Sunday, August 31, 2008

TED: Two Fascinating Science Talks

Biologist Richard Dawkins makes a case for "thinking the improbable" by looking at how the human frame of reference limits our understanding of the universe:

Physicist Brian Greene explains superstring theory, the idea that minscule strands of energy vibrating in 11 dimensions create every particle and force in the universe:

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Witnessing History

Here are a few shots to pique your interest... more later. (click any image to enlarge)

What did you think of Obama's historic speech?

Lest We Forget... Katrina Three Years Later

Please take some time away from the presidential election to reflect on the memory, meaning and ongoing tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, three years later. here are a few resources:

Magnum Photo reminds us what happened three years ago with a powerful photo essay.

Over at DailyKos, Bill in Portland Maine has put together "the Hurricane Katrina Hall of Shame." Well worth this walk down memory lane.

American Public Radio's "Speaking of Faith" put together a great audio story, with lots of resources, on poverty after Katrina.

Bill Quigley explores the "pain index" in New Orleans three years later.

Larry Blumenfeld writes about music, culture and recovery in New Orleans.

Kai Wright, in "Katrina, the Ultimate Party Crasher," reminds us how far we have yet to go in bringing back one of our nation's most beloved cities.

Lizzy Ratner explores the way New Orleans has redrawn the color line after Katrina.

Deepa Fernandes writes that three years on, homelessness looms for many of Katrina's victims.

Fernandes also writes about FEMA's toxic trailers.

Stuart Klawans reviews the new Katrina documentary, "Trouble the Water," a film which prompted N.O. mayor Ray Nagin to walk out.

Black Agenda Report suggests we are in "the age of Katrina," not the age of Obama.

Here is a Obama video using New Orleans great, Alain Toussaint's, classic, "Yes We Can Can":

Friday, August 29, 2008

Barack Obama's Amazing Acceptance Speech

I'll be commenting on my experience at Invesco Field over the next few days, but for now, if you have not already, please take the time to watch Barack Obama's historic acceptance speech. It is amazing. Please also forward it to as many folks as possible, particularly those who are undecided...

The folks at Slate have highlighted and explained all the references in the speech.

Here are some reactions to the speech from the floor of Invesco Field.

Michael Eric Dyson puts the speech in historical context.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Headin' to Denver...

I am off today for Denver to see Obama deliver his historic acceptance speech at Invesco Field tomorrow night! Because I teach and write about racial justice, I am excited to be a part of this event, which takes place on the 45th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. I am looking forward to checking out all the hoopla surrounding the convention. I'm not sure if I'll be able to post between now and Friday, when I return. Either way, stay tuned...

PS: I thought Hillary's speech was pretty good last night and that she did what she had to do. BUT, did anyone really think she wouldn't? She had to or else she would have been hammered publicly, destroying whatever remains of her career. This way, it appears she is on board, while, in fact, she and and Bill and their surrogates continue to act half-hearted toward the Obama/Biden ticket in more localized settings. It is clear that the Clinton people have continued to subtly and not so subtly undermine Obama's campaign. For an incomplete round-up of some of the ways they've done this, read Maureen Dowd's column in the NYTimes today.

Also, there is a lot of buzz that the Clintons were "offended" that Obama did not allow them to consult and have a say in his VP choice. That is the height of arrogance and entitlement.

Question: Do you think, if Clinton had won the nomination, that they would have invited Obama in to consult and have a say in choosing her VP? Hell no. Of course not...

Question: Do you think if Obama had lost and he and his people were acting like 5-year old, as many Clintonistas apparently are, that he would be getting the time of day and respect that is being extended to the Clinton whiners? Absolutely not. He'd be hammered over and over again about not being a team player.

And now there are reports swirling that Bill is leaving town after his star turn this evening and will not attend Obama's acceptance speech tomorrow evening. If true, talk about an ego-centric child...

So, I guess I don't fully buy the performance last night in a broader context. Maybe I'm just hopelessly biased against the Clintons at this point for all the lame stuff they've pulled in this campaign season, putting self-interest miles above party interest or national interest.

I am glad Hillary did the right thing last night, but the seeds of division she and Bill and their campaign sowed many months ago will not be vanquished in one speech. This problem will live on in the subterranean reaches of the election and just might be one of the things that prevents Obama from achieving the presidency, and thereby delivers the White House to McSame and the Rethugs for another miserable 4-8 years. Remember this...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Good Ideas: Push Health Care Back to the Center of the Debate

Check out "Not What the Doctor Ordered", The Toldeo Blade's excellent, extensive and damning probe of the U.S. health care crisis. It highlights already well known struggles of folks without any health insurance, or with woefully inadequate insurance, but also concludes that even "people with health insurance were harmed because insurance interfered" in their case.

Here is a brief video introduction to the Blade's series...

Health care is a winning, bread & butter issue for the Democrats and they need to get it back in the forefront of the political debate.

To that end, I heartily agree with journalist Bill Boyarsky, who argues in "Prescription for a Democratic Win,"
As Barack Obama moves into the Democratic National Convention, he should speak out more clearly and forcefully on an issue that clearly distinguishes him from his do-nothing opponent—national health insurance.

