clinton, these folks suggest, wants Obama to publicly exonerate him of the charge that he played the race card in the primaries.

Beyond that, some associates say, Bill Clinton wants Obama to reach out to him as a mentor, a guide who can lead Obama through the labyrinth of a tough presidential election. "Bill wants to be honored, to return to the role of Democratic elder statesman, and get rid of this image of him as a pol willing to do anything to win," said one associate."

As one poster over at Daily Kos put it:
If Bill Clinton didn't want to be called a racist, maybe he should've refrained from using racially loaded terms like "fairy tale," "roll of the dice," and "Jesse Jackson" against the first African American with a legitimate shot at the presidency. If Bill Clinton wants to be the party's elder statesman, then maybe he should have refrained from becoming the attack dog in a campaign against a fellow Democrat. What Bill Clinton freely chose to do was beneath the Office of the Presidency of the United States, but ultimately it was Bill Clinton's choice.

That Bill Clinton thinks Barack Obama can do something to undo the damage Bill Clinton inflicted upon himself is truly laughable, but not that surprising. After Monica, it was his fellow Democrats who bailed him out. Bill Clinton is not capable of understanding the concept of personal responsibility. Others have always bailed Bill Clinton out when he got himself into trouble, so he expects the same now. It's not going to happen, as the party is tired of being distracted by Bill Clinton's failures.

If Bill Clinton wants to remove the doubt about his racial views, he should be out on the campaign trail. He should be going to every rural town he visited for Hillary Clinton on Barack Obama's behalf. Bill Clinton, were he an objective and rational person instead of the selfish and irrational person he is, would realize that his legacy is caught up in the election of Barack Obama.

Any thoughts or reactions to these latest revelations?

UPDATE: Terry McAulliffe says Bill and Barack will be meeting some time in the next 48 hours to discuss Bill's role in the general election campaign. Is this damage control? spin? a genuine gesture that challenges the Telegraph's story? something else?

Tom Tomorrow: "A Few Recent Examples of Awesomely Non-Racist Political Discourse"

(click comic to enlarge)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

David Byrne Radio

I like David Byrne, former lead singer and creative madman behind the genius of the Talking Heads. Byrne has a great website you should spend some time with. In particular, check out his free online radio station, which plays all kinds of interesting, rhythmic, genre-blending, globe-trotting music...

OK, while I am at it, watch this trippy, hilarious interview with David Byrne, by David Byrne, from the "Stop Making Sense" days:

And, here is the classic opening of Stop Making Sense, one of the great live music films of all time:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Great Theater

I was fortunate to be born to parents who love theater and who transferred that love to me. Because of them, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see some fantastic productions around the country over my early years and have continued to catch productions when I can throughout my adulthood. There is something unique and beautiful about theater as an art form, when done well. Drea has not had the same opportunities, but is eager to experience more. So, since we are in NYC, we thought we'd take in some world-class theater. To that end, we went to see two great plays on Broadway yesterday...

In the afternoon, we saw, "August: Osage County," which won the Pulitzer Prize AND a slew (5 total) of Tony Awards, including Best Play and a couple of acting awards. It focuses on a dysfunctional Oklahoma family, brought together by the disappearance of the family patriarch... and believe me, all hell breaks loose! The show has humor in the right places, but is serious and taut underneath. The acting and writing are excellent. The set was also great: a three story house! It was all very Tennessee Williams-y, I thought. Here is what the NYTimes had to say about the play when it first appeared.

As current Nebraska residents, we thought this was the quote of the play: "Michigan is the Midwest. This is the Plains: a state of mind, right, some spiritual affliction, like the blues." Now Drea and I run around saying to each other, "I've got a serious case of 'the Plains.'" (smile)

In the evening we went to see "Passing Strange," a new semi-autobiographical rock musical that focuses on the search for identity and meaning by a young middle-class African American man. The show breaks many of the basic theater conventions: the band is on the stage; The narrator, who also wrote the show, often breaks the plane between audience and performers by addressing the audience directly; the staging is sparse and post-modern, a la "Rent." But it is exuberent and fun and also deep and meaningful. We dug it quite a bit. We also got to meet the cast, including the guy who wrote and starred in the show, afterward. They were all super-cool and down-to-earth, genuinely jazzed to be practicing their art in NYC on Broadway. Here is the NYTimes review. Here is an excellent feature by NPR on the show. And another NPR segment, too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The "War on Greed"

The folks at Brave New Films have launched what they call, a "War on Greed." Check it out:

Here is the original film by Robert Greenwald:

Here is a cartoon - "Larry the Loophole" - that breaks down the basics:

Any thoughts on this topic?

