Tag Archives: The Root

I Have A Dream, You Have A Dream, Glenn Beck Has A Dream

Amy Gardner at WaPo:

When Fox News and talk radio host Glenn Beck comes to Washington this weekend to headline a rally intended to “restore honor” to America, he will test the strength – and potentially expose the weaknesses – of a conservative grass-roots movement that remains an unpredictable force in the country’s politics.

Beck, who is both admired and assailed for his faith-based patriotism and his brash criticism of President Obama, plans in part to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. as an American hero. He will speak on the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, from the spot where King delivered it.

Some “tea party” activists say the event, at which former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is also scheduled to speak, will have a greater impact than last September’s “9/12” march along Pennsylvania Avenue. Though the attendance figures for that anti-tax rally are disputed, it was the first national gathering to demonstrate the size and influence of the tea party movement.

But with just a few days before the Beck rally, basic questions linger, including how big it will be and whether the event, which Beck says is nonpolitical, will help or hurt Republicans in November. Also unanswered is whether Beck can pull off the connection to King without creating offense – or confrontation with another event the same day led by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with a round-up

Kate Pickert at Swampland at Time:

Glenn Beck’s 8/28 Restoring Honor Rally has already drawn all sorts of criticism. It’s scheduled to take place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech – which he delivered on the steps of the memorial in 1963. Given that Beck has said President Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people,” some black civil rights feel the rally’s location and scheduling are offensive.

What’s gotten less attention, however, is the group that will financially benefit from the event, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). All proceeds raised through Glenn Beck’s promotion of the event go to SOWF – once costs for the rally itself are covered.

The charity, founded in 1980, provides college scholarships for children of special operations personnel killed in action or in training. SOWF is very well-run, with low administrative costs and a four-star rating from the watchdog group Charity Navigator. Some 160 of its scholarship recipients have graduated from college in the past 30 years and there are more than 100 students in college now.

Joan Walsh at Salon:

Beck claims he didn’t know Aug. 28 was the anniversary of King’s most famous speech when he chose the day, and I’m not sure what’s worse — that he’s lying, or that he’s telling the truth. My gut says he’s full of crap: You don’t schedule an event at the Lincoln Memorial, on the same day of one of the most famous events ever held there, and not know of the coincidence. Besides, Beck has been comparing himself to King, and his acolytes to civil rights strugglers, at least since the Obama administration began. He’s too big a megalomaniac not to know the symbolism of his choice.

But let’s say he’s telling the truth: Can someone who purports to be knowledgeable about our political and social history really not know about the 1963 March on Washington? Was Beck even paying attention when Obama accepted the Democratic nomination in Denver just two years ago, and every news organization in the world noted it happened to be on the 45th anniversary of the King speech — that’s right, Aug. 28. It’s hard to believe.

When the “coincidence” was called to his attention, Beck exhibited his trademark megalomania and paranoia. It was “divine providence,” he said — and besides, he snarled, “black people don’t own Martin Luther King!” It seems a little tone-deaf to talk about “owning” someone when King was fighting to undo the legacy of slavery, when African-Americans were literally owned by white people. A final fun fact: Beck insists he only chose the date because that was the only open Saturday before 9/12, and of course he couldn’t ask people to rally on a Sunday, “the Sabbath.” Of course, Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, but I guess Jews weren’t high on the outreach list for Beck’s big event. But that’s our Beck, who has shown he subscribes to one of the ugliest anti-Semitic canards, that Jews bear the blame for killing Jesus.

Jillian Bandes at Townhall:

We can’t ignore the controversy: Beck is holding the rally at a time and place that is sure to draw scorn from a multitude of people. He’s doing it in the middle of election season, adding additional political weight to his avowed apolitical rally. Beck is a huge talker, and talks a lot about things that no one else does.

But that’s just one side of the coin. There are a multitude of people who believe that Beck is perfectly justified in holding the rally at that time and place, and even consider it an well-executed move. He’s got solid Christian credentials, so even if the rally does leak into politics, he’s built a firm foundation on which to honor our troops and focus on values. And Beck’s talking isn’t just background noise: his audience of over 3 million cable viewers are dedicated to his cause, and eager to spread the word.

Most importantly, lets not loose sight of the forest in the trees. Beck is motivating hundreds of thousands of Americans to get off their couch and get inspired. He’s providing a venue to praise our military and focus on what’s important, and no matter what your view of his political maneuverings, he’s doing a very effective job.

David Swerdlick at The Root

Greg Sargent:

Dems are gleefully noting to reporters that Beck intends to rally the faithful from the Lincoln Memorial — the very spot where King gave his speech 47 years ago. And with turnout estimates running as high as 300,000, Dems say they hope they can wrest some political advantage from what they hope will amount to a massive show of Tea Party force that’s rife with ugly Obama-bashing.

Though there are good reasons to wonder how effective it is, Dems have doubled down on a strategy of relentlessly elevating Tea Party whack-jobbery to turn moderates independents against the GOP. Several Dems cheerfully noted to me this morning that a raucus Tea Party rally staged on the anniversary of one of the turning points in the Civil Rights movement can only help in this regard.

To buttress the case that the rally is bad for the GOP, Dems are circulating a report in this morning’s Post claiming that officials with the Republican party committees are distancing themselves from the rally:

“In general, people coming to Washington, being organized and active is a good thing,” said Doug Heye, a spokesman for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele.

“But I gotta be honest with you — I don’t know about any Glenn Beck event.”

Given the awful job numbers and the nation’s other myriad problems, it’s hard to imagine that using the Beck rally to tar the GOP will do much to alter the Dems’ electoral fortunes. But the sight of Beck trying to coopt the legacy of King while crazed Tea Partyers bash the first African American president in the ugliest of terms may well go down as an iconic moment in the history of this movement.

David Weigel:

Yeah, because bashing the tea party has done them so much good so far. I remember the Democrats begging, begging for Sarah Palin to endorse Scott Brown in the January 2010 U.S. Senate special in Massachusetts, in the apparent hope that she’d pass her crazy cooties on to him. How’d that turn out for Senator Coakley?

Beck isn’t stupid, and he’s trying to cut down on the easy shots from liberals with a rule: No signs.

Digby:

If the Triumph of the Wingnut rally does attract 300,000 people, keep in mind it’s because they believe this:

Media Matters describes it this way:

In a new promo posted on a “Producers’ Blog” at his website, Beck humbly places the rally in the context of the moon landing, the Montgomery bus boycott, Iwo Jima, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and other landmark historical events. It also not-so-subtly suggests that Beck is following in the tradition of Martin Luther King (which is a farce), Abraham Lincoln, most of the Founding Fathers, Martha Washington, the Wright Brothers, and other notable historical figures.

To give you some sense of the egomania on display here, it starts with the line, “Every great achievement in human history has started with one person. One crazy idea.”

And it’s “brought to you by Goldline.”

Greg Sargent says that Democrats are gleeful about the “I Have A Nightmare” gathering because they think these people will expose themselves to America as the kooks they really are and the people will reject them. But what if they don’t? There’s ample historical precedent for kooks to break through into the mainstream and it can lead to some very unpleasant outcomes. Yes, Beck is nuts. But he’s also the most important figure in the Tea Party movement, which in case anyone hasn’t noticed is in the process of taking over one of the two major parties in the most powerful nation in the world. You can deride these people, as I do every day. But it’s a mistake to not take them seriously or underestimate their appeal in times like these.