Nothing illustrates John McCain’s dedication to laissez-faire economics more than his plan to change, although not to improve, a health insurance system that now increasingly fails to meet the needs of Americans.

And nothing illustrates Obama’s failure so far to put some meat on his campaign than his inability to nail McCain on this issue and to speak specifically and powerfully about his own excellent plan, which he announced early in the campaign.
This is important advice; I hope someone in the Obama campaign is getting the message...

Classic New Obama Ad: "Don't Know Much"

Check out this new Obama ad which is going up in several battleground states. It is really good and quite funny in spots, though it is also a little cutesy. Overall, I like it and think it will resonate with boomer-types:

What do you think?

Is Barack Obama the End of Black Politics?

As the Democratic convention gets underway today in Denver, and as Barack Obama stands on the cusp of becoming the first African American nominated for the presidency by a major U.S. political party, the NYTimes has raised some important questions about the meaning of Obama's success.

On August 10, they asked a number of prominent black political leaders, "Is Obama the end of black politics?" The article is well worth reading. Here is the heart of the matter:
For black Americans born in the 20th century, the chasms of experience that separate one generation from the next— those who came of age before the movement, those who lived it, those who came along after — have always been hard to traverse. Elijah Cummings, the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and an early Obama supporter, told me a story about watching his father, a South Carolina sharecropper with a fourth-grade education, weep uncontrollably when Cummings was sworn in as a representative in 1996. Afterward, Cummings asked his dad if he had been crying tears of joy. “Oh, you know, I’m happy,” his father replied. “But now I realize, had I been given the opportunity, what I could have been. And I’m about to die.” In any community shadowed by oppression, pride and bitterness can be hard to untangle.

The generational transition that is reordering black politics didn’t start this year. It has been happening, gradually and quietly, for at least a decade, as younger African-Americans, Barack Obama among them, have challenged their elders in traditionally black districts. What this year’s Democratic nomination fight did was to accelerate that transition and thrust it into the open as never before, exposing and intensifying friction that was already there. For a lot of younger African-Americans, the resistance of the civil rights generation to Obama’s candidacy signified the failure of their parents to come to terms, at the dusk of their lives, with the success of their own struggle — to embrace the idea that black politics might now be disappearing into American politics in the same way that the Irish and Italian machines long ago joined the political mainstream.

“I’m the new black politics,” says Cornell Belcher, a 38-year-old pollster who is working for Obama. “The people I work with are the new black politics. We don’t carry around that history. We see the world through post-civil-rights eyes. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but that’s just the way it is.

The letters to the editor regarding this article, were also very interesting.

And here is the Black Agenda Report's scathing response.

This morning, the Times took on another question that many African American academics and grassroots political leaders have been discussing for some time now. Here is the gist:
Mr. Obama has received overwhelming support from black voters, many of whom believe he will help bridge the nation’s racial divide. But even as they cheer him on, some black scholars, bloggers and others who closely follow the race worry that Mr. Obama’s historic achievements might make it harder to rally support for policies intended to combat racial discrimination, racial inequities and urban poverty.

They fear that growing numbers of white voters and policy makers will decide that eradicating racial discrimination and ensuring equal opportunity have largely been done. [emphasis added]

Both articles raise critical issues that have not yet been aired widely in the national media, but which we all need to consider. Does Obama represent a new approach to the politics of race? a new relationship between African Americans and American democracy? Or, does Obama's success risk overshadowing the very real struggles and persistent inequalities facing a disproportionate number of black Americans? What exactly, if anything, remains to be done to overcome the legacy of white supremacy and racial injustice in American society? Is Obama's success too easily interpreted, or perhaps manipulated, by some whites to "prove" that the struggle for racial justice is now complete and, as such, that there is no longer any social responsibility to act to ameliorate continuing racial disparities. Finally, what do these articles reveal about the relationship between the present and the past?

What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the "comments" section...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Artists for Obama

One of the things I really like about the Obama campaign is the way artists of various types have embraced it and used it as inspiration to create works of art. One of the latest that I like is above. It is a piece by David Choe, a fine artists who has designed and produced apparel, comic books, movie posters, album covers, fine art books and toys, among many other projects.

David Choe's Barack Obama poster is part of an ongoing series from Upper Playground of artist collaborations in support of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Upper Playground has endorsed Obama's campaign by creating posters featuring artwork from Grotesk, The Date Farmers, Munk One, Ron English, Alex Pardee, Morning Breath, Mac, Sam Flores and Mear One, in addition to printing T-shirts with Shepard Fairey's Obama graphics to help support the campaign.

There were 200 prints made that are signed and numbered, and each poster retails for $200. The limited-edition 18"X24" print is available exclusively online.

All proceeds from the sales of the poster will go directly to creating more campaign t-shirts, posters, and stickers by other artists in support of Obama's bid for President.

Unfortunately, this great print is sold out, but thanks to the internet, we can all still see it, enjoy it and use it online...

