I don’t know why this should be surprising from a man who sees nothing strange about having a black man on his official flag. Sort of like a religious lawn jockey. Why should we care about what the current Pope says? Well, one billion people or one-sixth the population of the globe. Most of them are people of color.

The NYTimes covered the controversy leading into a recent meeting of Pope Benedict and a conference of Latin American bishops. There remains a tension in the Church between conservatives like Benedict and those who are faithful to Vatican II and liberation theology.

The prior Pope John Paul II was no raging liberal but he did work hard as an ambassador among faiths. He looked to bring a broad outlook to the many ways Catholicism has adapted to local cultures around the world. He apologized to Jews and to Latin America’s Indians for sins of the Church in the past.

People in Brazil were shocked when the Pope told his Latin American bishops:

“Christ is the Saviour for whom they were silently longing,” Benedict told a regional conference of bishops in Brazil.

But Paulo Suess, an adviser to Brazil’s Indian Missionary Council, said Monday that the comments fail to account for the fact that Indians were enslaved and killed by the Portuguese and Spanish settlers who forced them to become Catholic.

Benedict “is a good theologian, but it seems he missed some history classes,” said Suess, whose council is supported by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pope told the bishops that, “the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.”

Reuters reported:

Pope John Paul spoke in 1992 of mistakes in the evangelization of native peoples of the Americas.

Pope Benedict not only upset many Indians but also Catholic priests who have joined their struggle, said Sandro Tuxa, who heads the movement of northeastern tribes.

“We repudiate the Pope’s comments,” Tuxa said. “To say the cultural decimation of our people represents a purification is offensive, and frankly, frightening.

“I think (the Pope) has been poorly advised.”

Even the Catholic Church’s own Indian advocacy group in Brazil, known as Cimi, distanced itself from the Pope.

This is the same guy who quoted a Byzantine era Christian emperor saying:

“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Benedict XVI is the Jerry Falwell of Catholicism. It’s time for more people both inside and outside the church to push back against his hateful and divisive agenda.

You may recall that Jack and Jill Politics received an offer to talk to John Kerry about the environment and his new book, This Moment on Earth. Jack and I turned to you to find out what you wanted to ask from John Kerry from a minority perspective. Because it’s all about the wisdom of crowds, right?

Sen. Kerry’s answers have come back. I know there’s a lot going on right now, e.g. the war in Iraq and the showdown between Congress and Bush, people threatening to rape Condi Rice, etc. The majority of African-Americans oppose the war so for a change of pace, let’s take a moment to talk long term and big picture on JK’s responses to our questions on environmental justice for black communities. Peace and One Love, Jill

1. A couple of months ago, a new piece came and went, whereby the city of Atlanta was ranked as one of the worst cities for the environment.
Some of the reasons were our relative lack of parks and open space.

While it’s true that we could desperately use more parks and green
space, we could also give our environment by improving our modes for
transportation and people-moving.

Here in Atlanta, there is still a Deep South notion that if
people-moving and transportation are too easy, it might encourage more
suburban integration than many folks are comfortable with. As such,
state lawmakers–if they want to keep their jobs–are forced to
reinforce this unspoken sentiment.

At what point might the federal government weigh in and provide the
leadership necessary to improve air and environmental quality by
mandating transportation alternatives?

JOHN KERRY: This is a huge issue for cities and local communities. We all need to think about how to use our cars less and use less fuel. We can carpool, walk, jump on a bike or take public transportation. I think that many urban areas have set an incredibly important example in adopting smart public transportation and investing in making these travel alternatives easier and more cost efficient for families and workers – look at what Portland and Boston and other places have done on public transportation and greenspace. Congress needs to get in the game too and do more to invest in public transportation – it is a win-win for low-income and elderly populations and for our environment.

2) I would like to know if he’s aware of the high incidence of asthma in the Black community, and how that relates to environmental factors? Asthma is a near epidemic with our children.

