March 28, 2008
Not THAT Big Damned Fish!
The big damned fish we're talking about wasn't Bill Clinton.
It referred to the picture that had been there, of a giant striped bass plucked from the Schuylkill.
Maybe it's that the pictures and the display copy update at slightly different paces on the home page, so this was just a momentary thing. We love Bill around here, you know? This was nothing like "Mush From The Wimp."
March 21, 2008
Can We Handle The Truth?
One of the editors poked me with a stick yesterday; he wanted me to write about Barak Obama's speech in Philadelphia. As a result, I spent about three hours last night flopping around in bed like a fish on a dock.
It's not that I had ignored the speech. It was impossible to, seeing how everywhere I looked in the newsroom, people were watching, whether gathered around a TV, or plugged into their computers. But I was working on something else - a piece about the unmeritorious way that Pennsylvania picks its judges. Every time I started talking about judicial elections and the lack of minority representation, the conversation worked back to Obama's speech, in which he condemned the offensive remarks of his former pastor, The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, then went on with naked honesty to say things about how blacks and white see America.
"The most honest political speech I have ever heard," two people told me that day. Same exact words.
I went to sleep convinced that Obama had taken the third rail of American politics -- race -- and turned it into a balance beam from which he pronounced the most difficult truths.
And about 1 a.m. I woke up thinking we are not ready for the truth. I don't think we're ready for Obama. I thought we were. I was naive.
When my wife and I would talk about the Democrat candidates for president I kept telling her that her Hillary was unelectable. I'd recall the eight hours I spent in a room with her in 1985, as she sat in for her husband the goveror and talked to a dozen education reporters about school reform in Arkansas. I was blown away by her brilliance. And then I'd tell my wife that Hillary is just what the opposition wants. No one would energize the base like another Clinton to hate, and we'd be caught rehashing the past when the need to fix the present is so urgent.
Obama is the unelectable one, my wife, the reconstructed Southerner, would reply. Despite lip service, she argued, in the privacy of the voting booth too many white people will not be able to pull for a person of color. A few months later, I'm coming around to my wife's position.
After Obama's speech I went blog hunting, and the headline on the Politico site left me dismayed: “GOP sees Rev. Wright as path to victory.” They look at Obama. They see his angry pastor.
“It was a speech written to mau-mau the New York Times editorial board, the network production people and the media into submission,” said GOP consultant Rick Wilson, who was behind the 2002 ad that tied former Sen. Max Cleland, a Vietnam war-wounded Democrat from Georgia, to Osama bin Laden. "Beautifully calibrated but deeply dishonest." It didn't take long to spin poetry.
Hate was all around. In the words of the Clinton volunteer at a Philadelphia phone bank who told an Los Angeles Times reporter that he was voting for Hillary because "I love the Lord and I don't want a person named Al-Barack Hussein Obama to be our next president."
In the work of an aide to John McCain who was suspended on Thursday for spreading on the Internet a race-baiting YouTube video that mashes Obama's words with those of Rev. Wright, Malcolm X and the Public Enemy song "Fight The Power."
And in a posting on the BooMan Tribune, a liberal Philadelphia-based blog. The writer, an Obama supporter, had scored a seat at the National Constitution Center for Tuesday's speech, and afterward was walking through The Gallery when he sat down and searched for a wireless signal for his computer.
"An elderly white woman sat down next to me and was silent for a little while. Then she said, "That's where my tax dollars go."
I looked up at her, not knowing what she was referring to, and asked, "Excuse me?".
She nodded at a group of young early-20's black people (some with a baby carriage) walking by, and repeated herself. The people she was referring to were nicely dressed and appeared to be enjoying themselves as they window-shopped in the mall. I think I just mumbled something like "Mmmn" and returned my attention to my laptop. Then the elderly woman said, "Do you know that Hillary is coming here today?"
I nodded, "Yes. I just came from seeing Obama."
She frowned at this news and then said, "I'm very excited to see Hillary. She knows how to deal with (she swept her hand around to indicate the mall crowd) this." I excused myself.
Part of me wonders whether this anecdote was a bit of bloggy stagecraft to advance the Obama cause. But you don't have to make up something like this. It's everywhere.
