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Letter from a poor black kid. My response to the dumbest article ever at Forbes

UPDATE 2x:

I've created PoorBlackKid.com. Yep.

UPDATE:

Gene Marks' response: http://blackte.am/tTrP0L

ORIGINAL

I blame Jacquetta Szathmari. I was minding my business, not being offended by truly idiotic ideas, when I saw her facebook post and then blog post about this Forbes article by Gene Marks. I decided not to respond. Today, I broke my silence and posted a few tweets like this

and this

and this

But I thought that would be the end of it. Then I got a request from CNN.com to write something about this nonsense, and so I thought about how I might take on this dumbshitteryTM (h/t, Elon James White). I opted to fight something that originally sounded like satire with satire. The full piece is over at CNN. Here's the setup

The following letter is a response from a hypothetical child to Gene Marks' article in Forbes, titled "If I Were A Poor Black Kid." While completely fabricated, the letter below has a stronger basis in reality than does Marks'. In his article, Marks, a business and technology contributor to Forbes, argues poorly that poor black children should use technology to improve their station in life. The article is terrible.


CNN doc #BattleForBlair Mountain looks like a good, nuanced piece of journalism on the environment and labor

We rarely see historical context on a cable news network, especially one that exposes a seemingly-pro-labor perspective. This CNN Working In America documentary with Soleda O'Brien looks interesting. It's about the debate over mountaintop removal for coal in West Virginia. I can't fully endorse the work cause I haven't seen it yet, but I applaud the effort.

The first opportunity I ever had to ask then-candidate Barack Obama a question, I challenged him over his pro-coal stance. (see this Google Video, and start at 10m09s)

Seems worth checking out.

Ninety years ago this month, 10,000 West Virginia miners waged a violent battle in support of labor rights. The fight now: Will the historic Blair Mountain battleground be preserved, or mined? "Battle for Blair Mountain: Working in America" airs at 8 p.m. ET Sunday, August 14 and 8 p.m. ET Saturday, August 20

To the writer who says #GoTheFuckToSleep isn't funny, @baratunde says #ShutTheFuckUp

This is my rapid response to an instance of stupidity.

On the Amtrak from DC to New York yesterday, I saw this opinion piece by Karen Spears Zacharias posted on CNN: "Go the F*** to Sleep" not funny. This title struck me as the opposite of the truth and thus worth getting riled up over, so I read it and indeed got riled up.

Go The Fuck To Sleep is a bestselling parody of a children's book. It reflects the frustrations of a parent trying to get his or her child to, well, to go the fuck to sleep. It's absurd and hilarious. The audiobook version is read by Samuel L. Jackson and is available for free, making it even more awesome. Here's a sample of the format:

The cats nestle close to their kittens now.
The lambs have laid down with the sheep.
You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear.
Please go the fuck to sleep.

The windows are dark in the town, child.
The whales huddle down in the deep.
I’ll read you one very last book if you swear
You’ll go the fuck to sleep.

...

The flowers doze low in the meadows
And high on the mountains so steep.
My life is a failure, I’m a shitty-ass parent.
Stop fucking with me, please, and sleep.

When I read the CNN piece, I became increasingly concerned that the author had failed to grasp the concept of the written-for-adults parody. See a few amazing quotes from the op ed:

The violent language of "Go the F*** to Sleep" is not the least bit funny, when one considers how many neglected children fall asleep each night praying for a parent who'd care enough to hold them, nurture them and read to them.

Ok, no joke is "the least bit funny" if you keep the dark and dramatic image of neglected children in the foreground of your mind. I'm more concerned for the jokes that wake up each night, sweating and terrified over being treated with the seriousness of child abuse.

Author Adam Mansbach is undoubtedly the kind of father who heaps love, affection and attention upon his daughter. (He reportedly had the idea to write the book because of his exasperation with her at bedtime.) But sadly, his book accurately portrays the hostile environment in which too many children grow up.

No. No it doesn't. Zacharias is forcing a connection. Mashbach is using hyperbole and parody, which are two common literary devices that this critic, the author of three books and adjunct professor of journalism at Central Washington University, should be familiar with by now.

[Joan Demarest, who loved the book before reading it,] has good reason to be concerned about the message behind such a parody. Demarest was the prosecuting attorney in one of Oregon's most high-profile child murder cases. She understands the fear that far too many children endure because the lines of what's appropriate parenting have become blurred.

Nobody is suggesting that there's a connection between Adam Mansbach's book and child abuse or child neglect.

You are! You just did it in the previous paragraph! Dude, we can see your words. Right. There! Why would you involve the prosecutor in a child murder case in a discussion about a parody of frustrated parents?? That's like asking the investigator in a grizzly (oops, not bear-filled!) grisly plane crash to comment on Patton Oswalt's hilarious Jetblue joke. "Well, it's just that every year many people come to a fiery end, so it concerns me that Mr. Oswalt would make light of an airline's safety precautions."