JK: You bet I am, and it’s unacceptable. For too long we’ve allowed a tragically high rate of asthma in the Black community and looked the other way at the connection to environmental factors. African Americans are three times more likely to be hospitalized from asthma. I’m an Honorary Co-Chair of Asthma Awareness Day on Capitol Hill, to work to inform my colleagues about this reality and work to find tangible solutions. But the truth is, asthma is the tip of the iceberg. I have a friend named Tom Farrington. Tom and I are both lucky. We were diagnosed with prostate cancer – and we got cured. Our fathers weren’t so lucky. Prostate cancer took them away from us. But once I got well, and once Tom got well, we started learning more and more – and a statistic that stays with me – and with Tom — who is African American – speaks volumes. African American men are 80% more likely to die of prostate cancer than white men. I started digging more, and discovered the unacceptable apartheid of health care in America: Black children five times more likely than white children to die of asthma; African Americans 70% more likely to have diabetes and 27% more likely to die from it. Just as the doctrine of ‘separate but equal,’ was wrong in education, it’s wrong in health care. The quality of health care should never depend on the color of any American’s skin. And there are huge environmental concerns at the core of all these problems.

3) Environmental justice is something the general public rarely hears about, but in N. Orleans after Katrina, we got a glimpse of how unevenly distributed toxic factories and other contaminated industries are. They disproportionately impact poor and minority communities. As America gears up to build new, low-carbon or post-fossil industries, how do we ensure that the burdens (pollution, contamination, etc) are shared as well as the benefits (economic development, jobs, and sustainable living)?

JK: The tragedy of Katrina opened a lot of peoples’ eyes to a level of injustice and inequality that never should have existed in our country in the first place. We’ve known for too long that environmental injustice looms large in too many of our communities – many of our citizens in lower income and minority communities have to live with excessive pollution, waste and low environmental standards. It hurts our kids’ health and the well being of our families. We’ve tried to put these issues on the national agenda. I got together with Hilda Solis and Alcee Hastings to ensure that environmental justice is taken into account during the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. The victims of Katrina must not be victimized twice, first by a hurricane then by Washington’s assault on clean air and clean water. Every family in the Gulf Coast deserves decent public health and environmental protections. I’ll also continue to fight for the Environmental Justice Act to protect the health and welfare of minority and low-income communities across the country. The Environmental Justice Act directs the EPA to include environmental justice into their emergency command response structure. It’s one step in the right direction.

4) Today the actions that individuals can take to reduce their environmental impact often require significant education and investment. It’s a luxury for many people to purchase efficient appliances, buy a hybrid car, install solar panels in their homes or shop exclusively locally/organically. How do we remind people that
everyone, regardless of financial resources, can make changes to improve the situation? Additionally, how do we make major changes like auto choice, locally-based food shopping and alternative home energy technologies affordable for middle and low income households?

JK: It’s true that some of these newer sources of energy – for example, hybrid cars – are currently more expensive than regular cars. It’s reality. That’s why I’m working hard to make our auto makers have the incentive to make hybrid vehicles LESS expensive than regular cars. But another reality is that with gas and oil prices soaring through the roof, we need to find new ways to run our cars and heat our homes. Too many families are unable to take summer trips because gas is too expensive. And what’s worse, too many seniors and families have to choose between putting food on the table and paying their heating bills in the winter. These are more reasons we need to invent new ways and adopt alternative sources of energy.

Today, we can all do something. We can turn off the lights when we leave the room, we can recycle. We can all encourage our communities to have a clean up day to make our surroundings safer and cleaner. We can conserve water and paper. We can learn from people like Majora Carter in the South Bronx who lead a movement to turn her community around – she wasn’t connected, she wasn’t wealthy, but she had a drive and an idea and she made a difference. She inspired me, and I hope our book helps her inspire others. Majora doesn’t buy into the cynical conventional wisdom that you can’t change things.

5) While it is great that the global warming debate in America finally seems to have moved beyond, “is it happening?”, the singular focus on carbon emissions seems to miss a related and equally dramatic reality:
the world is at or near its peak supply of oil and hydrocarbons like natural gas and, to a lesser extent, coal.
While this might be seen as good news (can’t burn it if we don’t have it!), I fear we may be underestimating the impact of declining supply on our economy and our lives. Hydrocarbons are critical to our food supply (fertilizer and transportation), home heating and American suburban lifestyle. Many alternative energies based on biomass assume a stable supply of oil to
be economically viable — if we can no longer grow corn on a massive scale, then the great hope of ethanol fizzles. What do you think about the era of declining oil supply, and how do you propose we factor it in to our planning for a more sustainable future?