No one should ever count on the people naturally seeing through demagogues. Their power lies in their ability to be convincing even when it doesn’t make rational sense and the truly talented ones can change the world. It remains to be see if Beck and his fellow travelers have that kind of juice. But I wouldn’t be so sanguine that they don’t.

Anthony G. Martin at The Examiner:

In a demonstration of the overwhelming support of mainstream America for conservative principles, Glenn Beck’s ‘Restoring Honor’ rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. is drawing ‘hundreds of thousands,’ according to McClatchy Newspapers.

Early reports indicate that so large is the crowd that attendees were having difficulty hearing the speakers. A quick scan of mainstream news outlets that have done actual estimates this morning indicates that attendance at this point is between 300,000 and 500,000 people.

And attendees are still arriving at the rally, which began some 90 minutes ago.

Newsbusters is live-streaming the event.

Michelle Malkin reports that as early as 7:30 AM there were already 100,000 peope gathered at the site.

Reporters on the ground, however, state that the claim of 500,000 attendees is grossly underestimated. A more accurate assessment of the crowd may well turn out to be between 500,000 and 1 million.

Speakers at the event represent a broad cross-section of America–civil rights leaders who were present at the Martin Luther King, Jr. rally in 1963, baseball manager Tony LaRusa, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a host of black preachers, and Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.

Update–Glenn Beck is speaking.  Passionate, eloquent, fervent defense of the Founders’ vision of America–faith, liberty, truth.

Update 2–Beck concludes by saying our hope as a nation is in God–a concept that is entirely consistent with the numerous writings of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin.  They may not have agreed on points of doctrine, but  in one accord they looked to God as the author and sustainer of LIBERTY!

Update 3–Country singer JoDean Messina sings ‘America the Beautiful.’

Update 4–More music from Messina and others.

Update 5–This aerial photo indicates the crowd may well number upwards of 1 million!

Updates on the rally will be reported as they become available.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

The state-run media is predictably annoyed with this patriotic rally.

The rally is streaming live at the Restoring Honor homepage and is also playing on C-SPAN.

A crowd shot from C-SPAN


Freedom’s Lighthouse
has lovely Sarah Palin’s speech at the rally.
What an awesome speech!

Meanwhile, Al Sharpton’s counter freedom rally managed to attract only 3,000 supporters.

Doug Mataconis:

After listening to the Beck rally this morning, though, I think the charges of racism were clearly over the top. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a political rally, though. Regardless of whatever Beck might say, the political undertones were rather obvious, and the degree to which it mixed religion and politics should quite honestly be disturbing to anyone who believes in the value of secularism in politics.

I’m not sure what the impact of this rally will be. I’m sure Beck has something more planned, he always seems to, stay tuned.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat in NYT

David Weigel

Douthat on his blog

Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic

Adam Serwer at Greg Sargent’s place

UPDATE #2: Russell D. Moore

Joe Carter at First Things

Daniel Larison

Reihan Salam at Daily Beast

Adam Serwer at The American Prospect

E.D. Kain

UPDATE #3: Nick Gillespie at Reason

James Poulos at Ricochet

John Tabin at The American Spectator

More Larison

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Filed under Mainstream, Political Figures, Politics, Race

Quitting Is All The Rage These Days

Anahad O’Connor at NYT:

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the conservative talk radio commentator under fire for repeatedly using a racial epithet, announced on Tuesday that she was ending her long-running radio show.

Dr. Schlessinger made the announcement on Tuesday night on “Larry King Live,” saying she made a decision not to renew her contract when it expires at the end of the year and suggesting that she did not want her opinions and language, however provocative, to be muzzled.

“I want to regain my First Amendment rights,” she said. “I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I’m sort of done with that.”

But she stressed that she was not retiring, only ending her show, and would continue to write books and appear at speaking engagements.

“I’m not quitting,” she told Larry King. “I feel energized actually — stronger and freer to say the things that I believe need to be said for people in this country.”

Michael Triplett at Mediaite:

King challenged Schlessinger on her contention that her First Amendment rights were really threatened just because people complained, but she fired back that there used to be a time where people who disagreed with you would argue the point, but now they plan boycotts and threaten advertisers and sponsors.

In the interview, Schlessinger singled out Media Matters and its work to get sponsors to drop the show. The progressive watchdog group succeeded in encouraging Motel 6 to quit advertising on the radio show and also lined up Advance Auto Parts, Netflix, and OnStar to distance themselves from Schlessinger’s remarks.

KING: Who is the special interest group?
SCHLESSINGER: Well, like “Media Matters” and some of the other groups that have lined up to decide that I should be silenced because they disagree with my points of view. I never called anybody a bad word. I was trying to bring — and obviously, it has become a national discussion now — I was trying to make a philosophical point and I made it wrong.

Media Matters:

Today, Media Matters for America President Eric Burns issued the following statement in response to Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s announcement that she would be ending her radio show when her contract expires in January due to the controversy surrounding her racially charged rant:

“Dr. Laura’s radio career ended in disgrace tonight because of the bigoted, ugly and hateful remarks made on her show. Americans have had enough.  Listeners are now holding hosts, affiliates, and sponsors accountable for the offensive and inexcusable content on the airwaves.”

Michelle Malkin:

She’s a broadcast and publishing legend. She’s battled political correctness for years. Tonight, the incomparable Dr. Laura announced that she’s ending her daily radio talk show — in order to allow her to speak her mind more freely.

More power to her.

Sheryl Huggins Salomon at The Root:

Uh, last time we checked, people are not violating your First Amendment rights simply by being angry at you or offended by what you say, and expressing that they are offended. They are not even violating your rights when they decide to boycott your advertisers. They are simply exercising their own right to free speech and to choose what they listen to.

(As a side note, did anyone watching Larry King’s show tonight notice how he coined the phrase “non-n person” to describe someone who shouldn’t be saying the n-word because he or she is not … uh … an n-person?)

Steve Benen:

Postscript: Funniest line I’ve seen so far: “Dr. Laura announces retirement to spend more time with the N-Word.”

James Joyner:

Quitting a talk show so you can say what’s on your mind is akin to resigning a governorship to have more impact on public policy.  But, hey, it’s all the rage these days.

Even back in the days when I was listening to conservative talk radio for hours on end, I was never a Schlessinger fan.  She always struck me as bitter, mean, callous, and particularly out of touch with the human condition.   She routinely dispensed advice that was plainly idiotic and hurtful.

It didn’t help that she billed herself as “Dr. Laura” for a show built around personal counseling, even though her doctorate is in physiology instead of psychology, psychiatry, or something else that gave her the slightest bit of expertise in the field.   Then again, real counseling experts don’t offer diagnoses based on three-minute telephone conversations.

John Avalon at Daily Beast:

Sarah Palin’s post-VP nominee career has so far benefitted from bomb-throwing. The process follows a tight script—a crude, semi-calculated comment is shot into the middle of a political debate via Facebook or Twitter. It gains national attention. Liberals are outraged. Conservatives rush to her defense. Sarah Palin dominates a news cycle and becomes more beloved by her base.

But by unnecessarily rushing to the defense of Dr. Laura Schlessinger—after she dropped the N-bomb 11 times and told the caller “don’t marry outside of your race”—Sarah Palin might finally have gone too far and picked a fight she cannot win.

This is the sound of Sarah Palin jumping the shark in two tweets:

• Dr.Laura:don’t retreat … reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence”isn’t American,not fair”)
• Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!