I like this one by Brooklyn artist, Grotesk:

Drea's White Coat Ceremony...

Three cheers for Drea, who begins medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center on Monday!


Drea will be a part of the first class to learn in the new Sorrell Center, which is the most state of the art medical school facility in the United States! Very cool.

As a part of the orientation week festivities, most medical schools have a "white coat ceremony," where incoming med students receive their traditional white lab coat. It is a big deal, with faculty, administrators, parents, friends and family in attendance.

Here she is afterward, sporting her new coat...

Here I am being a jack-ass... I always wanted to be a "real doctor":

Again, here is to Drea, fulfilling her dream to be a doctor, a healer in the community!

Friday, August 22, 2008

New Obama Song: "American Prayer"

This one is by Dave Stewart, formerly of the Eurythmics, and features a variety of musicians and stars...

Spread the word...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Race in Science

Science receives much of its authority from the perception that it is based on "objective" examination of data through the scientific method. Yet, when it comes to race, science has been anything but objective. A great example of this is Stepehen Jay Gould's classic work, The Mismeasure of Man, which attacks the racist science of Eugenics at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries and demonstrates the way the white supremacist biases of scientists influenced their research. It is a great book, accessible and important.

In a similar, but more contemporary vein, a group of historians at the University of Toronto has created a website, "Racesci," which, in their own words:

is a resource for scholars and students interested in the history of "race" in science, medicine, and technology. RaceSci is dedicated to encouraging critical, anti-racist and interdisciplinary approaches to our understanding of the production and uses of "race" as a concept within the history of science. Instead of assuming race as a natural category that science then uncovers, this site assembles scholarly works that look at how cultural processes of racialization have profoundly shaped knowledge about humanness, health, and even our understanding of "nature" itself. The aim of RaceSci is to serve as a catalyst and support for the increased critical study of "race" and science amongst students and researchers by bringing together in a common forum the interdisciplinary English-language literature on the topic, with a particular strength in U.S. history. In addition, RaceSci tracks the continuing history of "race" in contemporary science and its reporting in the media. For scholars, the site provides samples of university syllabi and announcements of events.
The site contains lots of interesting resources.

Check it out!

Bill Maher's "Religulous"

Bill Maher has made a documentary film on religion, "Religulous." The film is directed by "Borat" helmsman, Larry Charles. This one is bound to offend a slew of people. The film also has a blasphemy parody site,

Here is the film's trailer:

Here is an interview with Maher on Larry King:

Uhhhhh... any thoughts about this?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stuff White People Like

This is a really funny website. According to the makers, "This is a scientific approach to highlight and explain stuff white people like. They are pretty predictable."

So, what are some of the things white people like?

• sushi
• farmer's markets
• dogs
• children's games as adults
• dinner parties
• Toyota Prius
• 80s night
• religions their parents don't belong to
• Microbreweries
• non-profit organizations
• self-aware hip-hop references
• being an expert on YOUR culture
• having two last names
• wine
• coffee
• writers workshops

For the full list and explanations, check out the website!

What would you add to the list? What other stuff do white people like?

Oh, and for all the defensive white folks out there, have a sense of humor, already. Sheesh.

Pass it along...

(Thanks to Winston Scarlett, who checks in on Freedom Road from Middletown, New York, for reminding me recently of this website. Check out Winston's blog, This Modern Love.)

My Morning Jacket, Live!

We went to see My Morning Jacket last night at the Harrah's Casino "Stir Cove" outdoor concert venue across the river from Omaha in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Drea loves the band; I wasn't too familiar with their stuff beyond their latest album. Both of us thought they were really great, kind of a cross between the Flaming Lips and Wilco. They jammed hard and played for nearly three hours. And they were LOUD as hell...

Here is a shot from my phone:

Here is a happy Drea, groovin':

Here's the song, "Evil Urges":
Evil Urges - My Morning Jacket

Here's the song, "I'm Amazed":
im amazed - My Morning Jacket

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Remembering Jerry Wexler's Groove

Legendary music producer, Jerry Wexler, died at the age of 91 a few days ago. Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Led Zepplin, Bob Dylan, Santana, Dire Straits and George Michael are just a few of the artists he produced at some point or another. Here is the New York Times obituary. Here is an excellent interview with Wexler from NPR's Fresh Air back in the 1990s. And here is a review of Wexler's autobiographical book about the music industry.

Monday, August 18, 2008

50 Years of Madlibs!

I used to love Madlibs as a kid. This 50th anniversary tribute comes from the New York Times:

(click image to enlarge)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Progressive Religious Leaders Make an Ad for Obama!

Brought to you by "The Matthew 25 Network":

Here is the mission statement for the Matthew 25 Network:

The Matthew 25 Network is a community of Christians – Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, and Evangelical – inspired by the Gospel mandate to put our faith into action to care for our neighbor, especially the most vulnerable.

The election of our public officials, and the politics they stand for, are a reflection of our core values. We believe that those elected to public office carry an important trust, as their decisions have a profound impact on our nation and our world.