JK: This is all the more reason that we need to have leadership in Congress that addresses the need to be energy independent in a serious and urgent way. Cutting carbon emissions and greenhouse gas emissions is an incredibly important part of this overall goal. But you are right – we need to get real about our dependence on oil.

Here’s how: First, we need to stand up for efforts to drill in places like Bristol Bay in Alaska and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. How insulting and ridiculous it is to be told that the solution to our problems is to drill in and destroy the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that would yield a few months of oil when we are already importing 60 percent of our oil and climbing? God only gave us 3% of the world’s oil reserves. There is simply no way to drill our way out of our problem. We have to invent our way out.

Look, oil won’t disappear tomorrow, but diversifying and inventing new sources of energy is more important today than ever before. For some, it may be hard to conceive of a world where fossil fuels, and especially petroleum, are not the dominant sources of fuel.

In fact, we’ve been here before. One hundred and fifty years ago in Massachusetts, in New Bedford and Nantucket, no one could conceive of a future that didn’t depend on whale oil. But, bottom line, until recently, America’s history has been to drive technology, transform marketplaces, and invent a future never imagined before. In America, making the impossible possible has been a credo and a way of life. In the 1930s only 10 percent of rural America had electricity. Utilities refused to wire rural counties because homes were too far apart. To bring electricity to all Americans, Congress provided more than $5 billion to finance rural electrification. By the 1950s, there was hardly a corner of America that was still dark. Across our history we’ve successfully moved from wood to coal, coal to oil, oil to a mix of oil, gas, coal, nuclear and hydroelectric. Now it’s time to move to solar, wind, biomass, fuel cells, clean coal, and other wonders of American ingenuity – and don’t let anyone tell you we can’t do it. To start: We must establish mandates for reducing U.S. oil consumption by 2.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2015 — an amount equivalent to the oil we currently import from the Persian Gulf. And we can’t just set a mandate — we have to provide incentives to businesses and industry to make the mandate achievable. We must significantly ramp up our production of Flex Fuel Vehicles. They run on alternative fuels, like E85, a blend of 85 percent ethyl alcohol — a home-grown, domestic, completely renewable source of fuel that burns cleaner than gasoline.

6) People say your book is inspirational. Why should I give it to my minister?

JK: Because rescuing our environment should be a faith-based movement in the tradition of the great faith-based movements from abolitionism to the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. It’s not a book about me; it’s not a book about Teresa. The inspiration isn’t from me; it’s from our common mission. It gets at the heart of the deep concern virtually all people of faith are enjoined to maintain toward sustaining and protecting God’s first creation. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians 10:20 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything on it.” Well, these days we face problems on a biblical scale—floods, storms, plagues, the destruction of entire cities. Evangelicals talk about “creation-care” — that any damage that we do to God’s world is an offense against God. God called us to be stewards of the earth and its creatures, and since most of the climate change problem is human induced, its’ pretty clear that we haven’t done that good of a job. The warnings are loud and clear for all to see—rising waters, melting caps, storms of ever-greater proportions, and ironclad scientific evidence. Surely this is an issue where people of faith can come together and demand action. This movement belongs in pulpits across our country.

7) What are the top 5 things African-Americans can do today to create a better environment individually and in our communities?

JK: There’s so much that each of us can do in our daily lives to help the environment. Small, everyday actions can improve the Earth’s health. But here are a few:

1. Keep your car in good condition: Get your engine tuned up regularly, change the oil, and keep your tires properly inflated — proper maintenance can increase your car’s fuel efficiency by 10 percent and reduce emissions.
2. Buy energy efficient products: When buying new appliances or electronics, shop for the highest energy-efficiency rating. Look for the yellow and black Energy Guide label on the product. According to the EPA, the typical American household can save about $400 per year in energy bills with products that carry the Energy Star label as the most efficient in its class.
3. Turn off lights and other electrical appliances such as televisions and radios when you’re not using them: This is a very simple step, but it’s surprising how many times we forget. Install automatic timers for lights that people in your house frequently forget to flick off when leaving a room. Use dimmers when you can.
4. Choose PVC-free building products: this can reduce the exposure of your family to toxins in your home environment. Steer clear of vinyl windows and doors and choose wood instead. Adhesives, caulk, grout, and sealants may also contain phthalates.
5. Choose toys carefully: this is another important step to reduce your children’s exposure to toxins. Look for toys and feeding products for babies and young children that are labeled “PVC free.”