The few black conservative candidates, columnists, and media figures—who represent the GOP’s only hope for reclaiming the legacy of Lincoln and, with it, long-term demographic relevance—are not amused. They’re now saying what many in the GOP increasingly believe: Sarah Palin is not fit to be a serious leader of the Republican Party.

I spoke to Michel Faulkner, the former NFL player and Harlem preacher challenging Charlie Rangel for a House seat, and he was unsparing in his criticism: “Why Sarah Palin feels she needs to join in to Dr. Laura’s personal meltdown is beyond me. She’s sounding like she just likes to hear her own voice—and the voice that she has is no longer credible. It says that a leading voice among conservatives has joined the ranks of the entertainers—trying to shock us each day with more and more outlandish commentary. And at that moment that person is no longer fit to lead.”

“The constitutional stuff she’s saying doesn’t even make any sense,” Faulkner said. “She doesn’t know what real shackles are… But ‘don’t retreat, reload?’ Lady, are you kidding me? That is scary language in anyone’s terminology. Sarah Palin scares me.”

Nationally syndicated conservative columnist Deroy Murdock took an even stronger line. “Sarah Palin’s tweets resemble something scribbled by a ninth-grade cheerleader. Is it asking too much for a reputed American political leader to communicate in complete sentences? Palin’s gravitas gap is growing into the Gravitas Canyon,” said the media fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. “Even worse, she deploys her vacuity to defend an acerbic talk-show host who just detonated herself by tossing around the word ‘nigger’ on the air 11 times, as if it were a volleyball. The American right can do better than this. And it must.”

David Weigel:

On Facebook, Palin rolls her eyes. Let’s ignore the throat-clearing about shackles and reloading and battlefields and focus on this:Dr. Laura did not call anyone or any group of people the n-word. Curiously, the same criers over this issue didn’t utter a word when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel (sic) called a group protesting the Obama Administration’s actions, “f***ing retards.” When this presidential spokesman uttered this term I commented that the President would be better off not including Emmanuel in his circle of advisers, and my opinion was based not just on the crude and disrespectful term Emmanuel (sic) used to label people, but because he too often gives the President very poor advice. I was called intolerant and narrow-minded by many on the Left for commenting on that issue. Many of these same Leftists are now spinning the Dr. Laura issue into something it is not. As usual, their hypocrisy and double standard applications are glaring.

Straw man? Check. No one called Palin “intolerant and narrow-minded” for being offending by Emanuel, because that’s stupid and makes no sense. Opportunity to learn the right lesson? Check, although Palin misses it. She wants to be able to cry havoc and demand apologies or resignations when someone uses a word she doesn’t like. She doesn’t want other people to be able to do the same when a public figure uses a word they don’t like. Whether someone uses the word against someone is immaterial, especially in this case, because Schlessinger’s harangue included her complaining that black groups (specifically the NAACP) go after white people unfairly, and ended with her telling her (black) caller that if she was easily offended she shouldn’t marry a white man. That’s actually more personal than Emanuel’s insult. But let’s forget all that. The one thing we know about these media freak-outs is that context doesn’t matter. The word matters. That’s all it takes to start a controversy.

So another way to react to a story like this — a backlash against your defense of the use of a racial slur —  is to realize that, hey, perhaps these gotcha, apologize-now controversies over stupid words people use are not very constructive. Maybe it would be worth gritting your teeth when someone uses a word that offends you if the upshot is that you and your friends don’t have to apologize for using words that offend other people. Maybe that’s the lesson here. Or, you know, maybe it’s that the left has problems with hypocrisy and double standards.

Dan Riehl:

I see a lot of mixed and even negative reaction on the Right to Sarah Palin’s statement regarding Dr. Laura. I’ve never been much of a fan of the latter, but never listened to her show, much, if at all, either.

Does anyone seriously believe that Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a racist? Anyone, I mean, who isn’t already accusing all conservatives, Republicans, Tea Party Americans, etc., etc., etc. of being racists?

Hot Air sees it as a matter of people and politics – no surprise there. They even quote some blacks on the Right, I assume to bolster their response‘s street cred. However, if you strip away the personalities and the politics, what you are left with is principle.

… her point is that Schlessinger’s being attacked even though she didn’t use the N-bomb with any intent to demean — but her decision to get involved at all. Particularly considering that Dr. Laura was notably critical of Palin when McCain tapped her for VP.

Gosh, we can’t have people on the Right boldly speaking up purely on principle, now can we? The media might think it impolite, or, you know, just crazy, or dumb. But they mostly want to marginalize, or tame the Right, anyway. It reminds me of yesterday when Sharron Angle came out strongly as an unapologetic conservative. What’s genuinely fascinating, and perhaps also disappointing, to me in all this, is how many more women we have on the Right today who have a set of ballz, as compared to many of the men. I don’t know, maybe it’s a beta thang. Heh!

UPDATE: Laura Kipnis at Slate

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Filed under Mainstream, Political Figures

“Everytime I Make A Run, Girl, You Turn Around And Cry”

Wyclef Jean at The Huffington Post:

Dear Reader,

My four-year-old daughter, Angelina, and my wife, Claudinette, are the angels of my life — and I know this year has been especially trying for them, as my efforts for Haiti have taken so much more of my time since January, when the devastating earthquake nearly destroyed my home country. In fact, my concern for my family was my primary thought as I was being urged by others to seek the presidency of Haiti.

But then I came to realize that I have to make this decision for them, and especially for my daughter, as much as for myself and my country. At age four, my daughter has already seen so much suffering in Haiti, but we’ve done our best to have her also witness the beauty of the country and the beautiful spirits of its people. I have always believed in the need to parent her by example, to show her that her dad is a man of action and a man of his word. I’ve told her throughout her life that Haiti’s future lies in our hands — including hers, as one of the young people of the country — and I want to show her by example what I’m willing to do to make Haiti a better place. I believe that to move Haiti forward, it’s going to be necessary to embrace the energy of its people, to unite around a common goal of moving ahead together. Taking all of these factors into consideration over the last few weeks, I have decided to run for president of Haiti.

I’m happy to have my family as my biggest supporters. They’ve been right there with me, helping with the programs of my NGO, Yele Haiti, over the years. Angelina and Claudinette and I were all in Haiti a few weeks before the earthquake, in fact. We went to Cite Soleil, one of the country’s most dangerous neighborhoods, to give toys and backpacks to the kids. The hotel where we had stayed was destroyed by the earthquake, crumbled to the ground. We escaped death by only a few weeks — my daughter, wife and I would have been under the rubble.

Once, I told Angelina she was going to perform with me on Nickelodeon, and she asked me if she was going to get paid. I asked her, “What are you gonna do with the money?” When she said she needed it to send to the kids of Haiti, I cried tears of joy! And when some people attacked my involvement with Yéle Haiti and tears rolled down my cheeks on Oprah, she said, “Daddy, you are too tough to cry. I’ve never seen you cry.” I said to her, “I’m not crying for myself; I’m crying for the people of Haiti.”

Some negative stories continue to be written about me. People might question my motives. Because our daughter is so young, we have shielded her from the negative stories, but when she is a little older, we will talk about those (and there might be many more to come in the next few months — or years, even, depending on how things go in my campaign to make a brighter future for Angelina and the rest of the youth of Haiti).

Christopher John Farley at The Wall Street Journal:

Jean called The Wall Street Journal today to talk about his decision to run for president of his homeland.

The Wall Street Journal: You have decided to run for president of Haiti.

Wyclef Jean: Yes, the decision is made.

