Sunday, October 26, 2008

Whaaasup? 2008 ...TRUE

Back in the late 90s, director Charles Stone put together a short film called "TRUE," in which several characters sat around talking on the phone and yelling out "Whaaasup!" Picked up by Anheuser-Bush in 1999, the short became a commercial for Budweiser beer in which Stone and several of his childhood friends brought black and hip hop lingo (T R U E) to the mainstream. Long after it became annoyingly copied and overused, it remained embedded in popular American culture.

Today, Charles Stone has returned with a sequel released on Youtube called "Whaaasup 2008." Unrelated at all to beer, the short film recounts what's happened since 1999 under the Bush administration, and makes a rather blatant endorsement for a certain Democratic Presidential candidate. Nothing like a little politics in between "Any Given Sunday." And while it's as hilarious as the original, there's also a sad and chilling "spot on" aspect to its commentary that definitely makes you want to say...


The old original commercial that was such an icon of the late 90s:


Friday, October 24, 2008

Crying Wolf

The now infamous photo of Ashley Todd, proven to be a hoax

It was Thursday when I got an email about a woman who claimed she had been mugged and mutilated by a supporter of Barack Obama. Ashley Todd, a 20-year-old white campaign worker of John McCain, alleged that late Thursday night she was attacked by a 6'4" black male who robbed her in front of a bank ATM in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburg. According to Todd, the politically astute attacker, upon seeing a McCain-Palin sticker on her car, became so enraged he punched her in the back of the head, knocked her to the ground and then proceeded to carve the letter "B" (an allusion to Sen. Barack Obama) into her face with a dull knife.

The story was shocking, sensational and threatened to perhaps upend the presidential campaign. Except for one problem. Turns out as of this afternoon, the alleged victim has confessed that her story was a complete HOAX.

The Scarlet "B" story made internet headlines as the Drudge Report, in its usual propaganda fashion, sent it rocketing out with blaring red capital letters. Right-wing blogs went full lynch mob, as political rage quickly turned into blatant race-mongering. The story emphasized the attacker's "blackness" and went so far as to make Jim Crow Era allusions to sexual molestation. The Pres. of the College Republicans called the attack a "disgusting act of violence" and a "hate crime." The McCain-Palin campaign released a statement
saying they were "shaken" and "sickened" by the crime, and both candidates called Todd to express their sympathies. Realizing the racially-driven sh*t storm that could come their way, the Obama-Biden camp quickly sent out their own sympathies and prayers, hoping the perpetator would be brought to justice.

But to some, including the Pittsburg police, the story seemed fishy from the beginning. For one, the site of the alleged attack is a well known busy street. And many from Bloomfield found it shockingly-odd that no one had witnessed the crime. Todd herself baffled police when she refused to seek medical attention--after a stranger supposedly used a foreign object to mutilate her face. Still, the usual culprits like FOX News ran the story as if it was settled. Some members of the McCain campaign even embellished the story to reporters, seeming eager to exploit it to their gain. And others like CBS and CNN, while not delving in head-first, still blared it across their tickers and donated brief time to it.

Surprisingly, one of the most sane voices through the entire affair came from the usually rabid right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin. As early as Thursday Malkin was beyond skeptical, claiming of the story "it smells awfully wierd," and warned her fellow conservatives not to buy into it. I'm officially filing that under my "hope springs eternal" category.

What can't be expressed enough is the importance of the blogosphere. Because if not for them, this story could have run around and done a bit of damage in its near 24-hour life cycle before it was proven a hoax.

On many liberal and left-leaning blogosphere there was shock at the story, and immediate suspicion. In addition to the oddity that the alleged victim denied medical attention, many pointed out the "B" etched into her face was backwards--as would happen if it was self-inflicted through the use of a mirror. There were immediate suspicions raised about Todd's black eye, which was dark but not in the least bit swollen. Some openly called it a hoax from the first glance; others voiced their doubts and waited to see what would happen.

Of course, the henny-pennys and handwringers made their appearances. Worried about "piling-on" the victim, they cautioned restraint. Some of them expressed outright doubt that anyone would do this to themselves, and warned Obama supporters should be prepared for a rough couple of days that could shake up the presidential race.

On numerous blogs and other forums mostly inhabitated by African-Americans, there was little doubt that this story was completely conjured up. Many pointed to the American historical phenomenon of the brute caricature, that conjures up black males as dangerous rapists and attackers of white womanhood. Others needed go no further than Susan Smith or Charles Stuart, to see the brute caricature in practice.