We believe that people of faith should actively participate in the political process as an important avenue for social change. We are called by our faith to engage in the world as it is, while we seek after and hope for God’s Kingdom.

Therefore, while no elected official will be without flaw, we come together as individuals to support candidates for public office who share the values of the Matthew 25 Network: promoting life with dignity, caring for the least of these, strengthening and supporting families, stewardship of God’s Creation, working for peace and justice at home and abroad, and promoting the common good.

Original post at DailyKos.

Friday, August 15, 2008

"Get Your War On"

If you don't know David Rees's brilliant and subversive comic, "Get Your War On," you need to check it out. In addition to the strip, which appears at the front of every Rolling Stone issue and online, Rees has been making videos. Here are two recent ones:

"The Race Card"

"The Watch List"

"You Are Loved"

"Democracy: A Steady, Loving Confrontation"

The following 5 minute film is a finalist for the upcoming short film festival that will be a part of the Democratic Noational Convention in Denver. The film was directed by Jen Saffron (MFA) in conjunction with seven university students. The class hit the road to the heart of the South, interviewing civil rights activists about their fight for equality and what it means in the face of Sen. Barack Obama's bid for the Presidency. The film features historical figures from the Movement and leaders working for change today.

Check it out. It is a great example of what good teachers can do with a small group of energized and dedicated students. The film is inspirational and insightful:

What did you think?

Spread the word...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The ad the Obama Campaign SHOULD Be Running...

Here is an ad created by "cartwrightdale" and posted over at DailyKos. It is a double-barreled blast right at the heart of the McCain campaign. Simple and to the most salient point. Obama's people should take note:

What do you think? If you could create an ad for Obama, what would it feature? What would be its rhetorical approach? Any suggestions?

Isaac Hayes Tribute

As I am sure most people know by now, Stax legend, Isaac Hayes, passed away at the age of 65 a few days ago. Here is the NYTimes obituary.

In honor of Hayes, here is a nice live cut of him doing the "Shaft Theme" at Wattstax:

And here is Hayes as "Chef" on Southpark dispensing adult advice to the kids...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Robert Downey, Jr., Blackens Up for "Tropic Thunder"

The new Ben Stiller film, "Tropic Thunder," has attracted controversy for a few reasons, including Robert Downey, Jr.'s character's decision to "blacken up." Is it simply ironic humor or is it offensive?

In response, a Slate reporter posed the question this way: Is it ever acceptable for a white actor to put on blackface for a role?

See how he answered in this 6 minute video report:

What do you think? Is it ever acceptable for a white actor to wear blackface, even if done ironically?

Most Corporations Pay NO Federal Taxes

As always, we are going to hear a lot about how Barack Obama is going to "raise your taxes," if elected President. And, it is true that Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. It is untrue that he is planning to raise them for the vast majority of Americans who are in the middle and working classes. In essence, he wants to restore some fairness and some progressiveness to the U.S. tax system.

The real story in our tax system is that 2/3 of all U.S. corporations (1/3 of all large corporations) and 68% of foreign corporations pay ZERO DOLLARS in federal taxes each year. That despite the fact that these corporations earn trillions of dollars annually. That is right, these corporations throw money at elections so they can own politicians and shape public policy toward their interests over the majority of American citizens' interests AND they receive all kinds of tax-payer funded welfare from the government, yet they pay virtually nothing in taxes back into the system. This is the real scandal in our tax system. This baldly illustrates the inequality in the system and underscores who benefits most from the government.

For the full story, check it out here and here...

As ND-D Senator Byron Dorgan said, "It's time for the big corporations to pay their fair share."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

File Under, "Duh?!?!?!?!"

Good lord. This article illustrates how stupid the media and most white people are about how race works in the U.S. That the question of whether the McCain campaign and Republicans are employing race/racism in this election is even a debate in the mainstream media is silly and shows the gross ignorance of a sad number of white folks, including many of the so-called "best" journalists, of the ways racist fear has been manipulated and used throughout our entire political history. Of course the McCain folks are using racism as a weapon in their anti-Obama arsenal... for the same reasons a desperate Clinton campaign turned to these subterranean racist politics a few months ago as the nomination was slipping away... because these politics, sadly, usually work in our elections.

This kind of crap has not been a secondary or fringe element in our politics, but a central thread and one of the most potent devices conservatives (regardless of party) have used throughout the years to divide the electorate and win power for the status quo. The only difference is that it is now seen as distasteful to employ overtly racist rhetoric in most political campaigns, particularly at the national level. So, these days these reactionaries need to use coded language and loaded imagery to tap into long-standing white supremacist impulses in our society in order to move the electorate. The power is that this new kind of more subtle racial politic allows many white people (those making the ads and those receiving the signals) to claim that "it isn't about race," when it is, in fact, largely, or even exclusively, about race.

For any of you confused, I'll spell it out for you: The association of black men and white women has been driving white supremacists (and by that I mean a majority of white USians until VERY recently) bonkers for, oh, CENTURIES! You know, thousands of black men were unjustly lynched because of the bogus, but potent, charge of rape against a white woman. Interracial marriage was illegal for until 1967 in several states.