Gilberto Gil live in NYC!

We saw an amazing show by Gilberto Gil last night at the Nokia Theater in Times Square! Beautiful sounding Brazilian music and the never-ending positive, multi-cultural groove! A wonderful night with one of the greatest Brazilian musicians of the last 50 years.

Since we left our diggity-dog at home with Drea's folks, we particularly enjoyed Gil's version of Bob Marley's "Kaya." Drea was sure there was some cosmic convergence that made him play that one in honor of our dog! Here is a different version you might enjoy:

And, though I've posted this before, you might like to look at this trailer on the Tropicalia movement, which Gil was a part of in the 1960s:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Reactogon

A little while back, I posted about the "reactable," interactive synthesizer-table. Here is another version of the same cool technology. Check it out:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Bottom Billion

Right now, more than a billion people on our planet are trapped in extreme poverty in failing countries. What might we, as compassionate human beings in a global community, do about it? Paul Collier has some ideas. Check it out:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Greetings from Baltimore!

We are currently in Baltimore, Maryland, for a surprise birthday party for my mom on Saturday. This evening, Drea and I went to the Orioles game at Camden Yard along with my brothers, their wives and kids. Camden Yard is a beautiful place to see a ball game. Here we are with a new friend...

Earlier in the day, we gigged around the inner harbor. The highlight was the "Body Worlds 2" exhibit at the Science Center. This is the exhibit that displays actual human cadavers, stripped to their muscles, nerves, bones, etc. Really fascinating. Drea's been wanting to see this show for several years. As we walked up to the museum, there was a guy painted as one of the Body World cadavers trying to stir up interest in the exhibit. Since Drea is off to medical school, I had to get a shot...

OK, the Body World exhibits are kinda freaky, really. To learn more, check out this story from NPR or this one or these short videos...

What do you think? Disgusting? Fascinating? Ethical? Unethical?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reprise: Dick Gregory for President!!

(This is a repost of a previous entry, but given Obama's historic nomination by the Dems, I thought it made sense to give it some more air time)

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...

This is a clip of Gregory more recently "revoking Bill Clinton's blackness":

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

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Michelle Obama Eats White Babies!!!

Over at The Root, Kim McLarin has written a funny and insightful piece - "Whiteygate: What black people call white people…and it ain't 'whitey'" - about the recent claim that there is a secret tape out there somewhere that shows Michelle Obama in full black nationalist rage attacking "whitey" from the Trinity United pulpit...

McLarin begins, "And so continues the conundrum of being a post-racial black candidate in a still-very-racial world. To speak the truth about anything involving race is to be accused instantly of dragging out that famous racial deck we've all been dealt that stands us in such good stead in America."

And continues,
The campaign of Barack Obama has had to rebut, not once but several times, the wild rumors that his wife Michelle used an insulting term for white people while railing from the pulpit of Trinity United Church in Chicago. His campaign has had to set up a website to refute the charge, and Obama himself has had to chastise mainstream reporters for spreading the lie.

What he hasn't done—because he cannot if he wants to win the presidency—is roll out the clearest and most obvious knockdown of Whiteygate. Namely this: "When the hell was the last time you heard a black person call somebody 'whitey?'"

I mean, come on. White man, please.

Speaking as a person who has been black all of my 40-plus years on the planet, I can say with some authority that no self-respecting black, African-American, Negro, colored or even "there's only one race: the human race" person I know would use the word.

Not unless they were quoting Rush Limbaugh. Or maybe George Jefferson.

Ok, now she's found her groove...
The accusation is insulting not only because it so clearly reveals the desperation of right-wing zealots terrified of losing their stranglehold on a gasping America by playing to baseline anxieties and sad, unfortunate fears of those hard-working white Americans we've heard so much about; but because, frankly, it's so ham-fisted in its mendacity.

And then, finally, exasperated:
I mean, 'Whitey?'

The woman has a law degree from Harvard, for crying out loud. If, for some reason, she was trying to rile up a congregation she could do much, much better than that.

So, according to McClarin, what do black people call white people?
[I began] to think about the terms black folks use when talking among themselves about white people.

I could barely move my pencil tip. Probably because black folks spend a lot less time talking or even thinking about white people than most white, right-wing reactionaries and their black counterparts dream in their hot little dreams. I had trouble, and, after hours and hours, the best I could come up with was this:

White folks. Whites. White people. They.

Upon greater reflection:
But really, that was pretty much it. When I was growing up in Memphis in the groovy '70s, some people tried to get the word "ofay" going, but, in my circles at least, it never really took. My mother's generation used Mr. Charlie, my older sister's cool boyfriend use to say The Man. There was redneck, of course, but growing up in Memphis, the only people I ever heard use that word were white people.

