Monday, March 31, 2008

King James or King Kong?

We're a week late on the controversy over NBA phenomenon LeBron James being the first black man on the cover of Vogue with a supermodel Gisele Bundchen, but it' worth posting.

Is this legit or another example of racial paranoia? Perhaps a little bit of both.

Here's the thing. Many will highlight that fifty years ago this cover would have never happened in America. True enough. The question, however, remains, is this our vision of racial progress?

We have the first black man on the cover of Vogue and he's literally roaring at you like a Gorilla while clutching a white woman in his arms. My problem isn't with the interracial coupling, which some on both sides won't admit is what they're really bothered by.

However, one cannot deny that LeBron's photo is more beastial than other male athletes who've appeared before him on Vogue's cover. His savagery contrasted with her white femininity on its usual pedestal goes to directly to King Kong (2005).

I found its basic premise was a flick about a giant black guy in love or lust with a porcelain white woman. The scene where Kong is wrapped in chains on stage in New York City made up my mind. Jack Black's character says, "He was a king in his own land but here he is a captive." What demographic besides black men does that line fit historically?

From Black Voices:

In the cover shot, King James is posing with supermodel Gisele Bundchen clutching her waist and giving a scowl to the camera, baring his teeth. Some folks aren't happy about the cover, including columnist Jemele Hill who said the cover looks too stereotypical.

From, columnist Jemele Hill:

Vogue's quest to highlight the differences between superstar athletes and supermodels only successfully reinforces the animalistic stereotypes frequently associated with black athletes.

A black athlete being reduced to a savage is, sadly, nothing new. But this cover gave you the double-bonus of having LeBron and Gisele strike poses that others in the blogosphere have noted draw a striking resemblance to the racially charged image of King Kong enveloping his very fair-skinned lady love interest.

LeBron is just the third male ever to appear on Vogue's cover, but it's hard to believe Vogue would have made Brett Favre, Steve Nash or even David Beckham strike his best beast pose. And even if Vogue had, it wouldn't carry the same racial undertones as having a fear-inducing black man paired with a dainty damsel.

Too often, black athletes are presented as angry, overly aggressive and overly sexual. Or sometimes, they're just plain emasculated.

Generation Squeeb

hat tip to LEO's General Sense of Outrage:

Go here and read Matt Taibbi's latest Rolling Stone post on the American electorate. His theory: The American voter has been so beaten down by trite, meaningless "scandals" like Obama's Rev. Wright and Clinton's Gerry Ferraro that we haven't realized how fast we're cruising toward a milquetoast middle where there is not a shred of controversy or, importantly, room for actual discourse or contrary thought.

"So instead of talking about the fact that Barack Obama once introduced a bill to give a tax break to a Japanese company whose lawyers donated fifty grand to his Senate campaign, we're freaking out for five minutes about the fact that Obama's pastor thinks America spread AIDS on purpose in Zambia. And instead of talking about the fact that Hillary Clinton took $110,000 from a New York food company she later helped by introducing a bill to remove import duties on tomatoes, we're ranting and raving about Gerry Ferraro's paranoid ramblings about Obama's blackness.

We can't keep our eyes on the ball and really think about the serious endemic problems of our system of government because we're too busy freaking out like a bunch of cartoon characters over silly, meaningless bullshit. And then forgetting about that same bullshit ten minutes later, so that we can freak out all over again about something else later on."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Banned Boondocks episode on BET

For whatever reason Cartoon Network refused to air two episodes of The Boondocks that lambasted BET. Rumors swirled that BET executives were threatening to sue. BET denied it.

So the episodes aired in Canada instead. And thanks to the Internet the episodes can be viewed almost anywhere online. So without further ado.

'The Hunger Strike' part 1

To see part 2, go here.

Criticisms of BET have reached a fever pith among black Americans before. Mainly based on the cancellations of substantive programming for unalloyed buffoonery. These controversial episodes, however, are the most public satire of BET and its founder, hopin' Bob Johnson have received.

Here's the odd connection.