By midday Friday however, Todd's story was falling apart under police questioning. And after being administered a polygraph test, like a character from Law & Order, she broke down and confessed the entire sordid tale had been concocted. There was no 6'4" black male attacker. No mugging. No crime of any kind. And the B carved onto her cheek? Todd claimed she wasn't certain how it had gotten there--that she looked into a mirror and then it was just there, so now she thinks she *must* have been the one to do it.

By Friday night, the right-wing bloggers and news outlets who had been taken in by Todd had either expressed their sadness that they had been duped--or seemed sad the story wasn't true after all. Others never recanted, and simply went silent on the topic--returning to their usual attacks on ACORN, Obama, and whatever other liberals can be assigned blame. Most left leaning blogs simply shook their heads at the madness of it all, and hoped Ashley Todd (under an Obama administration) would be able to get the mental healthcare she seems to so desperately need.

Not everyone was willing to let by-gones be by-gones so easily. On more than a few blogs, there were calls to find out just how much the McCain camp had pushed and fanned the flames of this story. Others, noting the danger of racial fear-mongering Todd had unleashed, demanded she be charaged with a hate-crime. For many black blogs and forums, Todd was not only making a risky political manuever, but playing a dangerous game which in the past had resulted in blacks being intimidated or even murdered.

And more than a few, pointed to John Moody, executive vice president at Fox News, who had made the following comments before Ashley Todd's confession:

"If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee. If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting."

According then to Moody, by today and for the next week up to the election, we should see the FOX News station bemoan the downfall and end of the McCain campaign--a victim of Ashley Todd's reckless, fear-mongering and racially polarizing hoax. Riiiiggght.

So, just over a week from the presidential campaign, the "mavericky" crew at McCain-Palin have managed to once more make their campaign look like the bizarre and freakish side-show of the species Politicus americana that it has become.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

F is For Failure- The Tragic Comedy of the Bush Doctrine

Although Sarah Palin may not know what the Bush Doctrine is, the rest of us who have watched the growth of American Empire are well aware. While the current junta in the White House didn't originate this era of American exceptionalism, they have taken the US down a road of unchecked militarism that has threatened to cause even further global instability. Wrapped up in ideologies long voiced in such groups as the Project for a New American Century, the neoconservative underpinnings of the Bush Doctrine's notion of pre-emption have been as doomed as the costly adventure in Iraq.

Tom Engelhardt over at TomDispatch has written an illuminating piece called "F is for Failure," describing the follies of the Bush Doctrine--a strategic policy that has not only been ruinous, but that has ironically brought about precisely what it claimed it was attempting to prevent.

A brief bit of the article and a link are provided below.

You can also listen to it discussed by Tom here.

F Is for Failure: The Bush Doctrine in Ruins

Oct. 21, 2008

by Tom Engelhardt

On the brief occasions when the President now appears in the Rose Garden to "comfort" or "reassure" a shock-and-awed nation, you can almost hear those legions of ducks quacking lamely in the background. Once upon a time, George W. Bush, along with his top officials and advisors, hoped to preside over a global Pax Americana and a domestic Pax Republicana -- a legacy for the generations. More recently, their highest hope seems to have been to slip out of town in January before the you-know-what hits the fan. No such luck.

Of course, what they feared most was that the you-know-what would hit in Iraq, and so put their efforts into sweeping that disaster out of sight. Once again, however, as in September 2001 and August 2005, they were caught predictably flatfooted by a domestic disaster. In this case, they were ambushed by an insurgent stock market heading into chaos, killer squads of credit default swaps, and a hurricane of financial collapse.

At the moment, only 7% of Americans believe the country is "going in the right direction," Bush's job-approval ratings have dropped into the low 20s with no bottom in sight, and North Dakota is "in play" in the presidential election. Think of that as the equivalent of a report card on Bush's economic policies. In other words, the Yale legacy student with the C average has been branded for life with a resounding domestic "F" for failure. (His singular domestic triumph may prove to be paving the way for the first African American president.)

But there's another report card that's not in. Despite a media focus on Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the record of his Global War on Terror (and the Bush Doctrine that once went with it) has yet to be fully assessed. This is surprising, since administration actions in waging that war in what neoconservatives used to call "the arc of instability" -- a swath of territory running from North Africa to the Chinese border -- add up to a record of failure unprecedented in American history.