There was cracker, but usually that referred to a certain, specific kind of hog-jowled, Southern racist, as in "That cracker had the nerve to make me wash his sheets—and I don't mean the ones he use on his bed!"

I know a genteel older black woman who, out of delicacy or discomfort, will never use the words white or black when referring to people associated with those hues. Instead she says "wonderful people" and "beautiful people," which I think is kinda sweet.

But whitey? Uh uh! I'm sorry. No.

Any of you lurkers out there in blog-o-land have any thoughts or reactions to McLarin's piece, or the whole "controversy" over the term "whitey"?

Here are some further online resources:

• Erin Kotecki Vest skewers the Fox News "Obama Baby Mama" smear.

• Fox News contributor and all-around conservative blow-hard, Cal Thomas, blathering on about "angry black women," as if he has a clue:

• Kim McLarin has written another excellent essay on Michelle Obama: "The Real Prize: Why Obama's Wife Makes Me Love Him More"

• Here is another interesting piece about the attacks on Michelle Obama: Marc Lamont, "The Attacks on Michelle Obama (Call)"

• And Paul Devlin wrote "An Open Letter to Michelle Obama"

Wesley Clark Challenges John McCain's Military Cred

Is Wesley Clark trying out for the Vice-Presidential spot in this clip from Monday's Morning Joe on MSNBC? If so, not a bad audition...

What do you think?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Buy a Houseplant, Get Healthy!

This from GOOD Magazine:

Unless you live in an organic bubble, chances are that most days you interact with plastics, paper goods, synthetic fibers, and other household items that contain trace amounts of toxins—toxins that, in large enough doses, could kill you, but in small doses might still be causing some damage. But fear not: new research shows that readily available and conveniently decorative plants are natural detoxifiers, scrubbing the air of these potentially harmful poisons.

Here are three commonly found toxins, and the plant species that mollify their effects.

(click image to enlarge)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I'm Voting Republican!

I've done some soul-searching and, after watching the following video, have decided I've been wrong all these years and have decided to vote Republican in the upcoming November election:


This description appeared several times at the bottom of the screen on a segment of Fox News yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon. The segment was dedicated to liberal reaction to reported Right-wing smears of Michelle Obama. It featured FOX anchor, Megyn Kelly, and conservative nut-job, Michelle Malkin.

Seriously. "Obama's Baby Mama"? WTF.

If there weren't zillions of people out there primed and ready to be swayed by this type of racist and sexist crap, it would be laughable...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

10 Things You Should Know About John McCain (But Probably Don't)

(please read the following and then forward it to all of your friends and neighbors! Get the truth out about John McCain!!)

1. John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has "evolved," yet he's continued to oppose key civil rights laws.1

2. According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain "will make Cheney look like Gandhi."2

3. His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban.3

4. McCain opposes a woman's right to choose. He said, "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned."4

5. The Children's Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children's health care bill last year, then defended Bush's veto of the bill.5

6. He's one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a "second job" and skip their vacations.6

7. Many of McCain's fellow Republican senators say he's too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: "The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He's erratic. He's hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."7

8. McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.8

9. McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his "spiritual guide," Rod Parsley, believes America's founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a "false religion." McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church "the Antichrist" and a "false cult."9

10. He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0—yes, zero—from the League of Conservation Voters last year.10

1. "The Complicated History of John McCain and MLK Day," ABC News, April 3, 2008

"McCain Facts,", April 4, 2008

2. "McCain More Hawkish Than Bush on Russia, China, Iraq," Bloomberg News, March 12, 2008

"Buchanan: John McCain 'Will Make Cheney Look Like Gandhi,'" ThinkProgress, February 6, 2008

3. "McCain Sides With Bush On Torture Again, Supports Veto Of Anti-Waterboarding Bill," ThinkProgress, February 20, 2008

4. "McCain says Roe v. Wade should be overturned," MSNBC, February 18, 2007

5. "2007 Children's Defense Fund Action Council Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard," February 2008

"McCain: Bush right to veto kids health insurance expansion," CNN, October 3, 2007

6. "Beer Executive Could Be Next First Lady," Associated Press, April 3, 2008

"McCain Says Bank Bailout Should End `Systemic Risk,'" Bloomberg News, March 25, 2008

7. "Will McCain's Temper Be a Liability?," Associated Press, February 16, 2008

"Famed McCain temper is tamed," Boston Globe, January 27, 2008

8. "Black Claims McCain's Campaign Is Above Lobbyist Influence: 'I Don't Know What The Criticism Is,'" ThinkProgress, April 2, 2008

