You’ll want to spread this one around. Nice to see black folk getting in on the political satire.

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Liza Sabater of Culture Kitchen and other blogs is an established, talented and energetic black Puerto Rican blogger based in NYC. When she writes. I listen (or “read” you know what I mean). She has posted about a “blograiser” for New York State Senate candidate Craig Johnson.

The issues:

even though New York has had its fair share of Democratic governors, its state government has been in the clutches of the Republicans for 150 years

And, related to my recent post about Gov. Spitzer’s mild but welcome prison reform, there is this audacious corruption which Johnson and Spitzer plan to combat:

It is outrageous that NYC, the single largest demographic in the state, does not have proportional representation in Albany. This is because for years Republicans have been able to pass legislation that favors their districts.

Only in New York would you have majority white and Republican districts inflate their demographics by counting their prison population

Yes rural and suburban white legislators count their non-voting, black and brown prisoners as citizen-constituents. They use their inflated districts to represent their own interests which are certainly at odds with the prisoners and their city-based families downstate.

If you live in or near NYC, please attend the blograiser tonight. Major political and NY bloggers and politicians will be there in person. Great fun. Great networking. Great cause.

Raising New York with Eliot Spitzer
Feb 1 2007 – 6pm
Prey NYC
4 West 22nd Street

If you live farther away, Culture Kitchen will be hosting a liveblog of the event. Join and engage in the conversation. Register your support with funds and with comments.

You can also participate with neighboring blogs like The Albany Project, The Daily Gotham, or On NY Turf.

I was just sent a link to this listing of Black History Month television programming. You click on a date, and it will tell you what’s coming up. Gear up your Tivo’s and knockoff versions of the same. Maybe Michael Richards and Isaiah Washington can co-host “The N-Word F-word Showcase!”

Jill just tossed up an excellent racial rap sheet on Joe Biden. My own reasons for distrust stem from his support of the 2005 bankruptcy legislation. CommonDreams provided an excellent breakdown of turncoat Dems.

Biden supports a bill in Congress that would make it harder for people to declare bankruptcy. This is one of those abysmal pieces of legislation that exists only because businesses with a vested interest in it have lobbied hard for its passage and that would have no chance of success if more than a tiny fraction of the public were aware of its existence.

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Someone just asked me, “Hey Jill, do you think Joe Biden is DOA.” My answer to that is: of course and that was before his racist coded comments about his competitor Barack Obama. In case you hadn’t heard, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware recently launched another ridiculous vanity presidential campaign with this comment about frontrunner Obama:

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook,man.”

African-American Political Pundit says back:

“I mean, Joe Biden’s comments were storybook old school ‘read between the lines’ bigotry, man.”

Spencer Overton at BlackProf says:

First, the comment seems to put down past African-American presidential candidates like Shirley Chisolm, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Carol Moseley Braun.

Second, the use of the word “articulate” hits a special nerve. African Americans often feel as though many Whites use the word “articulate” as acceptable code for “he/she doesn’t sound ‘Black…”

La Shawn Barber sadly isn’t so sure but if you read comments to her whimpering post and the comments at the BlackProf, you will get a solid picture of what the average black middle class person(read: critical Democratic voters) think about Biden’s comments.

Predictably, Jackass Joe’s just digging himself deeper in the pile of manure with attempts at ahem, clarification like:

About his use of the word “clean” to describe Obama, Biden explained by saying, “My mother has an expression: clean as a whistle, sharp as tack. That’s the context.”

Before I remind everyone about Biden’s recent history of racism and assert why Democrats need to make an example of Biden, please allow me to decode this statement — also by Biden:

“So I called Barack,” he added, “and he said ‘Joe you don’t have to explain anything to me.’”

I have to give it to my man Barack on this because at least to African-Americans, Obama just fought back Biden’s code with a little code of his own — and let Biden carry the message to us for him. Clever. See, Biden doesn’t have to explain anything to Obama because Obama (and the rest of black folk) already knew he was racist. This just further confirmed our conclusions. There’s nothing to explain.

To those white people who don’t get it, let me break it down for you. The only people described as “articulate” regularly in American society are precocious children and Negroes. People — “well-meaning” white people over 55 usually — will actually say this in the faces of children and African-Americans of all ages as if it’s a compliment. When said to black people, we know what it means. It means “you don’t sound black.” Whatever it is that “black” is supposed to sound like. It’s a back-handed compliment meant to degrade passively/aggressively. It’s meant to diminish our uppity ambitious behinds, our accomplishments and poise, and put us right back in our place. Biden’s use of the childhood phrase “clean as a whistle, sharp as tack” only cements the latent racist connection apparent in his mind — and in mine.

