segunda-feira, 30 de junho de 2008

Lovely family photo

Star Jones Reynolds responds to Bill O'Reilly/Fox News about Michelle Obama!

Below is Star Jones' informed and provocative response to Bill O'Reilly's comment about 'having a lynching party for Michelle Obama if he finds out that she truly has no pride in her country.'

Bill O'Reilly said:

'I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how she really feels - that is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever - then that's legit. We'll track it down.'

Star said:

'I'm sick to death of people like Fox News host, Bill O'Reilly, and his ilk thinking that he can use a racial slur against a black woman who could be the next First Lady of the United States, give a half-assed apology and not be taken to task and called on his crap. What the hell?

If it's 'legit,' you're going to 'track it down?'

And then what do you plan to do? How dare this white man with a microphone and the trust of the public think that in 2008, he can still put the words 'lynch and party' together in the same sentence with reference to a black woman; in this case, Michelle Obama? I don't care how you 'spin it' in the 'no spin zone,' that statement in and of itself is racist, unacceptable and inappropriate on every level.

O'Reilly claims his comments were taken out of context. Please don't insult my intelligence while you're insulting me. I've read the comments and heard them delivered in O'Reilly's own voice; and there is no right context that exists. So, his insincere apology and 'out-of-context' excuse is not going to cut it with me.

And just so we're clear, this has nothing to do with the 2008 presidential election, me being a Democrat, him claiming to be Independent while talking Republican, the liberal media, or a conservative point of view. To the contrary, this is about crossing a line in the sand that needs to be drawn based on history, dignity, taste and truth.

Bill, I'm not sure of where you come from, but let me tell you what the phrase 'lynching party' conjures up to me, a black woman born in North Carolina ... Those words depict the image of a group of white men who are angry with the state of the own lives getting together, drinking more than they need to drink, lamenting how some black person has moved forward (usually ahead of them in stature or dignity), and had the audacity to think that they are equal. These same men for years, instead of looking at what changes, should and could be make in their own lives that might remove that bitterness born of perceived privilege, these white men take all of that resentment and anger and decide to get together and drag the closest black person near them to their death by hanging them from a tree - usually after violent beating, torturing and violating their human dignity. Check your history books, because you don't need a masters or a law degree from Harvard to know that is what constitutes a 'lynching party.'

Imagine, Michelle and Barack Obama having the audacity to think that they have the right to the American dream, hopes, and ideals. O'Reilly must think to himself: how dare they have the arrogance to think they can stand in front of this nation, challenge the status quo and express the frustration of millions? When this happens, the first thing that comes to mind for O'Reilly and people like him is: 'it's time for a party.'

Not so fast...don't order the rope just yet.

Would O'Reilly ever in a million years use this phrase with reference to Elizabeth Edwards, Cindy McCain or Judi Nathan? I mean, in all of the statements and criticisms that were made about Judi Nathan, the one-time mistress turned missus, of former presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, I never heard any talk of forming a lynch party because of something she said or did.

So why is it that when you're referring to someone who's African-American you must dig to a historical place of pain, agony and death to symbolize your feelings? Lynching is not a joke to off-handedly throw around and it is not a metaphor that has a place in political commentary; provocative or otherwise. I admit that I come from a place of personal outrage here having buried my 90 year-old grandfather last year. This proud, amazing African-American man raised his family and lived through the time when he had to use separate water fountains, ride in the back of a bus, take his wife on a date to the 'colored section' of a movie theater, and avert his eyes when a white woman walked down the street for fear of what a white man and his cronies might do if they felt the urge to 'party'; don't tell me that the phrase you chose, Mr. O'Reilly, was taken out of context.

To add insult to injury, O'Reilly tried to 'clarify' his statements, by using the excuse that his comments were reminiscent of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' use of the term 'high-tech lynching' during his confirmation hearing. I reject that analogy. You see Justice Thomas did mean to bring up the image of lynching in its racist context. He was saying that politics and the media were using a new technology to do to him what had been done to black men for many years -- hang him.

Regardless of if you agreed with Justice Thomas' premise or not, if in fact -- Bill O'Reilly was referencing it -- the context becomes even clearer.

What annoys me more than anything is that I get the feeling that one of the reasons Bill O'Reilly made this statement, thinking he could get away with it in the first place, and then followed it up with a lame apology in a half-hearted attempt to smooth any ruffled feathers, is because he doesn't think that black women will come out and go after him when he goes after us. Well, he's dead wrong. Be clear Bill O'Reilly:

there will be no lynch party for that black woman And this black woman assures you that if you come for her, you come for all of us.'

-- Star Jones Reynolds

domingo, 29 de junho de 2008


More than 70,000 members have stood up to Fox for using race-baiting and fear to convince Americans that our country's first viable Black candidate for President is not "one of us" (if you don't know what Fox has done, just keep reading--we'll give you the whole story below). It's a great start, but we're still missing your voice--and we need it.

If we can get to 100,000 signatures, we will go after Fox head-on: We'll deliver the petitions to Fox News headquarters in New York , shaming the network in front of their competitors' news cameras. Then we'll turn attention to their advertisers.

But first, we need your help. Can you take 30 seconds to add your voice and invite your friends and family to do the same?

After Senator Obama won the nomination, he and his wife gave each other a "pound" in front of the cameras. Fox anchor E.D. Hill called the act of celebration a "terrorist fist jab."1 Then last week, a Fox News on-screen graphic referred to Michelle Obama as "Obama's baby mama"2--slang used to describe the unmarried mother of a man's child. It was a clear attempt to associate the Obamas with negative cultural stereotypes about Black people, an insult not only to Michelle Obama but to women and Black people everywhere.

Last month, a Fox guest pretended to confuse Obama's name with "Osama," associating him with terrorism, which has happened before on Fox. But then she went further, stating that the assassination of both Osama and Obama would be a good thing.3,4 It is unconscionable for an organization that calls itself a news network to advocate for the assassination of a presidential candidate.

After each of the incidents mentioned, Fox issued some form of weak apology. But what does it mean when you slap someone in the face, apologize the next day, then slap them again on the third? It means the apology is meaningless.

Now is the time to call out Fox for these attacks and their fake apologies. The first stop is Fox. Next will be their advertisers and the FCC. If we don't push back now, we will see more of the same from now until November. Please join us to demand that Fox answer for its behavior:

These aren't one-time incidents--they're part of a pattern that continues no matter how often Fox is forced to apologize. Fox has a clear record of attacking and undermining Black institutions, Black leaders, and Black people in general.5,6 Their team of producers and on-air personalities uses innuendo to prey on fear and racist stereotypes that ridicule the progress, politics and personalities of Black America.7

But this pattern grew even more noticeable when Barack Obama became a serious presidential contender. Fox's smears against Obama are part of a larger effort, working together with anonymous emails8, outrageous statements by right-wing pundits and officials9 and fear-mongering ads paid for by local chapters of the Republican party10. These tactics have deception at their core, and they're designed to take advantage of the racist fears and prejudices ingrained in our society.

Fox plays a very specific, key role in this effort. It uses its position in the media to inject racist attacks on Obama into the mainstream political conversation. Because Fox paints itself as a news network and has a large audience, it's able to give credibility and exposure to unfounded rumors and bigoted, extremist statements.