Why did you decide that Haiti would be best served by you running?

Well, my whole country, my whole life since I was a kid, the country has had political turmoil. The reason why is that there’s never been one person who can unite all parties and get them to work together. And Haiti has a history of coup d’états. And after Jan. 12, I felt there would be a new beginning and the international would be more involved, America would be more involved, and I call myself more connected. I’m someone who can connect the parties together and basically be a leader for the youth for what they’ve been crying for for years. If you have a population that can’t read and write that’s been around 200 years and the majority of the population is a youth population, it’s basically modern slavery. And for me to just sit back, and if you’ve watched my career, I’ve been singing about this my entire life, not just the Haitian cause whether it’s Tibet or human rights, the idea is to not just shame but to turn it into policy and to really engage in another manner. I always say that Wyclef Jean is not running for the presidency of Haiti, I’m being drafted by the people of Haiti.

Haiti has so many problems. What are your plans to try and overcome some of them?

Well, I think the reality of it, to rebuild Haiti is going to take 25-30 years. But I think there are issues we can start tackling—the education, the literacy problem, the job creation problem, the agricultural component. The idea that if everything is being imported how do we get our export back. National production. These are some of the things that I feel we can start tackling. And when I say job creation, the infrastructure, the reconstruction of Haiti, should not only [involve] international contractors, but there should be local Haitian contractors too.

The Economist:

“ELECTION time is coming,” begins a song entitled “President” by Wyclef Jean, the Haitian hip-hop star. Election time is indeed coming in Haiti, with the presidential vote scheduled for November 28th, and Mr Jean’s vision may very well come true. He will formally announce his candidacy this Thursday night during an appearance on Larry King Live, a television programme.

Mr Jean might seem a longshot. He has no prior experience in politics, and he may have trouble speaking to voters, given that his French is dicey and his Creole is heavily accented. (He left the country when he was nine, before it became a democracy). However, as Leslie Voltaire, Haiti’s envoy to the UN, puts it, the world’s most famous Haitian “speaks rap”. In a country where 65 percent of the population is under the age of 30, and where voters have long been disgruntled with la classe politique—the cadre of politicos that has kept a chokehold on electoral politics for more than 20 years—that may be enough to win.

Mr Jean’s candidacy would be a mixed blessing for Haitian democracy. Undoubtedly, it would boost turnout: less than ten percent of eligible voters showed up for the last Haitian elections, in April 2009. And his love for his native country seems heartfelt. In 2005, he set up a charity called Yéle Haiti, which supports schools, street cleaning, and culture programs. It took in some $9 million in donations following the earthquake that devastated the country on January 12th.

Charles Blow at NYT:

It is a fascinating bit of celebrity news. But it’s also a very serious pursuit by an utterly untested and unqualified candidate who has a strong chance of actually becoming the president of that crippled nation.

Jean, a Haitian citizen who grew up in Brooklyn and New Jersey and who many simply call Clef, enters a crowded field. It includes his own uncle, Raymond Joseph, the distinguished silver-haired Haitian ambassador to the United States, whom Jean himself had encouraged to run.

But Jean has been catapulted to the front of that field because celebrity trumps solemnity. If he can prove that he meets the residency requirements, which some doubt, he has a serious chance.

So we must take his candidacy seriously. The question for Wyclef becomes: “Why, Clef?”

It’s a pressing question because whoever wins takes over what many considered a failed state even before the devastating January earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and worsened an already desperate situation.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer put the question to Jean on Thursday on “Larry King Live.” Here is the sum total of Jean’s rambling, somewhat incoherent, answer: “Well, after Jan. 12th, I would say over 50 percent of the population is a youth population. And we suffered for over 200 years. Now that our country has a problem, it’s a chance to rebuild from the bottom on up. And I don’t even say I’m trying to be president. I’m being drafted by the youth of Haiti. Right now is a chance for to us bring real education into the school, infrastructure, security and proper jobs. So this is some of the reasons that I’m running.”

Wow! Let’s just say that he’s no Demosthenes.

Tyler Cowen:

Here is one response:

A sad day for Haiti. No experience. No plan. No education. Can’t speak the language let alone proper English plus a history of not being able manage his own personal affairs based on foreclosures, IRS tax liens and his nonprofit scandal.

Here is another:

Wyclef Jean owes the IRS 2.1 million dollars, had his house sold at auction and stole money from his own Haiti ‘charity’.

Those points would appear to be well-taken, but as an economist so often does, I would rephrase the question in terms of “how much” rather than “whether.”  What is the probability that the “added media scrutiny and international attention” effect will create benefits which outweigh his other deficiencies for the job?  I say about ten percent.

Marjorie Valbrun at The Root:

Dear Wyclef,

It pains me to have to tell you this — especially in public. Particularly because it goes to the heart of someplace and something we both care deeply about. But I have to, because as much as I love you, I love Haiti more — so much so that I’m unwilling to put her fate in your hands.

So here goes. Wyclef, you’re making a big mistake. Running for president of Haiti is a bad idea. Bad for you and bad for Haiti.

Yes, over the years, your words and deeds on behalf of our beloved little island have been commendable. You’ve inspired legions of young Haitian people both here and back home. You’ve done the Lord’s work with a zealot’s commitment and a salesman’s enthusiasm. We love you for it; we really do.

Who can forget the television images of you on the ground in Haiti just days after the earthquake, helping to carry and bury battered bodies, going on the evening news to call for faster and better organized relief efforts?

I, for one, thank you on behalf of other Haitian-Americans who didn’t have the means, the connections, the public platform or the gumption to do what you did.

[…]

Now, more than ever, Haiti needs a highly educated and experienced technocrat who understands the intricacies of governing and diplomacy. Someone who can wage a successful civic-education campaign and get different sectors of civil society all working on the same page and tamp down the country’s cyclical social unrest. Someone who knows how to get things done and knows how to build schools, hospitals and neighborhoods, as well as sewer systems, electric grids and roads. Someone who can feed the people and give them jobs. Someone schooled in international affairs and who will be respected by the international community. Someone who can rebuild Haiti and ultimately restore its dignity.

Frankly, Wyclef, that someone is not you.

You’re just not qualified. You’re fame and hype, but Haiti needs sure and steady. You have an entourage of “yes” men, but Haiti needs an army of yeomen. You’re a uniquely talented music man, but Haiti desperately needs a credible statesman. And then there are your messy financial problems and the questionable accounting practices at your charitable foundation. It’s too complicated to get into here, but it doesn’t look good and will be a distraction throughout the campaign. Had you not built up so much goodwill over the years, your finances — both personal and professional — would have totally undermined your standing.

John Nolte at Big Hollywood:

As usual, Sean Penn just can’t say enough bad things about America — and could he be more humorless? The real story here, however, is Penn’s relentlessly brutal trashing of the Fugee’s Wyclef Jean as some kind of stooge for American corporate interests. In-between a ton of innuendo and phrases like “I don’t know,” and “allegedly,” Penn’s obviously attempting to strangle the rapper’s bid to be the next Haitian president in the cradle.

If Jean, who was born in Haiti, is smart, he’ll rip a page from the Barack Obama playbook, not answer any of Penn’s charges and simply write the actor off as a racist.

Oh, wait, maybe that’s not so smart.

Who knows, Penn might be  right about Jean. Then again, Penn might just be an elitist, socialist, narcissist, busybody who sees himself as the Great White Liberal Hope of Haiti which somehow makes it okay for him to poke his ignorant movie star nose into the domestic politics of a country other than his own (not that he’s a whole lot of help here).