Reggie Hudlin, who directed House Party and Boomerang, worked with The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder to develop a television pilot for Fox Network in 1999. After the two couldn't sugarcoat The Boondocks enough for network TV to digest, Hudlin left the project. Today, Hudlin is President of Entertainment for BET. Has been since 2005. Pay attention to 'The Hunger Strike', he is heavily satirized.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cruising the Divide

With Derby 2008 right around the corner the monotony of news coverage is bound to highlight what's become a decade-long debate over cruising on Broadway.

I covered the madness of Derby cruising in LEO a few years ago. Since then the topic has become a radioactive waste dump, a toxic mix of thoughtlessness cruisers and unimaginative policymakers. In 2006 the mayor ended it, which basically closed all of West Broadway for cruisers...and vendors, and families, and foot traffic, and local businesses.

As usual, when politicians can't fix something artists fill the vacuum with illuminating satire. So next Tuesday, at 7:30 pm at the Braden Center (3208 W. Broadway), Actor's Theater is inviting the public to hear a community reading of Cruising the Divide: From West Broadway to Churchill Downs, an interview-based play created by Actors Theater of Louisville's Apprentice Company.

Written by Will MacAdams, director of the apprentice/intern company, the script was developed from interviews conducted by the apprentices last winter and fall with over 60 Louisvillians from across the city discussing their views on Derby cruising.

"Our goal is to build dialogue and bring together people are not talking to each other," said MacAdams, who believes theatre is a communal way of putting people together in a room who would otherwise never meet to discuss divisive issues. He encourages the public to attend the reading and share their thoughts.

Although the final draft is not finished, the play is scheduled to be performed at Actors Theatre of Louisville on May 15th and 17th at 8pm. On May 16th, portions of the play will be performed in the backyard of the Braden Center.

All performances are free of charge.

To RSVP for the April 1st reading, call (502) 584-1265, ext. 3083 or e-mail MacAdams

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The face of Operation Iraqi Freedom

U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq: 4,000

Iraqis killed: between 82,000 - 650,000 or more depending on your source

Cost of Iraq War: $500,000,000,000, which is 210,000,000 plus for Lou., KY or $341 million a day or $1,721 per person.

Gas prices: Fucking ridiculous!

And yet, media coverage has slowed in the U.S.

Message to the People on Obamania

We haven't blogged on Barack in awhile. Sorry.

So to catch up let's offer a perspective from one of Louisville's few public intellectuals. In this week's LEO, U of L professor and Pan-African Studies chair, Dr. Ricky L. Jones dropped his monthly column, 'Message to the People' addressing Barack's speech and the inevitable relationship to race in this historic campaign:

"Barack Obama’s March 18 speech in Philadelphia on race was inevitable. Try as he might, there was no way he could complete his presidential bid without facing the beast at some point. After video of controversial comments by his longtime Chicago pastor, Jeremiah Wright, were repeated ad nauseam by almost every major media outlet, Obama was forced into an almost impossible damage control balancing act.

He had to distance himself from Wright’s words without “rejecting and denouncing” his minister, as he did Louis Farrakhan in Ohio weeks earlier. He couldn’t completely and unapologetically pull Wright to his bosom, because many in white America wouldn’t accept it. Neither could he simply throw his pastor and mentor under the bus, because highly religious black America would then label him a political opportunist and turncoat."

For the rest, go here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I say more whores, less wars

"I ain't going nowhere, bitches!"

Kwame Kilpatrick indicted on 12 counts today, ouch!

Given the overall seriousness of the American political landscape (Iraq, gas prices, etc.), this sort of tabloid news should be relegated to the satirists of SNL and The Daily Show. I don't want to read The Nation or watch CNN or listen to NPR for this tawdry comedy.

Impeaching and indicting politicians for lying about sex or extra-marital affairs but no consequence for misleading the public about policy or war is the crumbling of modern democracy.

Even in black politics, Kilpatrick's text message scandal is more comical than the embarrassment of yesterdays. For example, former Washington, D.C.'s crack-cocaine mayor Marion Berry. Remember the hotel footage of Berry yelling, "That bitch set me up!"?