Stopping Fox will take a sustained effort, but we've done it before11. Once you've signed the letter to Fox, you'll be the first to hear about future racist smears and how we can fight them. Please join us:

Thanks and Peace,

-- James, Gabriel, Clarissa, Andre, and the rest of the team
June 26th, 2008


1. "Fox News' E.D. Hill teased discussion of Obama dap: "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab?" Media Matters, June 6, 2008

2. "Fox News in trouble again over Obama smear: 'baby mama'" Los Angeles Times, June 12, 2008

3. "Dems cancel debate over Fox Chief's Obama joke,", March 10, 2007

4. Liz Trotta on Fox News Channel, May 25, 2008

5. "Fox Attacks: Black America,", June 2007

6. "Fox Attacks: Obama, Part 2,", June 2007

7. "Fox News and its problem with African-Americans," overview, March 2007

8. "SMEAR: Obama's Books Contain Racially Incendiary Remarks,", June, 2008

9. "Schlussel: Should Barack Hussein Obama be president "when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam"?," Media Matters, December 20, 2006

10. "Tennessee GOP Smears Obama With Alleged Ties to Anti-Semitism and Farrakhan," TPM Election Central, February 27, 2008

11. "Obama, Clinton to skip Fox-backed debate,", April 10, 2007

More on Rove's racist codebook

I'm glad I wasn't the only one who noticed. Here's an excerpt from:
Op-Ed Columnist
If Terrorists Rock the Vote in 2008
Published: June 29, 2008
Since 2002, it’s been a Beltway axiom that Bomb in American City=G.O.P. Landslide. That equation was the creation of Karl Rove.

[Karl] Rove has been busy lately developing a new fear card for 2008 — fear of the Obamas.

Its racial undertones are naked enough. Earlier this year, Mr. Rove wrote that Mr. Obama was “often lazy,” and that his “trash talking” during a debate was “an unattractive carry-over from his days playing pickup basketball at Harvard.” Last week Mr. Rove caricatured him as the elitist “guy at the country club with the beautiful date.” Provocative as it is to inject Mr. Obama into a setting historically associated with white Republicans, the invocation of that “beautiful date” is even more so. Where’s his beautiful wife? Mr. Rove’s suggestion that Mr. Obama might be a sexual freelancer, as an astute post at the Web site Talking Points Memo noted, could conjure up for a certain audience the image of “a white woman on his arm.”

sábado, 28 de junho de 2008

How lies live and grow in the brain

June 27, 2008
NY Times Op-Ed Contributor
Your Brain Lies to You

We tend to remember news that accords with our worldview, and discount statements that contradict it.

FALSE beliefs are everywhere. Eighteen percent of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth, one poll has found. Thus it seems slightly less egregious that, according to another poll, 10 percent of us think that Senator Barack Obama, a Christian, is instead a Muslim. The Obama campaign has created a Web site to dispel misinformation. But this effort may be more difficult than it seems, thanks to the quirky way in which our brains store memories — and mislead us along the way.

The brain does not simply gather and stockpile information as a computer’s hard drive does. Facts are stored first in the hippocampus, a structure deep in the brain about the size and shape of a fat man’s curled pinkie finger. But the information does not rest there. Every time we recall it, our brain writes it down again, and during this re-storage, it is also reprocessed. In time, the fact is gradually transferred to the cerebral cortex and is separated from the context in which it was originally learned. For example, you know that the capital of California is Sacramento, but you probably don’t remember how you learned it.

This phenomenon, known as source amnesia, can also lead people to forget whether a statement is true. Even when a lie is presented with a disclaimer, people often later remember it as true.

With time, this misremembering only gets worse. A false statement from a noncredible source that is at first not believed can gain credibility during the months it takes to reprocess memories from short-term hippocampal storage to longer-term cortical storage. As the source is forgotten, the message and its implications gain strength. This could explain why, during the 2004 presidential campaign, it took some weeks for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Senator John Kerry to have an effect on his standing in the polls.

Even if they do not understand the neuroscience behind source amnesia, campaign strategists can exploit it to spread misinformation. They know that if their message is initially memorable, its impression will persist long after it is debunked. In repeating a falsehood, someone may back it up with an opening line like “I think I read somewhere” or even with a reference to a specific source.

In one study, a group of Stanford students was exposed repeatedly to an unsubstantiated claim taken from a Web site that Coca-Cola is an effective paint thinner. Students who read the statement five times were nearly one-third more likely than those who read it only twice to attribute it to Consumer Reports (rather than The National Enquirer, their other choice), giving it a gloss of credibility.

Adding to this innate tendency to mold information we recall is the way our brains fit facts into established mental frameworks. We tend to remember news that accords with our worldview, and discount statements that contradict it.

In another Stanford study, 48 students, half of whom said they favored capital punishment and half of whom said they opposed it, were presented with two pieces of evidence, one supporting and one contradicting the claim that capital punishment deters crime. Both groups were more convinced by the evidence that supported their initial position.

Psychologists have suggested that legends propagate by striking an emotional chord. In the same way, ideas can spread by emotional selection, rather than by their factual merits, encouraging the persistence of falsehoods about Coke — or about a presidential candidate.

Journalists and campaign workers may think they are acting to counter misinformation by pointing out that it is not true. But by repeating a false rumor, they may inadvertently make it stronger. In its concerted effort to “stop the smears,” the Obama campaign may want to keep this in mind. Rather than emphasize that Mr. Obama is not a Muslim, for instance, it may be more effective to stress that he embraced Christianity as a young man.

Consumers of news, for their part, are prone to selectively accept and remember statements that reinforce beliefs they already hold. In a replication of the study of students’ impressions of evidence about the death penalty, researchers found that even when subjects were given a specific instruction to be objective, they were still inclined to reject evidence that disagreed with their beliefs.

In the same study, however, when subjects were asked to imagine their reaction if the evidence had pointed to the opposite conclusion, they were more open-minded to information that contradicted their beliefs. Apparently, it pays for consumers of controversial news to take a moment and consider that the opposite interpretation may be true.

In 1919, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the Supreme Court wrote that “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” Holmes erroneously assumed that ideas are more likely to spread if they are honest. Our brains do not naturally obey this admirable dictum, but by better understanding the mechanisms of memory perhaps we can move closer to Holmes’s ideal.

Sam Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton, and Sandra Aamodt, a former editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience, are the authors of “Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life.”

quinta-feira, 26 de junho de 2008

Does Rove really mean "arrogant" or is that code for "uppity"?

Published: June 25, 2008
Karl Rove is trying to spin his myths, as he used to do with such devastating effect, but it won’t work this time.

domingo, 22 de junho de 2008

As I was saying

According to an article published in today's Washington Post, 3 in 10 Americans admit to race bias (presumably there are even more who won't admit to it). But there's an upside for Obama - Americans are more ageist than they are racist! Brazilian and US race relations are becoming more and more Brazil, it's called "cordial racism". Ageism in this country is even worse!

3 in 10 Americans Admit to Race Bias
Survey Shows Age, Too, May Affect Election Views

[Do you think Obama's candidacy will do more to help or more to hurt race relations in this country, or won't it make much difference?]

Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 22, 2008; Page A01

As Sen. Barack Obama opens his campaign as the first African American on a major party presidential ticket, nearly half of all Americans say race relations in the country are in bad shape and three in 10 acknowledge feelings of racial prejudice, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll....

More than six in 10 African Americans now rate race relations as "not so good" or "poor," while 53 percent of whites hold more positive views. Opinions are also divided along racial lines, though less so, on whether blacks face discrimination. There is more similarity on feelings of personal racial prejudice: Thirty percent of whites and 34 percent of blacks admit such sentiments....

Read the article in full here

sábado, 21 de junho de 2008

Stoking racial fears

A friend just got back from the US - she's African-Brazilian and Bahian - and she tells me the same thing I'm hearing from my white relations in NY. A lot of people, including educated whites, will refuse to vote for Barack simply because he's "black." I hope it's just anecdotal and the polls showing that Obama is ahead of McCain will not suffer from the "Bradley effect."

How ridiculous is it to reject a candidate on account of the colour of their skin without regard to the content of their character? The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream seems as elusive as ever.


