Speaking at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa on Tuesday, former President Barack Obama had some carefully considered words to say about the current political climate and, without explicitly naming him, our current POTUS.
“We have to stop pretending that countries that just hold an election where sometimes the winner somehow magically gets 90 percent of the vote because all the opposition is locked up, or can’t get on TV, is a democracy,” he explained in his speech.
His words then became more pointedly about Trump’s recent antics.
“The denial of facts runs counter to democracy, it could be its undoing. Which is why we must zealously protect independent media, and we have to guard against the tendency for social media to become purely a platform for spectacle, outrage, or disinformation. You have to believe in facts. Without facts, there is no basis for cooperation. Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up.”
Obama’s speech warned of the fall of democracy in the West, the rise of racist white nationalist groups taking over, and the power of social media to hurt knowledge:
“Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained – the form of it – but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning. In the West, you’ve got far-right parties that oftentimes are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders, but also on barely hidden racial nationalism.
Who needs free speech as long as the economy is going good? The free press is under attack. Censorship and state control of media is on the rise. Social media – once seen as a mechanism to promote knowledge and understanding and solidarity – has proved to be just as effective promoting hatred and paranoia and propaganda and conspiracy theories.”
Take a look…
Obama: “Strong man politics are ascendant suddenly. Whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained the form of it. But those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.” https://t.co/OR9B4ki2e9pic.twitter.com/gxoLS9GJRP
The Obamas have signed a multi-year production deal with Netflix, Deadlinereports. The news was announced over Twitter by Netflix this morning:
President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have entered into a multi-year agreement to produce films and series for Netflix, potentially including scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries, and features.
The deal means Barack and Michelle Obama will have a platform of 118 million subscribers to create content that could include television shows, feature films, and documentaries. But the productions will likely be more inspirational than inflammatory.
“President and Mrs. Obama have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire,” said Eric Schultz, one of Obama’s former advisors, in an initial report by The New York Times. “Throughout their lives, they have lifted up stories of people whose efforts to make a difference are quietly changing the world for the better. As they consider their future personal plans, they continue to explore new ways to help others tell and share their stories.”
Today, Barack and Michelle Obama’s official presidential portraits were unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. It’s perhaps the most-anticipated portrait unveiling in US history, not only because of the current political climate but because of the modern artists both Obamas chose for their likenesses.
The former President chose Kehinde Wiley, famous for his portraits of African-American men in the regal style of classical Old Master paintings, often filled with bright pops of color. For example:
At the unveiling, Mr. Obama said “How about that? That’s pretty sharp,” before continuing,”I tried to negotiate less gray hair and Kehinde’s artistic integrity would not allow (him) to do what I asked. I tried to negotiate smaller ears. Struck out on that as well.”
Wiley is now the first African-American artist to be commissioned for an official presidential portrait for the National Portrait Gallery.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama chose Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald, known for her more conceptual work, often painting black skin tones in gray and experimenting outside of realistic shape and color.
“Amy, I want to thank you for so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman I love,” the 44th President continued.
Mrs. Obama thanked Sherald for the impact she’ll have on girls and girls of color. “They will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the walls of this great American institution. And I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives because I was one of those girls.”
Both portraits will be visible to the public on Tuesday. Take a glimpse at the work below.
Here’s a great example of the stark difference between this presidency and the last: in the wake of Trump’s horrific response to the Charlottesville tragedy, President Obama tweeted a three-part quote from Nelson Mandela, the first tweet of which has become the most liked post on the site in its entire history.
Here’s what Obama said:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…” pic.twitter.com/InZ58zkoAm
Last night was the final State Dinner to be hosted by Barack and Michelle Obama, and there was no shortage of red carpet realness. Below, we’ve compiled our favorite looks of the night, starting with the clear winner:
... our dear queen Michelle Obama, stunning in Versace.
Chance the Rapper also was a showstopper, rocking the event in a gorgeous suit alongside his dad and sans his signature baseball cap.
Frank Ocean and his mom both looked absolutely fantastic, and so did Ocean's Vans.
Gwen Stefani also looked gorgeous in a sheer black gown.
The real crew, though, had to be the First Couple and the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, and his wife.
President Obama went to lunch at Chipotle today. The press covering the event have left so many questions unanswered. Here, press, here are some things your readers are wondering.
I wonder if he got a burrito.
I wonder if he got a burrito bowl.
I wonder if he added guacamole.
I wonder if they asked him if he knew it was a dollar extra.
I wonder if he got mild, medium, or spicy salsa.
I wonder if he likes sour cream.
I wonder if he got a diet coke, or he got a “cup for water” and then filled it up with diet coke as his secret service men blocked the cashier’s line of vision.
I wonder if he went to the little area on the side and got a piece of lemon using the tongs.
I wonder if he used his fingers instead.
I wonder if his stomach hurt afterwards.