It reminded me of what I heard covering Europe and the Middle East from 2000 to 2003. The Kosovars blaming the Serbs. The Serbs blaming the Americans. The Palestinians blaming the Jews, the Jews blaming the Palestinians. Each nation intoxicated by its own victimhood. Drying out is difficult when it feels so right to have been wronged. You don't have to go about the hard work of moving forward that Obama talked about in Philadelphia.
I listened again to the Obama speech Friday morning as I walked the dog. As he explained the resentments harbored by both black people and white people -- the two separate realities -- I remembered the last time I said something to set off a minor racial incident at work. I was talking to a cherished colleague, who is black, and she was mourning the number of minorities who lost their jobs at the paper during last year's layoffs because they were among the most recent hires.
At least it will be easier for them to get jobs, I said. I was trying to say something helpful. I wound up saying something hurtful. What made me think it would be easier? she asked. She didn't make eye contact with me again for days. I insisted to myself I was right. Wait a year, then we'll see. In fact, it has little to do with numbers, everything to do with perception. Each convinced we were right, each a little buzzed on our victimhood. At least we're starting to talk about this.
February 04, 2008
"Yes We Can Can"
Just in time for Super Tuesday -- Barack Obama, the Musical.
Making the viral rounds this weekend was a real toe-tapper of a campaign video:
It's will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas singing along to Obama's speech after the
New Hampshire South Carolina primary, an already famous piece of speechifying known as "Yes We Can" for its fevered refrain.
The music video is jammed with cameos from Scarlett Johansson, Herbie Hancock, John Legend, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Adam Rodriguez, Amber Valetta, Nick Canon, Kelly Hu (I miss any?). Bob Dylan's other son, Jesse, helped will.i.am produce it.
ABC News talked to the producers:
"It made me reflect on the freedoms I have, going to school where I went to school, and the people that came before Obama like Martin Luther King, presidents like Abraham Lincoln that paved the way for me to be sitting here on ABCNews and making a song from Obama's speech," will.i.am said.
"The speech was inspiring about making change in America and I believe what it says and I hope everybody votes," Dylan said.
It's the talk of blog nation, at least for the moment. But not all is glowing.
"Nice beat," Jarvis wrote, "but can you lead to it?"
Here are some other reactions.
At TeeVee, Warner James Au asks: This November, will a politician get undermined by an ill-conceived viral video made by his own supporters? That’s the thought I had after watching “Yes We Can“, a new YouTube video currently storming The Viral Video chart. It’s a putative tribute to Senator Barack Obama’s stirring words after the New Hampshire primary, directed by Jesse Dylan with music by will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas. (Who’s better known for his stirring words, “Whatcha gonna do with all that junk … inside your trunk?”)
"Slick," wrote weapons-grade pandemonium at Metafilter. "But good slick."
Doesn't this guy deserve a credit?
July 09, 2007
Beginning of the End?
I like the way Phawker noted this MAJOR DEVELOPMENT with 4:37 a.m. clarity:
"BREAKING: The War Just Ended With An Anonymous Source Trial Balloon Floated In The New York Times."
David Sanger reports that White House officials fear Republican support for the war has crumbled to the point the president must get the jump on critics and announce a pullback from Iraq's most dangerous quarters.
“When you count up the votes that we’ve lost and the votes we’re likely to lose over the next few weeks, it looks pretty grim,” said one senior official, who, like others involved in the discussions, would not speak on the record about internal White House deliberations.
January 25, 2007
Brady on Saidel
"Jon Saidel's my dearest friend in the world. He's going to be my driver, my confidant, my David L. Cohen, my pillow to cry on, my crutch to crutch on. Jon's my friend, I don't have many."
-- soon-to-be-mayoral candidate Bob Brady on former city controller Jonathan Saidel in the new Philadelphia Magazine.
January 24, 2007
John Kerry said today he will not run for president in 2008.
Speaking from the Senate floor, he talked about continuing to fight against the war in Iraq and pledged to serve his constituents in Massachusetts for another term.
I couldn't help but think of a piece that ran in early December in the New York Post, which described a pot roast and butternut squash dinner he threw for a dozen Democratic big wheels at his Georgetown townhouse.
Page Six wrote:
According to a source who knows one of the attendees, Kerry started off by asking guests if he should run or not: "When no one answered, he launched into a speech about why he was the best candidate."