I think you all know where my money is.

My initial reaction — not that I’ve been able to summon enough interest to study up on it — was to cynically assume Jean was a celebrity opportunist looking to burnish his ego with an attention-getting political bid. Now that I discover Penn agreeing with me, it’s time to completely rethink that position. And from the looks of that earthquake ravaged country, a little American corporate interest is exactly what they need. So…

Wyclef Jean — Yes Haiti Can!

Regardless, I’m sure we can all agree that there’s no better way to enter the promise of a new weekend than with a couple of Hollywoodists ripping one another apart.

David Itzkoff at NYT:

The people of Haiti will not officially make their presidential preference known at the polls until the election scheduled for Nov. 28. But Wyclef Jean, the hip-hop artist who declared this week that he would run as a potential successor to President René Préval, has already lost one-third of the crucial Fugees vote. Pras, a cousin of Mr. Jean and a fellow Haitian-American performer who worked with him in that influential rap group, told The Daily News of New York that he backed one of his former bandmate’s rivals. In a statement, Pras, whose name is Prakazrel Michel, told The Daily News that he supported Michel Martelly “as the next president of Haiti because he is the most competent candidate for the job,” and wrote on his Twitter feed, “I support and believe in my heart that Michel Martelly is prez for Haiti!” Like Pras and Mr. Jean, Mr. Martelly is also a Haitian musician, and performs under the stage name Sweet Micky

UPDATE: Wyclef Jean at Huffington Post

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The 80s Are Over, My Friend

Christopher Weber at Politics Daily:

Congress passed a bill Wednesday that would narrow the disparity between mandatory sentences for crack and powder cocaine possession, changing a 24-year-old law that critics said unfairly subjected blacks to longer prison terms than whites.

The measure was approved by voice vote in the House and sent to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law, The Associated Press reported. The bill made it through the Senate in March.

The legislation would overhaul a 1986 law that mandated a person convicted of crack cocaine possession get the same mandatory prison term as someone with 100 times the same amount of cocaine in powder form. The bill passed Wednesday reduces that ratio to about 18-1, the AP said.

Cord Jefferson at The Root:

Twenty-four years ago, at the height of America’s crack epidemic, Congress enacted legislation that saw persons convicted of possessing crack receive prison sentences equal to persons possessing 100 times that amount in powder cocaine. This was problematic for many reasons, the most glaring being that African Americans possessing crack went to jail in droves while white defendants, who more often dabbled in expensive powder cocaine, escaped without prison bids. After the Senate passed the bill in March, Attorney General Eric Holder commented, “There is no law enforcement or sentencing rationale for the current disparity between crack and cocaine powder offenses.”

Unfortunately, today’s vote makes the ratio between crack and powder cocaine sentences 18-to-1—still not perfectly equal. But it’s a step, and a bipartisan one at that. Six Republicans co-sponsored the bill, including Lindsay Graham and Orrin Hatch.

Jacob Sullum at Reason:

Under current law, five grams of crack triggers the same five-year mandatory minimum sentence as 500 grams of powder; likewise, 50 grams of crack triggers the same 10-year mandatory minimum sentence as five kilograms of powder. The bill passed today, which President Obama is expected to sign soon, will reduce those 100-to-1 ratios by 82 percent. From now on, a drug offender will need only 18 times as much powder to get the same sentence he would get for crack. That’s still crazy, but substantially less so. In addition to reducing the sentencing disparity, the bill abolishes the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack (as opposed to possession with intent to distribute), another way in which federal law treats smokable cocaine with unusual severity. Families Against Mandatory Minimums says this is “the first time that Congress has repealed a mandatory minimum drug sentence since the Nixon administration.”

Mark Kleiman:

This time, the bill had lots of conservative Republican support, but the ranking Republican on House Judiciary demonstrated why it’s taken more than 20 years to change the law by pulling out the usual demoagogic warnings about rampant drug abuse. The Fraternal Order of Police also weighed in on the wrong side.

Sens. Dick Durbin and Jeff Sessions and Rep. Bobby Scott all deserve congratulations, though I think an administrative fix – regulating the conditions under which the mandatory could be invoked by federal prosecutors so that only worthwhile cases could be brought – would have been cleaner and quicker.

This is one more indication that at least marginally sensible drug policy is now politically discusable.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

I agree entirely with Adam Serwer when he says that this passage makes the crack disparity “only one fifth as racist as it used to be.” But you know what we don’t do a lot of in this country? Reduce sentences. Check out the makeup of the world’s largest prison population and you’ll see what I mean. “Law ‘n’ Order” and “Tough on Crime” remain shibboleths used by politicians to hammer away at criminal sentencing reformists. So ANY change in a positive direction takes a ridiculous amount of work and struggle. This is a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights has a backgrounder on the law change. And the Houston Chronicle spoke out in a very good editorial today. Now, the next step is to eliminate this disparity entirely, so we actually have equal justice under the law.

Steven Taylor:

Don’t get me wrong:  I would not recommend crack cocaine usage and there were (and are) still social costs of some significance associated with its usage.  The problem with the reaction in the 1980s was that, like much of our drug laws, we overreact and make rules based on fear and the drama of the moment rather than rational consideration of the problem.  We paint each new drug as practically the end of the world and react accordingly (the current drug of fear is meth-in the past it was heroin).  Again:  all of these are substances that cause substantial harm, but we tend to lack a sense of proportion in dealing with them.

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Jim Webb Writes An Op-Ed

Heather Horn at The Atlantic with the round-up

Senator Jim Webb at the Wall Street Journal:

Contrary to assumptions in the law, white America is hardly a monolith. And the journey of white American cultures is so diverse (yes) that one strains to find the logic that could lump them together for the purpose of public policy.

The clearest example of today’s misguided policies comes from examining the history of the American South.

The old South was a three-tiered society, with blacks and hard-put whites both dominated by white elites who manipulated racial tensions in order to retain power. At the height of slavery, in 1860, less than 5% of whites in the South owned slaves. The eminent black historian John Hope Franklin wrote that “fully three-fourths of the white people in the South had neither slaves nor an immediate economic interest in the maintenance of slavery.”

The Civil War devastated the South, in human and economic terms. And from post-Civil War Reconstruction to the beginning of World War II, the region was a ravaged place, affecting black and white alike.

In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt created a national commission to study what he termed “the long and ironic history of the despoiling of this truly American section.” At that time, most industries in the South were owned by companies outside the region. Of the South’s 1.8 million sharecroppers, 1.2 million were white (a mirror of the population, which was 71% white). The illiteracy rate was five times that of the North-Central states and more than twice that of New England and the Middle Atlantic (despite the waves of European immigrants then flowing to those regions). The total endowments of all the colleges and universities in the South were less than the endowments of Harvard and Yale alone. The average schoolchild in the South had $25 a year spent on his or her education, compared to $141 for children in New York.

Generations of such deficiencies do not disappear overnight, and they affect the momentum of a culture. In 1974, a National Opinion Research Center (NORC) study of white ethnic groups showed that white Baptists nationwide averaged only 10.7 years of education, a level almost identical to blacks’ average of 10.6 years, and well below that of most other white groups. A recent NORC Social Survey of white adults born after World War II showed that in the years 1980-2000, only 18.4% of white Baptists and 21.8% of Irish Protestants—the principal ethnic group that settled the South—had obtained college degrees, compared to a national average of 30.1%, a Jewish average of 73.3%, and an average among those of Chinese and Indian descent of 61.9%.