I wonder if he was thinking about his digestion when he was at a forum on working families right after lunch.
I wonder what’s going on in Iraq.
I wonder if he got black or pinto beans.
The perfect election distracted us from the destruction of the perfect storm. Those with power and comfort hosted those without as the election served as a bit of relief from immediate woes. Donald Trump, whose wig must be on too tight or his hair must be growing into his brain, provided comic relief with Twitter rants that underscore his new role. The Donald now plays the fool. We seek joy where we can find it as even the Obama win can’t allay our continuing anxiety.
I am still without heat, although space heaters powered by sacred electricity make my Sandy experience less frightful. I have no cable yet, but of course compared to so many neighbors I am doing brilliantly. The streets I saw as I traveled to a friend’s to watch the results were empty as election night seemed to be bad for the booze business. The debate still rages on whether the result of the election is good for business in general. Those seeking an Obama celebration stayed local, as travel is still problematic. There are few events worth the fuel, and suburban NY, a huge part of the bottom line, can’t get here. They will come when they can as there still isn’t a place outside of our crippled town that can satisfy their party itch. I missed David Davis’ birthday bash last night over at Westgay. Frankie Sharp, through hard work and mad creativity, has made Westgay at Westway a must-attend weekly party. The L train, the lifeblood of North Williamsburg, is reportedly still packed with mud-keeping hipsters and wannabe hipsters and those too hip to go near that moniker near home. The local bars and restaurants are packed. I will go out, but will pick my spots.
There once was this little spot downtown, off Broadway and White, that thrilled us all back in the day. By all accounts and my experience the Mudd Club was one of the greatest places ever to be. I learned my business there and hobnobbed with celebrities and the fabulous people long before I sought a club career. It was heaven on earth for a young rascal who never would have made it in save for the kindness of doorman Richard Boch. For every person inside, there were 10 outside, and I was blessed that Richard saw something in me that he believed belonged. Tomorrow UNDER CONSTRUCTION, Works In Progress (and other adventures) will be happening at The Gershwin Hotel, 7 E.27th St. at 8pm sharp. There will be readings by Richard Boch from his in-progress manuscript: If You’ve Been Standing Here For More Than Ten Minutes: A Mudd Club Memoir 1979-1980, as well as readings by Maggie Estep. I will attend and expect to see many faces that have been swept into the corners of my mind.
Thursday night, man-about-town Nick Andreottola will use his resources to help The Lower East Side Girls Club. While most of the news focuses on the valiant relief efforts in Staten Island and Breezy Point and the Jersey Shore, there are people in our backyard who have lost everything. The storm surge flooded basement apartments in the LES and sent the poorest among us scrambling. Many still have no power or heat, diapers, food, and blankets. Nick’s legendary Champagning party will help raise cash and take in donated canned foods and supplies to make sure the young girls at The Lower East Side Girls Club continue on their journey to success. The event is tomorrow, November 8th, at 7pm at RSVP, 15 Watts St. at W. Broadway, hosted by Nicole Rose Stillings.
You like news. We like news. Let’s all like news together. Are you ready? Well, are you!? Time to kick the day off to a good start with some news and happenings. Just remember to think positive: "When life gives you shit, why not make shit creme brulee!"
"Mommy! Daddy! Why are you fighting? Why can’t we all just get along? Stop fighting!"
In this scenario, "mommy" is the Democrats and "daddy" is the Republicans – and fingers are pointed at the opposing politcal party as to who is to blame. The U.S. government shut down on Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. when Congress failed to pass a spending bill. President Obama said in an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition: “I will not negotiate. This perpetual cycle of brinksmanship has to end.”
Strap in and come along for the ride: All the government services you’ve come to love will be disrupted — if not canceled. No what that means? No goddamn panda cam! The National Zoo’s beloved live panda cam went dark Tuesday morning. No more goddamn online-Panda-ogling because our two political parties can’t agree on affordable health care. That’s what you get! No live pandas. Crazy fact: Thelast goverment shutdownin 1995 cost the federal government well over $2 billion.
CNN:Are These Sexy Selfies Too Far for Kids?
Recap: CNN posed the question whether sexy selfies were too much for kids. Then a panel of adults discussed the matter. "Where is mom and dad?" said one of the panel of adults. Then all the adults laughed. A conclusion was made that it’s not only teenagers who are out of control – but adults as well! More laughing.
Thank you CNN. That’s great and all – but we have no goddamn panda cam!
Scissor Attack in NYC Park
At least four people were rushed to hospitals this morning after being stabbed with scissors at Riverside Park in New York City’s Upper West Side. God that’s horrible: What the hell has the world come to? Not only has the government shutdown, panda cams are being turned off, and CNN is devoting valuable airtime to discuss the pros-and-cons of selfies, but we now have to fear scissor attacks in our city’s parks. The suspect is reportedly under arrest.