8) This is not a question but a bit of praise. Thank you for including Sustainable South Bronx in your book.

JK:
The truth is, the praise – which I appreciate – thank you! – but it’s almost misplaced. Teresa and I were just the storytellers: Majora is the hero. She deserves the spotlight. This incredible woman from the South Bronx went door-to-door to mobilize her community against a proposed waste transfer station. She then built an organization to advance the environmental and economic rebirth of the area. She coordinated New York City’s first “green roof” – a special rooftop garden that can help a building maintain proper heating and cooling. We wanted to tell the stories of these environmental heroes – the new environmentalists – because they speak so powerfully to what we can each do to save the environment. We found their stories not just inspiring, but empowering. They said to us: this isn’t pie in the sky, do-gooder dreaming – we can actually tackle big problems together. Think about a guy in the book like Rick Dove: a Marine, a Vietnam veteran, and a former commercial fisherman living on the Neuse River in North Carolina. He began to notice sick fish in the river. He later realized it was caused by nutrient pollution from the industrial hog farms nearby. At an age where so many people are understandably slowing down, he made cleaning up that river his passion. There’s such untapped energy out there to really get things done on the environment.

Given what we already know about how African-Americans are treated by the police and the court system (racial profiling, brutality, harassment, disproportionate jailing, harsher sentences, etc), it would seem all the more imperative to make sure that the constitutional right to habeas is restored as soon as possible. If only for our own protection.

Now some of you or at least your cousin Pookie possibly may be asking: “What you talkin bout Willis?”

Habeas corpus…is the name of a legal action or writ by means of which detainees can seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. The writ of habeas corpus has historically been an important instrument for the safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action. – Wikipedia

House Democrats are spinning their wheels on fixing this, but they really shouldn’t. This impacts minorities directly. And once someone explains to us just what the heck habeas corpus is and why eroding it cuts against us — watch out.

Spencer Overton recently pointed to new developments among Black political bloggers. He points to the CBCI/Fox News Debate. I would also direct you to Imus and Rush for areas where black bloggers (like Al Roker!) have contributed to the online discussion.

The BlackProf says there are 3 factors at work here:

1) A Generational Shift
2) Transparency that Holds Black Elected Officials More Accountable
3) The Power of Collaboration

Regarding that last one, he states:

Despite the interactive and collaborative nature of the Internet, many Black blogs have remained relatively autonomous. We’ve provided links to occasional posts on other sites and included other black blog sites on our blogrolls, but our interaction has been limited, at least with regard to action. And autonomy is important—the wisdom of crowds comes not through parroting, but through autonomous decisionmaking. And we all have different interests. But the CBC/Fox Issue is an important step in the evolution of network effects—the power of a broad, flat, and well-connected blackosphere.

Black bloggers may not always agree with each other 100%. There’s still the Malcolm X vs. Martin Luther King, W.E.B. DuBois vs. Marcus Garvey vs. Booker T, etc dynamic of different ways to get at the question of how do we build power and how do we improve the lives of African-Americans. Because improving the lives of African-Americans improves the lives of all Americans in the long run.

It’s ok to disagree and even to talk about those disagreements on strategy and tactics. But our power is in collaboration and coming together to focus on targets where we are largely in agreement such as holding black (and non-black) elected officials accountable and pushing back on racists like Fox News, Imus, Rush and so on is one way we will gain strength. There are other ways to gain strength though such as fundraising. That’s one area for 2008 where I’d like to see my blogging brothers and sisters get involved.

Media Matters has the story:

On the May 7 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh defended his “Barack, The Magic Negro” song — a parody mocking 2008 Democratic presidential hopeful and Sen. Barack Obama (IL) — and said, in response to reports about the controversy this parody has generated: “If I were to think about Barack Obama being in any trouble — needing Secret Service — I would look to Clinton Inc. before I looked at me. Try that, drive-by media. Get that out there.”

[...]