Obama says Republicans will use race to stoke fear

By Caren Bohan

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama said on Friday he expects Republicans to highlight the fact that he is black as part of an effort to make voters afraid of him.

"It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy," Obama told a fundraiser in Jacksonville, Florida. "We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid.

"They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?"

He said he was also set for Republicans to say "he's got a feisty wife," in trying to attack his wife Michelle.

"We know the strategy because they've already shown their cards. Ultimately I think the American people recognize that old stuff hasn't moved us forward. That old stuff just divides us," he said.

Obama, born to a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, has cast himself as a candidate who can bridge divides within the country, including those involving race.

It has been rare for him to bring up the topic during his presidential bid. In March he gave a widely praised speech on the subject after receiving criticism over racially charged comments by his longtime pastor.

Obama, who faces Republican John McCain in the November election, would be the first black U.S. president.

quinta-feira, 19 de junho de 2008

Barack has "jogo de cintura"

Barack played it smart on his campaign financing strategy when he realised the GOP had tossed out the Marquess of Queensberry rules a long time ago. Brazilians would call that "jogo de cintura" (an untranslatable term that roughly means "the ability to think on one's feet") - a valuable quality in a president.

As the most recent campaign message explaining the decision not to participate in the public financing system for the general election puts it:
"Even though we stood to receive more than $80 million in taxpayer funding for our campaign, the system has been so gamed and exploited by our opponents that it is effectively broken.

John McCain, the Republican National Committee, and their allies in so-called 527 groups that raise and spend unlimited contributions are dedicated to manipulating this broken system to raise as much money as possible -- and they've proven that they're very good at it.

A top McCain adviser told MSNBC earlier this month, "now that we're in the general election, the RNC money counts, the DNC money counts. So the truth is today, John McCain has more cash on hand and more money than Barack Obama does."

In April alone, they raised nearly $45 million. That's more than our campaign and the Democratic National Committee combined. And that doesn't include the plans of 527 groups like the one called "Freedom's Watch," which has said it will spend as much as $250 million under Karl Rove's direction to attack and defeat Barack Obama.

To compete, Barack has put his faith in ordinary people giving only what they can afford. That's been the strategy of this campaign from the beginning, and more than 1,500,000 supporters like you have gotten us this far.

We have a historic opportunity to prove that a movement of ordinary people has the power to change the way political campaigns are funded. And we have a clear goal as we begin this new challenge: 50,000 people declaring their independence by making a donation before July 4th."

Lecture on the "Obama Phenomenon" in Recife, Brazil

John H. Stanfield, II, Ph.D.

According to the Maurício de Nassau University website: "Before he announced his bid for the White House, Senator Barack Obama was already making news on the domestic and world scenes. His popularity in the US, as well as the ethnic question, are key factors in giving him a good chance of winning the presidency. If elected, Obama will become the first black president in the political history of the United States."

To discuss this phenomenon, the Maurício de Nassau Institute is hosting a lecture on the subject on June 19 featuring diplomat Kathy Bentley, from the US Consulate in Recife, Brazil, and Professor John H. Stanfield, II, the Director of the Research Program on Transcultural and Intercultural Philanthropic Studies housed in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Indiana, Bloomington. The lecture will be held at the Capunga block auditorium. Admission is free of charge.

quarta-feira, 18 de junho de 2008

Michelle Obama Looks for a New Introduction

June 18, 2008

NY Times Permalink

Michelle Obama’s eyes flicker tentatively even as she offers a trained smile. As her campaign plane arcs over the Flathead Range in Montana, she is asked to consider her complicated public image.

Conservative columnists accuse her of being unpatriotic and say she simmers with undigested racial anger. A blogger who supported Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton circulates unfounded claims that Mrs. Obama gave an accusatory speech in her church about the sins of “whitey.” Mrs. Obama shakes her head.

“You are amazed sometimes at how deep the lies can be,” she says in an interview. Referring to a character in a 1970s sitcom, she adds: “I mean, ‘whitey’? That’s something that George Jefferson would say. Anyone who says that doesn’t know me. They don’t know the life I’ve lived. They don’t know anything about me.”

Now her husband’s presidential campaign is giving her image a subtle makeover, with a new speech in the works to emphasize her humble roots and a tough new chief of staff. On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama will do a guest turn on “The View,” the daytime talk show on ABC, with an eye toward softening her reputation.

Her problems seemed hard to imagine last fall and winter. Mrs. Obama, a Harvard-trained lawyer, appeared so at ease with the tactile business of campaigning and drew praise for humanizing, often with humor, a husband who could seem elusive.

Then came some rhetorical stumbles. In Madison, Wis., in February, she told voters that hope was sweeping America, adding, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country.” Cable news programs replayed those 15 words in an endless loop of outrage.

Barack Obama often blurs identity lines; much of his candidacy has seemed almost post-racial. Mrs. Obama’s identity is less mutable. She is a descendant of slaves and a product of Chicago’s historically black South Side. She burns hot where he banks cool, and that too can make her an inviting proxy for attack.

Fox News called her “Obama’s baby mama,” a derogatory term for an unwed mother. Christopher Hitchens, a Slate columnist, claimed — with scant evidence — that her college thesis proved she was once influenced by black separatism. National Review presented her as a scowling “Mrs. Grievance.”

The caricatures of Mrs. Obama as the Angry Black Woman confound her, friends say. Her own family crosses racial boundaries — her mother-in-law and a sister-in-law are white — and she has spent much of her adult life trying to address racial resentment.

In her freshman year at Princeton, a white roommate’s mother agitated for her daughter to swap rooms. Mrs. Obama was among a handful of blacks at a prestigious Chicago law firm. As a hospital executive, she navigated the often tense line between a predominantly white-run institution and a suspicious black community.

But the 44-year-old woman known even to friends as The Taskmaster sometimes speaks with a passion unusual for a potential first lady. She tells voters that “Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual — uninvolved, uninformed.”

She says she intends to evoke a John F. Kennedy-like idealism and highlight her own journey, but in her commanding cadences, some people — and not just conservatives — hear a lecture.

Before her husband announced his candidacy, Mrs. Obama confided in friends: Barack and I will cut an unfamiliar figure to most of America.

“It’s such uncharted waters,” said Verna Williams, a Harvard classmate and friend. “In a sound-bite era, where you have to come with a quick and dirty take, she doesn’t fit what it means to be an African-American woman.”

Early Questions on Race

Michelle Robinson grew up in the black half of a divided Chicago. She and her brother, Craig, lived with their parents on the second floor of a bungalow. “Two bedrooms, if you want to be generous,” she says.

Her father, Frasier Robinson, was a pump operator for Chicago’s water department and a precinct captain in the Democratic machine. Her mother, Marian, brought workbooks home to keep her children ahead of their classes. The working-class neighborhood was filled with uncles and grandparents, block associations and oak trees. “We knew the gang-bangers — my brother played basketball in the park,” Mrs. Obama says. “Home never feels dangerous.”

In 1981, she left for Princeton, an overwhelmingly white institution that cherished its genteel traditions. She was one of 94 black freshmen in a class of over 1,100. Catherine Donnelly, a white student from New Orleans, was a roommate. Her mother spent months pleading with Princeton officials to give her daughter a white roommate instead. “Mom just blew a gasket when I described Michelle,” Ms. Donnelly recalled. “It was my secret shame.”

Mrs. Obama shrugs now. Some classmates resented blacks; some resented affirmative action. “Diversity can’t be taken care of with 10 kids,” she says. “There is an isolation that comes with that.”

Her brother, two years older, was a star basketball player at Princeton, but he felt similarly. “If you’re young and black and from the South Side, there are always going to be people who feel you should not be there,” Craig Robinson said. “You build up a thick skin.”

