Category Archives: Celebrity

What’s So Special About NY-23?

For those of you who aren’t political junkies, NY-23 is New York’s 23rd Congressional District. Until Recently, it was represented by John McHugh (R).

President Barack Obama chose him for a post at the Pentagon, setting up one of two races for congressional seats this fall (the other is California’s 10th District). Yet NY-23 has begun to capture the attention of the nation’s celebrity conservatives and Republicans like no other race in a long time.

NY-23 is a three way race, pitting Democrat Bill Owens against Republican Dede Scozzafava and Conservative Party candidate  Doug Hoffman.

DougHoffman
Doug Hoffman

Right wing Republicans like Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, Michelle Bachman, Steve Forbes, Tim Pawlenty, Dick Armey, and Rick Santorum have flocked to back…..Hoffman the Conservative! Oh yeah, and Congressmen John Linder of Georgia and Todd Tiahrt of Kansas have also jumped on the Hoffman bandwagon.

Newt Gingrich must feel awfully lonely. He’s about the only well known Republican retread backing Scozzafava.

What’s so important about a three way race in upstate New York? Why all this right wing firepower? I’ll hazard a guess.

For Palin and Pawlenty, it’s a chance to burnish their credentials with the conservative base both think they’ll need to run for president in 2012. For the others, it’s a test of conservative strength. It’s a chance to say all is not lost in Barack Obama’s America (you know, the one they want back). They’re banking that voters in upstate New York care about the Bachmans, the Forbes, the Thompsons, the who???

NY-23 is the right on what they hope is the comeback trail. How else top explain why this race threatens to eclipse both the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial contests?  Of course, the stakes are high. If all this right wing heft is brought to bear and their guy loses (Owens is currently leading in a couple of polls), what does it say about the true gravitas of the tea party wing of the GOP? Then, on the other side, maybe Doug Hoffman wins. That makes all these right wing Republicans kingmakers in a district most couldn’t find with a GPS. It’s also interesting to hear John Linder in particular bleat about backing Hoffman to end bipartisanship in Washington.

Hey genius, how do you think the seat opened up in the first place? John McHugh, tapped to be Army Secretary, is a Republican! If Owens wins, it will be the first time a Democrat has won the seat in 100 years. No matter what happens, this race has exposed a steel cage match for the soul of the Republican Party.

Do you think it’s worth the trouble, and if so, who will win?

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How Badly Do You Want to be on TV?

For a while there, I was going to studiously avoid writing (and hopefully reading) anything about the “Balloon Boy” story that seemed to capture the nation’s attention for a time last week. Silly me. This thing has turned into a choreographed train wreck that now threatens to engulf the Heene family of Colorado just like they allegedly suckered the media. And for what? A shot at reality television? Pullleeeeze!!!

In coverage best resembling the OJ car crawl of days gone by, the media and law enforcement conducted a gigantic aerial and ground pursuit of a balloon supposedly containing six year old Falcon Heene. Anyone who followed that coverage saw and heard breathless anchorpeople speculating whether the child was still alive, and at the same time interviewing various authorities and “experts”, most of whom were as clueless as they were.

Before getting back to the substance of this story, let me vent a little about the cable news networks’ increasingly common practice of talking to people who admit they don’t know what they’re talking about. Everybody from Wolf Blitzer on down is doing it, and it’s a colossal waste of time, not to mention an insult to the intelligence of viewers. It became a hallmark of the Heene story, and somebody with half a brain in these cable newsrooms ought to learn a lesson from it and stop already. But they won’t.

Okay, back to the Heene saga. The cops are now saying that family patriarch Richard used his own child to further his bid to score a reality television show. But wait, his family was already on one, some program called “Wife Swap”, weren’t they? Maybe the plethora of these programs (By way of full disclosure, the only reality show I watch is “Jerry Springer”. Why not head straight for the bottom?) gives just about everyone the hope they can cash in like Jon and Kate, or the winners of “So You Think You Can Dance”.

My question is this. Is reality show fame worth being charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor? And, while we’re at it, cynically taking advantage of your own kids? As some in the media have proclaimed, the Heene family has already given the nation a reality television episode, and I’m not talking about “Wife Swap”. Here was this balloon, floating through the air like a prop from an Ed Wood movie, with questions about whether a six year old tragically fell out of the thing before it landed.

And now we’re being told the whole thing was a hoax. Which brings up the question, how far would you go for a shot at TV fame and fortune? You tell me.

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What’s With All the Blackface?

So much for a post racial planet.

The Minstrels, 1962
The Minstrels, 1962

Blackface, it seems, is the new black, albeit in faraway places like Australia and France.

An Australian TV show caused quite an uproar when a group calling itself Jackson Jive performed the song “Can You Feel It” wearing huge black wigs and blackened faces.

Then, French Vogue features a 14 page spread in its October issue with a model, also in blackface.

Vogue.larastone.blackface

The Australian performers apologized, but not until after being condemned by none other than Harry Connick Jr., who happened to be a guest on the show.

So what’s going on here? a fair number of equivocators are posing the “what if” scenario. It’s like, what if a black person was dressed in whiteface? Isn’t that okay? What’s the difference? Why is everyone so sensitive? Others try to chalk it up to an American sensibility.

Popular Japanese recording group, Gosperats
Popular Japanese recording group, Gosperats

Australians and the French don’t share America’s history of minstrel shows, and therefore should get a pass on this. Or so the logic goes. Trouble is, in both cases past and present history is being ignored.

Leave aside, for the moment, America’s racist past practice of reinforcing stereotypes by popularizing the minstrel show.

Let’s talk about Australia. This is a place where dark skinned people, the Aborigines, were systematically driven off their land just as Native Americans were here. It wasn’t until 1967, 200 years after Europeans settled in Australia, that Aborigines were even counted as human beings in the nation’s census. They were also the butt of numerous stereotypical jokes in Australian entertainment during much of that time.

As for French Vogue, it should be noted that nowhere in its October “blackface” issue is there a single model of color. Not to mention the difficulty black models still encounter trying to get work (Naomi and Iman notwithstanding). Sure, Vogue has a history of “over the top” presentations on its pages. And sure, with the magazine industry in steep decline everyone’s trying to something to get attention. But this?

If there are points to be made for presenting such nonsense, they escape me. And let’s be clear. This isn’t about political correctness. It’s about knowledge of one’s past, and a basic human sensitivity that seems to elude both magazine editors and television producers. Perhaps now that both the Australian show and French Vogue have been called out, there have been lessons learned, and folks can move on.

minstrel

But you tell me. Will we see more blackface portrayals in the future?

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