Additionally, in response to a report by CBS Sacramento-affiliate KVOR, during which anchor Chris Burrours stated, “There are groups this morning saying that not only is the song racist, but it’s putting Barack Obama at increased danger,” Limbaugh asked: “[C]ould it be that these sponges who do not listen to the program — obviously found out about this from the Chicago Tribune story yesterday that — where did they hear about it? Did they hear about it from Media Matters for America?”

Racist Rush adds to his rap sheet by claiming his audience thought the Barack the Magic Negro parody “was one of the most creative and funniest they’d ever heard.”

Please let Rush Limbaugh and better yet, his bosses at Premiere Radio Networks, know how creative and funny you think “Obama the Magic Negro” sung to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon” really is.
I am sending an email to both as soon as I finish this post. Thanks.

Rush Limbaugh
rush@eibnet.com


Premiere Radio Networks Contact Page

Premiere Radio Networks, Inc.
15260 Ventura Blvd. 5th Floor
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

Main: (818)377-5300
Fax: (818)377-5333
Toll Free: (800)533-8686

The Rush Limbaugh Show
1-800-282-2882
rush@eibnet.com
fax: 212-563-9166

The Rush Limbaugh Show
1270 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

Yet another reason to love Media Matters

During the recent controversy over former radio and television host Don Imus’ remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, some cable-news viewers may have noticed something unusual: the presence of significantly more African-Americans. The nature of the controversy led the cable networks to seek comment from a far more diverse group of people than they ordinarily do, which begs the question: To the extent these cable programs included a more diverse guest lineup during the Imus controversy, why do they provide such diversity only when issues of race are in the news cycle? Do cable-news producers view the guests added to the lineup during the Imus controversy as qualified to talk only about issues of race, and not other issues of national and political significance?

Some interesting observations:

  • The whitest network is not Fox, but MSNBC
  • No network had more than 5 percent of its guest from non-black people of color
  • Countdown and The Situation Room actually had a week of ALL WHITE PEOPLE
  • Latinos are seriously under-represented. Thus the surprise over the massive immigration rally turnouts. MSM had no clue. Ya Basta!
  • O’Reilly is best when it comes to gender balance. Nearly 50/50

The Imus controversy did not jumpstart a “national conversation on race.” Neither did Katrina. Nor did the Virginia Tech shootings get us to address our gun culture. We are a short term memory society though we have the technology to call up any moment from the past and learn from it. This lack of perspective is exacerbated by those who are our primary gateways to the world around us: television news services.

There are numerous studies on the value of diversity in the newsroom, yet as America gets browner, the voices telling us what we need to know remain pale. Women are trusted enough to vote but not participate fully in democracy by informing their fellow citizens. We have a long way to go, and studies like the Media Matters one only highlight how feeble our commitment really is.

If America becomes majority people of color, and this sort of imbalance still exists, there will be a painful reckoning for the powerful, who have refused to acknowledge change and won’t be prepared when it comes, seemingly from nowhere. This is a wake up call. So wake up yall.

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Lawd, have mercy (emphasis mine):

As his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), campaigns for black votes, she often adopts a Southern twang she does not usually use in front of white audiences and is more likely to assail the Bush administration over its response to Hurricane Katrina — a particular frustration of many African Americans because that disaster struck majority-black New Orleans.

Obama, too, employs a slightly different style of speechmaking in front of black audiences, invoking, for example, a hypothetical “Cousin Pookie” in a speech in Selma, Ala., to talk about African Americans who do not vote. But while Obama has eschewed overt appeals to black voters, comparable to the way Hillary Clinton targets women with specific policy proposals, the substance of his remarks to African Americans, some Obama allies say, reflects an ability to speak about issues that a nonblack candidate probably could not have.

Why “Pookie” and not “Ray-Ray” or “Lil Man” or “Peanuts”? (Etc). Did “Pookie” test best with African-American focus groups? Or is the number of black people with cousins named Pookie who also vote Democratic statistically significant?

I don’t even know where to start here so I’ll just say that it’s going to be very interesting to watch Obama and Clinton court the black vote while convincing whites and others of their independence and arms-length approach. Very interesting indeed.

The Chicago Tribune did a story on Rush Limbaugh’s airing of a racist parody of “Obama the Magic Negro“. So has the Seattle Times. I think Digby did a good job de-constructing this, if you’d like more background. I’ve also posted on this earlier.

