Derrick N Ashong and Soulfège

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Love Rain Down - A Short Film "Love Rain Down" is a 2012 Official Entry in the Palm Beach International Film Festival

An animated film based on the song "Love Rain Down" from the album "AFropolitan" by Derrick N. Ashong (aka DNA) & Soulfège. The movie follows the tale of a little boy named "Johnny" who makes a trip to the legendary "Crossroads" of Robert Johnson fame, and stands down the Devil armed only with a song...


Check out this Unite Against The War on Women video using our song "Fight On" Then DOWNLOAD the Free mp3 of 'Fight On' via SoundCloud
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Entries in Mitt Romney (7)


The Empire Strikes Out

So the world didn't come to an end today.  This is kind of depressing for those of us who haven't bothered to do any Christmas shopping since it didn't really matter this year.  I also have no idea what I'm gonna' do with all these "The Mayans were right" T-Shirts I planned to share with my ancestors after the apocalypse (having cleverly bought them on a payment plan, it turns out I'm actually gonna' have to pay full-price for all this crap now).

At a mournful moment like this, where for once it looks like tomorrow actually IS promised, the only thing that cheers me up is reminiscing about the year gone by, and the magic and wonderment that the Republican party has brought to the unwashed masses of our nation in these difficult times.  

It all began with the presidential election season, which featured the surreal spectacle of the GOP primary debates in which grown men and woman showed the entire world why Saturday Night Live will never go off the air.  By the time the "inevitable-nominee" Mitt Romney emerged victorious, it was clear that the shining lights of the Republican Party would not be willing to accept a 10-to-1 package of spending reductions to tax increases, had little to no respect for the troops (if they happened to be gay), and were willing to consider "self-deportation" as a serious approach to solving our immigration problem.

Despite my own dashed hopes that a few of these candidates would engage in the age old practice of "self-shut-up-already," the general election revealed a GOP just as beholden to magical thinking as it was to invisible billionaires with bottomless checkbooks.  From fabricating imaginary attacks on welfare reform, to leveling incessant broadsides against an imaginary President Obama (and I'm not just talking about Eastwood), to the oft-repeated-never-proven assertion that lowering taxes for the wealthy increases revenues - embracing the GOP platform this year required a certain belief in elves and faeries, worthy of anyone embarking on a quest for the Ring of Sauron, or bipartisan compromise in Congress. 

And when that magical thinking failed to transform the president's persistent lead in the polls into a landslide victory for Mitt Romney, the world witnessed the meltdown of the modern-day Republican party personified in the antics of Karl Rove during FOX News' election night coverage.  Apparently the 47% of Americans comprised of women, youth, people of color, and all manner of other freeloaders - turned out to be a majority of the electorate.  It's the kind of math that only the GOP of 2012 could imagine.

And today, when the world should have been busy ending, we instead witnessed two more memorable moments.  First, House Speaker John Boehner's failure to win enough support from his own caucus to bring a vote on his proposed "Plan B" fiscal cliff solution to the floor of the House of Representatives.  While this was a surprise for most who've been observing the back & forth from a safe distance, in the end is it really so surprising that Congressional Republicans weren't willing to pass a bill that would put them on record as supporting a tax increase - a bill that could never become law even in the imaginings of its sponsor?

Yet the good times were only beginning to roll.  To cap it all off, this morning NRA chief sharpshooter Wayne Lapierre held a half-hour news conference in which he single-handedly managed to convince the entire nation of the absolute necessity of keeping firearms out of the hands of people as mentally disturbed as Wayne Lapierre.  After what many would argue to be the single most tragic mass shooting in our nation's history - it's horror marked not only by the number of people killed, but by the incomprehensible fact that most of them were children - the NRA declared it's position that in order to solve the problem of mass shootings at schools...we need to have more guns at schools.

I look at all of this and can't help but think that the imaginary world the GOP has created - one where brown people, women, gays and youth either don't exist or don't matter enough to speak to - is drifting apart before our eyes.  While most of the country is still pondering how we can sensibly preserve the rights guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment while keeping assault weapons off our streets, and out of our malls and schools, the Republican stalwarts at the NRA have determined that video games, movies, music and other fictional works are the sources of the real-life violence we've grown so accustomed to - which is clearly why video-game loving nations like Japan, the UK and the maple-syrup-snorting madmen to our North have a fraction of the gun-violence we do.

In the end it's been a big year for the American imagination.  And who would have thought that ultimately the Mayan calendar predicted not the end of the world...but the end of any connection the Republican Party once had with reality.



Why Obama Will Win - Arithmetic

I tweeted yesterday that despite all the fretting I hear in the media about the election being "uber close," I believe President Obama will win decisively tonight.  Yes, the country is fairly evenly split, but the electoral college math favors the president in a way that may not be good for cable news ratings, but which will nonetheless result in his reelection.  Since some of you have been asking why I'm so confident in this, here is some of my reasoning.  This is an excerpt from an email I shared with some friends on this topic yesterday:

"I think we've all got to assume that anything can happen in an election this close, because that's the name of the game.  That said, I just don't think it's going to be that close & certainly not in the electoral vote.  For one thing as you mentioned early voting has been strong for the President in a number of key states.  The polling has also favored the president and yet standard polling overwhelmingly undercounts young voters who are a) less likely to have a landline, and b) less likely to answer an unknown call on their cell phone.