Black and white students rarely socialized. When Crystal Nix Hines became the first black editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, some black students wondered why she wanted to run a “white” newspaper. Mrs. Obama, however, was thrilled that a historic barrier had fallen.

That did not stop her, however, from confronting Ms. Hines, a friend, over an article that contained what Mrs. Obama took to be inappropriate characterizations of a black politician. “ ‘You need to make sure that a story like that doesn’t run again,’ ” Ms. Hines recalls her friend saying with utter calm.

Sociology became her lens to examine her anxieties about race. Mrs. Obama spent hours in the office of Professor Marvin Bressler. “She was troubled by the questions that troubled every student in that situation,” he said. “They all walk around saying, ‘Who am I?’ ”

In her senior thesis, she asked: Does immersion in an elite white institution draw blacks away from their community? She surveyed black Princeton alumni, finding their ties weakened after graduation.

“The path I have chosen to follow by attending Princeton,” Mrs. Obama wrote in the introduction, “will likely lead to my further integration and/or assimilation into a white cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society, never becoming a full participant.”

Mitchell Duneier, a sociology professor at Princeton who reviews undergraduate theses, noted that Mrs. Obama rejected some of her own theories. “Her senior thesis is being misread as if it is a polemical essay about her alienation,” Professor Duneier said.

Epiphany Leads to Home

Michelle Obama recalls gazing out the window of her plush 47th-floor office in downtown Chicago and realizing that she could barely see, literally or metaphorically, her beloved South Side.

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1988, Mrs. Obama took a job at what is now Sidley Austin, a corporate law firm. She had a handsome salary and the prospect of better to come.

Then a close friend from college died. So did her father, who had long suffered from multiple sclerosis; Michelle so adored him that she would curl up in his lap even as an adult.

“I looked out at my neighborhood and sort of had an epiphany that I had to bring my skills to bear in the place that made me,” she says in the interview. “I wanted to have a career motivated by passion and not just money.”

Eventually, she started the Chicago chapter of a training program called Public Allies. One day, looking for young leaders, she might knock on doors at Cabrini-Green, a public housing project so violent and neglected it would later be mostly demolished. Another day, she discovered Jose A. Rico, a young Mexican so alienated that he insisted on remaining an illegal immigrant rather than pursue citizenship. What is your goal? he recalled her asking.

To open a high school for Latinos, he replied. Mrs. Obama nodded: Good, tell me exactly how you would do it.

“Michelle was tough, man; she let nothing slide,” said Mr. Rico, now principal of Multicultural Arts High School in Chicago, which he helped start.

She preached the gospel of the second and third chance, insisting that the white youth from Swarthmore work alongside the former gang member.

Every Friday, the young people would sprawl around Mrs. Obama’s office, swapping frustrations. When a white college student complained that Mr. Rico took forever to write a simple memorandum, Mr. Rico recalls responding, Who are you to speak, when you babble in pidgin Spanish and act arrogant?

Blacks accused whites of being clueless. Whites said blacks masked insecurity with anger. Mrs. Obama probed carefully, sometimes dialing up the heat before turning it down.

“I hate diversity workshops,” she says. “Real change comes from having enough comfort to be really honest and say something very uncomfortable.”

Mr. Rico is intrigued to see her on television now. “Her style is still to say: ‘Hey! I’m going to tell you where I stand, and you figure out where you stand,’ ” he said.

By 2001, Mrs. Obama, married for nine years and the mother of two daughters, had taken a job as vice president of community affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She soon discovered just how acrimonious those affairs were.

Hospital brass had gathered to break ground for a children’s wing when African-American protesters broke in with bullhorns, drowning out the proceedings with demands that the hospital award more contracts to minority firms.

The executives froze. Mrs. Obama strolled over and offered to meet later, if only the protestors would pipe down. She revised the contracting system, sending so much business to firms owned by women and other minorities that the hospital won awards.

In the mostly black neighborhoods around the hospital, Mrs. Obama became the voice of a historically white institution. Behind closed doors, she tried to assuage their frustrations about a place that could seem forbidding.

Like many urban hospitals, the medical center’s emergency room becomes clogged with people who need primary care. So Mrs. Obama trained counselors, mostly local blacks, to hand out referrals to health clinics lest black patients felt they were being shooed away.

She also altered the hospital’s research agenda. When the human papillomavirus vaccine, which can prevent cervical cancer, became available, researchers proposed approaching local school principals about enlisting black teenage girls as research subjects.

Mrs. Obama stopped that. The prospect of white doctors performing a trial with black teenage girls summoned the specter of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment of the mid-20th century, when white doctors let hundreds of black men go untreated to study the disease.

“She’ll talk about the elephant in the room,” said Susan Sher, her boss at the hospital, where Mrs. Obama is on leave from her more-than-$300,000-a-year job.

New Role, New Script

Rather than pulling Mrs. Obama behind a curtain, her husband’s campaign is pushing her farther out on stage. She remains a charismatic presence, and when she gives her husband a fist dap or talks of him as a father, she is telling voters, this is a regular guy. This South Side woman anchors him in her reality.

In coming weeks, Mrs. Obama will visit the spouses of military personnel and talk of the patriotic duty to provide these families with care and services. And the campaign has hired Stephanie Cutter, a veteran strategist, as her chief of staff, who will seek to deflect attacks.

Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, a close ally of the Obama campaign, says Mrs. Obama must stop sounding like a lawyer trying to win an argument. The trick, she said, is “not pushing so hard to persuade people that Barack is the right one.”

“All she has to do is be likable,” Mrs. McCaskill said.

Mrs. Obama has already had to check her brutally honest approach to talking about race. Now she co-stars in a campaign that would as soon mute most discussion of race.

As her plane descends into a northern Montana valley, she sounds like a woman who wishes she could sit voters down for a long talk. “You know, if someone sat in a room with me for five minutes after hearing these rumors, they’d go ‘huh?’ ” she says. “They’d realize it doesn’t make sense.”

She extends her long arms, her voice plaintive. “I will walk anyone through my life,” she says. “Come on, let’s go.”

terça-feira, 17 de junho de 2008

For Blacks in France, Obama's Rise Is Reason to Rejoice, and to Hope

June 17, 2008

NY Times Permalink

A new black consciousness is emerging in France, lately hastened by, of all things, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

PARIS — When Youssoupha, a black rapper here, was asked the other day what was on his mind, a grin spread across his face. “Barack Obama,” he said. “Obama tells us everything is possible.”

A new black consciousness is emerging in France, lately hastened by, of all things, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States. An article in Le Monde a few days ago described how Mr. Obama is “stirring up high hopes” among blacks here. Even seeing the word “noir” (“black”) in a French newspaper was an occasion for surprise until recently.

Meanwhile, this past weekend, 60 cars were burned and some 50 young people scuffled with police and firemen, injuring several of them, in a poor minority suburb of Vitry-le-François, in the Marne region of northeast France.

Americans, who have debated race relations since the dawn of the Republic, may find it hard to grasp the degree to which race, like religion, remains a taboo topic in France. While Mr. Obama talks about running a campaign transcending race, an increasing number of French blacks are pushing for, in effect, the reverse.

Having always thought it was more racially enlightened than strife-torn America, France finds itself facing the prospect that it has actually fallen behind on that score. Incidents like the ones over the weekend bring to mind the rioting that exploded across France three years ago. Since it abolished slavery 160 years ago, the country has officially declared itself to be colorblind — but seeing Mr. Obama, a new generation of French blacks is arguing that it’s high time here for precisely the sort of frank discussions that in America have preceded the nomination of a major black candidate.