Someone actually posted some of the clips from Racist Rush’s explanation of why he ran the song. Ugh. Check it out.

According to Rush, all the white people who support Barack Obama are actually racist, because he’s not “real”, like Snoop Dog or Al Sharpton.

They are just “assuaging their white guilt” and bestowing “white benevolence”. But guys like Rush are really looking out for black people. He’s on our side. Yeah. Right.

Barack Obama’s campaign apparently isn’t taking Racist Rush too seriously:

Obama’s campaign called the song “dumb,” although a spokesman said they don’t think anyone is taking the song seriously. — The Swamp

However, Media Matters has the goods on Rush and according to Crooks and Liars, not everyone at Racist Rush’s job is happy about his racist commentary.

According to Media Matters, Rush Limbaugh has a lengthy rap sheet of racism. For example, a small sampling of their record:

“Could we not say that if Obama wins … he will own Al Sharpton?”
“The government’s been taking care of [young blacks] their whole lives”
“Obama Osama”
“[t]here can only be one reason” Survivor scrapped “segregated” competition after two episodes — “the white tribe had to be winning”

Like with Don Imus, when is enough enough?

I say we give Racist Rush the bum rush he deserves! But what do you think? For example, Rush airs in some cities where there are plenty of African-Americans…

I signed on to a letter with a bunch of other activists and bloggers recently that asked that footage from upcoming presidential debates be shared with the public. So that people can view them, blog them, share clips with friends, etc. I was one of several black bloggers and leaders to join a diverse group of people who pushed on the DNC. Take a look at the original letters here.

To his credit, Barack Obama was the first presidential candidate to support our call. He wrote to Howard Dean on May 3:

Dear Chairman Dean:
I am writing in strong support of a letter from a bipartisan coalition of academics, bloggers and Internet activists recently addressed to you and the Democratic National Committee. The letter asks that the video from any Democratic Presidential debate be available freely after the debate, by either placing the video in the public domain, or licensing it under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license.

As you know, the Internet has enabled an extraordinary range of citizens to participate in the political dialogue around this election. Much of that participation will take the form of citizen generated content. We, as a Party, should do everything that we can to encourage this participation. Not only will it keep us focused on the issues that matter most to America, it will also encourage participation by a wide range of our youth who have traditionally simply tuned out from politics.

John Edwards, who is usually on the cutting edge, followed with this letter:

Dear Messrs Walton, Moonves and Zucker, Mses. Sweeney and Kerger, and Dr. Dean:

Selecting a president is the most important responsibility Americans have. In an age of 30-second ads, 7-second sound bites and media consolidation, making an informed decision is harder than ever.

That is why I am asking each news network to make video footage from the presidential debates that they broadcast available on the internet for the public to view and use responsibly. I am also asking Chairman Dean, who is playing a valuable role in organizing many of the Democratic primary debates, to use his influence with the networks to make the debates more broadly available.

Chris Dodd also weighed in (but where was Sen. Clinton?) Looks like we’ve had some influence. Thanks to all those who signed the letter, but the thanks really goes to you, the readers of this and other blogs like The Super Spade which has posted on this. The powers that be are worried about what YOU think about this — and what you’ll tell your friends or family. So thanks for helping preserve freedom of speech. Especially thanks to Lawrence Lessig for leading the charge.

I’ve been following this story over the past few days and have read now both sides of the story. I found Joe Rospars, Director of New Media’s, version and half-hearted, shuffling mea culpa disappointing. So was the mainstream media coverage.

Most people seem focused on the he said/he said, Joe Anthony vs Obama Campaign, David vs Goliath angle. Yet what’s lost is the impact on the formerly large community Barack Obama once boasted in MySpace. 160,000 people became “friends” of Obama, thus indicated public support for him on their own pages. Many thousands linked in other ways using buttons and many more left supportive messages on Obama’s page. 160,000 people — to whom Obama’s campaign would be able to bulk-message at the right time for volunteers, donations and votes — were friends one day with Obama and then were given the back of the hand. By Obama.

Those people are not numbers. They are people. The Obama campaign’s misguided bid for “control” (what exactly was the big hurry anyway?) was more important than recognizing and respecting those people who were essentially shown the door and kicked off the new page. Sure. They can re-join. But why would they? Frankly the new page doesn’t make that clear. How strong was the former community?