Read rest of article here.


Friday, October 17, 2008

The Black McCains

This week, the Wall Street Journal featured a piece that should remind many of how interconnected we are by race and the legacy that America's "original sin" has wrought. WSJ's Douglas Blackmon interviewed Charles McCain Jr. and his sister Mary McCain Fluker. The two share a name and a legacy of the GOP presidential candidate--they are descendants of slaves held at the Mississippi plantation owned by the family of Sen. John McCain's great-great-grandfather.

In this presidential election, race has featured prominently. From Rev. Wright to conjured up images of "terrorists," the sometimes blatant and other times coded messages about Sen. Barack "Hussein" Obama have been something his campaign has been forced to contend with. But this is America where just over four decades ago black Americans could not peacefully exercise their right to vote and discrimination was codified into law or accepted social mores. Just over one-hundred years before that, the majority of black America was held in bondage--and those that were fortunate enough to find freedom lived a precarious life that could be disrupted at any time.

What we often forget is that this is not simply the history of black America, but the rest of America--particularly white America--as well. Slaves had owners, and companies that insured those owners, and businesses that depended on forced labor. From the rebuilding of the White House after its destruction after the War of 1812 to the economy of even the Civil War North, slavery affected nearly all aspects of American life.

This week, the Wall Street Journal featured a piece that should remind many of how interconnected we are by race and the legacy that America's "original sin" has wrought. WSJ's Douglas Blackmon interviewed Charles McCain Jr. and his sister Mary McCain Fluker. The two share a name and a legacy of the GOP presidential candidate--they are descendants of slaves held at the Mississippi plantation owned by the family of Sen. John McCain's great-great-grandfather.

The past is prologue.

Neglected in the heat of the presidential campaign, this illuminating story can be found here. Or the brief interview can be seen above.

See also:

Some of McCains Black Relatives Support Obama


Thursday, October 9, 2008

That One

When Sen. John McCain angrily referred to Sen. Barack Obama as "that one" during the last presidential debate, something in me twitched. At a past employ, I recall a colleague (a white male) who used the phrase often. Though he never directed it at me, he would always call others (most often women and people of color) "that one" when he was joking or voicing a complaint. I never knew why, but it irked me to hear him say it. Then John McCain used it and almost immediately my phone buzzed with a text message from my sister. It read:

"That One" = boy?

And suddenly, I was struck with why I never liked that term. Its condescension is glaring, and has the ability to transform the person of your ire into a "thing"--some type of "other" separate and apart from yourself.

My sister and I weren't the only ones who got that vibe. By that night blogs were abuzz about the strange reference. Many--across the demographic spectrum--had the same unease. Of course, there were those erstwhile white iberal referees of racial incidents--who see fit to make the call on any act of bias perceived by a person of color, usually with doubts and concerns of "over-reacting." These same refs fought down any mention early on that the McCain-Palin crowds were becoming dangerous and unruly. That they were woefully wrong in that regard hasn't stopped them from their usual officiating. Because goodness knows, they are much more equipped to know when someone is making a racially tinged slight better than those who have actually experienced it. To some of my white liberal friends, god bless ya'--but let's try to keep the paternalism in check.

Though most of the media did not "go there" on the quote, simply referring to it as bizarre, I was pleased to see journalist Hugh Hamilton of WBAI "Talk Back" speaking plainly on the topic. I re-post his brief but illuminating commentary below.

Talk Back radio show host Hugh Hamilton, Oct 8th, 2008:

At the moment anything I have to say about last night’s debate can be said in 90 seconds or less…

You know that all pretense of civility or parliamentary decorum has been irretrievably lost from our public discourse when one of the candidates in a presidential debate takes to flailing his arms about onstage and referring to his opponent as “that one.” It was a comment that had all the delicacy of a barnyard epithet.

At best it exposes the absence of tempermental sobriety and statesmanship on the part of Senator McCain. At worst it betrays an attitude of racially tinged condescension and disdain that invalidates any further aspiration on his part to leadership in a multicultural, multiracial and multiethnic 21st Century America.

If that slight was intentional, then it exposed either an appalling lack of judgment or a blatant disregard for historical sensitivities on the part of Senator McCain. And if it was accidental then it betrayed a complete lack of grace under pressure, and a reflexive tendency in such circumstances to seek recourse in the undignified rhetoric of bigotry and prejudice. There are no good choices here.