"McCain's Lobbyist Friends Rally 'Round Their Man," ABC News, January 29, 2008

9. "McCain's Spiritual Guide: Destroy Islam," Mother Jones Magazine, March 12, 2008

"Will McCain Specifically 'Repudiate' Hagee's Anti-Gay Comments?," ThinkProgress, March 12, 2008

"McCain 'Very Honored' By Support Of Pastor Preaching 'End-Time Confrontation With Iran,'" ThinkProgress, February 28, 2008

10. "John McCain Gets a Zero Rating for His Environmental Record," Sierra Club, February 28, 2008

(This Top-10 list courtesy of Go visit their website and donate some money!)

Visit Ocean City, MD, Before the Oceans Evaporate!

I was born in Baltimore. Currently, one of my brothers and his family, along with my entire extended family, live there. In addition, my folks will be moving back to Baltimore from Cleveland in the next couple of years. So, I've got some Baltimore cred. As a kid, we used to go to Ocean City, Maryland, every summer to swim in the Atlantic, body surf, walk the boardwalk, fly kites, play miniature golf, and eat seafood. Recently, the mayor of Ocean City cut a really funny tourism ad for the city that is worth 1.5 minutes of your time to check out. Here it is:

And, just for the fun of it, here are some random family shots from our early days at Ocean City:

My cousin Christine, buried in the sand, circa 1970s:

Christine and my brother Jeff:

My brothers in the stockade and panning for "gold" at "Frontier Town":

My mom with stylee shades in the 1970s...

Two of my parents' best friends, The Kables, sitting on the beach. Nice swimming cap, Mrs. Kable!

My mom and grandmom Pearl. My grandmother died in 1972, so this is an early shot!

My parents standing at the shoreline. Nice hat, dad!

My dad in his old school bathing suit:

My mom on the beach... circa 1980s?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Larger Meaning of Obama's Nomination...

Before we all jump into the deep end of the general election swimming pool, I think Barack Obama's historic victory in the Democratic Party primary begs for some deeper historical meditation. Whether or not Obama wins the White House, his nomination is already a triumph over an incredibly racist past inside the Democratic Party. Yes, that is right. We need to remind ourselves that until fairly recently, the Democratic Party was the party of white supremacy.

During slavery days, the Democratic Party was the great defender of that tragic institution. In one particularly murderous incident, Democratic Representative Preston Brooks, a South Carolina slave-owning white supremacist, bludgeoned nearly to death Senator Charles Sumner, a Radical Republican (the "liberals" of their day) from Massachusetts, after he gave a speech denouncing slavery in 1856.

Two years later, in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, Illinois Democratic Senator, Stephen Douglas stated,
"For one, I am opposed to negro citizenship in any and every form. I believe this government was made on the white basis. I believe it was made by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men, men of European birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon Negroes, Indians and other inferior races."
Yet, Douglas was too moderate on race to become his party's presidential nominee in 1860. The Democrats instead nominated a more hard-line slaver, John C. Breckinridge.

After the collapse of slavery and the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, it was the Democratic Party which undermined and then destroyed the "experiment in inter-racial democracy" we call Reconstruction. It was the Democratic Party that "redeemed" white supremacy by sweeping aside the multi-racial governments of the Reconstruction era and establishing a new system of white supremacy, the Jim Crow system, with its hundreds of laws segregating the races, with its various mechanisms to disenfranchise black voters, and with its horrific system of debt peonage, otherwise known as sharecropping. Of course, this new system of white supremacy, while backed up by laws, court decisions, tradition and custom, was ultimately backed by unspeakable violence. Black people were killed in large numbers for asserting their political, economic and social rights. And, the Democrats were the political party that countenanced this violence, stoked the passions of racial hatred and encouraged other southerners to become murderous mobs. The Ku Klux Klan was, in essence, an extension of the Democratic Party. Democrats brought back chain gangs to force black labor back to the land in the most submissive and unjust way. And, Democrats passed the first gun control laws to keep victimized African Americans defenseless in the face of this violence.

During the so-called "progressive era," it was Democratic President Woodrow Wilson who extended formal segregation throughout the federal bureaucracy and named a number of open white supremacists to his cabinet. It was Wilson, who earlier as President of Princeton, refused to admit African Americans to that school. As Governor of New Jersey, Wilson refused to grant black workers patronage even though African American votes were the margin of his victory. And, in 1915, it was President Wilson who watched a private viewing of "The Birth of a Nation," one of the most racist films of all time, and approvingly called it "History written with lightening."