This McCain stuff is classic "dog whistle' politics. The sad thing, again, is that most white people, deeply ensconced in the invisibility of their racial privilege, are unaware of the work ads like these are doing. And, because most white folks are not clued in to our collective racial history, or the way race plays out in our society today, when someone steps forth to point out the obvious (like the fact that all these ads feature Obama white white women), many white people become defensive and attack the messenger. This is also why these kinds of divisive, hateful politics WORK.

So, if you are not in the loop on all this, get some learnin' on and check it out.

But, I know most of you out there visiting Freedom Road know this already...

The above political cartoon is from the 1864 presidential campaign. It seeks to exploit northern fears of inter-racial relationships by featuring a "miscegenation ball" and associating it with Lincoln and the Republican Party (which, at the time, was the "liberal" party). Note the banner, suggesting that if Lincoln is reelected, THIS is the world that will be forced upon good upstanding white people, a world where black and white people might - GASP! - be intimate enough to dance together... and you know what THAT means! The text that accompanied the original image was written in the voice of an eyewitness to such a dance at a Republican event in the North, as if the writer were shocked and earnestly reporting back to a readership he knew would also be distressed, if not outright outraged.

And so it goes...

While a Magician Works, the Mind Does the Tricks

I've always had a sweet spot for good magic, dating back to when I was a kid. Today's Science Times has an interesting article about the science of magic that folks might want to check out. Here is the set-up to the article:

In a paper published last week in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, a team of brain scientists and prominent magicians described how magic tricks, both simple and spectacular, take advantage of glitches in how the brain constructs a model of the outside world from moment to moment, or what we think of as objective reality.

Here is a cool magic trick by Chris Angel:

And another:

Here is a segment of Larry King Live with Angel:

And, because David Blaine has become such a freak, here is a parody of his street magic:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Edwards, McCain & Obama...

Things that make you go hhhhmmmmm...

• John Edwards, the now admitted adulterer, is an ego-centric phony who might have thrown his whole party down the drain with him had he won the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Thankfully he did not. Currently, he is rightly being run through the ringer by the media, the blogosphere and former supporters.

• But, John McCain is also a phony, lying serial philanderer, AND HE IS THE GOP's NOMINEE, yet the media somehow doesn't seem to care to pursue this story, or call him to task for his behavior.

• Do you think that if Barack Obama was a chronic cheater and a liar that the media would let the story go? Puh-lease... of course not.

What is the lesson? I'll let you figure it out...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Friday, August 08, 2008

Is Barack Obama the Anti-Christ?

Apparently, the McCain campaign is trying to capitalize on apocalyptic paranoia among fundamentalist christians by subtley casting Barack Obama as the anti-christ. I guess, like God, the politics of fear have no limits. I have re-posted below a blog originally published by "Grant from the Matthew 25 Network" at DailyKos that has the details:

Time Magazine Calls Out McCain Ad - "Worse than Willie Horton"

Three days ago I [Grant from the Matthew 25 Network] posted a diary breaking down McCain’s "The One" ad (I posted the ad at the bottom of this diary) – pointing out the multitude of similarities to the end-times Left Behind novels. To many, not coming from an evangelical background or context, this probably came across as a conspiracy theory. However, today Amy Sullivan of Time Magazine confirmed our worst fears.

The John McCain Campaign has reached a new low in presidential politics. The McCain campaign is working to feed on people's fears and internet rumors that Sen. Obama just might be the Anti-Christ. We have seen the Republicans swift-boat, conjure up affairs, and enact false investigations. But, we have never seen anything this low.

Amy writes in Time:

"It's not easy to make the infamous Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential campaign seem benign. But suggesting that Barack Obama is the Antichrist might just do it."

It could have been coincidence. To be honest few of us thought the McCain Campaign was in-touch enough with Christian voters to pull something this despicable. But Amy got to the source, which sets aside any suggestion that this may be a coincidence:

"The ad was the creation of Fred Davis, one of McCain's top media gurus, as well as a close friend of former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed and the nephew of conservative Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe. It first caught the attention of Democrats familiar with the Left Behind series, a fictionalized account of the end time that debuted in the 1990s and has sold nearly 70 million books worldwide. "The language in there is so similar to the language in the Left Behind books," says Tony Campolo, a leading progressive evangelical speaker and author."

Amy further writes, echoing our fears, that :

"The visual images in the ad, which Davis says has been viewed even more than the McCain's "Celeb" ad linking Obama to the likes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, also seem to evoke the cover art of several Left Behind books. But they're not the cartoonish images of clouds parting and shining light upon Obama that might be expected in an ad spoofing him as a messiah. Instead, the screen displays a sinister orange light surrounded by darkness and later the faint image of a staircase leading up to heaven...

A Google search for "Obama" and "Antichrist" turns up more than 700,000 hits, including at least one blog dedicated solely to the topic. A more obscure search for "Obama" and "Nicolae Carpathia" yields a surprising 200,000 references....

