Quotable Quote of the Month

What does it take for Republicans to take off the flag pin and say, 'I am just too embarrassed to be on this team'?".- Bill Maher

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

E.J. Dionne Op-Ed: President Obama As An Alien

On 2/22, E.J. Dionne wrote the following article about the right's inaccurate portrayal of President Obama. Following the article is my commentary (in bold type).

By E.J. Dionne Jr., Published: February 22

They say that President Obama is a Muslim, but if he isn’t, he’s a secularist who is waging war on religion. On some days he’s a Nazi, but on most others he’s merely a socialist. His especially creative opponents see him as having a “Kenyan anti-colonial worldview,” while the less adventurous say that he’s an elitist who spent too much time in Cambridge, Hyde Park and other excessively academic precincts.

Whatever our president is, he is never allowed to be a garden-variety American who plays basketball and golf, has a remarkably old-fashioned family life and, in the manner we regularly recommend to our kids, got ahead by getting a good education.

Please forgive this outburst. It’s simply astonishing that a man in his fourth year as our president continues to be the object of the most extraordinary paranoid fantasies. A significant part of his opposition still cannot accept that Obama is a rather moderate politician quite conventional in his tastes and his interests. And now that the economy is improving, short-circuiting easy criticisms, Obama’s adversaries are reheating all the old tropes and cliches and slanders.

True, some of this is driven by cable television (a venue in which I acknowledge regularly participating). Attacks designed to gin up the conservative base are quickly recycled to gin up outrage within Obama’s own base. Moreover, Obama is not the first president caught up in the rank unpleasantness of this particularly unforgiving political moment. A quick Google search will unearth references to George W. Bush as a “Nazi,” and Bill Clinton’s Republican opponents went so far as to impeach him in a shameful episode of extreme partisanship.

On those Hitler metaphors: Can we please agree to a voluntary cross-party ban on invoking the Fuhrer in the context of American politics? Only dictators who commit genocide against millions qualify for this odious comparison. It trivializes Hitler’s crimes to use Nazi references as everyday epithets.

But there is something especially rancid about the never-ending efforts to turn Obama into a stranger, an alien, a Manchurian Candidate with a diabolical hidden agenda. Are we trying to undo all the good it did us with the rest of the world when we elected an African American with a middle name popular among Muslims?

In my experience, even Americans who voted against Obama were proud that our nation showed friend and foe alike that we are a special place. We know it’s wrong to judge people by their race or lineage, and we so value religious freedom and openness that we elected a Christian convert who is the son of a Muslim father and an agnostic mother to lead us at one of our most difficult moments.

Yet many in the anti-Obama camp just can’t stop themselves from playing on fears that electing a man who defies old stereotypes was a terrible mistake. Thus did the Rev. Franklin Graham assert Tuesday on MSNBC not only that Muslims regard Obama as “a son of Islam” (because his father was Muslim) but also that “under President Obama, the Muslims of the world, he seems to be more concerned about them than the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries.” Graham slightly softened his comments on CNN Wednesday, but it remains troubling that he chose to turn a legitimate concern about the persecution of Christians into a slander.

In the meantime, Republican presidential candidates want to take a disagreement over whether and how contraception should be covered in plans issued under the new health-care law and turn it into a war against religion itself. “Unfortunately, possibly because of the people the president hangs around with, and their agenda, their secular agenda — they have fought against religion,” declared Mitt Romney, who pursued a similar line of attack in Wednesday night’s debate.

It’s another breathtaking slander to label Obama’s choice as an attack on religion altogether — and I say this as someone who strongly opposed the president’s initial decision not to offer any accommodation to religiously affiliated institutions on contraception. And how strange it is that Obama’s critics imply that he’s a Muslim and also condemn him as a secularist. He must be terribly clever — maybe it’s that fancy education of his — to be both.

As for Obama as a socialist, ponder two numbers: 13,005, which the Dow Jones average hit this week, up from a low point of 6,547 in March 2009. Some socialist.

We are blessed with the freedom to say whatever we want about our president. But those who cast Obama as something other than one of us don’t understand him and don’t understand what it means to be American.

E.J. is absolutely right. In an effort to downplay the heated rhetoric directed at President Obama, I've heard people on the right say that some of our previous presidents (namely Clinton and Bush 43) also faced fierce attacks. Although that's true, comparing what they endured with what President Obama has faced is an example of false equivalency. Here's why:

Prior presidents didn't have their U.S. citizenship scrutinized.

They never had their patriotism questioned on a continued basis, if at all. 

Their religious faith wasn't called into question

Also, we aren't just talking about the garden variety kook hammering away at a computer keyboard or a blowhard pundit shouting into a radio microphone/TV screen. No, a lot of these attacks are coming from prominent GOP politicians. People who actually have a shot at becoming the next POTUS!  