"Imagine if this were written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos," says Dr. David Arredondo. He is an expert on child development…

This does not follow. Arredondo may be an expert on child development, but he's an ignoramus on common sense and lightening the fuck up.

The author of this piece is so earnest, I thought for a moment her criticism itself was a parody of some humorless human that couldn't possibly be real, but I think she actually believes what she wrote. It's fucking stupid. I'm not generally prone to such heavy use of profanity myself, but I'm just so fucking irritated. Fuck!

Given Zacharias's response to the book, I can only imagine that she'd respond to my own criticism of her by citing the violent horrors endured by poorly-reasoned writers who don't know how to take a fucking joke. Given her propensity to overanalyze and misinterpret the world, however, I think reasonable people can agree she should simply shut the fuck up.

Thus, my response poem:

You're taking this too seriously
There's no need for a fuss
You clearly just dont understand
So please shut the fuck up

No parent lives by this advice
It's just to vent and stuff
It's obviously a fucking joke
Seriously shut the fuck up

Connecting parody to child murder
Is just too much for us
Please don't teach your kids like this
For their sakes, shut the fuck up

Me on John King USA talking about the "economy"

Hey folks, Last Friday, I was invited to discuss the economy and job numbers with John King on his new CNN show. (Sorry it's taken so long to post, but I've been juggling a few things). I was surprised by the quality of the conversation, to be honest. I'm used to these cable shows throwing up a Brady Bunch-style, talking head smackdown, and this segment was nothing like that. It consisted of an unexpectedly well-produced segment about the loss of industrial jobs and its effects on the black community plus John and I talking both about unemployment and the contrast of that to extreme compensation for the bankster class. Here's the original segment. As I'm starting to do by habit, I've recorded a video response to get into a bit more detail about some of the ideas I wanted to communicate.

And here's my response... to myself :) Some references backing up the points I was making

My CNN.com/Live Blogger Segment On Torture w/ Video

Here's the video! I couldn't see any of the other participates so hope that didn't come across as weird. What did come across to me as weird is that we're having a big debate about whether people involved in violating domestic and international law should be prosecuted. I tried many different angles during this segment in an attempt to highlight the absurd notion that we should only look forward. I hope one of them stuck. Always appreciate any feedback. I'll be back on CNN.com/live Monday at 12:10pm ET. Topic TBD Oh and thanks to Huffington Post for letting me use their office space for the webcast. Update 4:45pm. Oh dear god. I just noticed the caption on the video refers to us as The Blogger Bunch. As in The Brady Bunch. What has happened to the most trusted name in news!?

Me On CNN With Soledad O'Brien - MLK Day 2009

I'm always in a rush but especially today. Thankfully, some friends pulled this video, and I could get it up. Watching the segment, you'd never realize that my earpiece was dead, and I didn't hear a word the Republican strategist said. Big up to Soledad for some smooth moderating to keep that invisible. Ok, here it is.

My Daily Beast Sidwell Blog Post Picked Up By Anderson Cooper Blog

How many times can I use the word "blog" in the title of this blog post? Anyway, I forgot to post this on my own site, so for reference and bragging rights, I wrote an oped at The Daily Beast about my life at Sidwell Friends, with advice to the Obama parents. It was shortly picked up by the Anderson Cooper 360 blog. Hooray for blogging! Note, the comments on both sites really seem to have been made by people who are not that smart nor observant.