If you think the group has no daily life, that once people friended Anthony’s Obama profile, consider this: as of this morning, there are at least 18,000 comments from members of that group responding to a bulletin Anthony sent them about the situation and asking for their advice.

To call their MySpace outreach “an experiment” seems naive or disingenuous. It shows a complete lack of understanding for and real sympathy with the netroots. It sounds like Obama’s team might need more adult supervision. Obama will need to do better than this. It’s very nice that Obama reached out to Joe Anthony and called him. But. At the end of the day, I ain’t impressed. And I’ll be watching.

No, I’m not talking economic growth or border security or energy independence. I’m talking about access to political debates. I missed last week’s major Dem debate and this week’s GOP versions. I move around a lot, and I assumed that in our IP-connected, anytime, anywhere media world, I’d have no problem finding an unedited copy of the debates to sate my appetite for democracy. No such luck.

Sure there were five million sound-bitten clips on YouTube and much in the way of text-based blog analysis. MSNBC, the sponsor of the dem debate, has a version on its website, but it lacks the full introductions, is incomplete or chopped up and doesn’t allow fast forwarding. iTunes was happy to provide me with the 2004 presidential debates (because painful flashbacks are just what I need right now) and the infamously reliable BitTorrent networks came up blank.

It’s easier to find child pornography online than a US presidential candidates debate. There is something very wrong when a citizen actively seeking to engage in the democratic conversation is left empty-handed on such a simple request. Imagine, these major media companies are “protecting their intellectual property” by denying access to obviously public-interest content.

Well, times they are a-changing. In a letter to Howard Dean, Sen. Obama wrote:

I am writing in strong support of a letter from a bipartisan coalition of academics, bloggers and Internet activists recently addressed to you and the Democratic National Committee. The letter asks that the video from any Democratic Presidential debate be available freely after the debate, by either placing the video in the public domain, or licensing it under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license.

Sen Edwards and Republican Matt Margolis (of Blogs for Bush) support a similar stance.

Hooray.

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I just started reading the stories here and here about the Obama campaign’s ham-handed takeover of a passionate volunteer’s MySpace site dedicated to Barack Obama. That site at its peak before the takeover had 160,000 friends. The nearest competitor, Hillary Clinton’s MySpace page has almost 43,000 friends. A stark contrast. The Obama campaign offered Joe Anthony a fee to take over the profile. When he came back with what sounds like a modest amount given the community he built alone and the value of that community to Obama as a source of voters and volunteers, the Obama campaign sought to cut him out so they could have the url and with MySpace.com’s help had Anthony’s access to his own profile blocked. News Corp strikes again! Good job Democrats at playing into your political opponents’ hands.

The idiots at Obama’s campaign weren’t able to keep Joe’s friends though. The new profile at the same location is up to 16,000 friends. That’s rapid growth, sure. The campaign is betting they can build the numbers back up given enough time. Even with a boring MySpace page that looks like it’s had the soul sucked right out of it.

I have a few problems with their “strategy”. If the Obama campaign didn’t understand how the netroots would react to this behavior and active assault on the netroots and why it might have been worth 10 times more money than Joe was asking than for people like me and other bloggers with even bigger megaphones to not write posts like this? — wow, they must be really and truly incompetent.

Which makes me question Obama himself and why he would have such arrogant, small-minded, deceitful, hypocritical jackasses working for him. It makes me question his understanding of community engagement and empowerment, since he just crushed one. One devoted to supporting him. What’s his campaign’s plan for communities who aren’t on their side? It makes me question the things he says about wanting to be a campaign that represents all Americans. At My.BarackObama.com, the images say “This Campaign is About You.” Apparently, maybe not.

Above all, it makes me continue questioning where I will put my vote. I won’t forget this, that’s for sure, because it says a lot to me about how Obama really treats the everyday people supporting him behind the scenes. This type of disrespect for others and corner-cutting — faking it til you make it — can often trickle down from the top management. What’s different today is that the screwing of people like Joe Anthony can’t take place in the dark anymore. Not in the same way thanks to the blogosphere and people like you. The Clinton and Edwards campaign have always shown sincere respect for the netroots. It’s hard to say that about the Obama campaign looking at this story if it’s all true.