If anyone still wants to say the attacks against President Obama aren't any worse than what previous presidents have faced, I'd love to hear your arguments.

On the 2/24 installment of Politics Nation with Al Sharpton, E.J. Dionne and former RNC chairman Michael Steele discuss these continued attacks on President Obama.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Funnies: Bill Maher CrazyStupidPolitics

Last week, Bill Maher did a stand-up performance in Silicon Valley. Titled "CrazyStupidPolitics", this performance is the first installation of the "Yahoo! Screen Live Standup Series" which allows people to watch live online. In addition to hilariously skewering his usual targets, Maher also provides a preview of what we might see if President Obama wins re-election.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Please Take A Moment To Vote In the Two Jeremy Lin Polls ... Thank You

Please note that this post is "future dated" because it's poll-related. For posts which were written after this one, but have their actual date attached to them, please scroll down. Thank you.

Ever since "Linsanity" took the world by storm, I've been planning on writing a post about the man who inspired the term... New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. As of this writing, the New York Knicks are 8-1 since February 4 (the date Lin began playing substantial minutes for them). The superb numbers Lin has put up in his first eight NBA starts had the crew on NBA Sunday comparing his stats to the first 8 pro starts of Hall of Fame point guards Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Isiah Thomas, and John Stockton.

Lin's success hasn't gone unnoticed by the non-sports media either, receiving coverage on regular newscasts, inspiring jokes by late night TV hosts, as well as a skit on the 2/18 edition of SNL. The meteoric rise of Jeremy Lin and the way his success has captured the imagination of sports fans and non-fans alike is a combination we don't see too often in sports. The other similar instances in my lifetime that come to mind are Mark "The Bird" Fidrych and William "The Refrigerator" Perry.

Jeremy Lin's "out-of-nowhere" success is all the more amazing given his previous "underdog" status:
  • Despite being named first-team All-State and Northern California Division II Player of the Year during his senior year in high school, Lin failed to receive any college athletic scholarship offers. He wound up attending Harvard (which like other Ivy League schools, does not offer athletic scholarships)
  • Although he had a successful hoops career at Harvard, Lin was undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft
  • After his first year, he was waived by the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets in the preseason before joining the Knicks early in the 2011-2012 season. 
  • The Knicks considered releasing Lin before his contract became guaranteed on February 10 so they could sign a new player.
Because Lin is one of the few Asian Americans in NBA history, his phenomenal success has brought the often uncomfortable subject of race into the conversation. On Lin's Wikipedia page, there already is a section on the racial issues that have come up before and after Lin's rise to prominence in the NBA.

Two of the stories which have arisen in the wake of "Linsanity" are the subject of the two poll questions I've posted. One involves whether or not the Jeremy Lin hype is caused by race. The question first arose after heavyweight boxer Floyd Mayweather wrote the following on his Twitter page, "Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he's Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don't get the same praise."

The other poll deals with ESPN firing one employee and suspending another over the use of the term "chink in the armor" in relation to Lin.  On the night of February 18, Anthony Federico posted the following headline on ESPN’s mobile website: "Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin's 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-Snapping Loss to Hornets." By Sunday afternoon, Federico was cut loose by ESPN. Also on 2/18, ESPNews television personality Max Bretos posed the following question about Lin live on the air: "If there is a chink in the armor, where can he improve his game?" As a result, Bretos was given a 30-day suspension.

After voting in the polls, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section of this post. In the clip below, the panel of ESPN First Take discuss the role that race plays in the Jeremy Lin hype.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Final Results of the Recent Clint Eastwood "Halftime in America" Ad Poll

In the recent poll in which I asked people to give their opinion of the Chrysler ad featuring Clint Eastwood, an overwhelming majority of you voted "thumbs up". Here are the final results:

Thumbs up: 82%
Thumbs down: 17%

Thanks to all of you who participated in and commented on this poll. Below, "Clint Eastwood" has a few choice words for the people who misinterpreted the Chrysler ad.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Funnies: SNL Spoofs the First Family and the GOP's Stance On Birth Control

On the February 18th episode of SNL, the guest host was former regular Maya Rudolph. Although I missed it last night (I heard it was very good overall), I did catch a few of the skits online this afternoon. In the first skit below, Michelle Obama (Rudolph) introduces her new campaign for fighting childhood obesity: a sitcom starring her family, their secret service agents and the vice-president.

