Monthly Archives: June 2008

The MC as Strawman.

John McWhorter has carved out a niche among the commentariat, blasting hip-hop for contributing to the waywardness of black youth. Granted, it’s not exactly the loneliest ideological space, as Cee-Lo Green Stanley Crouch does the whole get-off-my-lawn-you-crazy-hippy-hop-kids act with unparalleled aplomb, and there are plenty of others. McWhorter, though, is pretty much alone in putting forth the notion that he actually listens to the music he’s criticizing.

What’s annoying is that he clearly doesn’t. A couple weeks back he penned an essay for The Root about The Roots arguing that their (supposedly) political music misses the mark. He self-consciously big-upped Philly and talked about being a fan to establish his hip-hop bona fides (I’m surprised he didn’t include his Okayplayer screenname). He then proceeded to misquote lyrics or take them out of context in order to hammer a point he’s been trying to make for years now: hip-hop can’t save black America. Lest anyone miss the point, McWhorter’s new book is called All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America.

But, well…who ever said it could? More…

Obama is Ready for His Closeup(s).

Last week, a commenter joked that he wished the Obamas were appearing on the covers of magazines with a little more heft than US Weekly. But Barack Obama, it seems, really ain’t trynna be too picky with where his mug is plastered, as the above Gawker composite shows. (Full size here.)

Note how the Time cover on the bottom right and the Esquire one on the fourth row boast the exact same picture. The Tiger Beat one isn’t real, but how we wish it were.

Zimbabwe’s Brutal Inertia.

[Photo: Wash. Po.]

Robert Mugabe bludgeoned and tortured his way to a sixth term, even amid a growing chorus of  condemnations. Condi Rice called the votes a “sham” and the U.S. considered tightening sanctions, though that seems much more likely to hurt the many poor people in Zimbabwe rather than Mugabe and his top brass in ZANU-PF. But South Africa and China, two countries whose pressure might do a lot of good, are erring on the side of regional stability.

A lot of folks just stayed home from the voting centers, even though they faced beatings or maiming for doing so.

Oddly, when Friday’s election results are announced, the tally may prove an embarrassment to Mr. Mugabe. He could win by too much. “They’ll have to give Tsvangirai at least 30 percent to make things look realistic,” said Mike Davies, the chairman of the Combined Harare Residents Association, one of the nation’s largest civic groups.

“That’ll be one of the bizarre ironies of the situation here,” he said. “ZANU will have to rejigger the results from the frightened masses, taking votes from themselves.”


  • Kristof says African leaders should deal with Mugabe the way they’ve dealt white racist regimes in the past.
  • An anonymous Zimbabwean writes in an op-ed in the WP that his father’s support of Mugabe hasn’t shielded him from destitution.
  • The NYT has a haunting slideshow with some Zimbabwean voters, who had their pinkies tipped with pink ink, and some who opted not to vote at all. “I’m not voting at all because the outcome is still the same,” one woman said, covering her face. “Mugabe still wins. I’m not worried about having ink on my finger. Ink or not, it is the same — they will beat us.”

We On Award Tour With Obama, My Man.*

Ezra Klein, upon hearing that Obama will cameo on Q-Tip’s next album:

There are things in this world that are true. There are things in this world that are not true. And there are things in this world that appear to be true, but would be so awesome that were they allowed to manifest, reality would collapse in on itself. This is in that third category.

* I boosted that headline from the good folks at U.S. of J. Try and come up with a Tribe/Obama hed better than this one. Fair warning: you will fail.

When Work Just Works Out

[image from Art Sentral Asia.]

A few years ago, when I was in journalism school, a friend of mine went to a panel of members of the Pulitzer Jury hosted at the school. She asked the panel members how they had managed careers in journalism, the brutally long hours and low pay, with their personal and family lives.

The men, many of whom had worked at several newspapers around the country, said it had always just worked out. One said his wife was a teacher, and she could get a job anywhere. Yes, there were long hours and demanding schedules and sometimes assignments far away, but most of them said their personal lives had just turned out ok.

The sole woman on the panel, an editor at a mid-sized city’s most prominent daily, said, “Actually, I’m divorced.” For my friend, and, by extension, me, this was maddeningly telling. It’s not so much that the men on the panel had clearly, continually made career decisions with their own interests trumping everyone else’s. It was that someone, i.e., their wives, in their lives had routinely made sacrifices and they didn’t even realize it. No, things just don’t turn out ok. Someone makes them so. More…

Trying Harder at Doing Better

In the current double-month issue of The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin wrote a story about rising crime rates in new areas of mid-sized cities. Sociologists and criminologists can link it to the outward migration of inner-city, housing-project dwellers who took Section 8 vouchers and spread out when their developments were torn down. It seems the projects took their crime with them.


Something’s Strange About This Ad.

*taps chin*

Oh, okay. Figured it out. It’s because this dude is a Republican.

After seeing the spot, the Obama campaign made a point to suggest that it was supporting Jeff Merkley, Gordon Smith’s Democratic challenger.

Smith must have peeped which way the wind was blowing in his state, what with the city-sized crowds coming out for Obama and his own poll numbers sitting below 50%.