Policy makers ignored such disparities within America’s white cultures when, in advancing minority diversity programs, they treated whites as a fungible monolith. Also lost on these policy makers were the differences in economic and educational attainment among nonwhite cultures. Thus nonwhite groups received special consideration in a wide variety of areas including business startups, academic admissions, job promotions and lucrative government contracts.

Where should we go from here? Beyond our continuing obligation to assist those African-Americans still in need, government-directed diversity programs should end.

Nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white. The need for inclusiveness in our society is undeniable and irreversible, both in our markets and in our communities. Our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all, not in picking winners. It can do so by ensuring that artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes.

Memo to my fellow politicians: Drop the Procrustean policies and allow harmony to invade the public mindset. Fairness will happen, and bitterness will fade away.

Moe Lane at Redstate:

I wonder if the above was the Senatorial equivalent of a mid-life crisis? – Although that’s not nearly self-destructive enough to be a true analogy.  Senator Webb seems to have forgotten that he has a ‘D’ after his name these days, which effectively means that this entire article is thoughtcrime that will pretty much guarantee him a messy primary in 2012.  Progressives do not appreciate thoughtcrime, particularly in their converts: they bought Jimmy Webb in 2006, and they expect their purchases to perform as expected.

Do I sound entertained?  It’s because I am: and I will enjoy every second that Jimmy Webb is broken on the wheel for relapsing into error like this.  And do you know why I will enjoy every second?  Because of ‘macaca,’ that’s why.  Jimmy Webb stood by and calmly, disinterestedly watched as his new owners flash-mobbed his opponent for supposed racism in the 2006 Senatorial election. He did that because Jimmy Webb wanted to be Senator so badly that he was willing to overlook precisely the hyper-emphasis of race that he complains about now; after all, it put him in office, and that was the important thing, right?

So: Jimmy Webb is right in that we need to stop using race as a criterion for public assistance, and that government-operated diversity programs are doing the country no favors.  And I hope to God that the progressive movement uses my agreement – and the rest of the VRWC’s – to utterly destroy Jimmy Webb’s career.

Roger Clegg at NRO:

The good news is that he calls for an end to (almost) all “government-directed diversity programs,” and, less equivocally, declares that “nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white.” Whites are not monolithic, he points out, and neither are nonwhites. All excellent stuff, and his words are especially brave, welcome, and important coming from a leader in the Democratic party. When was the last time a top Democrat said anything like this?

The bad news is that he seems pretty clearly to be leaving the door open to special programs for African Americans, as indeed he has in the past — but, now as then, it’s hard to understand why.

As a good Southern populist, he decries, á la Shirley Sherrod, the exploitation of poor whites and blacks by monied interests. Putting that aside (I don’t think most white Southerners are comfortable as victims), he’s right in his other major point that the original justification of affirmative action forAfrican Americans — who had suffered through slavery and just been liberated from Jim Crow — does not apply very well to members of ethnic minorities who have only recently immigrated to the United States.

But it doesn’t apply very well to African Americans in 2010, either. Senator Webb asserts that blacks “still experience high rates of poverty, drug abuse, incarceration, and family breakup,” but the word “still” is misleading, since the critical one that largely drives the others — illegitimacy — has gotten radically worse, not better, as discrimination has radically diminished.

Consider, in any event, those African Americans who were born in, say, 1992 — the birth year of those now getting college-admissions preferences. Those students are not slaves or former slaves, were not alive under Jim Crow and have never been victims of government discrimination, and were born over a quarter-century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed to protect them from public and private discrimination. Additionally, theAfrican Americans who get these preferences at the more selective universities come overwhelmingly from middle- and upper-class backgrounds, not from impoverished farms or ghettos.

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

It seems to be generating a lot of chatter, some of it critical, on the right. Policy-wise, I’m with Roger Clegg. But I guess I’m more forgiving of Webb’s reluctance to come out against racial preferences for African Americans. First, I think Roger would agree with me that Webb is right that the case for preferences for blacks is morally and historically distinct from, and better than,  the case for preferences for, say, Hmong, Hispanics or Jews. Again, I agree with Roger that the case isn’t persuasive, but it’s considerably more persuasive than other kinds of preferences. Moreover, it’s hardly shocking that a Democrat would feel the need to equivocate on the subject. So, while I’d rather that Webb made a stronger case, I think his case is extremely strong given where his party is these days. Simply by arguing that the diversity racket is bogus, he’s moved the center of gravity on the left considerably rightward. Were he to succeed in persuading his fellow Democrats (inconceivable as far as I can tell), it would be great progress and would do serious damage to race preferences of any kind. So kudos to Webb, I say.

John Cole:

I think a lot of people are missing where Jim Webb is coming from in his op-ed. I’m not going to defend the entire thing, but I think you need to understand that Webb comes from a portion of Appalachia where poverty is so deep, so ingrained, that the idea in those regions that there is some sort of “white privilege” is in fact laughable. To them, the privilege of chronic unemployment, life in a tarpaper shack with no medical care, food stamps but no grocery store, and not much of a future doesn’t look like that great of a deal. And you need to understand, there are a LOT of people in this situation. I regret the way the piece read, and I hate the title, but Webb is talking about addressing the deep-rooted poverty he’s seen his entire life in the back hills of VA, WVA, Kentucky, and elsewhere. I don’t find that message to be much different from the lesson Shirley Sherrod was trying to pass on regarding class v. race. In many regards, I bet Sherrod and Webb would agree.

When a lot of people said the Democratic party “left them” in this region, we’re talking about dirt poor folks who have basically given up on the government. These were the folks that embraced the Democratic party of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt (Eleanor is particularly beloved to this day in rural WV), to them, the Democrats of today really are no different than Republicans in their indifference toward the poor and working poor, and they end up voting on social issues. Tom Franks said a thing or two about this. There really is no one fighting for unions any more. Show me a Democrat that is different from a Republican on coal in WV and I’ll show you an unelected Democrat.

Again, I think the way the piece read will rub a lot of people the wrong way, and that is was in the WSJ makes it a hard pill to swallow for a lot of us, but I don’t think for a minute Webb meant to claim that minorities have not suffered.

Nsenga K. Burton at The Root:

Virginia Senator James Webb has made no bones about his disdain for affirmative action programs and policies. The Democrat believes that affirmative action programs marginalize whites and that “white privilege” is largely a myth. Webb’s views about affirmative action caused controversy during his 2006 run. In a Wall Street Journal book review written in 2000, he stated that affirmative action “has within one generation brought about a permeating state-sponsored racism that is as odious as the Jim Crow laws it sought to countermand.” Since he sounds like a Republican and a Tea Party member, the reintroduction of this topic via a Wall Street Journal op-ed is a great way to rally the troops, especially in a state like Virginia. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: There is a reason the Democrats used to be called Dixiecrats.

James Joyner:

While I don’t disagree with the premise, I’m not sure what policy conclusion one reaches.   I fully agree and have long argued that using race as the sole criterion for policy preference should end.  But, surely, we don’t want to create new categories, such as “Scotch-Irish Sons of Confederate Veterans,” for special treatment.   We could target based on poverty, perhaps with some sort of regional cost of living adjustments.