However, I am certainly interested to hear the Obama campaign’s side of the story…

There’s an issue that every class of black folk are indignent about — underclass, working class, middle class and even the Black Crusaders. And that’s police brutality and harassment. I think 30 or 40 years ago, there was a hope that integration of police forces would help alleviate this problem. But the racist way of dealing with minorities appears to be part and parcel of the culture of U.S. police procedure. Being hassled by the police for little or even no reason is something that has happened in every African-American family. It’s not fair. And it needs to stop. Racial profiling is racism. Period. There’s an interesting article in CNN that breaks down the phenomenon based on a Justice Dept report that was last released in 2002.

Traffic stops are the most frequent way police interact with the public, accounting for 41 percent of all contacts. An estimated 17.8 million drivers were stopped in 2005.

Black, Hispanic and white motorists were equally likely to be pulled over by police — between 8 percent and 9 percent of each group. The slight decline in blacks pulled over — from 9.2 percent in 2002 to 8.1 percent in 2005 — was not statistically significant, Durose said, and could be the result of random differences.
The raw numbers

The racial disparities showed up after that point:

# Blacks (9.5 percent) and Hispanics (8.8 percent) were much more likely to be searched than whites (3.6 percent). There were slight but statistically insignificant declines compared with the 2002 report in the percentages of blacks and Hispanics searched.

# Blacks (4.5 percent) were more than twice as likely as whites (2.1 percent) to be arrested. Hispanic drivers were arrested 3.1 percent of the time.

Among all police-public contacts, force was used 1.6 percent of the time. But blacks (4.4 percent) and Hispanics (2.3 percent) were more likely than whites (1.2 percent) to be subjected to force or the threat of force by police officers.

People interviewed described police hitting, kicking, pushing, grabbing, pointing a gun or spraying pepper spray at them or threatening to do so. More than four of five felt the force used was excessive, but there were no statistically significant racial disparities among the people who felt that way.

Two years ago, the Bush administration’s handling of the 2002 report and its finding of racial disparities generated considerable controversy.

Departing from normal practice, the earlier report was simply posted on the statistics bureau’s Web site without any press release announcing it.

The bureau’s director at the time, Lawrence A. Greenfeld, appointed by President Bush in 2001, wanted to publicize the racial disparities, but his superiors disagreed, according to a statistics bureau employee.

Greenfeld told his staff he was being moved to a new job following the dispute, according to this employee, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

This time there was a press release.

It’s not just in your head. We’re not over-sensitive. I think this is an issue that is hard for white people to get because the fear of not knowing what might happen during a police interaction and the humiliation of being treated like a criminal while trying to pick up your kids from school or head to your parents’ house or to a dinner party in a different neighborhood just isn’t something they experience or hear about. Except from their black friends.

From the article, it sounds like the Bush administration was trying to bury this report in 2002 due to embarrassment. I will be interested to hear the presidential candidates’ answers on this issue and I am willing to bet a lot of other minorities are eager to hear their positions on racial profiling too.

Or Americans in general. Rikyrah alerted me to this story so the hat tip goes to her. What can you say about an administration this lazy, incompetent and uncharitable toward its own citizens. In the Washington Post today:

Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

In addition, valuable supplies and services — such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships — were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted.

When will Congress open hearings on the Bush administration’s continued mishandling of Katrina relief? Why is the Fox News Debate such a high priority for the Congressional Black Caucus and this issue is not?


The good people of A28.org are serious when it comes to holding our leaders accountable. Unlike many Dems who say we should just “move on” from the deception, mismanagement, poor leadership and crimes of the Bush administration, they are calling on the full force provided by our democracy. Tomorrow.

George Bush and Dick Cheney have lied the nation into a war of aggression, are spying in open violation of the law, and have sanctioned the use of torture. These are high crimes and misdemeanors that demand accountability. Since Congress doesn’t seem to get it, on April 28 Americans from Miami, Florida to North Pole, Alaska are going to spell it out for them: IMPEACH!

The goal is to spell out “impeach” across this great country in any way possible, and A28 is providing some cool color-coded Google Maps tools to help you join or build local actions in your own neighborhoods. I hope we’ll think about driving local action with tools like these in the future and for causes other than punishing criminals in the White House.

Now go out and do something.

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Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell

Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris

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