Still, watching the fall of America's hip-hop mayor does make me cringe a bit. Then I smirk and go back to laughing again.

From CNN's Political Ticker:

"A Wayne County prosecutor said Monday she will seek felony charges against Detroit's embattled Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick, who is married, has been snarled in a well-publicized sex scandal since January after The Detroit Free Press reported he exchanged romantic text messages with his then-chief of staff, Christine Beatty.

The newspaper report contradicted testimony Kilpatrick gave in a court case brought by police officers against the mayor and the city of Detroit for misconduct in the mayor's office. The case alleged the mayor retaliated against the officers for their role in investigating his office. Critics alleged that Kilpatrick committed perjury and called for his resignation."

Or listen now on NPR.

4,000 killed

After four soldiers were killed this weekend due to a roadside bomb, the war in Iraq has reached a new horrific milestone just days after the 5th anniversary -- the 4,000th solider was killed in Iraq.

That means 97% of U.S. casualties have come since our national schoolyard bully stood under the "Mission Accomplished" banner on May 1st, 2003. For a detailed account of casualties among all coalition forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, including the fallen soldiers' names go here.

Jan. 20th, 2009 can't come quick enough.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A pause for KY's rising prison population

Well it's March Madness time in Kentuckiana, so you know what that means. The weight of news coverage shifts to college basketball and our great democratic debates consist of bracket bets.


After covering the racial disparities in KY prisons last month, the C-J gave some noted coverage to the overall rise in KY's prison population.

"Kentucky's prison population is rising at the fastest rate in the nation, according to a report last month by the Pew Center on the States, a nonpartisan Washington research and policy group. Kentucky currently has about 22,600 felony offenders in jail or prison, and this year's state corrections budget is about $431 million -- compared with about 3,700 inmates in 1980 and a budget of $30 million."
The ignoble designation of leading the nation in prison population growth compounded with the costs of maintaining our prison industrial complex has at least given lawmakers a reason to hold a meeting. According to the C-J Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown called the state Criminal Justice Council to meet today in Frankfort.

For the rest go here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blackface Already? But It's Not Even Halloween Yet!

Spike Lee must be pissed!

From Soulbounce:

I give anyone reading this post 3 guesses as to which Black actor this is before proceeding onto the next line. A young Ben Vereen? No. An angry Will Smith? No. Lighter-skinned Don Cheadle? Umm...definitely not. Brace yourselves, y'all. This is none other than Academy Award winning actor and former multiple drug-abusing Robert Downey, Jr.

Apparently, Tropic Thunder, a new movie featuring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr., is slated as an "epic action comedy" whose trailer will debut in theaters March 17th...and so close to St. Patrick's Day at that! Downey's character in the movie is not surprisingly an Oscar-winning actor who is cast in a Vietnam War-era movie within this movie in a role originally written specifically for a Black actor. But thanks to the wonders of makeup and current wig technology, Downey transforms into...Poof! A Black Man! And according to Ben Stiller, test audiences seemed to "really embrace it."

I don't even know where to begin with this one, folks. I mean, I thought the ridiculousness of C. Thomas Howell in Soul Man was well behind us and just a bad 80's flashback, but apparently some people still find mockery of Black culture an expense they are willing to bear.
I keep telling folks we're this close to having a Bamboozled television show.

The movie is called Tropic Thunder, an action-comedy about three actors filming a movie about the Vietnam War. Co-star Ben Stiller said Robert Downey, Jr's blackface character is satirizing over-the-top actors, not African-Americans.

Okay, Ben. We shall see.

Majoring in debt

Most of Kentucky's best and brightest are on spring break. When they return to the classroom they may see some of the highest tuition hikes in over a decade. Below is an excerpt from my piece in LEO, 'Long road to nowhere':

The blossoming of spring in the Bluegrass brings with it the seasonal issue of tuition increases at Kentucky colleges and universities. Anticipating the impact of a looming double-digit increase spawned by an economic crisis in the commonwealth, a group of University of Louisville students plan a protest for March 26. The walkout is set to begin at 1:11 p.m. and is being led by a student-run group called the Progressive Action Coalition, which hopes the action, followed by a rally at "The Thinker" statue outside Grawemeyer Hall, will draw at least 500 students, faculty and community supporters...