It’s happened to me. And when someone apologizes in the working world context to me for something they’ve said that’s ahem, unfortunate and ethnically offensive, I look that well-meaning white man or woman right in the eye and say “You don’t have to explain anything to me. I understand exactly what you were trying to say.” Then I smile and walk away with a clenched jaw and a mental note: “Undercover Racist.” What I’d like to say is: “I understand that you are unable to articulate appropriately how my presence as an equal in your world makes you uncomfortable.”

The problem for the Democratic Party is that Biden’s racism is no longer so undercover. It’s making manifest more and more. And doing damage. There was this last July from Biden:

In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”

Ha ha.

Then in December 2006, there was this sad attempt to woo Southern conservatives:

Delaware, [Biden] noted, was a “slave state that fought beside the North. That’s only because we couldn’t figure out how to get to the South. There were a couple of states in the way.”

Democrats must prove to minorities that they are different from the Republicans. They have to distance themselves from guys like Biden if they hope to retain and build the strong minority turnout that tips the red-blue balance in their favor.

Without leading Democrats like say, Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, coming out and condemning Biden’s repeated comments, it sends a message to African-Americans, Indian-Americans — all Americans — that Joe Biden’s viewpoint is as valued and protected by the Democrats as that of Trent Lott and George Allen by the Republicans. Unless Democrats want Biden to continue his Macaca moments and drive away voters, unless they don’t want to be the party of the future instead of the party longing for the past, Biden must be punished in a public way for me to see that the Democratic party is interested in keeping my loyalty for the long term.

We are.

A few years ago, I signed up for emails from Black Box Voting. Without authentic elections, what’s the point of any democratic action? The paper trail-less, non source code-inspectable “black box” machines scared the hidden ballots out of me.

Yesterday, I got an email from them. Here are some worthy excerpts to get us all thinking:

(Warning: You might really hate this story.) This story represents months of original research by Black Box Voting. We went into this looking for the defense industry contractors we’d heard had lobbied for the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). That legislation has been blamed for the touch-screens (DREs) that showed up all over America. Well, that’s not what we found. The real story on who was behind HAVA may come as a surprise to you. It was to us..

I forgot that the voting machinery was promoted after the 2000 election by the HAVA. What I remember is Diebold’s “promise” to deliver results for Bush. BBV goes further:

Many of the HAVA reformers believed that with DREs, people with less education would be more likely to fill out the whole ballot. In fact, they reasoned, the DRE machines would be easier to use for educationally disadvantaged populations, minorities, non-English-speaking voters, and the disabled.

As their report found, most of these claims were unsubstantiated or contradicted by real-world results. Black folk, for example, don’t actually seem to trust the machines. This is a painful irony considering who promoted the machines in the first place:

While many election reform activists are under the impression that touch-screen (DRE) voting machines were some sort of Republican plot to take over America, the truth is that lobbying for the DRE-seeking “Help America Vote Act” came primarily from the foundation of the Democratic Party itself.

Activists throughout America have expressed surprise at the Democratic Party’s unwillingness to pull DREs off the shelf. One reason is simply this: To do so would damage the credibility of those who lobbied for HAVA.

This is a painful, painful indictment. We won’t demand change, because it would be embarrassing and call into question our previous actions. Hmm, where have I seen this movie before?

This is a novel approach notable for its daring. You had to figure that the new power and unity of the Congressional Black Caucus with one member as a presidential candidate and a few others as committee chairs has to be scary. This is a direct, racist attack that I am willing to bet that more wingnuts will be pushing as the CBC begins to assert their growing power.


“It is utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a colorblind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based solely on race,” said the Colorado Republican, who is most widely known as a vocal critic of illegal immigration.

Any black person will tell you — this society ain’t color-blind just yet. I hope the CBC members led by Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (a good progressive) will get aggressive out there with the message that the CBC is too black and too strong to get snowed under by a wannabe like Tancredo. The type of misdirected energy in defense of smooth criminal Dollar Bill Jefferson — getting all up in Nancy Pelosi’s face about his congressional privileges — needs to be re-focused on fending off GOP playahate.