The speculation reached a fever pitch after Obama's European trip and the Berlin speech in which he called for global unity. Conservative Christian author Hal Lindsey declared in an essay on World Net Daily, "Obama is correct in saying that the world is ready for someone like him-a messiah-like figure, charismatic and glib...The Bible calls that leader the Antichrist. And it seems apparent that the world is now ready to make his acquaintance." The conservative website now sells mugs and t-shirts that sport a large "O" with horns and the words "The Anti-Christ" underneath."

Too many, most, "The One" ad is a laughing matter. I have heard several comments such as "don’t evangelicals want the Anti-Christ to return." That just isn’t how it works. That statement could be true for a small sector of this population. However, many of the most fundamental of the premillinialists also feel it is their theological duty to thwart the ‘Anti-Christ.’ As evangelical leader Tony Campolo told Amy Sullivan, "Those books have created a subliminal language and I think judgments will be made unconsciously about Barack Obama," he says. "It scares the daylights out of me."

The McCain Campaign seemingly has no positive approach and outreach to Christian Voters. So they have chosen the most despicable tactic they could cook up. To use people’s faith to scare them.

We are doing everything we can here at the Matthew 25 Network to call out the McCain Campaign. Our petition renouncing this ad has several thousand signatures. But we need yours. And, we need your help in making the petition go viral. Sign here and please tell your friends:

Next weekend is the Saddleback Church Faith Forum - and John McCain should have to answer for using people’s faith to demonize his opponent before the forum. Please sign the petition to call upon McCain to pull down this ad and renounce the tactic. Tell John McCain that we won’t stand for these fear-mongering tactics.

And please consider support the Matthew 25 Network with a donation on Act Blue so that we can continue our work. We are only able to continue because of grassroots donations from folks like you.

Thanks for the recs, tips, signers, and donations!

Matthew 25 Network


So, what do you think about them apples? This would all be incredibly hilarious if there weren't so many lunatics out their running around believing this "end of time" stuff...

UPDATE: Here is a news story on this issue...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Is Jazz Dying?

Over at Good Magazine, jazz writer, Adam Spangler, concludes, "It’s not jazz that is dying—clearly there are musicians worth seeing, producing music worth buying—it’s the audience that’s on life support." Catch the whole thing here.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tim Wise, "White Whine: Reflections On the Brain-Rotting Properties of Privilege"

The most recent dust-up over whether "the race card" has been played in the presidential campaign between Barack Obama and John McCain has underscored in my mind the treacherous path ahead for Senator Obama and the Democrats on this issue. I hope to post some resources, as well as my own thoughts, on the subject over the next few weeks. To begin, I'd like to simply place before you a provocative essay by Tim Wise, a prominent white, anti-racist activst, titled "White Whine: Reflections On the Brain-Rotting Properties of Privilege." The essay was originally published by Z Magazine on April 20, 2004. If you have not already read this essay, or if you are unfamiliar with Wise's work, read on. This is bound to get your mind going on "race" and "whiteness":

To truly understand a nation, a culture, or its people, it helps to know what they take for granted. After all, sometimes the things that go unspoken are more powerful than the spoken word, if for no other reason than the tendency of unspoken assumptions to reinforce core ways of thinking, feeling and acting, without ever having to be verbalized (and thus subjected to challenge) at all.

What's more, when people take certain things for granted, anything that goes against the grain of what they perceive as "normal" will tend to stand out like a sore thumb, and invite a hostility that seems reasonable, at least to those dispensing it, precisely because their unspoken assumptions have gone uninterrogated for so long.

Thus, every February I encounter people who are apoplectic at the thought of Black History Month, and who insist with no sense of irony or misgiving that there should be no such thing, since, after all, there is no White History Month: a position to which they can only adhere because they have taken for granted that "American history" as told to them previously was comprehensive and accurate, as opposed to being largely the particular history of the dominant group. In other words, the normalcy of the white narrative, which has rendered every month since they popped out of their momma's wombs White History Month, escapes them, and makes the efforts of multiculturalists seem to be the unique break with an otherwise neutral color-blindness.

Sorta' like those who e-mail me on a semi-regular basis to insist, as if they have just stumbled upon something of unparalleled profundity, that there should be an Ivory Magazine to balance out Ebony, or that we need a White Entertainment Television network to balance out BET, or a NAAWP to balance out the NAACP. Again, these dear souls ignore what is obvious to virtually all persons of color but which remains unseen by those whose reality gets to be viewed as the norm: namely, that there are already two Ivory Magazines: Vogue and Cosmopolitan; that there are several WETs, which just so happen to go by the names of CBS, NBC and ABC; and that the Fortune 500, U.S. Congress and Fraternal Orders of Police are all doing a pretty good job holding it down for us white folks on the organizational front. Just because the norm is not racially-named, doesn't mean it isn't racialized.

Likewise, the ongoing backlash against affirmative action, by those who seem to believe that opportunity would truly be equal in the absence of these presumably unjust efforts to ensure access to jobs and higher education for persons of color. We are to believe that things were just fine before affirmative action, and that were such efforts abolished now, we could return to this utopic state of affairs: to hell with the persistent evidence that people of color continue to face discrimination in employment, housing, education and all other institutional settings in the U.S.