At their next debate, Sen. McCain may choose to either apologize either directly to Sen. Obama or he may choose to go for broke and simply address him as “boy.” Either way, it is unlikely to make a difference to the image that the Senator from Arizona has now crafted for himself.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Today the good people at FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) released an expose on the spread of Islamophobia in the news media. Aptly defined as "Smearcasting," the report profiles 12 of the leading pundits and media figures who engage in bigotry, fear-mongering and misinformation in order to gin up anti-Muslim sentiment amongst their viewers and listenership. Among the most flagrant offenders are FOX News talk show hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, talk radio's Michael Savage, CNN's Glenn Beck, along with right-wing activists Michelle Malkin, Daniel Pipes and David Horowitz.

As noted in a press release by the media watchdog group, the document "describes a loose network of right-wing, anti-Muslim partisans who regularly use innuendo, questionable sources of information and even lies to smear, and effectively marginalize, Muslim Americans in the media."

The full reprt can be downloaded in a PDF form here.

Excerpts from the press release are highlighted below:

This report takes a fresh look at Islamophobia and its perpetrators in today's media. We found prominent right-wing pundits and activists using misinformation and innuendo to broadcast hate against an entire community -- in this case, Muslims -- and major media have either fallen asleep at the wheel or, in many cases, have actively helped to spread the smears.--Steve Rendall, senior analyst at FAIR.

These Muslim-bashing attacks have a real impact, not only on Muslims in America but on our civil discourse. We're in the middle of a historic election in which Islamophobia has already played a role, and I don't think we've seen the last of the dirty tricks and the smearcasting. Media need to step up and do their job of separating fact from innuendo, and they should distinguish the impartial experts from the smearcasters.--Steve Rendall, senior analyst at FAIR.

The report features case studies of the impact of smearcasting including:

Right-wing pundit Daniel Pipes led a successful campaign to oust the principal of a secular Arabic-language New York City public school by initiating a media-driven pressure campaign. The principal's history of forging inter-faith and inter-ethnic alliances was ignored as the campaign branded her a "stealth Islamist," and media pressure eventually forced her to resign.

Conservative columnist and Internet activist Michelle Malkin pressured Dunkin' Donuts into dropping an ad featuring celebrity chef Rachael Ray wearing a black-and-white scarf -- which Malkin falsely identified as a keffiyeh, calling it a symbol of "murderous Palestinian jihad."

To download a copy of the report visit:


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Biden V Palin- SNL, Polls & News Analysis

Queen Latifah as Gwen Ifil, Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden.

You know it's getting to where, I hardly need to write a blog anymore.

Thanks SNL

"For her part, GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin – speaking with the programmed cadence of a GPS navigation system — used forced folksiness to deliver crammed material in the manner of a high schooler looking to score a good grade on a Spanish test. The kid may escape with a B-minus, but he wouldn't be able to order a cup of coffee in Spain a week later." --Douglas Burns, Iowa Independent

More feedback on the debate below.

Despite all the tv punditry gibber-gabbing about a tied debate or even a Sarah Palin "win," (Peggy Noonan I'm looking in your general direction; your honest off-air gaffes beat your blatant schilling any day), polls and many newspaper reviews told a different story.

Compiled from blogs as diverse as Daily Kos to Think Progress:

Polls Biden Palin Undecided

CNN/Opinion Research- Biden 51% Palin 36%
CBS Biden 46% Palin 21%
Fox Biden 61% Palin 39%
Survey USA Biden 51% Palin 32% Undecided 17%
MediaCurves (Independent Voters) Biden 67% Palin 33%
Rasmussen Biden 45% Palin 37%

More results from MediaCurves.

"For her part, GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin – speaking with the programmed cadence of a GPS navigation system — used forced folksiness to deliver crammed material in the manner of a high schooler looking to score a good grade on a Spanish test. The kid may escape with a B-minus, but he wouldn't be able to order a cup of coffee in Spain a week later." --Douglas Burns, Iowa Independent

"But Ms. Palin never really got beyond her talking points in 90 minutes, mostly repeating clich├ęs and tired attack lines and energetically refusing to answer far too many questions.