This black consciousness is reflected not just in daily conversation, but also in a dawning culture of books and music by young French blacks like Youssoupha, a cheerful, toothy 28-year-old, who was sent here from Congo by his parents to get an education at 10, raised by an aunt who worked in a school cafeteria in a poor suburb, and told by guidance counselors that he shouldn’t be too ambitious. Instead, he earned a master’s degree from the Sorbonne.

Then, like many well-educated blacks in this country, he hit a brick wall. “I found myself working in fast-food places with people who had the equivalent of a 15-year-old’s level of education,” he recalled.

So he turned to rap, out of frustration as much as anything, finding inspiration in “négritude,” an ideology of black pride conceived in Paris during the 1920s and 30s by Aimé Césaire, the French poet and politician from Martinique, and Léopold Sédar Senghor, the poet who became Senegal’s first president. Its philosophy, as Sartre once put it, was a kind of “antiracist racism,” a celebration of shared black heritage.

Négritude and Césaire are back. When Césaire died in April, at 94, his funeral in Fort-de-France, Martinique, was broadcast live on French television. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his rival Ségolène Royal both attended. Just three years ago, Mr. Sarkozy, as head of a center-right party and not yet president, supported a law (repealed after much protest) that compelled French schools to teach the “positive” aspects of colonialism. The next year, Césaire refused to meet with him. Now here was Mr. Sarkozy flying to the former French colony (today one of the country’s overseas departments, meaning he could troll for votes) to pay tribute to the poet laureate of négritude.

That said, as a country France definitely sends out mixed messages. “Négritude is a concept they just don’t want to hear about,” Youssoupha raps in “Render Unto Césaire” on his latest album, “À Chaque Frère” (“To Each Brother”). A regular short feature on French public television, “Citoyens Visibles,” hosted by a young actress, Hafsia Herzi, celebrates French artists with foreign origins.

At the same time, it’s against the rules for the government to conduct official surveys according to race. Consequently, nobody even knows for certain how many black citizens there are. Estimates vary between 3 million and 5 million out of a population of more than 61 million.

“Can you imagine if French officials said, ‘Well, we’re not sure, the population of France may be 65 million, or maybe it’s 30 million’?” declared a somewhat exasperated Patrick Lozès, founder of Cran, a black organization devised not long ago partly to gather statistics the government won’t.

When he sat down to talk the other morning, the first two words out of his mouth were Barack Obama. “The idea behind not categorizing people by race is obviously good; we want to believe in the republican ideal,” he said. “But in reality we’re blind in France, not colorblind but information blind, and just saying people are equal doesn’t make them equal.”

He ticked off some obvious numbers: one black member representing continental France in the National Assembly among 555 members; no continental French senators out of some 300; only a handful of mayors out of some 36,000, and none from the poor Paris suburbs.

To this may be added Cran’s findings that the percentage of blacks in France who hold university degrees is 55, compared with 37 percent for the general population. But the number of blacks who get stuck in the working class is 45 percent, compared with 34 percent for the national average.

“There’s total hypocrisy here,” Léonora Miano said. She’s a black author, 37, originally from Cameroon, whose recent novel “Tels des Astres Éteints” (“Like Extinguished Stars”) is about race relations as seen through the eyes of three black immigrants.

“For me it was really strange when I arrived 17 years ago to find people here never used the word race,” Ms. Miano said over coffee one afternoon at Café Beaubourg. Outside, African immigrants hawked sunglasses to tourists. “French universalism, the whole French republican ideal, proposes that if you embrace French values, the French language, French culture, then race doesn’t exist and it won’t matter if you’re black. But of course it does. So we need to have a conversation, and slowly it is coming: not a conversation about guilt or history, but about now.”

“The Black Condition: An Essay on a French Minority” by Pap N’Diaye, a 42-year-old historian at the School for Advanced Study of the Social Sciences, is another much-talked-about new book here. “We are witnessing a renaissance of the négritude movement,” Mr. N’Diaye declared the other day.

The surge in popularity of Mr. Obama among French blacks partly stems from the hope that his rise “will highlight our lack of diversity and put pressure on French politicians who say they favor him to open politics up more to minorities,” Mr. N’Diaye said. “We in France are, in terms of race, where we were in terms of gender 40 years ago.”

He laid out some history: French decolonization during the 1960s pretty much pushed the original négritude movement to the back burner, at the same time that it inspired a wave of immigrants from the Caribbean to come here and fill low-ranking civil service jobs. From sub-Saharan Africa, another wave of laborers gravitated to private industry. The two populations didn’t communicate much.

But their children, raised here, have grown up together. “Mutually discovered discrimination,” as Mr. N’Diaye put it, has forged a bond out of which négritude is being revived.

The watershed event was the rioting in poor French suburbs three years ago. Among its cultural consequences: Aimé Césaire “started to be rediscovered by young people who found in his work things germane to the current situation,” Mr. N’Diaye said.

Youssoupha is one of those people. He was nursing a Coke recently at Top Kafé, a Lubavitch Tex-Mex restaurant in Créteil, just outside Paris, where he lives. Nearby, two waiters in yarmulkes sat watching Rafael Nadal play tennis on television beneath dusty framed pictures of Las Vegas and Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. A clutch of Arab teenagers smoked outside. In modest neighborhoods like this, France can look remarkably harmonious.

“Césaire is in my lyrics, and I was upset when people misinterpreted what I wrote as anti-white because négritude is the affirmation of our common black roots,” Youssoupha said.

Ms. Miano, the novelist, made a similar point. “There is no such thing as a black ‘community’ in France — yet — partly because we have such different histories,” she said. “An immigrant woman from Mali and another from Cameroon view the world in completely different ways. You also shouldn’t think there isn’t racism among blacks in France, between West Indians and Africans. There is. But ultimately we’re all black in the face of discrimination.”

Then she smiled: “Too bad I forgot to wear my Obama T-shirt.”

segunda-feira, 16 de junho de 2008

Humourous take on the "terrorist fist jab" jibe: "A communist aloha!?"

Jon Stewart is my personal hero. We get the Daily Show's international edition on cable in Brazil - live on CNN (without subtitles) and with a week's delay on the Sony channel (with subtitles and no expletives deleted). And there's always YouTube...

Obama Decries Absentee Fathers in Black Families

Watch video

AP: White House contender Barack Obama Sunday demanded fathers, especially black men, shoulder their responsibility to heal broken families and restore hope in crime-ridden communities.

In a Father's Day speech at a Chicago church, the Democrat also pressed for government action to help struggling parents, through tax breaks, job training and family-friendly employment laws.

The African-American Illinois senator amplified one of his campaign themes in condemning absent fathers who have "abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men."

"You and I know how true this is in the African-American community," Obama said, recapping government statistics showing more than half of all black children live in single-parent households.

Such children are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison, he said.

"And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it," said Obama, who dwelt on his own challenges growing up with a single mother from the age of two after his Kenyan father abandoned them.

Highlighting one of the signature themes of his presidential bid, Obama said the "greatest gift" that fathers can give their children is hope.

"I'm not talking about an idle hope that's little more than blind optimism or willful ignorance of the problems we face," he said.

"I'm talking about hope as that spirit inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better is waiting for us if we're willing to work for it and fight for it. If we are willing to believe."

Obama, who is up against Republican John McCain in November's White House election, hit explicitly political notes in promoting government policies to give families a leg-up and craft a better future for today's children.

Dwelling on the kind of world his two young daughters may inherit, he said: "Are they living in a country where there's a huge gap between a few who are wealthy and a whole bunch of people who are struggling every day?"

"Are they living in a country where we are hated around the world because we don't cooperate effectively with other nations? Are they living in a world that is in grave danger because of what we've done to its climate?"

Obama, spending a rare day with his family off the campaign trail, addressed parishioners in the largely African-American Apostolic Church of God in Chicago's impoverished South Side district.