Additionally, I'd argue that the voter suppression efforts in places like PA, OH & FL has had a boomerang effect against the GOP.  Folks keep talking about a lack of enthusiasm on the DEM side, but I think what they're talking about is the lack of euphoria that accompanied much of the campaign in 08.  Then people voted because they were excited - this time people are excited to vote because they're pissed that someone has tried to take the vote away from them.

I had a chance to interview David Axelrod last Nov...and these guys have been all over the voter suppression issue for a strong minute.  I'm giving NV, IA, WI, OH, PA & NH to the president.  I'm also going out on a limb and giving him VA as well.  NC & CO I'm not convinced he wins, and FL could go either way, but from the math I see President Obama wins big."

I think there's a good chance President Obama takes FL as well, given the ongoing demographic shift in that state (eg. the Latino community there is deep and increasingly "non-Cuban"; the young Cuban demo is not as deeply committed to the Castro issue that has galvanized previous generations behind the GOP).  Additionally, the Obama campaign has a far superior ground game to the Romney campaign nationwide (particularly in the battle-ground states) and ultimately this numbers game boils down to who shows up to the polls & has their votes counted.  

The bottom line is, yes the country is divided but the electoral college will not be.  Tomorrow we'll be hearing the news media all abuzz about how the polls were so bad, of course they couldn't tell it wouldn't be close.  Except for Nate Silver, who's been doing the math all along.



At the RNC - Day 2

Today was my 3rd day in Tampa, 2nd day at the Republican National Convention.  So far it's been a BLAST! First of all, I know maaad heads down here! Mind you, I didn't really know in advance any of these herbs were going to be attending. We've mostly all discovered each other on Twitter & then linked up in person.  Some of these folks are definitely not good Republicans.  I hooked up w/ Baratunde and some cool peeps from WNYC for Cuban food last night & it was like a Communist revival over black beans & rice! Salud Comrades! Pass me another Negra Modelo (I was gonna' write Negro Modelo, but you nerdikins would be so busy correcting me, you'd completely miss the joke).
Definitely had a good time w/ the progressives last night & went home w/ a bellyfull of beer & arroz con pollo.  Today, the fates flipped the script on me & I ran into some of my peeps who are doing varying degrees of some real GOP ish. One of them is a key blogger for the Romney Campaign & the other is the big cheese at We all shared hugs & took pics and I told them that for the sake of their jobs, they should deny any witnesses who saw them smiling all over me. Baratunde on the other hand outed all of us on Twitter already, so here's the pic anyway:
As you can see, no one is foaming at the mouth and none of us is beating the other with a large, heavily-bound piece of legislation.  I know there's a lot of vitriol in our political discourse today, but standing around sharing baby pictures & catching up about music, travels & life since our school daze, reminds you how much we all still have in common.
Speaking of things in common, I also ran into a gang of my peeps from AJStream! I didn't get a pic of them, but they snapped one of me as soon as we rolled up on eachother:
Where am I? And WTF are y'all doing here??
Note the look of surprise as I stumble upon my Al Jazeera crew in the middle of the awesome tunnel of foottraffickery that leads from the media circus building, to the delegate circus building (ie. where all the action is happening). We naturally commenced to ulullating and speaking in Arabic which drew a large & appreciative crowd of Republicans who were excited to meet some real life Muslims, they pulled out their guns & started shooting in the air!
Ok only one of us was Muslim (I don't wanna' be like Shaggy on that "it wasn't me," but since I get accused of all kinds of falsehoods anyway, I'll say for the wasn't me).  And no one pulled out a gun, security down here is tighter than a yellow bear huggin' a honey pot.  And we didn't really speak in Arabic (we ain't crazy now...).
All in all it was another super fun day.  I ran into a well known GOP commentator who spoke to me off the record about some of the challenges facing the Romney/Ryan ticket, as well as some of the mistakes the Obama administration has made from a political strategy perspective, rather than a partisan one.  It's amazing hearing a Republican operative break down what the administration could/should have done early to defuse some of the criticisms that are dogging them now.  When you turn off the talking points, some of these cats are on some real political Jiu-Jitsu.
Something I've been thinking a lot about is the dismal 17% favorability rating for the GOP (72% unfavorable) among African-Americans that was reported in a recent BET News Poll. We interviewed some prominent Black conservatives for Thursday night's broadcast and their comments, combined with some of the off the record conversations I've had, lead me to believe that a significant reason that Black folks have such a dismal view of the GOP is that the party really hasn't made any serious effort to speak to US.  Rather, they've counted on a narrow, xenophobic and often straight-up-racist segment of the party, to drive engagement and play on racial fears to corral and motivate a broader swath of GOP voters, particularly in the South (I know, I know y'all hate to hear me talk about "race" and the "South" but that is where much of this ish goes down so walk up & smell the pork rinds).
If the GOP would actually try serious outreach to Black & Latino communities, not just the playtime efforts of speaking at the NAACP while claiming the first Black President is an illegal immigrant, or claiming that Latinos care about the economy & jobs, while encouraging them to self-deport and find those jobs in Mexico - if Republicans would take a moment and seriously talk to these communities that have historically held a bevy of conservative beliefs, our political landscape might be altogether different.  But then the GOP would be an altogether different party, wouldn't it?
Good thing the Democrats don't take the Black vote for granted...that would be a fatal error if a genuine alternative were ever to present itself.
More to come,