Throughout his presidency, Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt, consistently accommodated southern white racism in order to get other legislation passed. This meant nominating a lifetime KKK member from Alabama to the Supreme Court and replacing his Vice President, a true supporter of racial justice, Henry Wallace, with another racist and former KKK member, Harry Truman. This meant opposing federal anti-lynching legislation and thereby tolerating the torture and murder of African American citizens. It meant signing into law a Social Security Act that purposefully left out farm workers and domestic laborers, the two biggest employment categories for black people.

It was the southern Democratic Party that, until the mid-1940s, conducted "all white primaries" to block black electoral power and assure the perpetuation of white supremacy. And, because the South was a one-party region (there was no Republican Party after the collapse of Reconstruction in the 1870s) whoever won the Democratic nomination, won the general election!

In 1948, as some in the party began to get hip to the increasing power of black voting rights in the North, southern Democrats bolted the party and formed the racist Dixecrat, or "States Rights," Party, with South Carolina's Strom Thurmond as its standard bearer.

In 1964, it was racist Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, another KKK member, who filibustered the Civil Rights Act for 14 hours. Throughout the civil rights era, it was Democratic representatives at the local, state and federal level who provided the primary institutional bulwark against racial change.

It was the Democratic Party that produced George Wallace, the segregationist Governor of Alabama who pointed the way toward modern racist politicking when he figured out that racially-coded language could animate the underlying racist antagonisms of whites and win lots of votes, North and South, East and West.

And on and on and on...

But, you say, the Democrats are now the party of "special interests," one of those Wallace-inspired code-words for the party of black people, and brown people, and poor people and women and gays and lesbians, and anyone else who is disenfracnhised. Today, it is the Republican Party that rules the South and which is home to the most racist sentiments in our politics. Today, it is the Democratic Party that is the party of civil rights! And, this is true, to a large extent. During the 1950s and 1960s, the combination of thousands of people engaged in one of the most inspiring social movements in our nation's history and the increasingly embarrassing gap between U.S. leaders' Cold War rhetoric of "liberty," "democracy" and "self-determination" and the domestic reality of rampant and violent white supremacy, compelled liberal Democrats to embrace civil rights and, in the process, alienate southern white racists. In turn, those former Southern white racist Dems jumped ship and became Republicans. Similarly, it was those divisive racial appeals that I mentioned above which also brought over to the Republicans thousands of disgruntled working class white voters looking for a scapegoat for their own increasing economic misery due to deindustrialization and conservative social and political policies in the 1970s and 1980s. So, YES, the Democrats did ultimately make the change and embrace civil rights, not mainly because it was the moral or just thing to do, but because they were shoved by external forces (the civil rights movement and the logic of the Cold War). But, even so, that window was a brief one. As a reinvigorated and reactionary new conservative politic rose from the late-1960s through the present, Democrats found themselves increasing on the defensive. In order to try to regain political power, Democrats have moved rightward, largely abandoning the civil rights agenda of the 1960s and early-1970s. Recall that the only two Democratic presidents since the civil rights era have been conservative southern white guys. Recall, Bill Clinton picking a fight with Sister Souljah to prove he could be tough on "those people." It was Bill Clinton who saved his campaign in 1992 by going home to Arkansas to publicly preside over the state murder of a mentally deficient black man, Ricky Ray Rector, again to prove to reactionary white voters he could be "tough on crime." (note the association of crime with blackness) It was Bill Clinton who pandered to the racist smears against social welfare programs by signing into law the Welfare "Reform" Act of 1996... And on and on. He did all of this to pander to the racist sentiments still so powerful in our society so that he could win political power.

Now, let me be clear. I am a registered Democrat and an ardent Barack Obama supporter. I am not writing this to uplift Republicans and beat down the Dems. The Republicans have a pile full of their own racist sins to atone for and they don't seem to be showing any signs of change anytime soon. Rather, I merely hope to set what is happening through the Obama campaign within a much longer trajectory of racist politics in our country. White supremacy has always been a foundational set of values and ideas in our society and politics. It has historically been the NORM, not the exception to the rule. In this context, Obama's victory is H-U-G-E and inspiring on a grander scale.

So, today, as we reflect on the meaning of Barack Obama's nomination for President on the Democratic Party ticket, let us be conscious of this long and terrible racial history. Let us be aware of the truly seismic triumph over a horrible past that this represents within the party. Let us be clear of the magnitude of what has already happened in this election, regardless of what is to come in the general election. Let us give thanks and praises to the most high for this historic turn of events...