In the 2nd clip, Seth Meyers and SNL alum Amy Poehler take on the birth control debate in the "Really?!?" portion of Weekend Update.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Republican State Representative Gives A Heartfelt Speech On Marriage Equality

No, the title of this post is not a typo. Even though I rip on Republicans (deservedly so) either with family and friends or in the blogosphere on a regular basis, I have no issue praising them when I think it's warranted. On February 8, 2012, the Washington House of Representatives debated on the legalization of same-sex marriage. During this, Republican State Representative Maureen Walsh made an emotional appeal to the legislators. This is one of the best political speeches I've heard in a long time. Ironically, what I loved about the speech is that it wasn't the typical political speech you hear these days. You could tell that Rep. Walsh was speaking from the heart. Judge for yourself:

By the way, the House voted 55-43 in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage!!

The Book Fox "News" Doesn't Want You to Read...

On Tuesday February 21, Random House is scheduled to release the book The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine. Written by Media Matters for America founder David Brock and the progressive media watchdog group's VP Ari Rabin-Havt, this exposé has already got people of all political stripes talking.

From the "About the Book" section of the RH page for The Fox Effect:

Based on the meticulous research of the news watchdog organization Media Matters for America, David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt show how Fox News, under its president Roger Ailes, changed from a right-leaning news network into a partisan advocate for the Republican Party.
The Fox Effect follows the career of Ailes from his early work as a television producer and media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. Consequently, when he was hired in 1996 as the president of Rupert Murdoch’s flagship conservative cable news network, Ailes had little journalism experience, but brought to the job the mindset of a political operative. As Brock and Rabin-Havt demonstrate through numerous examples, Ailes used his extraordinary power and influence to spread a partisan political agenda that is at odds with long-established, widely held standards of fairness and objectivity in news reporting.

Featuring transcripts of leaked audio and memos from Fox News reporters and executives,
The Fox Effect is a damning indictment of how the network’s news coverage and commentators have biased reporting, drummed up marginal stories, and even consciously manipulated established facts in their efforts to attack the Obama administration. 

To pre-order the book, click here.  

Fox already appears to be in damage control mode because on at least two of its programs (The O'Reilly Factor and Fox & Friends) there have been negative segments on MMFA. Expect Fox to step up its attacks against MMFA once the book comes out.  

The following clip is the book trailer for The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Please Take A Moment To Vote In the Clint Eastwood "Halftime in America" Ad... Thank You

Please note that this post is "future dated" because it's poll-related. For posts which were written after this one, but have their actual date attached to them, please scroll down. Thank you.

During the halftime of Super Bowl XLV, Clint Eastwood appeared in a Chrysler ad titled "Halftime in America". Feelings on the ad seem to be divided along party lines. While David Axelrod (President Obama’s campaign manager) and Dan Pfeiffer (the White House communications director) praised the ad, Fox News contributors Karl Rove and Michelle Malkin weren't so enthused.

I thought the ad was both positive and powerful in its "we may be down, but we're not out" message about America. Since when did promoting the spirit of America become a bad thing in the collective eyes of some on the right?! You can show how you felt about the Chrysler ad by voting thumbs up or down in the poll in the upper portion of the sidebar on the right.

Below is the ad followed by the Hardball segment in which Chris Matthews discusses the ad with political consultant Mark McKinnon.

Speaking of controversial Super Bowl ads, please see the post dated February 7th below.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Racist Incident Ruins A High School Basketball Game in Pittsburgh

From Yahoo! Sports

By Cameron Smith

Vile racism raised its ugly head during a boys basketball game near Pittsburgh on Friday when fans of a nearly all-white suburban school ran on the court in banana suits and made monkey noises to taunt the players for their rivals, who play for a school which is predominantly African-American.

As reported by a variety of Pittsburgh media outlets, the Monessen Valley Independent and WPXI prominent among them, the annual basketball rivalry game between Pittsburgh (Pa.) Brentwood High and Monessen (Pa.) High turned extremely ugly when the two teams tried to head to their respective locker rooms for halftime. Before the players could leave the floor, three fans from the visiting Brentwood student section ran onto the court in full-body banana suits.

The fans surrounded the Monessen players and allegedly began making monkey noises and hurling racial epithets at the Monessen players, with no one entering the fray to stop the horribly inappropriate catcalls.

"I was appalled and shocked," Monessen parent Terri Payne told WPXI. "I was like, 'I can't believe they're doing that, and they didn't do anything about it.'"

Disturbingly, other Monessen parents claim that the Brentwood players hurled similar racist epithets themselves, calling the Greyhounds "monkeys and cotton pickers," as one Monessen fan told WPXI.
Meanwhile, Valley Independent staff writer Jeremy Sellew claimed that Brentwood Director of Security Joseph Kozarian, who was on duty at the game, refused to intervene, instead sitting back and at one point smiling and laughing with the Brentwood fans in the stands.

As more media attention has swirled around the disgusting incident, Brentwood officials have scrambled to try and alleviate pressure on the school and district as a whole. As of Tuesday the three students involved had been identified and disciplined, though their punishment was not disclosed to the media. Similarly, officials claimed they were "reviewing school policy to make sure a similar incident doesn't happen again."