Photo by: Jonathan Ernst / Getty Images

Today's Washington Post online has a revealingly in-depth story on Mitt Romney's mistreatment of some of his classmates as a high school student at the Cranbrook private school in Detroit back in the 1960s.  In short, it details conversations with a number of his peers who recount him engaging in, and sometimes leading, bullying behavior towards students perceived to be gay (among other youthful "pranks"). Romney has denied any recollection of these activities, and issued the usual tepid Washington non-apology.

A couple of quick thoughts. First, I don't think it's fair to judge Mitt Romney the "60-something-year-old presidential candidate" by something Mitt Romney the "high-school prankster" did. I know it's tempting to all the people who can't stand the guy, and I must admit he's not currently on my Christmas card list. But something he did FIFTY YEARS AGO would have to be a lot worse than this to disqualify him from consideration - President Obama was smokin' weed and carrying on himself around the same age, and Lawd knows that Bill Clinton and GW were up to...

That said, what is fair to consider is how the present-day Mitt Romney responds to the allegations of misdeeds against his younger self. I kind of wish he'd just said "you know, I remember that incident and I've always regretted it. I wish I'd taken the time to apologize to that gentleman before he died." Oh yes, if you missed that part of the story, the victim of the most disturbing act of bullying succumbed to cancer in 2004. Today Mitt issued a general apology for any ancient malfeasance, even though he claims not to remember it. I wonder if he ever apologized to the victim, while dude was still alive? That's a greater measure of the man than the childhood ignorance we were all complicit in to some degree or other.

Turns out a second victim of Mitt Romney's bullying is in fact still alive today. Care to apologize to him Governor Romney? The rest of us don't really need the generalized apology, so maybe you might make a phone call?

It would say a lot more to us about the kind of man you are today.




American Taliban

This Saturday I had the opportunity and honor to participate in the Unite Against The War on Women rally in Washington DC. The issue of the degradation of women's rights in this country is something I've been thinking about for a while now, but the impetus to attend the rally actually came from Facebook. One of the organizers of the campaign had reached out to us about using "Fight On" as the soundtrack for one of their videos and we agreed:

The interesting thing about the request is that while "Fight On" was written with oppressed people in mind, a big part of the theme of those who "fight on in a world that doesn't see them" is specifically inspired by the bravery and challenges faced by women around the world - those who don't get medals when the soldiers come home, but who nonetheless keep the world moving and make our lives worth living.

Today the rights of  women are under assault in the United States by leaders who preach "small government" while practicing the politics of invasive ultrasounds. It strikes me that this actually follows a pattern we've seen in many parts of the world, where predominantly male leaders in societies facing significant challenges, latch onto the issue of a woman's "virtue" as a panacea for society's ills. Such efforts are couched in terms of honoring women, yet they result in such heinous practices as the prevention of girls from attending school in Afghanistan, women being forced to marry their rapists in parts of the Middle East, and the practice of Female Genital Mutilation in parts of Africa.

For Westerners these perspectives are seen as barbaric and a world away from anything we can understand. But how far are we from "barbarism" when an opinion leader like Rush Limbaugh can call Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" for testifying in Congress about women's contraception, and the putative leader of the GOP, Mitt Romney, doesn't have the balls to take him to task on it? The whole right-wing peanut gallery was likewise silent about the original all-male panel on the subject. If silence is consent, we have a political movement in this country today that is pretty Medieval in it's view of women's rights.

Now wait, some will argue - this is not about women but the rights of the unborn. Is all this controversy, truly based on the American right's love of children? If so, then certainly the policies advanced by the conservative leadership would clearly be pro-mother-&-child right? House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget reflects added money for pre-natal care and early childhood education right?

That's a bigger joke than anything we heard at the White House Corrrespondent's Dinner. We all know that these people's money has never been put where there mouths are (with the exception of Mitt Romney who apparently has money pouring out of every Swiss orifice). This is not about serving the interests of women nor children, it's about the exercise of power by men who feel powerless to address the real economic, social & political challenges facing the nation.

Looking at all this through that lens, I'd argue you don't need to be a feminist to realize that the so-called "War on Women" is really an abdication of responsibility by our leaders and as such it's assault on all of us. Whether you consider yourself liberal, conservative or indy like me, we all deserve better from our leadership. And until our leaders start pursuing policies that will provide good jobs for people other than ultrasound technicians, we need to stand firm with our mothers, daughters, sisters and lovers to hold those leaders to account. This ain't Afghanistan. The buck stops at our feet.