As for whites and non-blacks wanting to join the Congressional Black Caucus, I agree with the BlackProf — how can we demand inclusion when we practice exclusion? Why give our enemies ammunition in the public space? Whites on the left need blacks. But you know what — we need their support too. The CBC ultimately will need to find a way to open the door to folks who can help move the agenda forward for African-Americans. The Republican version of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has twice as many “associate” non-Hispanic members than they do actual Hispanics. How powerful would it look to dwarf that with a strong associate membership of folks who say that, despite not being black, that they want to stand with African-Americans for a country that serves all its people equally?

I’m just sayin’…

So amazingly, there was no mention in George Bush’s speech about the largest humanitarian disaster the United States has ever seen. None of the dusky heroes waving from the gallery were Katrina-related, although Dikembe and Wesley’s stories are admirable. There were no updates on assistance. No commitments to re-build the region. Just nothing.

Maybe if we ignore the Gulf region, they’ll go away and stop asking for help. Maybe people will stop caring. I don’t think that’s true though. Both Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D) and Susan Collins (R) — powerful Congressional women — has looks of pure, barely disguised hatred/disgust smoking from their faces during the speech.

I think politicians who think that the American people have forgotten about Katrina are deluding themselves. The people of Houston and New Orleans certainly haven’t forgotten. The compassion and commitment to support those impacted by Katrina, both inside and outside the black community is there. But the leadership, save for John Edwards and his announcement from the region, is not. Why is that?

Harold Ford Jr. and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Jackson will be speaking today at the National Democratic Mayor’s Convention in Northwest DC. As Jill mentioned a little while back, it’s worth keepin an eye on this brotha. If anyone gets word of how the meeting goes down, do tell.

On a side note, can anyone actually see this blog on the web? I can’t get it to come up in Safari or Firefox on the Mac or IE or Firefox on the PC. My newsreader stops the feed at Jan 12. Do tell.

Three stories caught my attention today, and they’re all about racial politics in the South.

First up, white Republicans in Atlanta are still bitter about what they call a race-baiting ad (NY Times) from the recent mid-term elections.

In the advertisement, Atlanta’s three most prominent black leaders, Mayor Shirley Franklin, Representative John Lewis and Andrew Young, the politician and civil rights leader, evoked the police dogs and water hoses of the civil rights movement to urge voters not to support a Republican candidate for the Fulton County Commission. Though the candidate was not named in the advertisement, the three leaders, who are all Democrats, warned that right-wing Republicans would “turn back the clock” on equality and undo the efforts of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others.

“Your very life,” Mr. Lewis said in the advertisement’s conclusion, “may depend on it.”

“Outrage” over this ad has spilled into the second story that caught mine eye: an effort by the upper third of Fulton County to separate from its lower two-thirds (AP). The upper part is mostly white and affluent. The other part is black and a whole lot poorer. The issue over the advertisement has fueled the move by many whites to separate.

It’s more than ironic that Republicans are complaining that a campaign ad “crosses the line.” This is the party of Willie Horton we’re talking about. The party of Condi “those who don’t support the war in Iraq would have supported slavery (WaPo)” Rice. The party of fear.

All of this brings me to story number three. Someone fired two shots (NY Times Select) into the home of Greenwood, Louisiana’s black mayor, Ernest Lampkins. In this case, his very life actually was at risk.

First of all, apologies for sleepin on the blog, yall. I’ll be steppin up with Jill’s announced vacation, and I’m back with this story which slipped through the radar for me, but I think it’s worth a deeper look.

Costs of Inmates’ Calls Cut

In what some are calling the first tax cut of the Spitzer administration, New York is slashing the cost of phone calls between prison inmates and their families, friends, and lawyers by more than half.

Governor Spitzer said yesterday that starting April 1, the state will no longer collect a share of the gross revenue generated by the state prison collect call service operated by Verizon Communications

This is very good news.

According to the article, a 20 minute call currently costs $6.20. That will drop to about $3: from 31 cents per minute to 15. Wow. It should be mentioned that some money from the excessive fees went to fund prisoner programs, but Gov. Spitzer has vowed to match that money from other areas of the prison budget.

The prison industrial complex has been in high gear over the past several decades with massive construction activity, the damaging impact of mandatory sentencing and the transfer of this public service into a privately-run, corporate product. Also know that the incarceration rate for black men is over 4,900 per 100,000 (nearly 3x that of Hispanics and 7x that of Whites).

Prisoners are considered disposable people. Remember during Hurricane Katrina that several hundred prisoners were abandoned in their locked cells, left to rot in feces-infested flood waters, left to die by the police.

It’s common to say that no politician ever got elected by standing up for the poor, but that statement has to be extra true for prisoners and their families. In an age of “tough on crime” rhetoric and the creation of “victims rights” initiatives, we often forget that prison is no walk in the park, and we refuse to remember that many in prison simply do not belong there.