Clearly, that's not strong enough. If the banana suit incident and subsequent racist abuse from Brentwood players occurred as numerous witnesses claim it did, the entire Brentwood season should be put under much deeper inspection before moving forward.

This is legitimate hate speech, after all, and the teenagers who were responsible need to realize just how damaging that is, both to their victims, themselves and society as a whole. At the very least, any players who made racist comments during the game itself should be punished significantly.

Despite being a cynic, I'm still amazed this disgusting incident went down in 2012. Then again, it sounds like some of the folks in Brentwood have a 1952 mentality.  I can just imagine them listening to their Patti Page records while waiting to catch that week's episode of "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet".

For the news story which aired on WTAE in Pittsburgh, click here.

In a side note, Monessen defeated Brentwood by a score of 59-45.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Roland Martin Ousted From CNN

Roland Martin has been suspended from CNN due to the Tweets he made regarding the David Beckham Superbowl commercial. Apparently Martin tweeted, "If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham's H&M underwear ad," he wrote, "smack the ish out of him!" Martin apologized, stating that his comments were not meant to bash the gay and lesbian community, but rather a dig at the sport of soccer.

The Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) called for the immediate removal of Martin and CNN obliged, making a statement which read, "Language that demeans is inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not tolerated. We have been giving careful consideration to this matter, and Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being."

Did CNN rush to judgment or are they justified in suspending Martin? Do you think Martin will return to the air like Imus or is he done at CNN for good?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pete Hoekstra Ad Draws Criticism For Racial Insensitivity Against Asians

While getting ready to head out to a Super Bowl party, I saw the now infamous ad run by U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra against Michigan incumbent Debbie Stabenow. The ad features a young Asian actress thanking Sen. Stabenow for weakening the U.S. economy and making China's stronger. The problem with the ad is that it has the actress speaking in broken English as if she just stepped off the set of a Charlie Chan flick. It was kinda surreal for me when I first saw the ad because I had to ask myself if I saw and heard what I think I did.

Although the ad only aired in Michigan markets before and during The Super Bowl, it is getting criticism on a nationwide level (from both sides of the political aisle) due to its racial insensitivity.  In the article that I linked to above, Hoekstra defended the ad (which is scheduled to run for two weeks on cable stations across Michigan).

By the way, there is actually a website titled Debbiespenditnow.com and it's as over-the-top with the Asian imagery as you can imagine.

In the clips below, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks and Lawrence O'Donnell attack the ad... but from different angles.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Final Results of the Recent "Who do you think will be the GOP nominee for POTUS?" Poll

In the recent poll in which I asked who you thought would get the GOP nomination, over 1/2 of voters think that Mitt's the man. Here are the final results:

Mitt Romney- 58%
Newt Gingrich- 33%
Rick Santorum- 8%
Ron Paul- 0%

At the time of the post (1/22), I was leaning Newt's way. However, January 22nd seems like a loooong time ago because I now think Mitt will be the nominee. Still, I don't think Newt will go away quietly. I'm also not going to count him out either. Newt Gingrich reminds me of something Bobby Ewing said about his older brother J.R. on the series Dallas. Bobby said something along the lines that J.R. is at his most dangerous when his back is against the wall. To me, that's Newt in a nutshell.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Don Cornelius - Creator of Soul Train Dead at 75

Don Cornelius, the man who provided a window in which to view Black culture and a platform for established and new musical artists to shine was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head. According to authorities the death appears to be a suicide.

Don Cornelius, a Chicago native brought the syndicated music vehicle to the airwaves in the early 1970's. To date it is the longest running syndicated television show in history. Being a child of the 60's and 70's I could not wait until Saturday Mornings to see the new dances and fashions the "Soul Train Dancers" would be sporting.

In later years Don Cornelius would give up his reign as host to the likes of Mystro Clark, Shemar Moore, and Dorian Gregory. In my humble opinion, "Soul Train" was never the same without Don.

Eric Boehlert: How Fox News Is Destroying the Republican Party

Late last week on the "County Fair" blog portion of Media Matters, writer Eric Boehlert lays out his case of how Fox "News" is causing the demise of the GOP. You can read the article by following the link below:

How Fox News Is Destroying The Republican Party

I've been watching how Fox has conducted itself during the Obama administration and I'm in agreement with Boehlert's assessment. Although the less than honorable tactics often employed by many at Fox have paid off in regards to ratings, I think they are causing a lot of Republican politicians to say and do things they wouldn't under normal circumstances. The "Fox-ification" of the Republican party is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. The bottom line is that what's good for Fox isn't necessarily good for the GOP.

Do you think Fox is helping or hurting the Republican Party?