Sadly, the news coverage of the annual musical chairs among state government, universities and students has become a predictable human wreck. Media outlets find one quote from a student bound for financial expulsion. Behind those single sentences are oceans of stories with hundreds of students working two jobs to pay for living expenses on top of college costs, or amassing lifelong debt that will haunt and taunt them into old age. It should never become easy to hear stories of smart, qualified and committed students getting forced out of college, but flip through enough archives on tuition increases and you'll see that story is customary.

For more visit LEO Weekly.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Obama responds to Billary's VP 'okidoke'

Notice how last week Billary kept floating the Clinton/Obama dream ticket with Barack going to the back of the bus for the VP position?

Well thank you Miss Hillary, for letting the articulate colored boy who is the front-runner with a lead in pledged delegates, popular votes and states be on the ticket. On second thought, no thanks.

Today at a town hall meeting in Columbus, Mississippi, Barack's answer song not only ended that nonsense but turned the Day One argument on its ear.

Transcript below:

"I respect Senator Clinton. She was a friend of mine before this campaign. She”ll be a friend of mine after this campaign. Because we’re gonna have to unify together to win in November. But I do have to say I was listening to some of the things Senator Clinton said down here in Mississippi over the last couple of days.

So I am gonna have to say a little bit about it.

You know as I understand it. Both Senator Clinton and President Clinton repeatedly talked about how I would be a great Vice President. They kept on saying well you know he would be a fine Vice President. It would be a formidable team with Clinton at the top and Obama in second place.

Now first of all..with all due respect..with all due respect. I have won twice as many states as Senator Clinton. I have won more of the popular vote than Senator Clinton. I have more delegates than Senator Clinton. So I don’t know how somebody who is in second place is offering the Vice Presidency to the person who is in first place. I mean. I am just wondering. I am just wondering. If I was in second place I could understand it, but I am in first place right now. So that is point number one.

But there is another. There is a second point. This is an interesting point. I want you guys to follow me on this. President Bill Clinton back in 1992 when he was being asked about his selection for Vice President. He said the only criteria, the most important criteria for Vice President is that that person is ready if I fell out in the first week that he or she would be ready to be the Commander in Chief. That was his criteria. Now they have been spending the last two, three weeks. Remember with that advertisement with the phone call. Telling everyone.. Getting all of Generals to say well we are not sure he is ready. “I am ready on day one”, “He may not be ready yet”
But I don’t understand it. If I’m not ready how is it that you think I should be such a great Vice President. Do you understand that?

See I was trying to explain to somebody a while back the okidoke. You all know the
okidoke. When somebody is trying to bamboozle you, when they are trying to hoodwink you. They are trying to hoodwink you. You can’t say that he is not ready on day one unless he is willing to be your Vice President then he is ready on day one. So look I just want everybody to be absolutely clear here, okay. I want everyone to be absolutely clear. We are in a tough battle and I don’t presume that I have won this election. Senator Clinton is fighting hard. She is tenacious. I respect her for that. She is working hard to win the nomination.

But I want everybody to be absolutely clear.
I am not running for Vice President. I am running for President of the United States of America. I am running for President of the United States of America. I am running to be Commander in Chief. And the reason I am running to be Commander in Chief is because I believe that the most important thing when you answer that phone call at three in the morning is what kind of judgment do you have, not how long you have been in Washington, but what kind of judgment do you have when you are answering that phone. And I believe that I have shown better judgment than Senator Clinton. I believe I offer a clean break from the policies of George Bush. Because Senator Clinton went along with George Bush on the war in Iraq. Senator Clinton went along with George Bush on her willingness to try to saber rattle when it came to Iran. She has gone along with many of the conventional ways of thinking about foreign policy that have gotten us into trouble. That is what I intend to change when I am President of the United States.