Two weeks ago, the Democrat quit his congregation of two decades at the nearby Trinity United Church of Christ after incendiary pulpit sermons there had embarrassed his White House campaign.

That insidious bait-and-switch link again

Here it is, purporting to lead to the NY Times and reading "Obama Wins Nomination"
Click on it as many times as you can - they're paying for it! (It still leads to the "Bill Clinton news" page)

domingo, 15 de junho de 2008

Looking back on the Obama vs. Clinton campaign

This commentary on Geraldine Ferraro's unfortunate misstatements about Obama during the campaign is brilliant and well worth remembering - especially as there is still a tendency in Brazil and the US to have a short political memory. In Brazil, where reparations for slavery are just beginning to be introduced, seeing a black man's success viewed as some form of "affirmative action" in the US is alarming and disconcerting (especially as he is the son of a Harvard-educated Kenyan economist and an American anthropologist).
Olbermann is obviously inspired by Edward R. Murrow in more ways than one. "Good night, and good luck."
Read more about it here:

sábado, 14 de junho de 2008

Bandying about the A-word

Hillary hinted at it, a Fox commentator joked about it, and a so-called artist tried to exploit it - to me, it's literally unspeakable. Here in Brazil - especially Bahia - we believe the spoken word has power. So let's touch wood folks, if the A-word should even cross our minds!

If you have a strong stomach, see images from the exhibition here

"Baby Mama" was appalling but "terrorist fist jab" goes beyond the pale

US elections: Fox forced to apologise to Obama for third time in two weeks

Rupert Murdoch's Fox News television station has been forced to apologise to Barack Obama for the third time in a fortnight after screening a racially tinged caption referring to his wife Michelle as his "baby mama".

Bill Shine, senior vice president of programming at Fox, said in a statement on Thursday that a producer "exercised poor judgment" during the segment.

The statement came as Obama established a website to help counter what he referred to as smears and rumours.

One of his first moves was to defend Michelle by debunking a persistent rumour that there is a video showing her speaking from the pulpit of the Trinity church in Chicago in which she allegedly refers to whites as "whitey". He said she had never spoken at Trinity or used such a phrase.

Republicans see her as vulnerable because she is more inclined than Obama to make off-the-cuff remarks. Obama's communications director, Robert Gibbs, rejected this in an interview with MSNBC yesterday, describing her as an "asset to the campaign".

Fox, seen by liberals as a cheerleader for the Republican party, carried an interview this week with the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin about whether Michelle Obama was being unfairly targeted.

During the interview, a caption was flashed up saying: "Outraged liberals: Stop picking on Obama's baby mama." The term is slang for a woman who has a baby with a man who is neither her partner nor boyfriend.

The apology comes just over a week after one of Fox's anchormen expressed regret for a comment on the night that Obama won the Democratic nomination. Obama, in a show of affection, lightly touched his fist against Michelle's and the anchorwoman referred to it as a "terrorist fist jab". Previously, a Fox contributor Liz Trotta had to apologise after making a joke about Obama being assassinated.

The trio of apologies is embarrassing for Fox. Murdoch last month praised Obama but stopped short of endorsing him, though his New York Post came out for Obama in January.

sexta-feira, 13 de junho de 2008

"I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime"

Obama's book royalties

These include editions translated into Portuguese and selling like hotcakes (or water as we say around here) in Brazil, titled "A audácia da esperança" and "A origem dos meus sonhos". Interestingly enough, the second title Obama published in the US was the first to be published in Brazil. I would have thought that his search for his African roots and mixed-race identity would have had much more resonance in this mixed-race, multicultural country.

Three Times a Millionaire: Obama Trounces McCain in Book Royalties
By Fred Lucas Staff Writer
June 13, 2008

( - Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama made $3.2 million from book royalties last year, according to the Illinois senator's financial disclosure report released Friday.

That dwarfed the book royalties of his Republican opponent Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who earned about $175,000 in combined book royalties over the last year.

The reports, which every member of Congress must file under the law, were made available to the public Friday.

An attachment to Obama's form said the Senate Ethics Committee gave him permission in January 2005 to receive a $1.9 million advance from Random House for writing two non-fiction books and one children's book. The report said $200,000 would be donated to charity.

Royalties for the two non-fiction books -"The Audacity of Hope" and "Dreams of My Father" -- are 15 percent of the prices for hardcover sales, 7.5 percent for paperback and 8 percent for the first 150,000 mass market paperback book sales, according to the report.

Royalties for the children's book are 5 percent of the hardcover book sales, 3 percent of the paperback book sales and 10 percent of the amount received by the publisher, according to the financial report.

Last year, Warner Books published McCain's book, "Hard Call", from which McCain earned $91,250. Meanwhile, four other books published in previous years earned McCain a total of $83,705 in 2007. McCain's previous titles, "Faith of My Fathers," "Worth Fighting For," "Why Courage Matters" and "Character and Destiny," were published by Random House.

"'We The People' is beginning to mean all of us"

I like this video because it is the only time I can remember seeing a genuine smile on Rice's face. During a recent visit to Brazil, the Bahian government courted her as part of its effort to boost African-American tourism in this state. The most memorable part of her visit was when a street child managed to get past all her security and ask her for a handout in Italian - he had no idea who she was!
I'm told that, while in Brasilia, she snubbed an African-Brazilian scholar when he addressed her as "sister". Presumably, they hadn't been introduced.

Just for fun: "Obama sighting" in Dulles Airport on April 6, 2008

Running into "Barack Obama"

I was on my way back to Brazil when I "ran into Obama".

Powell tells B.C. crowd he might vote for Obama


June 13, 2008

VANCOUVER -- Colin Powell, the former Republican secretary of state, says he is not ruling out a vote for Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee for president.

While Mr. Powell served in the administrations of two Republican presidents, he suggested yesterday his support for presumed Republican nominee John McCain is not a forgone conclusion.

He noted that although both he and Mr. Obama are black, he would not cast a vote for the Illinois senator on the basis of race. "I will vote for the individual I think that brings the best set of tools to the problems of 21st-century America and the 21st-century world regardless of party, regardless of anything else other than the most qualified candidate," Mr. Powell said at a news conference before delivering a speech to about 800 people attending a leadership forum at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

"Both of them certainly have the qualifications to be the president of the United States, but both of them cannot be," he said.

Mr. Powell has been supportive of Mr. Obama's successes, but was commenting after the senator recently clinched the Democratic nomination.

A 35-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Mr. Powell also noted he would not necessarily support Mr. McCain because of his extensive military service.

Asked whether he thought it was a difficult choice, he said: "I think so. Yes."

quinta-feira, 12 de junho de 2008

Baby's daddy vs. Baby mama

I've read Eats, Shoots and Leaves so I know what a difference a comma or apostrophe can make, but this is almost as "ludikrus" as some people doing the fist bump (they know who they are).

June 12, 2008, 9:31 am
New York Times Opinionator blog
Was it a slur?
By Tobin Harshaw

Tags: Barack Obama, michelle obama

Salon’s Alex Koppelman, tipped off by a reader, reports that on Fox News yesterday, “during a segment discussing conservative attacks against Michelle Obama, the wife of presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama, the network described the former as ‘Obama’s baby mama.’ ” (Koppelman has the video clip of the controversial chyron on his blog.)

For Koppelman’s colleague Joan Walsh, this raises some questions:

“Where do you even start when criticizing Fox’s slur? Do you try to explain that ‘baby mama’ is slang for the unmarried mother of a man’s child, and not his wife, or even a girlfriend? Are they racist, or just clueless? Isn’t there racism even in their cluelessness, if somebody didn’t know what “baby mama” means, but used it anyway? Even at Fox, won’t somebody have to apologize? Am I wasting my time even thinking about that?”

