BY NICK POWELL FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES DENVER — Black activists and celebrities alike gathered this morning at the Movies With A Message Brunch at Earl’s Restaurant in downtown Denver to celebrate the progress made by Senator Barack Obama in his quest for the White House. But while the theme of the party was celebrating the past, Oscar-nominated director and producer Spike Lee focused on the present, particularly the sometimes-tenuous relationship between the hip-hop community and the Obama campaign.

Mr. Lee, who has often uses hip-hop music and casts hip-hop stars in his films, said that rappers should, well, feel free to mince their too-hot words at such a crucial time in American politics. In particular, the platinum-selling artist Ludacris referred to Senator Clinton as an “irrelevant” epithet and attacked Senator John McCain with the line, “Paint the White House black and I’m sure that’s got ‘em terrified/ McCain don’t belong in any chair unless he’s paralyzed.”

For good measure, he referred to President Bush as “mentally handicapped.”

“They gotta realize what they’re doing,” Mr. Lee said of the rappers, as he stood on the carpet outside Earl’s Restaurant, as tourists snapped his photo on their cell phones. “It can’t be about censorship, but they’ve gotta ask themselves is there anything McCain can turn around and use against the campaign. No one wants to be the person who hurts the campaign.” MORE

EDITOR’S NOTE: Astute readers will remember the precocious yeoman-like political coverage provided by intern-to-the-stars Nick Powell. The New York Times did and they asked him to go to Denver with his dad, who covers the presidential campaign for the Grey Lady. Basically they said, ‘How’d you like to go to Denver with your pop, work for us as a news assistant and during your down time you can post to your cute little blog thingee?’ And so he shall. All next week, Nick will be providing Phawker readers with Live & Direct dispatches from the Democratic National Convention. You lucky ducks!


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EPITAPH: You’ll Be Sorry When The Right Doesn’t Have Ted Kennedy To Kick Around Anymore

StJohnAvatarCROPPED_1_1.jpgBY SAINT JOHN BARNED-SMITH This is coming from the wrong correspondent, of course, (I only care about swimming) but I am from Massachusetts. And as such, I’m calling in Beantown privilege to talk about Ted Kennedy. It’s strange to think of Massachusetts without a serious Kennedy in office – without an old school liberal powerhouse like Ted. Kennedy, as you may or may not know, has served in the US Senate since 1962. In 1960, JFK vacated his Senate to run for president, but in a moment of old boyism that would only work in MA, the governor appointed a Kennedy family friend to hold the seat until Ted turned 30, the minimum age for a U.S. Senator.

As such, Kennedy is now second in seniority only to Robert Byrd of West Virginia. And to most ofobamakennedy_1.jpg Massachusetts, he couldn’t lose an election even if he pissed on the Pope and spat on the Irish flag. Unlike his brothers, Ted was not snuffed out in his prime, and so his indiscretions, mistakes, and faults had consequences. While JFK’s many dalliances are an open secret Jack never had to answer for, the tragedy at Chappaquiddick, his many liaisons, and his drinking have long been a matter of public record, for which he had to answer to the voters of Massachusetts every four years. And every four years the people of Massachusetts said: You are forgiven.

Now, his days are numbered. I wouldn’t even have written this piece, until I saw a Boston Herald piece entitled “The Lion Roars Again.” During his speech Monday night, in a massive endorsement of Barack Obama, he said “Yes we can, and finally, yes, we will!” Kennedy challenged nation to believe in Obama’s aspirations for a better America the same way they believed in his brother when he said, quite improbably when you think about it, ‘let’s go to the moon.’ Whether or not you agree with Kennedy, you cannot deny his legacy. He’s led the fight on LGBT rights, on education, on healthcare, on immigration, on gun control, on the minimum wage, on the environment, and on financial aid for students. He’s become the whipping boy of the Republican party, and endured unimaginable personal tragedy and public humiliation. But partisan politics aside, Kennedy he will be remembered as one of the most heroic, flawed, and wounded leaders of the last 40 years. And when his time finally comes, the torch will truly have been passed to a new generation and the keys to Camelot will be handed to the Obamas. May God have mercy on them.

THE BEE GEES: Massachusetts

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