So I don’t want anybody here thinking that I that somehow well you know maybe I can get both. Don’t think that way. You have to make a choice in this election. Are you gonna go along with the past or are you gonna go towards the future? Are you gonna do the same old thing or are you gonna try something new? I am not running for Vice President. I do not believe Senator Clinton is about change because in fact this kind of gamesmanship, talking about me as Vice President, but he maybe he’s not ready for Commander in Chief.
That is exactly the kind of double speak, double talk that Washington is very good at. That people who spend a lot of time in Washington have a lot of experience at, but is not gonna solve the problems of the country.

Sally Kern hates gay

Here's an amazing audio clip of Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern talking to an audience of 50 supporters in her district.

The subject: homosexuality.

"Not everyone's lifestyle is equal, just like not all religious are equal."

"I honestly think it's the biggest threat...our nation has. Even more so than terrorists...which I think is a big threat."

Like a good Christian she said her remarks weren't "gay-bashing" at all, but rather "God's word". Well praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

For the full story click here.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Brotha MADD

It's Friday. It's snowing. Why not?

hat tip to When I Write:

The funny thing is I actually know people that talk, think and act like this.


Beshear Blows it Again

Behind the political curtain I've heard some pretty nasty references about KY Gov. Steve Beshear's lackluster leadership in the Commonwealth. Today Rick Redding (isn't that a great comic book superhero name?) dropped some well deserved hot coals into his lap.

hat tip to 'Ville Voice:

"Waiting until the legislative session is two-thirds gone to admit the political reality that a cigarette tax is necessary and prudent is the latest in a long line of disappointing acts from Steve Beshear.

Who’s he listening to?

Don’t get us wrong. The cigarette tax is the right thing to do. But Beshear’s reluctance to embrace the idea for 40 days, time when he could have been making the case for it, is shameful. It’s certainly not a sign of that “leadership” he campaigned on.

Beshear, you remember, ran his 2007 campaign on the concept of raising money for the state though expanded gaming. Rather than having a bill ready on the day he came into office, he waited. Then he introduced a flawed bill, all the while giving opposition the time to build momentum and public support. His whining about the state of the budget and the education cuts he plans hasn’t motivated anyone to support casinos."

Read the rest here.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Michigan-Florida Compromise of 2008

Yes, the fix appears to be in the works.

First there was Billary's hint at a Clinton/Obama ticket.

Then the chatter about the superdelegates ballooned. Even though Barack is leading in pledged delegates, popular votes and states won.

Now Florida, Michigan Primary Do-Overs?

From CBS News:

CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield reported Wednesday that the Clinton campaign was considering asking for "re-dos" in the two states.

"A do-over could change the whole complexion of this race," Greenfield said...

DNC officials have suggested to both Michigan and Florida that holding another presidential contest of some kind would be one way to get the delegates seated...

Clinton has been insisting that the desires of more than 2 million people who cast Democratic ballots in the two states should be reflected at the convention, which would help her catch up to Obama in the race for delegates.

Let's let all of the voters go again if they are willing to do it," Clinton adviser Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday night on MSNBC. "Whatever we have to do to get people in the system, let's do it."

DNC chairman Howard Dean also urges the "do-over".

It has come to this. Billary's race-baiting in S. Carolina, the fear-mongering 3am ad in Texas & Ohio, complimenting John McCain over Barack, and their overall sense of entitlement has ballooned into a brazen snatch 'n grab operation. Omar Little style.

If you think Billary's worried about the black vote backlash, according to Billary adviser Harold Ickes, Miss Hillary knows the darkies are the Democratic Party's bottom bitch.

Top Clinton official: Blacks will come around to Hillary if she wins the nomination:

“There will be some hurt feelings initially,” Ickes said. “But in a very tight election, Barack Obama will swing in behind Hillary Clinton and black people will vote for her and she will be able to bring in Hispanic voters also.” Read all here.
"hurt feelings"? Mr. Ickes, I've got a message for you from Jack & Jill Politics:

If Hillary Gets to Claim Michigan & Florida, Denver will Burn:

"Hillary Clinton has lost her damn mind. I'm gonna leave Florida alone for now. But just to be clear, in Michigan, SHE WAS THE ONLY CANDIDATE ON THE BALLOT!!