So if the University of Michigan gives applicants of color twenty points on a 150-point admission scale, so as to promote racial diversity and balance out the disadvantages to which such students are often subjected in their K-12 schooling experience, that is seen as unfair racial preference. But when the same school gives out 16 points to kids from the lily-white Upper Peninsula, or four points for children of overwhelmingly white alumni, or ten points for students who went to the state's "top" schools (who will be mostly white to be sure), or 8 points for those who took a full slate of Advanced Placement classes in high schools (which classes are far less available in schools serving students of color), this is seen as perfectly fair, and not at all racially preferential.

What's more, the whites who received all those bonus points due to their racial and class position will not be thought of by anyone as having received unearned advantages, in spite of the almost entirely ascriptive nature of the categories into which they fell that qualified them for such bonuses. No matter their "qualifications," it will be taken for granted that any white student at a college or University belongs there.

This is why Jennifer Gratz, the lead plaintiff in the successful "reverse discrimination" suit against Michigan's undergraduate affirmative action policy, found it a supreme injustice that a few dozen black, Latino and American Indian students were admitted ahead of her, despite having lower SATs and grades; but she thought nothing of the fact that more than 1400 other white students also were admitted ahead of her and her co-plaintiffs, despite having lower scores and grades. "Lesser qualified" whites are acceptable, while "lesser qualified" people of color must be eliminated from their unearned perches of opportunity. This is the kind of racist logic that people like Gratz, who now heads up the state's anti-affirmative action initiative with the financial backing of Ward Connerly, find acceptable.

This kind of logic also explains the effort of whites at Roger Williams University to start a "white scholarship fund," on the pretense that scholarships for students of color are unfair and place whites at a disadvantage. This, despite the unmentioned fact that about 93 percent of all college scholarship money goes to whites; despite the fact that students of color at elite and expensive colleges come from families with about half the average income of whites; despite the fact that there are scholarships for pretty much every kind of student under the sun, including children of Tupperware dealers, kids whose parents raise horses, kids who are left-handed, kids whose families descend from the founding fathers: you name it, and there's money available for it.

While there are plenty of whites unable to afford college, the fault for this unhappy reality lies not with minority scholarships, but rather with the decisions of almost exclusively white University elites who have raised the price of higher education into the stratosphere, to the detriment of most everyone. But to place blame where it really belongs, on rich white people, would be illogical. After all, we take it for granted that one day we too might be wealthy, and we wouldn't want others to question our decisions and prerogatives come that day either.

Better to blame the dark-skinned for our hardship, since we can take it for granted that they're powerless to do a damned thing about it.

Whites, as it turns out, take most everything for granted in this country; which makes perfect sense, because dominant groups usually have that privilege. We take for granted that we won't be racially profiled even when members of our group engage in criminality at a disproportionate rate, whether the crime is corporate fraud, serial killing, child molestation, abortion clinic bombings or drunk driving. And indeed we won't be.

We take it for granted that our terrorism won't result in whites as a group being viewed with generalized suspicion. So Tim McVeigh represents only Tim McVeigh, while Mohammed Atta gets to serve as a proxy for every other person who either has his name or follows a prophet of that name.

We take it for granted that our dishonesty will be viewed in purely individualistic terms, while the dishonesty of others will result in aspersions being cast upon the entire group from which they come. Thus, Jayson Blair's deceptions at the New York Times provoke howls of indignation at any effort to provide opportunity to journalists of color -- because after all, diversity and quality are proven by this one man's exploits to be incompatible -- but Jack Kelley's equally egregious fabrications and fraud at USA Today fails to prompt calls for an end to hiring white guys as reporters, or for scrutinizing them more carefully, or for closing down whatever avenues of opportunity have helped keep the profession so white for so long.

We take it for granted that we will never be viewed as one of those dreaded "special interest" groups, precisely because whatever serves our interests is presumed universal. So, for example, while politicians who pursue the support of black, Latino, gay or other "minority" voters are said to be pandering to special interests, those who bend over backwards to secure the backing of NASCAR dads and soccer moms, whose racial composition is as self-evident as it is unmentioned, are said to be politically savvy and merely trying to connect with "normal folks."

We take it for granted that "classical music" is a perfectly legitimate term for what really amounts to one particular classical form (mostly European orchestral and piano concerto music), ignoring that there are, indeed, classical forms of all musical styles, as well as their more contemporary versions.

We take it for granted that the only controversy regarding Jesus is whether or not he was killed by Jews or Romans; or whether the depiction of his execution by Mel Gibson is too violent for children, all the while ignoring a much larger issue, which is why does Gibson (and for that matter every other white filmmaker or artist in the history of the faith) feel the need to make Jesus white: something he surely could not have been and was not, with all due apology to Michelangelo, Constantine, Pat Robertson, and the producers of "Jesus Christ Superstar."

That the only physical descriptions of Jesus in the Bible indicate that he had feet the color of burnt brass, skin the color of jasper stones, and hair like wool, poses a slight problem for Gibson and other followers of the white Jesus hanging in their churches, adorning their crucifixes (if Catholic), and gracing the Christmas cards they send each December.

