Monday, January 29, 2007
Wagging the Dog/Slappin' the Hog
WASHINGTON - Deeply distrustful of Iran, President Bush said Monday "we will respond firmly" if Tehran escalates its military actions in Iraq and threatens American forces or Iraqi citizens.
Bush's warning was the latest move in a bitter and more public standoff between the United States and Iran. The White House expressed skepticism about Iran's plans to greatly expand its economic and military ties with Iraq. The United States has accused Iran of supporting terrorism in Iraq and supplying weapons to kill American forces.
"If Iran escalates its military actions in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and - or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly," Bush said in an interview with National Public Radio.
The president's comments reinforced earlier statements from the White House.
"If Iran wants to quit playing a destructive role in the affairs of Iraq and wants to play a constructive role, we would certainly welcome that," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. But, he said, "We've seen little evidence to date (of constructive activities) and frankly all we have seen is evidence to the contrary."
Sharply at odds over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, Washington and Tehran are arguing increasingly about Iraq. American troops in Iraq have been authorized to kill or capture Iranian agents deemed to be a threat. "If you're in Iraq and trying to kill our troops, then you should consider yourself a target," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week.
Iran's plans in Iraq were outlined by Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qumi in an interview with The New York Times. He said Iran was prepared to offer Iraqi government forces training, equipment and advisers for what he called "the security fight," the newspaper reported. He said that in the economic area, Iran was ready to assume major responsibility for the reconstruction of Iraq.
"We have experience of reconstruction after war," the ambassador said, referring to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. "We are ready to transfer this experience in terms of reconstruction to the Iraqis."
Johndroe said the Bush administration was looking at what the ambassador had to say.
The White House says there has been growing evidence over the last several months that Iran is supporting terrorists inside Iraq and is a major supplier of bombs and other weapons used to target U.S. forces. In recent weeks, U.S. forces have detained a number of Iranian agents in Iraq.
"It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them," Bush said on Friday.
Story #2. The right wing bloggers and the douchebags of Fox News are at it again. Hopefully they'll keep screwing the pooch, and drive regular folks even farther away. Like Satchel Paige once said, "The more you keep slappin' the same old hog, the more folk with common sense are going to saw that you ain't got the bacon." (I'm sure it made sense to Satchel). Matt Drudge, Booker Rising and the usual army of scumbags should be retooling from the miscue below, if they're smart. Oh well, it's about time they took a break from Hillary:
NEW YORK - U.S. Sen. Barack Obama hardly could have anticipated that the first minor media crisis of his presidential bid would involve where he went to school at age 7.
The Illinois Democrat's welcome into the world of modern campaign coverage last week offers lessons for both candidates and reporters on the marathon run until November 2008. And it's undoubtedly a sign of things to come.
Chances are "about 100 percent" that a candidate will be ruined by a story that he or she hasn't anticipated, said ABC News political reporter Jake Tapper.
Stories seemingly trivial or even untrue will appear instantly and reverberate madly through the media. Candidates most skillful in anticipating them and reacting swiftly will have a big advantage.
A magazine article's charge that Obama had attended a radical Islamic school while living in Indonesia as a boy was spread on blogs and, most prominently, on Fox News Channel.
Other news organizations sent reporters who learned the school in Jakarta was public and secular and has long accepted students of all faiths. CNN's Anderson Cooper seemed to relish sticking the knife in a rival. "That's the difference between talking about news and reporting it," he said. "You send a reporter, check the facts and you decide at home."
CNN had time to do that because it wasn't a hard news story, said Sam Feist, the network's political director.
"One of the things that's dangerous about a presidential campaign when it comes to the facts is the echo chamber, where one news organization reports a story and it's not true, and one outlet picks it up, another picks it up and another," Feist said. "Before long the public assumes that it's true even when it's not."
Tapper wrote about the story, with the Obama campaign's denials, on his blog when it first surfaced. But like CNN, it didn't appear on the air at ABC until after a reporter had gone to Jakarta.
Whether the same caution would have held a year later, if the charges had surfaced in the few days between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, is an open question.
"A long and protracted campaign like we're going to see means you're going to have long periods with not much news and news outlets are going to want to fill the void," said Tom Rosenstiel, a former political reporter for the Los Angeles Times and now director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. "In some ways, there are more openings for opposition research, dirty tricks, to get into play."