I like the concept of “enabling opportunity for all.”  But what does that mean in practice?   Do we Federalize education?  Under our current system, which is typically funded by local property taxes, children in poor communities are trapped in poorly funded schools.   That’s doubly true if surrounding communities are also poor.   And this gets compounded by the fact that poor families are more likely to be single-parent families with households headed by poorly educated, young people too tired to give their kids’ education much attention and poorly equipped to do much good, anyway.   How do we break this cycle through the government?

Kevin Drum:

Class-based program programs might, in the end, provide modestly less help for ethnic minorities than current policies — though well-designed ones might not. But they have some advantages too. For one thing, they help poor people. That’s worthwhile all by itself. (Kahlenberg quotes William Benn Michael as noting acidly that currently the debate in higher education is mostly about what color skin the rich kids will have.) Beyond that, there’s another benefit: for all the good it does, there’s no question that race-based affirmative action has drawbacks as well. It makes employers suspicious of minority graduates, wondering if their degrees were really fairly earned. It provokes a backlash among working class whites. And it’s open to abuse on a number of fronts. Class-based programs don’t solve all these problems at a stroke, but they go a long way toward addressing them

Would it be possible for us to adopt class-based programs? One obstacle, I think, is the insistence of conservatives on refusing to even admit that racism is a problem anymore. It’s become practically a truism on the right that racism is a thing of the past, nothing more than a convenient whipping boy to be exploited by race hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who prey on liberal guilt and federal largesse. This is just poisonous. There’s no way that blacks or any other ethnic minority will ever take conservative complaints at face value if they flatly refuse to concede that there’s even a problem left to be addressed.

This isn’t normally a subject I write much about. I’ve done only modest reading about it, and my personal background — middle class white guy born and raised in Orange County — obviously doesn’t give me any valuable personal insight. But the status quo has done, and continues to do, a lot of damage to all sides. It’s probably a fantasy to think that there’s any progress to be made in our current fever swamp atmosphere, but a conservative concession on the reality of race as a continuing problem — think racial profiling, penal system injustices, health system disparities, etc. — combined with a liberal concession on emphasizing class much more than we have in the past, would almost certainly be a step forward.

UPDATE: Michael Lind in Salon

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I’m The Man Max Headroom And Rick Astley Could Smell Like

Old Spice twitter feed

Zach Gottlieb at Wired:

If you’ve been feeling lonely at home or bored at work in the past couple of days, you may have found solace in a recent ad campaign by Old Spice.

First made famous in a Super Bowl ad launched this year, Old Spice Man — the topless, überconfident ladies man selling you a new fragrance from Old Spice on your TV screen — has taken to the interactive world of social media. For the past two days, Old Spice Man has been responding to Tweets, Facebook posts and comments on reddit, Digg and Youtube with short, snappy (and rather funny) video messages.

But this isn’t just your average social media campaign promoting a particular product. It’s cheap, quick and efficient, and even though the campaign is now over, there is sure to be some aftershock. In fact, just last night a group of redditors put together a soundboard of Old Spice Man sayings so that people can have him step in as your voicemail greeting.

The campaign works so well because it is super-direct, nearly instantaneous viral marketing that costs next to nothing. Just consider the concept — one character standing in front of a shower all day, a few simple props, and a camera crew set up and ready to record, rip and respond to messages with a personalized video.

On the other end, consumers and people just looking for a laugh interact directly with the Old Spice Man, which instills a certain amount of trust and closeness with the company. Words like “trust” and “closeness” might sound like they belong in a Cosmo article about what makes a strong romantic relationship, but let’s face it — today, consumers don’t just want a good product, they want to know that the person selling to them cares.

What better way to show you care than with a studly half-nude man responding to something that you wrote only minutes ago?

Erick Schonfeld at Tech Crunch:

You know you’ve got a viral marketing hit on your hands when the CFO of Google mentions it in an earnings call. Yes, I am talking about the Old Spice YouTube Tweetathon where the bare-chested Old Spice Man addresses people on Twitter via personalized commercials on YouTube .

At the tail-end of a long, very long, 90-minute earnings call in which I dozed off at least three times, Google CFO Patrick Pichette perked me up when he made a reference to the Old Spice social media marketing campaign. “It just gives you a glimpse of where the world is going,” he said with a touch of awe in his voice.

That begs the question, one day will all ads be made like this? The Old Spice Man has already answered this, it turns out, and he warns of the cataclysmic effects which might result if he were to do ads for all the world’s products.

Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb:

A team of creatives, tech geeks, marketers and writers gathered in an undisclosed location in Portland, Oregon yesterday and produced 87 short comedic YouTube videos about Old Spice. In real time. They leveraged Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and blogs. They dared to touch the wild beasts of 4chan and they lived to tell the tale. Even 4chan loved it. Everybody loved it; those videos and 74 more made so far today have now been viewed more than 4 million times and counting. The team worked for 11 hours yesterday to make 87 short videos, that’s just over 7 minutes per video, not accounting for any breaks taken. Then they woke up this morning and they are still making more videos right now. Here’s how it’s going down.

Old Spice, marketing agency Wieden + Kennedy and actor Isaiah Mustafa are collaborating on the project. The group seeded various social networks with an invitation to ask questions of Mustafa’s character, a dashing shirtless man with over-the-top humor and bravado. Then all the responses were tracked and users who contributed interesting questions and/or were high-profile people on social networks are being responded to directly and by name in short, funny YouTube videos. The group has made videos in response to Digg founder Kevin Rose, TV star Alyssa Milano (now big on Twitter) and many more people, famous and not.

It is well done and it appeals to peoples’ egos – but there is something more, too. It feels very personalized, even if it wasn’t directed at you. Those people that got responses, and many people who didn’t, have Tweeted, Facebooked and otherwise shared links to the videos back out across their social networks.

Iain Tait, Global Interactive Creative Director at Wieden, is leading the effort. “In a way there’s nothing magical that we’ve done here,” he explained by phone this afternoon. “We just brought a character to life using the social channels we all [social media geeks] use every day. But we’ve also taken a loved character and created new episodic content in real time.”

[…]

The videos aren’t being posted in chronological order immediately after the Tweets and comments they are in reply to. They get moved up and down a queue in a deliberate, orchestrated, if very fast way.

Tait: “Those people are having more fun than I’ve ever seen anyone have in a shoot like this. That’s part of why it’s doing so well. It’s genuinely infectious, it transmits itself through the internet in a massive way.”

How loved has the new campaign proven to be? 4Chan, the anonymous nihilist obscene messageboard from whence sprang memes like LOLCats and RickRolling, was the subject of what’s now the 3rd most-watched of the Old Spice videos made yesterday, after the ones made for Perez Hilton and Kevin Rose. 4channers hate everything, especially people who talk about 4chan – which this savvy man in a towel did not do. But 200,000 views later, that absurd video response to “Anonymous” has received more than 4000 thumbs up from viewers and less than 100 thumbs down.

David Weigel at Andrew Sullivan’s place:

Marshall Kirkpatrick’s write-up of the strategy behind Old Spice’s guerrilla YouTube campaign — one that comes after they hired video comedy dada-ists Tim and Eric to record even crazier videos — leaves you with a less grimy feeling than the usual advertorial. Yes, even after you read this disclaimer:

Disclosure: Wieden + Kennedy is an occasional consulting client of the author’s. But this story was too cool to abstain from telling just because of that.

Well, I’m not a consulting client of anyone, and I adore the concept — a handsome, arrogant character answering basically anyone who 1) sends him a question he 2) has time to answer. Simultaneously, the Morlock “I’ll click on anything” side of the Internet and the Eloi “I only read Boing Boing on my iPad” side decide that it’s funny, and indulge the joke. It churns for a day. It wins a place in meme history. And now that we know the joke, it’s over. These concepts are approaching the lifespan of fruit flies while getting us closer and closer to the phony interactivity of Max Headroom. As deodorant concepts go, that’s fairly exciting.