Viewed through the lens of racial justice and history, Barack Obama's triumph in the Democratic Primary is deep and resonant and somewhat mind-blowing. Let us all take a few moments before we jump into the general election fight to reflect on this deeper meaning. Let us all be proud of what Obama's candidacy means...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Arthur Ganson: Sculpture That's Truly Moving

Sculptor and engineer Arthur Ganson talks about his work -- kinetic art that explores deep philosophical ideas and is gee-whiz fun to look at...

(thanks, as always, to TED)

The Democratic Primary in 8 Minutes

This is a fun refresher featuring the "greatest hits" from the last 16 months of torture... uh, I mean, Democratic presidential primary election. Enjoy!

(courtesy of Slate)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Reflections On RFK

NPR had some very good coverage of the 40th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination the other day and I think it is worth reposting here. Check it out!

"RFK's Shooting Turned Photographer into Historian"
"Writer Remembers RFK's Death"
"Jack Newfield, Looking for the Man in RFK Myth"
"RFK Assassination Sparked Changes in Secret Service"
"RFK Delivers News of King's Death"
"Should Site of RFK Assassination Be Preserved?"
"Pete Hamill Recalls RFK"
"Ted Sorensen Recalls Tragedy Repeated"

Here is one of RFK's '68 ads:

Another RFK campaign ad:

Here is a bunch of different excerpts of RFK talking on various subjects:

RFK and those crowds!

Here is footage of RFK in South African in 1966:

RFK Smacks Down Republicans and Joins Chavez on Picket Line:

Walter Cronkite coverage of 1968 California primary:

RFK on Merv Griffin Show in '67:
part 1
part 2
part 3

RFK on Jack Parr show in '64:

Here is the trailer for a new documentary, "RFK Must Die: The Assassination of Bobby Kennedy":

Here is a 2-part report that suggests the CIA had a hand in the RFK assassination:

And, lastly, Nebraska Public Television did a very good documentary on the 1968 election in our state. It was the last year (before 2008!) that our state mattered in a presidential race!!

"Kill This Petition": Omaha World Herald Slams Anti-Affirmative Action Petition

Omaha World Herald - June 5, 2008

"Kill this petition"
Radio ad is odious; Connerly petition effort deserves defeat.

The approach outside an Omaha drugstore seemed simple enough. It started with two questions:

"Excuse me, sir, are you a registered voter?"


"Would you sign a petition to eliminate all gender and race discrimination in Nebraska?"


The approach was from a paid petition-gatherer for the "American Civil Rights Institute," a California organization seeking to eliminate affirmative action in states across the country.

Certainly, the notion of eliminating "all gender and race discrimination in Nebraska" is quite desirable. But that is not at all what this effort is about.

The petition seeks to amend Nebraska's Constitution so that it prohibits all consideration of race, ethnicity and gender in hiring, scholarship or contracting decisions made by public agencies, including the University of Nebraska system.

That means it would be forbidden to provide scholarships to benefit African-American students. Or women. It also means it would be prohibited to promote the growth of minority-owned or female-owned businesses through the awarding of contracts for that purpose.

Such prohibitions would be bad for Nebraska and bad for the university system.

The petition-getherers now have resorted to a radio commercial that features controversial rhetoric from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright (of Barack Obama fame) and refers to the "bitter rhetoric" of State Sen. Ernie Chambers.

Whether or not you agree with the positions of Sen. Chambers (the only African-American member of the Nebraska Legislature), the focal point of debate should be policy, not the Omaha senator. And Wright, a Chicagoan, has no relevance at all to this Nebraska debate.

How ironic that the ad, which calls for Nebraskans to "reject the politics of race and hate," itself shamelessly stokes racial resentment. Meanwhile, the outsiders who have made high-dollar contributions to the promotional campaign can blithely walk away, having done their best to work Nebraskans into a frenzy along racial lines.

If ever there was a petition effort that disgraced itself with its own words, this is it. The radio ad doesn't merely take the low road. It takes the lowest road.

What is happening is that California businessman Ward Connerly is attempting to foist his will on the people of Nebraska with a race-fixated drive to change our constitution.

With the unveiling of this remarkably ugly ad, one would hope the scales would fall from Nebraskans' eyes about the nature of the outside interests involved in the circulation campaign. These outsiders have now made clear to which lengths they're willing to go in whipping up racial tension and anger.

The radio ad is vile, and the petition drive is wrong. It doesn't "eliminate" discrimination; it enables discrimination. The Nebraska Legislature saw through this and rejected putting this on the ballot via the legislative process.

Don't buy into this garbage. Don't sign the petition. It's bad for Nebraska.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

It was forty years ago...

Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated 40 years ago yesterday...

RFK speaking after MLK's assassination April 4, 1968...