It is the same problem posed by the anthropological evidence concerning the physical appearance of first century Jews from the so-called Middle East. Namely, Jesus did not look like a long-haired version of my Ashkenazi Jewish, Eastern European great-grandfather in his prime. But to even bring this up is to send most white Christians (and sadly, even many of color) into fits, replete with assurances that "it doesn't matter what Jesus looked like, it only matters what he did."

Which is all fine and good, until you realize that indeed it must matter to them what Jesus looked like; otherwise, they wouldn't be so averse to presenting him as the man of color he most assuredly was: a man dark enough to guarantee that were he to come back tomorrow, and find himself on the wrong side of New York City at the wrong time of night, reaching for his keys or his wallet in the presence of the Street Crimes Unit, he'd be dispatched far more expeditiously than was done at Golgotha 2000 years ago.

But never fear, we needn't grapple with that because we can merely take it for granted that Jesus had to look like us, as did Adam and Eve, and as does God himself. And indeed, most whites apparently believe this to be true, as suggested by the images found in most every picture Bible for kids made by a white person, all of which present these figures in such a way. A good example is the classic and widely distributed Robert Maxwell Bible Series for children, popularly known as the "blue books" that are found in virtually every pediatrician and OBGYN's office in the U.S. In Volume I, readers learn (at least visually speaking) that the Garden of Eden was in Oslo: a little-known fact that will stun Biblical scholars to be sure.

It would all be quite funny were it not so incontestably insane, so pathological in terms of the scope of our nuttiness. What else, after all, can explain the fact that when a New Jersey theatre company put on a passion play a few years ago with a black actor in the lead role, they received hundreds of hateful phone calls and even death threats for daring to portray Jesus as anyone darker than, say, Shaun Cassidy?

What else but a tenuous (at best) grip on reality can explain the quickness with which white Americans ran around after 9/11 saying things like, "Now we know what it means to be attacked for who we are?" Now we know? Hell, some folks always knew what that was like, though their pain and suffering never counted for much in the eyes of the majority.

What else but delusion on a scale necessitating medication could lead one to say -- as I saw two thirty-something whites do in the wake of the OJ Simpson "not guilty" verdict -- that they now realized everything they had been told about the American justice system being fair was a lie? Now they realized it! See the theme here?

That's what privilege is, for all those who constantly ask me what I mean when I speak of white privilege. It's the ability to presume that your reality is the reality; that your experiences, if white, are universal, and not particular to your racial identity. It's the ability to assume that you belong and that others will presume that too; the ability to define reality for others, and expect that definition to stick (because you have the power to ensure that it becomes the dominant narrative). And it's the ability to ignore all evidence to the contrary, claim that you yourself are the victim, and get everyone from the President to the Supreme Court to the average white guy on the street to believe it.

It is Times New Roman font, one inch margins, left hand justified. In other words, it is the default position on the computer of American life. And it has rendered vast numbers of its recipients utterly incapable of critical thought.

Only by rebelling against it, and insisting on our own freedom from the mental straightjacket into which we have been placed as whites by this system, can we hope to regain our full humanity, and be of any use as allies to people of color in their struggle against racism

If you thought that essay was interesting, here is a clip of Wise speaking about "whiteness":

And here is a little bit longer lecture by Wise on "white privilege":

Ok, after checking out some of those resources, what do you think? What do you make of whiteness? What do you think of Wise's arguments?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Has "the Race Card" Been Played?

Here is Terry Neal's piece, "Up From Chicago." (found over at According to the author, "When Camp McCain says he's arrogant, they're playing to those who think he's another black man who doesn't know his place." Check it out...

Or this montage of recent political leaders and talking heads on the issue:

And here is David Gergen, not exactly a raving liberal, accusing the McCain campaign of playing the race card with coded language and insinuation.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

TED: Erin McKean Asks if the Dictionary is Doomed

Another fascinating and energizing talk from the folks at TED...

QUESTION: Is the beloved paper dictionary doomed to extinction?

In this infectiously exuberant talk, leading lexicographer Erin McKean looks at the many ways today's print dictionary is poised for transformation.

WHY SHOULD YOU LISTEN TO ERIN McKEAN? Much to Erin McKean's delight, her job as editor in chief of the Oxford American Dictionary involves living in a constant state of research. McKean searches high and low -- from books to blogs, newspapers to cocktail parties, The New Scientist to Entertainment Weekly -- for new words, new meanings for old words, or signs that once-favored terms have fallen out of use. ("Information Superhighway," anyone?) And it's clear that she relishes the hunt.

McKean is also the editor of the language quarterly Verbatim ("language and linguistics for the layperson since 1974") as well as the author of multiple books, including That's Amore and the entire Weird and Wonderful Words series. All that, and she maintains multiple blogs, too: Erin is the keen observationalist behind A Dress a Day and Dictionary Evangelist.

Thanks to my good friend Joe Germuska for turning me on to this particular talk...