I applaud that Gov. Spitzer made reform of this exploitative system one of his first moves in office and look forward to a point where our whole society re-evaluates the role of the prison in modern America.

I’m taking a little vacation for the next couple of weeks so expect posts to slow down a bit. I will be back soon!

Thanks and peace out.


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I don’t actually have a lot of stats to back this assertion up. Only observations, anecdotes. Still, I think any assumption that African-Americans will vote for one candidate or another during the Democratic primaries is faulty. Optimistic and naive at best.

All the middle class black folks to whom I’ve spoken — those most likely to vote — seem dubious and underwhelmed by Barack Obama’s candidacy, Oprah’s support notwithstanding. This goes for liberals and conservatives. The remarks are surprisingly similar across the generations and the political spectrum among African-Americans. Honestly, there is way more excitement about the fact that 2 black coaches will face each other in the Super Bowl. People were saying today – that’s real black history.

What’s up with that? For one thing, he is not exactly one of us. His father was from Africa. He has no legacy of slavery in his past, only the taint of association by skin color. No segregation. No violence. No American-style apartheid.

Also, garden-variety black folks are suspicious of Obama’s popularity. Whose side is he really on, anyway? Unlike Hillary Clinton or John Edwards or even Blii Richardson, Obama is still someone black people want to get to know better.

White folks seem to expect more excitement. After all, here we have a candidate of color who has a legitimate shot at the White House. Black people deep down don’t think that white people are really going to vote for him. Actually pull the lever. There’s the lesson of Harold Ford Jr. In that poll booth, idealism can fall away.

According to a recent Newsweek poll:

If the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008 comes down to a choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, 50 of those polled say they would most like to see Hillary Clinton nominated; 32 percent say they would like to see Barack Obama nominated.

John Bohrer at Huff Post
is right on — black support is going to be all over the place in the primaries. Our vote is up for grabs.

Candidates — start your church visits and pandering now.

Kos has a point — Bill Richardson don’t get much love from the Democrat Party. He’s probably the best known Democratic Latino political leader today (cept for maybe that truly sinister super-lawyer Alberto Gonzales. And despite the double-barrel slam dunk provided in part by Latino votes swinging blue in the last election, (hmm) immigration wasn’t part of the 100 hour congressional agenda.

The 100 Hour Agenda seems to exclude anything controversial. Savvy, but morally a bit hollow? On the right, Mel Martinez seems to have triumphed over the haters…for now. They’ll be back though. The conservatives specialize in hate and they will use the technique of a thousand paper cuts against that spic-coddler Martinez. (I wonder what “maverick” John McCain has to say about the RNC election? Why hasn’t the press asked about that?) Liberals on the other hand tend to prefer a more paternalistic or blithely ignorant stance toward Latinos, their representatives and their issues. What a way to treat those hoping for support and rational immigration reform.

So folks seem just giddy as all heck about Barack Obama’s almost-but-not-quite an announcement on his presidential aspirations. Seeing all the white folks holding up signs with his name on it and hearing their poignant hopes of deliverance that he seems to engender, well, it got a sister to thinking.

Things are bad here in America. America has started to wake up — and it doesn’t like what it sees in the mirror. Especially with George Bush staring back just over their shoulder.

Barack Obama looks to be as different as can be. Maybe like Morpheus or the Oracle in the Matrix or Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy or Bruce Almighty or even Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act or Ghost, Obama can redeem the soul and character of our nation. Yes, that’s right. Perhaps he’s the biggest Magical Negro we’ve ever created for ourselves in our country’s history.

What’s a “magical negro“, you ask? From the Wikipedia:

When he first encounters the (invariably white) protagonist, the magical negro often appears as someone uneducated and in a low station of life, such as a janitor or prisoner. The black character is depicted as wiser and spiritually deeper than the protagonist, and the magical negro is often used as a plot device to help the protagonist get out of trouble, and to help the white character recognize his own faults and overcome them. As a plot device, the magical negro is similar to the Deus ex machina; a simple way for the protagonist to overcome an obstacle almost entirely through outside help.

Prometheus 6 asks if people (white people, really) are mad enough to vote for a Black guy and send a strong anti-establishment message? Is it possible that Obama’s popularity strikes an even deeper, archetypal chord than we may have imagined?

One thing’s for sure, Obama may be Magical and Safe, but ain’t nothin’ magical about Al Sharpton. ‘Cept possibly his hair.

Who We Are

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

Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats


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