Back in 1992, when the story first surfaced about Bill Clinton and his alleged affair with Gennifer Flowers, a reporter asked him about it one day and received a response. Yet the story was left off all three network newscasts that evening.
That notion of restraint, of major news organizations taking time to weigh the newsworthiness of these kinds of stories, seems almost impossible to imagine today.
Before the Internet's spread, a newsroom used to have only a handful of news sources coming into their computers, said Marty Ryan, political director at Fox News Channel.
"Now there are hundreds, thousands," he said. "Many of them have a political agenda and many of them have different standards for what they put on their blogs and their Internet sites. We just have to be real careful about what happens in the future."
Being careful about the facts is a lesson drummed into every journalist. But opinion-based talk shows aren't run by journalists. They're a staple of Fox's lineup and spreading around other cable news outlets.
"You can't say it's right or wrong, it's just different," Ryan said. "We acknowledge that. We acknowledged the error with the Obama thing and let's just move on."
Television quickly magnifies stories that might have been forgotten or not even noticed otherwise, with Howard Dean's scream an infamous example. Remember: Most Americans did not have three cable news networks in their homes until the 2000 campaign.
Similarly, it wasn't too long ago that the only Web site political professionals watched carefully was the Drudge Report. Now, there are dozens of political blogs that must be monitored.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, an expected GOP presidential candidate, has gone out of his way to cultivate relationships with prominent bloggers. He learned their bite earlier this month when a Massachusetts gadfly, Brian Camenker, wrote a lengthy report questioning Romney's conservative qualifications that spread quickly on the Web.
Most campaigns have opposition research staff, whose job it is to search for damaging information about an opponent. The smart candidates do aggressive opposition research on themselves, so as not to be surprised by anything.
Campaigns are actually less likely now to feed damaging material to mainstream news organizations, Tapper said. The campaigns prefer the blogs.
"There are so many ways to get information out to people _ whether or not that information is true," said Elizabeth Wilner, chief of NBC News' political unit.
Many Democrats believe that John Kerry's inability to respond quickly to an unanticipated story _ charges by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that he didn't deserve his Vietnam War medals _ doomed his 2004 campaign. Swift response is now valued. So is aggressive response.
Still, the political whirlwind may not slow down because of the Obama example.
"I honestly think that no one is going to be chastened by anything this year," Rosenstiel said.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Of course, the hype's all going to surround Peyton Manning and Rex Grossman. Manning has sucked in the post season and let's face it--the Ravens and the Pats choked. They were and are better teams than the Colts. But that's what's fanatastic about post season sports--you only have to be good in one game, or zig instead of zag. Who cares how teams match on paper. As for the Bears, well, the NFC is pretty much high school compared to the AFC, and the Bears are the creme of that bad crop. Then there will be the who's-who in South Beach thing; Diddy's Super Bowl Party. Maybe Ray-Ray will roll down from Baltimore and shiv someone else. Paris Hilton will dress up like a cheerleader. Hey it all makes for better ink...
...all better ink than history being made. That's always boring, or drums up messy ideas. Let us revel anyway before the silly commercials and annoying pre-game shannigans. Lovie, Chuck--I can't stand your teams, but a whole lotta folk got your backs nonetheless.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
I noted a different trend. Along with Forrest, you saw a whole bunch of ordinary, if not chunky or downright ugly or old folks winning. Think about it--these people are the antithesis of the artificial, eating-disordered, silicon, tabloid Hollywood. Jennifer Hudson, Hugh Laurie (who's one of the ugliest white men around), Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep (both old chicks), America Ferrera...even Sacha Baron Cohen (who's a bizarre looking dude; Borat single handedly affirmed that the mass of racist dumbfuck goobers or arrogant tools are indeed in the Red States or Bush enclaves up here among we normal people). Regarding our people, it was good to see even the usual annoying suspects like Prince, Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, Beyonce, et al. reasonably out of the limelight.
So, I'm celebrating for the triumph of regular folks. We'll be back to Brittany and Paris and Jessica and Donald Trump soon enough. Now I have to get the DVD of Last King of Scotland and see Forrest scare people far more than the back of Ving Rhames' head...