NPR Cancels Only Black-Issues Program, News & Notes

cross-posted to Jack and Jill Politics This is terrible news, and I'm still trying to figure out what exactly is going on. I first heard from Jasmyne Cannick. The basics are that NPR is hurting financially (projected $23M budget shortfall this year up from an estimated $2M). This is due to reduced corporate underwriting, reduced contributions from member stations and individuals plus severely depressed investment holdings that drive its endowment. According to its official statements, NPR decided it would do away with two shows, Day to Day and News & Notes because they suffered from poor audience ratings and the weakest underwriting. The shows will run through March 20, 2009 Some more source information is available at: According to Interim President and CEO Haarsager:
It is important for you to understand why we chose to cancel News & Notes and Day to Day, and the implications for programming strategy and commitments. Neither program was attracting sufficient levels of audience or national underwriting necessary to sustain continued production under these tough financial circumstances.
That's all very believable in this market, but of all the shows to cancel... News & Notes has been an absolutely wonderful, intelligent and fun outlet to listen to and be a part of. I've been on the show over 10 times since the summer of 2007 (and will be on next Wednesday Dec 17th) , and it has certainly contributed to the audience and credibility of Jack & Jill Politics. We're like family. In fact, the weekly Blogger Roundtable was a truly innovative segment on a show that already had some of the best coverage of black issues of any major media outlet. Because of News & Notes, our own blogroll has expanded, and I've had a chance to meet and work with some impressive voices. So many old school media outlets don't get how to work with technology, social media and the youngins, but News & Notes pulled it off effectively without exploiting or compromising these emerging voices. Obviously the media landscape and indeed any entity dependent on funds is suffering right now and will continue to do so. Newspapers have been hurting for a while. NPR, with its heavy dependency on donations and market-based endowment funds, must be hurting as well. In case you think News & Notes is the only show getting hit, it is not. The Washington Post reports that this is the first company wide layoff in 25 years:
Some of those losing their jobs are veteran NPR voices, such as Ketzel Levine, an NPR reporter since 1977, and Vicky O'Hara, an editor and former diplomatic correspondent with 26 years on the job. Others include "News & Notes" host Farai Chideya, "Day to Day" host Madeleine Brand, Washington reporter Libby Lewis, entertainment-industry correspondent Kim Masters and national reporter John McChesney. About half the 64 people cut are journalists.
Yet I can't help but think that now, of all times, is not the time to cut any sort of programing that brings intelligent discourse to black issues. Couldn't they have cut that weird news quiz show, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, instead? I mean, really? In the grand, new age of Obama, this is happening? This past year, we at Jack and Jill Politics and the broader Afrosphere had to work triple time to try to inject some sanity into the media conversation about race. Suddenly Wolf Blitzer and crew had to say something, anything, about race, and they didn't know where to start because they lacked the lived experience, empathy or education to say anything useful. With Obama headed for the White House, the supply of ignorant racial media discourse will only grow. We've got four years of people picking on the Obama Girls' Hairstyle or Michelle's Rear End or Is Obama Really The Black President. We've got four years of Is Racism Over or Who's Gonna Be The President For White Folks and other ignorant questions headed our way. We know it's coming. Yet it's at this time that one of our most prized outlets is switched off. But fear not black people. CNN has hired D.L. Hughley. Update 1 On of our commenters reminded me that the show Tell Me More, is hosted by Michelle Martin, an African-American. While that's true, her show can't be accurately called a black program. This according to the description of News & Notes alternate host Tony Cox:
"People are concerned and they're hoping for the best," Cox, who worked with the show in each of its incarnations, told Journal-isms. "If our show goes down, it will be a tragic loss, because we provide a unique voice in the NPR universe, and if we go down, that voice will be lost." Martin's program, while also featuring an African American host, "is more multicultural," Cox said, "and our show is more Afrocentric and Afro-American-centric. We really focus on the black experience in America and in Africa."
Looking for something to do? Jasmyne Cannick has posted the numbers and emails of some key NPR execs as well as a petition.

Hear My Olympic Torch And Ari Fleischer Jokes From Last Night

Last night, I did a set at The Tank in NYC as part of Laughing Liberally Lab. Fellow comic Elon James White has decided to podcast, like everything in his comedic life and posted my set up. I was pretty proud of the opening jokes, both new and untested. In fact, I got some positive feedback on the Olympic torch joke yesterday afternoon via Twitter friend anjibee, so thanks for focus grouping my material Anji! You can subscribe to the radioTANK podcast here. Or listen directly right here:

CNN Post-Show, Ari Fleischer In The Green Room and More

cross-posted to jack & jill politics So it's always kind of a big deal to get on primetime TV, and thanks to the entire JJP fam for providing your suggested topics, talking points and coverage throughout the day. Yall are like a community-powered media prep team. Sadly, Governor Ventura's segment went way over, and the blogger segment on CNN's Election Center got cut short. Here's the video for those who missed it.

That's right. I got one sentence in! Dang! I accomplished my first goal: don't look like an idiot. If you watch my eyes in the closing minutes (after she says the segment's over), you can see them saying "Wha'choo talkin bout Campbell??" Such is national television, but Jack & Jill Politics is likely to return in the near future to try to represent real thought on the airwaves. Had I known I would only get one sentence, I might have kept my message to Iraq as economic failure, but I think it's worth putting pressure on those who keep saying "No we can't" leave Iraq to ask them just when they think it will be possible. So that's the on-air part, but what yall missed was the green room where I spent mad time talking with none other than Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. We arrived at about the same time, and I wasn't sure whether to shake his hand or choke him! The man is disturbingly personable. He's like a genuinely nice and funny person. Here's the killer photo I got of him reading JJP!

Ari Fleischer Reads Jack & Jill Politics

We actually didn't talk about politics much and focused on the irony of the CNN green room TV having no sound. I pointed out to him that he was wearing one of those American flag pins. Without missing a beat, he said Barack Obama gave it to him. I said, "yeah, he didn't need to wear his patriotism on his sleeve." Ah, laughing with the enemy. Anyway, thanks to everyone for your contributions, not just today but in general. It's good to be home.