One might presume that the people at Sen. Kerry's dinner party were trying to be polite by not speaking up - else they might have been obliged to say something along the lines of "...What are you, crazy?"
Nonetheless, when confronted with this situation, Kerry merely plowed forward into what he wanted to say anyway. There's nothing worse than politicians whose minds are already made up, irrespective of the facts on the ground.
Today on the New York Times website, political reporter Adam Nagourney wrote this on The Caucus blog:
The final blow, many Democrats say, came during the last campaign when Mr. Kerry told what he said was a botched joke that Republicans seized on to try say Mr. Kerry, himself a veteran of the war in Vietnam, was insulting the troops in Iraq. The remarks produced a storm of controversy and left some Democrats – even those who thought Mr. Kerry’s statement was being unfairly reported – angered at a Democrat who had a history as a candidate of making politically damaging remarks.
He was faced with running against what looks like one of the strongest Democratic fields in years, Nagourney wrote, and his former supporters were making it clear they were defecting to other candidates.
The Politico's Roger Simon says it was all about the Benjamins:
Serious candidates and candidates who want to be serious in 2008 will have to raise more than a million and a half dollars a week in $2,000 increments starting right about now.
And Kerry, who was criticized by many in his party for not running a more vigorous campaign last time, found it tough going.
A source close to Kerry said, "He was calling around Wednesday and Thursday to close advisers and they had talked to donors several times and the money wasn't going to be there. That coupled with (Barack) Obama-mania, which gave people looking for a Hillary alternative a viable option, is what ended his plans."
January 23, 2007
State Of The Union
With his popularity at Nixonian levels, the president is to give a speech tonight.
But not the one that Jules Crittenden wants to hear.
This is what the Boston Herald's city editor would say:
Don’t bother standing up or clapping, any of you. I already know who won the election, and I know how you feel.
I come before you tonight not to make amends, not to make it good, curry any favor or find any middle ground.
I am, more or less, a lame duck. You’ve had your 100 hours of party time. I know. I won’t get any legislation passed without some major bottom-kissing. Maybe something on illegal aliens. That health insurance thing I’ll be talking about later tonight is pretty much for show. I know it isn’t going anywhere. A proposal to raise middle-class taxes for a healthcare plan you don’t even want? What was I thinking?
None of that really matters. Not now. Those are peacetime issues we’ve been bickering about for a long time, and I don’t expect we’ll resolve them anytime soon.
So what is the best thing I can do tonight? I can tell you the truth. What none of you want to hear. What you’ve been stopping your ears to. The ugly truth.
The State of the Union is a disaster. I did my best, but I made mistakes, and my best wasn’t good enough.
We went to war without building up our army, and now, I am trying to make up for that.
But that is not the disaster.
The disaster is that you, Congress and the American people, do not care to fight....
It goes on, talking about evil and terror and threats to our security. Some will agree. Some will want to shake him.
Anyone want to write another speech?
Jon Stewart starts things off.
January 02, 2007
Bad For The Jews
Today's George Orwell Ministry of Truth award goes to a top adviser to Iran's president Ahmadinejad, who contends Adolph Hitler was a Jew who conspired with Great Britain and the USSR to establish the state of Israel.
Mohammad-Ali Ramin, a chief aide to the Iranian president, gave an interview to the Baztab web site in which he contends Hitler's paternal grandmother was a Jewish prostitute and his father kept his Jewish name until changing it to Hitler at age 40. It was his mother's supposed promiscuity that soured Hitler on his people, by Ramin's novel account.
The comments on the YNet News site are interesting, such as EM of Ra'anana, Israel, who writes of more secret Hebrewites:
Attila the Hun - Proof...Only a Jewish mother could call her son "hun" after he committed so many crimes.
December 11, 2006
We were bugging Princess Di the night she died - which seems to indicate some rather widespread wiretapping, which also makes you wonder why Dear Leader didn’t know about 9/11, since lack of this program (apparently already in existence) was blamed for “tying our hands.”
December 05, 2006
Demonstrating an instinct for the capillary that can only come from a lifetime spent in newsrooms, Clark DeLeon studies the Inquirer's coverage of Milton's Street's indictment and sees what many others have missed ...
The dude's got a white lawn jockey!
What are the odds that it's some sort of reverse statement on the old Underground Railroad markers? Of course, the only railroading he's thinking about might be his own.