Monday, January 15, 2007
Oh well, we can debate later. For now, we'll sing your praises and whisper a prayer.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I'm stoked for the Surge!!!
Why? Look at the fine print to be unveiled tomorrow night: urban revitalization. Grants and low interest micro loans to small businesses and "underprivileged" start-ups. Increased scholarships to students to attend colleges and technical schools. Industry incubators to create jobs and skill-building. Better yet--quotas...not affirmative action...real quotas in government hiring, government contracts, access to capital, reconstruction and revitalization...LORDY LORDY LORDY...do we MINORITY types need to quit Detroit and the A-T-L and move to Iraq? Hell no, even though some of the GOP clowns who lost this Fall did say Baghdad was safer than most American cities. But we should all be stoked for the surge, and encourage the President and the GOP toadies in Congress to merely give us the same treatment as they wish for Iraq. Maybe even make it "safe" for us here. Maybe that's what New Orleans needs--a redneck/Playstation 3-hungry Army of Occupation, and micro loans. I feel beter already...
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Eisa Nefertari Ulen's "Crystelle Mourning"
My first recommendation for '07 is Eisa Nefertari Ulen's debut novel Crystelle Mourning (Simon & Schuster). Eisa is a journalist and an English professor at Hunter College in Manhattan. Let's try to avoid the "literary fiction" moniker because that seems to be a death sentence in this era of hyper marketed "urban/thug/hooker" novels. But Crystelle Mourning is indeed a story rooted in "urban" mould. Eisa recently explained her approach and the novel's general themes:
"It’s not a story about that particular girl, it’s a story about
all the nameless, countless, girls and women who watched, powerless, as the boys
and men they loved most “got shot up or locked up or somethin.” How were their
bodies responding to this destruction of Black male flesh? How were their souls?
I was teaching elementary school in Baltimore in the very earliest 1990s, and I
would often have to stop class because one of the kids born addicted to crack
had taken asthma medication that morning and was, literally, climbing the walls.
“Go get the nearest male!” I’d tell the nearest child as I futilely tried to
physically restrain the power of the nearest crack baby-- now age 9, with an
almost man-like power. One of my students went to five funerals – all her
cousins, all male, all teens – in one school year. She still managed to get low
Bs. How did she? How did her mother remain so resilient and strong? What of the
women who weren’t so strong? Were those many funerals connected to the long bout with pneumonia my student suffered that same year?"
--see ToyariJones.com and see also National Public Radio (interview by Ferai Chideya)
Yours Truly can attest, fanboys and girls. One day Eisa invited me to speak to her class in my former life as a lawyer in Bo'mo' City. That was around 1991 or thereabouts. Day-um...seems like a million years ago but I still recall the experience in vivid detail. So much promise and pain in the eyes of these little kids. Of course, I saw a different species of pain and of promise manifesting--depending on whether I looked into the eyes of a little black boy or a little black girl.
The main character in the novel, Crystelle, is haunted by this promise-pain duality; her life is steered by that other overarching duality many African Americans juggle. That is--what is it to be black, yet educated/upper middle class? Worse, what is it to have been poor, or grown up in "the hood" and then left all that behind for the middle class? Crystelle's haunted by a boy, Jimmie, she loved in a from where she physically separated/escaped/abandoned, e.g., the mean streets of West Philly. Now she's a NYC buppie. Now she's engaged to a bougie professional brotha. Now she's an ad agency wog. Now she's dealing with that level of duality as well:
"Timelessness shifted places with now as soon as Crystelle opened her eyes. So when her lids drifted down, all she could see was the office where she sat and tried to sell hot chemicals for Black women to pour over their hair. Relaxers. She needed to get ready to go to work. She pulled the covers over her head. She had to go to work. Now she could see the pile of old ad copy on her drafting table. That campaign was over, but a new one would be starting soon. She would have to meet with clients early next week. She would have to do some research, come up with new ideas. What should the model say while she rolls her neck to sell the stuff that straightened hair like hers?"
I will dispense with the usual cliches written in reviews of such novels, i.e. "lyrical and intelligent." Those are baselines when it comes to Eisa's work. Nuff said.