Cord Jefferson at The Root:

Problems with heteronormativity and misogyny—all women love diamonds!—aside, the Old Spice Guy spots are funny in the offbeat and visually exciting manner Internet audiences demand. PC World is calling the commercials “the most brilliant ad campaign ever.” They’ve become so popular with Twitter and Facebook users that there’s now a YouTube channel on which Old Spice Guy speaks directly to his Internet fans in 15 to 30-second bursts. It was there that Old Spice Guy granted a Twitter fan’s request to perform his marriage proposal for him.

Most of us should be able to agree that nuptials beginning through a corporate Internet meme have a difficult road ahead; the success of the Old Spice Guy, on the other hand, might actually be a sign that being a black man in America is getting slightly easier.

It wasn’t so long ago that black men in advertising were used to fill one of two roles: violent savage or passive, simple-minded gofers. Take for instance this Van Heusen shirt ad from 1952—less than a decade before Barack Obama was born—in which a scary black man adorned in bones is juxtaposed with a group of well-groomed whites. On this billboard, a black bellhop points excitedly at a white family’s new Plymouth, certainly agog at the mechanical finery he couldn’t dream of affording. Mad Men’s Don Draper may be quite handsome, but advertising in the early 20th century was frequently hideous, exploiting the meanest of stereotypes in order to sell garbage people didn’t actually need.

Today’s ad agencies continue to push useless crap, of course, but to their credit, they’re usually far less racist in their salesmanship. To wit, Old Spice Guy. Time was when a muscular black man addressing America’s “ladies”—not just black ladies, but all ladies—in a sexualized tone could have gotten him killed. The black male’s inherent maleness wasn’t an attractive quality; it was brutish and animalistic, something to be feared and pointed at as if looking at a zoo.

Today, Old Spice Guy bucks that notion. He’s everywhere, topless and smoldering. And not only are his strength, intelligence and beauty at the forefront of his character, they’re heralded as being at the apex of manhood. No man, black or white, can ever be as sexy, dynamic, talented and worldly as he, and no woman of any race can or should want to resist him. In day’s past, Old Spice Guy would have been seen as threatening, aggressive, certainly unfit for a million-dollar ad campaign. But here in 2010, far from being fearful, America is rushing wildly into his sturdy embrace.

Steve Spillman at Big Money:

So, what can we learn from this episode? That social media advertising worked like it’s supposed to! The Internet at large usually doesn’t like being pandered to. But this time everyone was seduced by the machines of advertising. For a brief moment, it was totally hip to be into the Old Spice guy and to try to get the Old Spice guy to make a video for you, and to just talk about Old Spice a whole lot, which, duh, is exactly what Old Spice wants you to do. Symbiosis!

The hardened cynics at Reddit are even calling it “the greatest ad campaign in Internet history.” It might actually be just that, really. In a way it represents the natural apex of social media advertising. Here we have normal people and influential people alike interacting with a brand as if it were a person. Mass-marketed personification.

Hopefully, this means that such a creepily invasive campaign is never possible again. Like, maybe this was a one-time thing. After all, the backlash hasn’t started yet, and it’s inevitably coming.

But more likely, there will be more Old Spice Guys. In advertising, there’s no way to patent a successful formula.

UPDATE: Tricia Romano at Daily Beast

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When I Was A Kid, We Organized Our Snowball Fights On AOL Message Boards

Jason Cherkis at Washington City Paper:

According to an eyewitness, a D.C. Police detective (pictured above w/ gun) went nuts after kids pelted his Hummer with snowballs at 14th and U Streets NW this afternoon. The veteran detective got out of his car and eventually grabbed for his gun, displaying it to the crowd. He did not immediately identify himself as a police officer. He calmed down once his fellow uniformed cop arrived. Apparently, someone called 911 to report a man with gun. The snowball fight had been well hyped on Twitter. The news of the incident first broke there. We caught up with an eyewitness moments ago.

Nick Gillespie at Reason:

As Jesse Walker noted earlier today, an armed confrontation between snowball-throwing DC residents and police took place during the day’s historic snowfall.

Around 2.30PM on Saturday, December 19, residents at the intersection of 14th and U Streets NW started throwing snowballs at passing Hummers.

One of the cars pelted was driven by a plainclothes police officer identified only as Det. Baylor. Baylor got out of his car and brandished his gun at the crowd.

Reason.tv’s Dan Hayes was on the scene, capturing the tense confrontation between police and citizens who chanted “Don’t bring a gun to a snowball fight!”

Approximately 5 minutes; harsh language throughout.

Ann Althouse:

This reminds me of the 1960s era demonstrations where it seemed like a good idea to taunt the police instead of showing them respect. Baylor got out of his car, apparently, to try to deal with disorder that he couldn’t have known the precise nature of. Alone, facing a confusing crowd, he got his gun in his hand.

Why couldn’t people have spoken with him in a civil way and conveyed the assurance that there was no problem requiring police attention? Did they consider that there might be people elsewhere in the city, during the snow emergency, who actually would have benefited from help from a police officer who got delayed by unruly adults who thought snow suspended the rules and made it okay to throw objects at moving cars?

The quoted chant is “Don’t bring a gun to a snowball fight!” and that sounds funny and fun-loving, but it got me thinking of the encounters with police that we saw in the 1960s when it took next to nothing to provoke shouts of “police brutality” and “pig.” And in fact, if you watched the whole video, you heard the shout “Fuck you, pig.”

I’m siding with the cop.

Foster Kamer at Gawker:

Well, as it turns out, Washington DC residents know exactly how much of a joke 911 is in their own town, after a cop. Pulled a gun. On kids. Throwing snowballs. Yeah, and they’re reading this cop the riot act.

Wonkette:

Millions of D.C.’s hippest Twitterers coordinated a massive cross-street snowball fight at the major intersection of U & 14th streets NW today, to regale in the fruits of God’s most terrifying thundersnowstorm from Hell. A victory for spontaneous social network organizing! Or not? Because at some point during this apocalyptic spectacle, a frustrated undercover cop was trying to navigate his car down the barely plowed U Street, only to reach the masses of unhinged Twitter Snowballers. This didn’t make his drive any easier. And then a few of them pegged his car with snowballs, leading to the worst massacre in human history.

This annoyed the dickens out of him, so he got out of his car, yelled, and briefly took out his gun to scare the little fucks. The crowd soon began chanting “Don’t bring a gun to a snowball fight,” knowing full well that this crisp bit of soft irony would make for the perfect viral tweet, and maybe an amusing Tumblr, which usually leads to a book deal — and even more Tumblrs!

Here’s a video of a uniformed cop mediating the dispute between the undercover gun cop and some terrified Twitterers. It was clearly the most outrageous abuse of police power against the helpless urban poor since… well, whatever probably happened in Anacostia 15 seconds before this. Seventeen, eighteen murders? Unimportant! This angry cop took out his gun next to some snowballers who had just pummeled his car in the middle of the major street, you guys! Where are their civil rights? WHERE ARE THEIR CIVIL RIGHTS? 9/11 is a joke.

UPDATE: Erik Wemple at Washington City Paper

UPDATE: Jerry Bembry at The Root

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Bembry

UPDATE #2: More Coates

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