Senator Biden did well, avoiding one of his own infamous gaffes, while showing a clear grasp of the big picture and the details. He left Ms. Palin way behind on most issues, especially foreign policy and national security, where she just seemed lost. It was in those moments that her lack of experience — two terms as mayor of a tiny Anchorage suburb and less than two years as governor — was most painfully evident."- New York Times

"She hailed Israel as an important ally, but didn't get much beyond calling for a two-state solution with Palestine. She called for cutting taxes to create jobs, but failed to counter Biden's outlining Obama's tax cuts for the middle class.Bottom line: Palin's biggest task is convincing undecided voters that she could lead should she have to, and it's hard to see whether her performance, as clean as it was, held enough substance to sway them." - Denver Post

"To the contrary, it is hard to count any objective measures by which Biden did not clearly win the encounter. She looked like she trying to get people to take her seriously. He looked like he was running for vice president. His answers were more responsive to the questions, far more detailed and less rhetorical.

On at least ten occasions, Palin gave answers that were nonspecific, completely generic, pivoted away from the question at hand, or simply ignored it: on global warming, an Iraq exit strategy, Iran and Pakistan, Iranian diplomacy, Israel-Palestine (and a follow-up), the nuclear trigger, interventionism, Cheney's vice presidency and her own greatest weakness."-- Politico

"You can say this about Sarah Palin: She did better debating Joe Biden than she did being interviewed by Katie Couric.
But that sets the bar very low indeed. So let's pay Palin the respect of treating her exactly as a male candidate would be treated. And that means saying this: She was simply nowhere near as good as Joe Biden."-- Boston Globe


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Putin Rears His Head II !

What's up with these silly tv pundits going on about this, "since Palin held her own" tonight it means the debate was a tie? Who came up with that ridiculous narrative? Ah yes of course, I forget, the McCain campaign. So that's the qualifications now for the executive branch--just "hold your own?" Are these guys for real? Is she running for VP or the manager at a local Baskin Robbins?

Now because Palin didn't beging mumbling incoherently, this means all her old gaffes now disappear? Because she put on a "folksy" show of winks and quips like "youbetcha!" this suddenly means she has a "command of the facts?" She's supposedly reinvented herself and we just let bygones be bygones--no more jokes allowed?

In what wack ass rule book is that a fact?

No way! Those moose in the headlight moments on her Gibson and Couric interviews will ALWAYS be funny--yesterday, now, tommorrow and forever!


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Reality of Everyday Racism

From The Daily Show, Sept. 29th.

So watch the video first, then read below:

The clip is no doubt hilarious--one of the funniest sketches I've seen in a while, and I was finally able to *laugh* at something done by Wyatt Cenac. What's most interesting however is the *very end,* or at least how it's been perceived. I saw this clip posted on numerous liberal blogs, where everyone talked about how funny it was, focusing on the elderly voters arguing over the election. What was hardly mentioned however was the ending--where two of the audience members speaking to each other first refer to Michelle Obama as a "big horse," and then go on to whisper about the "big thighs" of black women, and how it can denote their alleged "tribe." Maybe the lack of discussion on that facet had to do with the fact that these liberal blogs were majority "white."

Change that demographic make up, and the reactions become quite different.

To the many black forums I sent this to, it was those last comments that stood out. The response was often a mixture of laughter, shock, disgust, anger and other varied emotions. Black women especially commented frequently, on how degrading and humiliating those closing comments were--as Michelle Obama (a stand in for all black women) was reduced to a type of exotic specimen, sexualized, compared to an animal and subjected to several seconds of modern scientific racism.

As one black woman pointed out, what was most telling was that the closing comments were not even said with malice or cruel intent. There was no vile hurling of racial slurs, no conscious attempt to degrade Michelle Obama or black women in general. In fact, for all we know, these could have been supporters of Obama. Rather, the words and crude observations were made almost in passing--as casual conversation.

And so, once more, we have to wonder is this some aberration? Or is it simply a glimpse into everyday white America, hidden away from public discourse, kept off-camera, taken off-mic, swept away in an era where it's just not "politically correct" to state such things in "mixed" company. How many of those that may not voice it aloud, whisper it among themselves? How many more who dare not utter it, think it anyway? Exactly what goes through the heads of the white co-workers, authority figures, neighbors, colleagues, friends and others we interact with daily in our everyday lives. And, more important, how does it impact us?

And they wonder sometimes, why we seem paranoid...

*A previous related blog- The Pervasive Nature of Scientific Racism