There's another reason you should buy and read this, and recommend it to your bookclub. I'm tired of listening to you women (yes I'm calling you out, Baisden style) whine and cackle about how much you want "better" fiction for your bookclubs, yet you consistently throw up your hands and pick the latest churchlady stuff or skank memoir. We want folk like Malaika Adero at S & S/Atria to publish more books like Crystelle, right?
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Another Warm, Wet New Years
Another indication of Armeggedon is this lovely photo. That's Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, unwinding in Mexico after Brokeback Mountain. Don't celebrities look beautiful when they're on vacation? Check out her bathing suit, his gut, his beard, her scrawny legs. No wonder Heath boned Jake Guyenhall in the movie! This type of stuff is what the least common denominator of our society deem newsworthy. Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton spur our devotion, yet only about 10% of the US adult population can tell you where Darfur is, or what just happened in Somalia. Diddy and Jay-Z are proclaimed geniuses for copying old music and mashing it together with a beat and psycho flourish. (Hell, compared to the hip hop lyrics of today, Kool Moe Dee and LL Kool J were Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost!) When knowledge is razor thin and not terribly broad, when critical thinking skills are non existent, when communication and public speaking skills are reduced to obscenities, mumbling and text messaging, etc etc--is it any wonder that discussion of political, historical and social issues are reduced to pop culture myth exhanges, idiotic ramblings...or just plain bullshit? It would explain the rise of Dancing with The Stars, The Flavor of Love, American Idol, E! and Fox News. Or, for that matter, Essence magazine's transformation into pages of ads for white-owned womens products, and C-Murder's book deal. I'm sure he'll be the new F. Scott Fitzgerald. Thanks, Vibe Magazine, for that cultural heroin...
Speaking of cultural nonsense, do you think Brittany Spears and Beyonce know who Gerald Ford is? Why should they, would be the reply. Why should anyone? Nevertheless, his funeral procession is clogging the streets of my town and tourists here for holiday vacations got the added treat of lining up to see his coffin. "Bread and circus," the Romans called it. Keep the mob entertained and stupid. Sound familiar? See previous paragraph. I paid the man the reverence due him as our former Commander-in-Chief, and as a throwback to a more human and humane Republican Party. But I had to laugh my pecker off at the Gen X and redneck parents in these lines trying to explain who this m-f was to their mucous-stuffed crumbsnatchers when they plainly had not a clue!!!
Anyhow, here's Nat Turner's Ford Top Four: (1) falling down a lot and thus propelling Chevy Chase (and Saturday Night Live) into the limelight, (2) being shot at by former Manson hoes, (3) giving douchebags Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney their first big jobs, and keeping Douchebag #1 Henry Kissinger onboard, thus handing us more bullcrap with the Russians and in the Middle East, not to mention that ridiculous "Mayaguez" incident (check out my take on that in A Prayer for Deliverance), (4) being so lame that he actually looked bad in debates with Jimmy Carter. Yes, Jimmy Carter. Jimmy's no Barak Obama or Daniel Webster. As deep as he is, often he comes off closer to our current dangerous retard of a president. Thus you youngsters can now imagine how bad Ford actually was in comparsion. Then again, you youngsters have no imaginations outside of what the PS 3 tells you and no concept of what good oratory might be, so just take my word on it as if I'm folks y'all trust: Tom Bergeron, Simon Cowell or Tyra Banks! Gerry Ford was a "good guy," which was precisely why he was handpicked by Nixon and his handlers as VP. Articles of Impeachment were on their way to the Senate and Ford got the word that he had to defuse any civil and constitutional strife that would occur if Nixon were to be indicted and put on trial regardless of his offer to resign. Them be da facts, son. That be da shit, son. (I'm writing in Gen Z/myspace-speak so's you youngsters can understand).
OK, enough New Year curmudgeonliness for now. Next post will be more positive, I promise. I'll showcase Eisa Ulen, Jonathan Luckett and Martha Southgate as authors we NEED to see more. I'll give you an update on The Darker Mask, Yella Patsy, and maybe my thoughts on why white evangelical Christians (or pinheaded black churchfolk, for that matter) didn't clog the aisles for The Nativity Story as they did for Crazy Mel's Jesus flick.
Welcome to 2007 bee-ches!!! This is my year. Gird yourselves...