Michelle Malkin, who was the featured guest on the Fox report in question, answers that last query in the affirmative.

I did not write the caption and I was not aware of it when it ran (the Baltimore studio doesn’t have a monitor). I don’t know if the caption writer was making a lame attempt to be hip, clueless about the original etymology of the phrase, or both. But I do know that it was Michelle Obama herself who referred to Barack as her “baby’s daddy” and has used the phrase “baby daddy” to describe Barack while on the stump this year.

Here’s how she introduced him during his Senate victory speech on Nov. 2, 2004:

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: My baby’s daddy Barack Obama. Yeah!

Apples and oranges? The Opinionator reports, you decide …

By the way, Michelle Obama was probably saying "My babies' daddy" - in the plural - since the Obamas have two daughters.

Silly web tricks

I use Gmail, which is paid for by a sponsored link feature, among other ads. Every once in a while, when Hillary was still in the running for the Democratic Party's nomination, I'd see a link that claimed to lead to a NY Times page on Obama's campaign - it always led to a NY Times page on Bill Clinton. Now that Obama has won the nomination, the name of the ad has changed - it still promises information on Obama and still leads to the same page on Bill Clinton. I click on it whenever it appears - after all, whoever is playing this prank is paying per click. ;-)

BBC: Global Obamamania

By Matt Frei
BBC News, Washington

"There is nothing that is wrong with America that can't be fixed by what is right with America."

Women from the Japanese town of Obama show their support for Barack Obama's presidential bid
Barack Obama could improve America's popularity around the world
The words were once uttered by a man who is now busy licking his own and his wife's wounds.

Bill Clinton is not used to failure.

But ironically his words turned out to be prophetic in a way that neither he nor any of us would have imagined.

After an electoral process that makes a round of Harry Potter's favourite game Quidditch look simple, the Democratic Party has eventually chosen a man whose name - some Americans can't help noticing - rhymes with Osama, and whose middle name is Hussein; who was brought up in Hawaii and Indonesia, and whose father was a Kenyan economist.

And all this in the middle of a war against foreign extremists.

If you had tried to sell the Obama story to the fiction editor of a major publishing company they would have laughed at you and ushered you to the door.

Good fiction needs to be plausible, they would have bleated.

Great reality can be as implausible as it wants, America has now replied.

Read the entire article here

TIME on Obama's anti-rumour plan

Though the latest and most poisonous rumors about Michelle were ginned up by a pro-Clinton website, Obama knows that—notwithstanding John McCain's pledge that his own campaign will not engage in smears—more rumors can be expected in a general-election campaign. Trying to kill them with oxygen and openness is a risky approach. But Obama is attempting to find the humor—and the votes—by taking the rumors head-on. Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last week, Obama greeted his largely Jewish audience, which has had doubts about his support for Israel, some fed by anonymous e-mail, by acknowledging, "Before I begin, I want to say that I know some provocative e-mails have been circulating throughout Jewish communities across the country. A few of you may have gotten them. They're filled with tall tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for President. And all I want to say is, Let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty frightening."

Fight the smears

The Obama campaign has set up a page on his website devoted to refuting - in detail - all the smears being churned up about him. I'm doing my bit for this "anti-swiftboating" campaign by spreading the word via this blog. Unfortunately, I can't sign up on because I don't have a US zip code. If you do, please sign up and spread the word yourself! Visit Fight the

It's a shame that the smearmeisters are trying to put Obama on the defensive to get him "off message". It's also a crying shame that someone would have to deny being a Muslim as if it were a crime. It's offensive to peace-loving Muslims everywhere.

Here are some of the smears/truths so far:

Smear: Michelle Obama Says “Whitey” On a Tape

LIE: Rush Limbaugh says a tape exists of Michelle Obama using the word “whitey” from the pulpit of Trinity United

LIE: Blogger Larry Johnson writes “New and dramatic developments. This is a heads up. I'll post the news Monday morning by 0900 hours.”

LIE: Proven GOP sleazemeister Roger Stone says he has “credible that some indelible record exists” of a tape of Michelle Obama using the term “whitey”

LIE: Blogger: “Tape was filmed between June 26th - July 1st 2004 in Chicago, IL at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Conference at Trinity United Church: specifically the Women‚ Event.”

No Such Tape Exists

Smear: Barack Obama is a Muslim

LIE: Barack Obama is a Muslim

LIE: Barack Obama attended a radical madrassa

LIE: Senator Obama was sworn into the US Senate using the Koran

Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian

Spread the Word

Smear: Obama's Books Contain Racially Incendiary Remarks

LIE: A recent email forward allegedly quotes passages from Senator Obama's books related to race and religion. The majority of these are alterations, deliberate manipulations, and in one case, an outright fabrication of Obama's words.

Book Quotes are Truncated and Out of Context

Smear: Barack Obama Won't Say The Pledge of Allegiance/Won't Put His Hand Over His Heart

LIE: Barack Obama won't say the pledge

LIE: Barack Obama won't put his hand over this heart during the pledge of allegiance

View video of Barack leading The Pledge of Allegiance in the United States Senate

quarta-feira, 11 de junho de 2008

Bahian reactions to Obama nomination

On June 8, one of Bahia's main newspapers, Correio da Bahia, featured this headline in its Sunday edition : "What can Obama's election change in Bahia?" - "The first black man running for the White House with a real chance of being elected, Barack Obama's nomination as the Democratic candidate is being celebrated by Bahian intellectuals. According to them, his election would force Bahia and Brazil to rethink the share of power held by blacks"

Indeed, Bahia has the largest population of African descent of any state in Brazil, but the smallest number of elected black officials in the country. In fact, it has never had an elected black governor or mayor (a black man who is now running for Deputy Mayor, Edivaldo Brito, held the office of "bionic mayor" as an appointee during the military dictatorship that ended in 1985). There is a widespread belief that "blacks don't vote for blacks" in Bahia - and then there's the problem of deciding who is black, white or "pardo" (brown) - a category that effectively dilutes and reduces the number of blacks in the population and complicates the definition of whom should benefit from affirmative action.

In the Correio feature, a white anthropologist, Roberto Albergaria, makes a point of saying that Obama is not a product of affirmative action. "He is a product of the American melting pot, the son of a white anthropologist and a black Muslim," he argues. "He didn't come from the ghetto. He was raised by a white family and shows that success has nothing to do with colour."

There are so many points to this statement that I'd like to address and/or refute that it would fill up an entire blog. Suffice it to say (for now) that Albergaria mentions the white mother's educational background and the black father's religious background (erroneously, according to his daughter Auma). I wonder why?

In case you're curious, Barack Obama Sr. was a Harvard-educated economist.

Obama on the Nile

By NY Times Op-Ed Columnist
Published: June 11, 2008
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Democrats’ nomination of Barack Obama as their candidate for president has improved America’s image abroad.


This column will probably get Barack Obama in trouble, but that’s not my problem. I cannot tell a lie: Many Egyptians and other Arab Muslims really like him and hope that he wins the presidency.

I have had a chance to observe several U.S. elections from abroad, but it has been unusually revealing to be in Egypt as Barack Hussein Obama became the Democrats’ nominee for president of the United States.

While Obama, who was raised a Christian, is constantly assuring Americans that he is not a Muslim, Egyptians are amazed, excited and agog that America might elect a black man whose father’s family was of Muslim heritage. They don’t really understand Obama’s family tree, but what they do know is that if America — despite being attacked by Muslim militants on 9/11 — were to elect as its president some guy with the middle name “Hussein,” it would mark a sea change in America-Muslim world relations.

Every interview seems to end with the person I was interviewing asking me: “Now, can I ask you a question? Obama? Do you think they will let him win?” (It’s always “let him win” not just “win.”)