How do you claim victory? How? How? How? Who did you defeat?

And why is this not the big headline? It's one thing to dis voters by telling them they don't count or by intimidating them (in places like Nevada), but I'll be damned if I let this person run around like some petty dictator.

There is no excuse for this, and those who support Senator Clinton also support thug politics. Why not just deploy people with AK-47s and machetes to "canvass" neighborhoods and "campaign" for you Hillary? Why the pretense of commercials and debates?

I'm gonna say this much. If she gets to claim those delegates as-is, it's over. If its thug politics you want, then that's cool, just let me know, because I can bring out the thug. You want to destroy my candidate with dirty politics? Fine. You want to hide behind "35 years of experience," go ahead.

But you do not get to fuck with my vote. Ya hear me!? YOU DO NOT.

I will do all in my power to bring hell to your campaign and hell to the Democratic Party, and if there's one thing I've learned in this political season, it's that I have power. We all have power, much more than those who wield power regularly want us to know. THERE ARE MILLIONS OF US. MILLIONS. There are only a few of them."

Read all here

I got my directions to Denver, do you?

Paper Wars II: Alternative Weeklies win court case

hat tip to LEO's General Sense of Outrage:

A jury in San Francisco has sided with the alt-weekly San Francisco Bay Guardian in a case that could have ripple effects across the industry. The Bay Guardian had sued one of its competitors, the SF Weekly, owned by Village Voice Media, for undercutting it on display ad rates and using cash infusions from its parent company to stay afloat and try to destroy the Bay Guardian.

The Bay Guardian may be entitled to up to $15 million from SF Weekly. Damn.

This is a significant ruling for alternative newsweeklies like LEO, who are engaged in fights for their lives with companies like VVM and, in Louisville, Gannett. We suspect that a similar strategy is afoot here with Velocity, which was designed as part of a corporate strategy by Gannett to tap into the younger, more alternative demographic — one they haven't been able to capture with their daily or, perhaps more significantly, their website.

Any lawyers out there want to pony up with LEO for a lawsuit? It'd be pro bono, of course, but think of the satisfaction you might be in for with this as precedent.

P.S. If you want to learn more (a lot more) about Gannett's strategy to destroy its competition by any means necessary, read Chain Gang by Richard McCord.

Uh-oh, corporate media. The "losers" at LEO might have a case.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

pro Castro v. anti Castro in the C-J

hat tip to John's Doemain for bringing this to my attention.

On Sunday the C-J published a lengthy op-ed piece, ''Castro's enduring revolution', by filmmaker, writer and activist Sonja Wallace extolling to virtues of the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

As expected the majority of letters responding to Wallace's editorial are eviscerating. Read them all here.

Both sides get high marks for reciting ideological orthodoxy. However, they wear the same blinders of old. Wallace describes Cuba as utopia. Castro is a teddy bear and every Cuban loves him. If so, I must ask humbly, what exactly were the thousands of Cubans seeking political asylum in the U.S. fleeing from? Plenty of Americans think the U.S. government stinks with corruption. No mass exodus to Canada or Sweden.

Her conservative respondents highlight the political repression. Would they prefer Batista? No seriously, American interference in Cuban affairs goes back to a time when Castro was in diapers. Any leader that sought a gnat of independence for the tiny island 90 miles off Florida probably had to put the screws to dissidents and tell the U.S. government where to stick the sugarcane.

Message to workers, go #@%& yourselves!

Yesterday Ford Motor Co. announced a lay off of 800 workers from the Louisville Assembly Plant set for this summer. Today, General Electric Co. gave its union of 275 employees at Louisville's Appliance Park an ultimatum. Unless productivity improves, their jobs will be outsourced.

Sort of makes you wish America hadn't spent that extra $3,000,000,000,000 to hang Saddam Hussein, huh?

Think of all the things a country in an economic recession could do with the amount of money spent on the War in Iraq. Pay for Social Security for fifty years or 15 million school teachers.

Ahhhh, capitalism. Ain't it grand?