'68 campaign photo...

Ted Kennedy's eulogy for his brother...

Racially Divisive Appeal by Anti-Affirmative Action Group in Nebraska

Here is the new radio spot being aired in our state as a part of the purposefully deceptive campaign that is being waged by extreme Right-wing interests from outside our state to end affirmative action. As I've written before, the purpose of the so-called Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative is to coopt the language and symbolism of the civil rights movement to achieve the exact opposite end. The group uses the nice sounding rhetoric of "colorblindness" to eliminate all reasonable measures our state has developed over the years to help overcome historic inequalities and discrimination.

Here is the radio ad:

Notice the irony here: The group claims to be all about colorblindness, and eliminating racial mechanisms, yet it is making an explicitly divisive racial (racist) appeal, trading on white racial resentment, by linking Jeremiah Wright with our lone black legislator, Ernie Chambers. Note that it also makes the not-so-subtle link between whiteness, hard-work and merit, thereby suggesting that African American success and achievement are NOT associated with those things.. Sadly, while this ad trades openly on racial (racist) division, those who will be most hurt if this measure passes are most likely white women, the largest recipients of affirmative action and other ameliorative public measures in our state and across the country.

To date, signature gatherers in Nebraska have lied, distorted facts, misrepresented themselves and the petition, not followed state guidelines, etc. A quick story, we were at the grocery store in a more affluent suburban area of Lincoln not too long ago and there were two paid signature gatherers outside. The one was an obnoxious and deceptive white guy, blubbering on about how this was about equality. The other was a quiet young woman sitting at a table not really bothering anyone. I walked up to her and told I respected her as a person and her need for a summer job, but that she might want to look more deeply into the campaign she was supporting because, as a woman, she was only hurting herself. I then explained a few of the basics to her about the folks behind the campaign, the purposefully deceptive approach they take, their manipulation of the civil rights movement, etc. As I spoke, she got this terrified look in her eyes and said, "I'm Latina, as well." I replied, "then this is doubly bad for you." She thanked me for explaining things to her and promised she was going home and checking it out further. It was clear she had been sold a bill of goods and was feeling like a damn fool. I suspect that was her last day collecting signatures.

This is an odious effort. If you see a petition gatherer, DECLINE TO SIGN! And, tell your neighbors and friends to DECLINE TO SIGN, as well.

For more information, or to report deceptive tactics by signature gatherers, please go here.

UPDATE: Since Justin asked about Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative graphics, here is one:
Now that I look at this graphic, maybe I've got this whole thing wrong. Maybe it's not so bad... clearly, if this ballot initiative passes, inter-racial groupings of kids will be eating ice cream together all over our state! (smile)

Jeff Han: Unveiling the genius of multi-touch interface design

This is really cool! Jeff Han shows off a cheap, scalable multi-touch and pressure-sensitive computer screen interface that may spell the end of point-and-click:

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Compare and Contrast



My God! John McCain might have given one of the WORST political speeches of all time last night. First, whoever is running his campaign is an idiot. They started it just in time to be preempted by every news outlet to announce Obama was the Democratic nominee. The hall he was in contained maybe a few hundred people who were, shall we say, less than enthusiastic. And, the dude can't even deliver a canned line well, nor can he read off the tele-prompter without straining. It is painful to watch, brutal, really. If he wasn't such a jackass, I'd feel sorry for him flailing around up there like that. It is embarrassing.

And what is up with him when he goes like this:

Or, when he poorly delivers a stock line that is supposed to be witty by turning an Obama catch-phrase on its head and then stops, gives that one-sided maniacal grin and laughs, "he-he-he." It's freaky. And maybe just a little too Cheney-esque. Seriously. WTF?!??

Here is what some others had to say about McCain's speech:

• Rolling Stone Magazine:
Worst. Speech. Ever. Good God, John McCain gives bad podium.

• A shocked Jeffrey Toobin on MSNBC right after McCain's speech:
"That was awful. That was pathetic. That was one of the worst speeches I've ever seen him give."

Talking Points Memo blog called it a "legendarily awful prebuttal."

• Atrios wrote: "It'll make you look like the cottage cheese in a lime jello salad. Always a good look for an older gentlemen... The aesthetics of McCain's speech, just mercifully completed before a slightly energized crowd of literally dozens, was awesome in how dreadful it was."

• Josh Marshall, over at TPM, noted: "Here's how bad it is. All the Fox commentators are giving competing explanation for why McCain's speech sucked."

• Conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic:
"Put McCain's speech against Obama's - and this was a wipe-out. Not a victory. A wipe-out. Rhetorically, they are simply not in the same league. And if the contrast tonight between McCain and Obama holds for the rest of the campaign, McCain is facing a defeat of historic proportions...