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Democrats’ nomination of Obama as their candidate for president has done more to improve America’s image abroad — an image dented by the Iraq war, President Bush’s invocation of a post-9/11 “crusade,” Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and the xenophobic opposition to Dubai Ports World managing U.S. harbors — than the entire Bush public diplomacy effort for seven years.

Of course, Egyptians still have their grievances with America, and will in the future no matter who is president — and we’ve got a few grievances with them, too. But every once in a while, America does something so radical, so out of the ordinary — something that old, encrusted, traditional societies like those in the Middle East could simply never imagine — that it revives America’s revolutionary “brand” overseas in a way that no diplomat could have designed or planned.

I just had dinner at a Nile-side restaurant with two Egyptian officials and a businessman, and one of them quoted one of his children as asking: “Could something like this ever happen in Egypt?” And the answer from everyone at the table was, of course, “no.” It couldn’t happen anywhere in this region. Could a Copt become president of Egypt? Not a chance. Could a Shiite become the leader of Saudi Arabia? Not in a hundred years. A Bahai president of Iran? In your dreams. Here, the past always buries the future, not the other way around.

These Egyptian officials were particularly excited about Obama’s nomination because it might mean that being labeled a “pro-American” reformer is no longer an insult here, as it has been in recent years. As one U.S. diplomat put it to me: Obama’s demeanor suggests to foreigners that he would not only listen to what they have to say but might even take it into account. They anticipate that a U.S. president who spent part of his life looking at America from the outside in — as John McCain did while a P.O.W. in Vietnam — will be much more attuned to global trends.

My colleague Michael Slackman, The Times’s bureau chief in Cairo, told me about a recent encounter he had with a worker at Cairo’s famed Blue Mosque: “Gamal Abdul Halem was sitting on a green carpet. When he saw we were Americans, he said: ‘Hillary-Obama tied?’ in thick, broken English. He told me that he lived in the Nile Delta, traveling two hours one way everyday to get to work, and still he found time to keep up with the race. He didn’t have anything to say bad about Hillary but felt that Obama would be much better because he is dark-skinned, like him, and because he has Muslim heritage. ‘For me and my family and friends, we want Obama,’ he said. ‘We all like what he is saying.’ ”

Yes, all of this Obama-mania is excessive and will inevitably be punctured should he win the presidency and start making tough calls or big mistakes. For now, though, what it reveals is how much many foreigners, after all the acrimony of the Bush years, still hunger for the “idea of America” — this open, optimistic, and, indeed, revolutionary, place so radically different from their own societies.

In his history of 19th-century America, “What Hath God Wrought,” Daniel Walker Howe quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson as telling a meeting of the Mercantile Library Association in 1844 that “America is the country of the future. It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.”

That’s the America that got swallowed by the war on terrorism. And it’s the America that many people want back. I have no idea whether Obama will win in November. Whether he does or doesn’t, though, the mere fact of his nomination has done something very important. We’ve surprised ourselves and surprised the world and, in so doing, reminded everyone that we are still a country of new beginnings.

terça-feira, 10 de junho de 2008

Response to "African Myths and Obama Mania"

It’s worthwhile reading Dreams from My Father, and not only because it is a very well-written and engrossing book in which Obama tells the long, complex story of his Kenyan family, including how his father was abandoned by his biological mother and raised by Grandma Sarah.

Although it is an admittedly “novelized” autobiography - to maintain its focus - none of the facts mentioned below (his father's bitterness, drinking and wifebeating) are glossed over. But Obama also writes that his father might have achieved greatness if Jomo Kenyatta hadn’t decided to break him simply because he said tribal strife was holding Kenya back (and happened to be a Luo).

So far, there are no myths to be busted - except perhaps for those which the media and his opponents are laboriously and studiously creating.

Seriously, folks, the press has already pored over the book in search of lies and misrepresentations. All they've found have been literary devices. If there were any "smoking guns" they would have been smoked out a long time ago!

Here is the original blog entry to which I am responding:

African Myths and Obama Mania

He is supposed to be Kenya’s great hope. The man who could turn this country around, restoring peace and democracy. A role model for all aspiring politicians. But as Barack Obama’s run for the Democratic nomination heads towards its most crucial phase, there has been barely a mention of his campaign in the Kenyan papers. Well, there’s been a bit… but nothing like the Obama mania that has accompanied his every previous step up the political ladder.

The reason is pretty obvious. Kenyans have a political crisis that is consuming most of their energy for the time being.

But that wasn’t enough to stop dozens of reporters and photographers from the international media trooping up to the Obama family farmstead a couple of weeks ago for Super Tuesday. In fact things there became so busy that Said Obama had to start taking bookings so that Granny Obama didn’t become exhausted.

Mama SarahWith her neat turn of phrase and broad smile, the 86-year-old has become something of a media darling. Just one problem. Sarah Hussein Obama is not Barack Obama’s grandmother. Step-grandmother or half-granny or adoptive gran, yes. But she’s not actually a blood relation. But why let that get in the way of a good story?

It’s just one of a number of myths that have grown up around Obama’s roots (and I use “grown up” slightly euphemistically). He’s not the son of a goatherd. He’s the son of a Harvard-educated economist who rose to prominence after independence, but ended up drunk, penniless and bitter. Friends saw Barack Obama Sr beat his third wife and warned him not to drive while drunk. It was a car accident that killed him.

Does any of this matter? Well, it would be nice if presidential candidates chose not to gloss over awkward personal histories. If Obama’s book, Dreams from my Father, is supposed to be about how the shadow of his absent father shaped a large part of his life then it would have been nice to have had the truth. But then again, how many people write memoirs without judicious use of selective memory?

So I guess my beef is as much with journalists who seem to think that African stories don’t merit the same sort of attention to detail as stories elsewhere. So she’s not his real grandmother. And Obama Sr was a goatherd only when he was a kid - much as you and I were paperboys or whatever. Well, it’s Africa. No-one will ever know, seems to be the refrain. And I just wonder whether Barack Obama isn’t guilty of the same thing.

See my response/refutation at the beginning of this entry

Obama is Talisman for Africa

The Nation (Nairobi)

8 June 2008
Posted to the web 9 June 2008


Kenyans are celebrating Senator Barack Obama's success in the US Democratic Party nomination, not because they expect goodies from him if he becomes the most powerful leader in the world; they know there won't be any.

At one level they are doing so because of a sense of kinship. His father was Kenyan, after all. But the bigger reason is that he is a role model for almost a billion black people in the world today who are used to coming last in everything important. The black race is the poorest, least powerful, most unhealthy, least hopeful of them all.

One of the least acknowledged facts of life is that being black is not the easiest thing in the world. A black person carried the legacy of slavery, colonialism and, increasingly, the failure of Africa to quickly pull itself out of the mire of poverty, war, hunger, disease and ignorance.

Even promising countries such as South Africa and our own have had their moments of madness.In their secret hearts, Africans see in Sen Obama's victory a confirmation that a black person can be anything he or she wants to be if they work hard enough and are smart and lucky enough.

In diplomacy they talk about the "ripe moment," when all factors arrange themselves to suit a deal. Sometimes all it takes to arrange those factors into a ripe moment for the beginning of a brighter future is optimism and faith. And that is what Sen Obama has done for Africans.

It's already starting...

The insistence on using Obama's middle name, Hussein, is always a clue as to the real aims of people who distribute images like this - here they've managed to cast him as the "other" twice over - an "African savage" and a "Muslim" (the equivalent of "terrorist" in redneck-speak) with the same name as the late Iraqi dictator (though also, as many forget, a major US ally, the late King Hussein of Jordan - a devout Muslim whose last wife was American).