From the re-branded green background to the silly attempt to capitalize on Democratic divisions to the Clintonian cooptation of an Obama meme - "a leader we can believe in" - McCain's opening gambit in the general election was, in my judgment, underwhelming.

One more thing: with McCain's and Clinton's speeches, you could not forget the politics of it. With Obama, you forgot about that at times. You actually lifted your eyes a little and believed a little and hoped a little.

Yes, he can. And anyone who under-estimates that will regret it."

• Summing up GOP sentiment was prominent Republican media consultant, Alex Castellanos, speaking on CNN: "Last I checked this was not a speech-making contest, thank God."
• Conservative Fox News pundit Mort Kondracke:
"Well, John McCain had better start working on his speechmaking and learn how to use a teleprompter. I mean, the gap, the rhetorical gap between this speech and...Oratorical gap between this speech and John McCain’s was vast. John McCain sounded old. This sounded fresh and new and exciting and visionary. And he was enlisting the country to join him in a great cause. This is our moment, all of that."

• Here's Mark Levin over at National Review's The Corner:
"Not to offend those who might be offended, but this speech is a mash and tough to digest. You have to get through the self-congratulatory praise of independence and commander-in-chief pose from the Senate, then you have to try to follow the inconsistency of some of his big-government ideas vs. his anti-big-government rhetoric, and his inconsistency even on his supposed strength -- the surge in Iraq vs. closing GITMO and conferring additional rights on the detainees."

• Amy Holmes of the conservative National Review:
"McCain's speech was creaky, ungracious, and unnecessary. I never understand why politicians don't take the opportunity, when so easily presented, to simply be gracious and hold their fire. Watching McCain, I couldn't help but think of the astonishing contrast Barack's triumphant speech to a massive and adoring crowd will be. It was not a comparison McCain should have invited."

• Marc Ambinder:
"What a different emotional register from John McCain's; Obama seems on the verge of tears; the enormous crowd in the Xcel center seems ready to lift Obama on its shoulders; the much smaller audience for McCain's speech interrupted his remarks with stilted cheers.

McCain appealed to Clinton supporters based on their resentments, pointing out that the pundits and party elders seemingly anointed Clinton; Obama appeals to them based on their hopes, promising that Clinton would play a major role in securing universal health care...

... the green background is very weird and very jarring. On this stage, theatrics matter...

Obama thanked his grandmother above all else; without her, he said, none of this would have been possible. She is white, of course. The explicit message is obvious. The implicit message: this thing, this event, is much more than just a step for racial equality."

• Matt Yglesias: "'s interesting that he's shifted his aesthetic from his old black and white 'fascist' aesthetic to a new green and white Islamofascist aesthetic."

National Post:
"... some advice for McCain. Find a new image consultant. The Arizona senator kicked off the general election campaign standing alone in front of a green backdrop, barely drawing applause from a crowd that one can only presume was very small and half asleep."

The Spectator UK:
"If John McCain or his supporters had any doubts about the challenges ahead, they should have been removed last night. Obama once more demonstrated that he can hit the rhetorical heights at will, turn out a crowd whenever he needs and pose as a unifying figure, hovering above normal politics even while taking partisan jabs at his opponent. By contrast, McCain’s speech appeared defensive and uninspiring."

As for Hillary's strange non-concession speech, I pretty much agree with this analysis from Slate:
Just finished watching Hillary Clinton’s unconcession speech. I guess we should give her credit for the fact that her supporters now look sufficiently angry to set small brushfires.

It would have been hard enough to choke down all the quasi-messianic imagery. (Each vote for her was “like a prayer;” supporters hand her rosaries AND bring her back from the dead.) But the real rhetorical gem tonight was the whole new “invisibility” trope: “None of you is invisible to me!” she vowed. So (subtext): “If I concede, America, you’d go right back to being invisible!” You’d be Tinkerbell!

Clinton did answer one burning question: “What does she want?” She just wants to win the war, turn the economy around, and fix health care. Since we all of us want those things, too, her real desire is actually to be the person who does it. Why doesn’t she just say that?

Nor have I any idea what to make of the call to her supporters to weigh in on her Web site with our own votes for whether she indeed goes on to the next round of Dancing With the Stars . . .
Unfortunately, I kept thinking of that Gilligan’s Island episode in which Ginger acts out an excruciatingly long and melodramatic death scene. You keep thinking her every last gasp is really it. But then she keeps rolling around and twitching because she’s been peeking through her fingers all along and knows you’re still watching.