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'Seinfeld' Rant Stokes Online Outrage

Blogophile is written by's Melissa P. McNamara.

Michael Richards may not have been in the news much since his "Seinfeld" days, but his racist rant at a comedy club has left a mark on bloggers. Find out what they have to say. And, will you try Wesabe? Plus, when a UCLA student was tasered, it was captured on camera and sparked a wave of reaction online.

Seinfeld Curse

It didn't take long for Kramer (er, Michael Richards) to become one of the most talked about people in the blogosphere, after he spewed racist remarks at a heckler in the crowd during a set at The Laugh Factory in West Hollywood, TMZ first reported.

A video on TMZ shows the actor repeatedly yelling at a man who sat in the audience at the comedy club, and had heckled him.

"Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f------ fork up your ass," he says while on stage.

"You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now motherf------. Throw his ass out. He's a n-----! He's a n-----! He's a n-----! A n-----, look, there's a n-----!"

Appearing on the "Late Show With David Letterman" Monday, the actor apologized publicly for his words, but it didn't quell the uproar online.

Some say it was Michael Richards' "Mel Gibson's" moment, and found his words inexcusable. "Move over, Mel Gibson," Craig writes at Bring It On! "That place of dishonor now goes to the guy who brought Cosmo Kramer to life, Michael Richards. Hey, at least Gibson could honestly say he was drunk, that it was the booze talking. What's Richards' excuse?"

"You're not African-American, and it's not even funny when you say it. Some of the audience were laughing, some were angry or shocked, sounds like most of them just wanted their money back. Michael Richards, that was stupid," Blueberry adds at Texas Oasis writes.

Still, Richards has some defenders in the blogosphere, with some saying they don't think Richards' intent was racist. "First of all, I don't think there was any racist intent here; he was trying to be edgy and entertaining, and some people even found it such," Robert VerBruggen writes at Robert's Rationale. "Ethnic humor seems to be on the uptick lately, with comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle delightfully poking fun at human differences."

Other bloggers say this incident simply illustrates racism that is pervasive elsewhere in society. "We as a country have not come as far as we may think when we can watch in plain view an angry famous white man turn to the old standby 'N' word as if he uses it everyday," African American Dad blogs. "Racism is alive and well my friends and now we can watch it in all of its disgusting glory on the internet."

NativeAlien agrees. "Sad. It provides some (little) sense of solace that most of the audience got fed up, stood up, and left the scene of Richards' bizarre behavior. Everyone there should have been offended," he blogs. "That kind of behavior, even in response to someone else's goading, is reprehensible in today's society."

Wesabe, anyone?

Would you want financial advice from your peers? That's what Wesabe, a new financial online community is, well, banking on. It takes a group approach to finances, and is catching on in the blogosphere. "Wesabe" was one of the most searched items on blogs this week.

Wesabe's popularity was helped, no doubt, by a posting last Friday on Boing Boing, which described the site as "a little like Flickr for your money, or social Consumerist."

But what exactly does Wesabe do? The founders describe their mission this way:

"Wesabe is a community of people who share our experiences with our money so we can help each other make better financial decisions. We do this by aggregating and analyzing our community members' personal financial data, and showing tips — recommendations to get the most from our money. These tips and recommendations come from the collective wisdom of our entire community."

Rex Dixon at Technically Speaking predicts Wesabe will be a success. "I have a feeling that it may become a quiet hit. This is an example of what I am seeing as the new social networking groups that are starting up out there," Dixon blogs. "Think of this as 4th generation social networking." Cory Doctorow, a member of Wesabe's advisory board, says simply, "Wesabe's a damned cool idea."

The community features include tips you can read and share with other users on how to keep expenses down. You can also set up goals such as "pay off my credit cards," surely one of the most popular. Matt Haughey at A Whole Lotta Nothing says he used Wesabe to track every gas purchase. "With a single click, I could see how much I spent just on gasoline each month and I could also see how much I spent overall on owning cars (by tagging all payments and repairs with auto)," he writes. "It didn't take long for me to fall in love with Wesabe."

Even bloggers who haven't yet used the site are intrigued by the concept. "I haven't signed up yet, but I guess I know where at least part of my weekend is going," Trey Reeme writes at Your Members Are Listening.

But some caution that there will be lots of private information streaming through a simple Web application. "Whether users will entrust their financial info to Web 2.0 remains to be seen," Rod at Groovy Links blogs.

Still, some enjoy Wesabe for its quirks, rather than its financial know-how. "My favorite part of Wesabe: at the bottom of every Wesabe page there's a 'I'm Freaking Out' link that leads away from all things finance related and gives you a Flickr slideshow of kittens to calm you down," Scott Gilbertson writes at Monkey Bites.

Hungry No More

The Agriculture Department has declared that Americans will no longer be "hungry," at least in terminology. Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans' access to food. Until this year, that report used the word "hunger" to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table, the Washington Post reports. This year, however, the USDA has agreed "very low food security" is a more scientifically palatable description for the 35 million Americans in this category.

But many bloggers, and anti-hunger advocates say it's a game of semantics and a way to sugarcoat a national shame. Ira Allen puts this argument best. "Maybe classifying hunger as 'very low food security' is the best scientific language, but it is suspect coming at a time when the problem is growing and 58 percent of the voting public last week expressed a real hunger for governmental change," he writes at The Nitty Gritty.

"To change the phrase in a report from 'hungry' to 'low (or another category, 'very') food security' can only be an effort to de-sensitize an already de-sensitized American public to how bad the issue of hunger is in our country," Sparks Fly adds at MySpace.

John Morgan at The Progressive Pennsylvanian agrees. "Don't parse your words folks, that means they went hungry. This is shameful," Morgan writes. "Twelve of every hundred people in the richest country in the world didn't have food at some point."

Many other bloggers were merely struck by the shear number of Americans lacking sufficient food. "Notebook still reels from the fact that 12 percent are hungry, even if temporarily. That's a damn national shame," the blogger at Notebook writes.

Whether it was its intent or not, perhaps the change in terminology has at least drawn attention to the issue of poverty in the United States.

Taser Sparks Debate

It may have otherwise gone unnoticed, but when UCLA police used a Taser to subdue a student studying at the school's library, it was captured on another student's cell phone. That clip made its way throughout YouTube and on blogs, and it is still causing an uproar.

The incident happened after, according to the university, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a senior, was asked for his ID as part of a routine nightly procedure to make sure that everyone using the library after 11 p.m. is authorized to be there. Authorities said Tabatabainejad refused repeated requests by campus police to provide identification or to leave. He was then tasered.

Tabatabainejad's lawyers told the Los Angeles Times that he didn't show identification because he thought he was being singled out for his Middle Eastern appearance.

Many students took to their blogs to update what is happening on their campus. Blake Ross includes eyewitness accounts, and reports in The Daily Bruin, UCLA's student newspaper. Another student, Azad, links to video clips of the campus protests. She says that while she's happy there will be an independent investigation into the incident, the follow-up has been insufficient.

"In another way it's bad that the officers involved in this incident are STILL not suspended. Which is weird, because LAPD usually suspends or puts officers on desk duty when they are involved in such investigations. It's really f---- up that these officers are still walking around on our campus with tasers and guns at their hips," Azad writes on LiveJournal.

Many bloggers question why police would Taser the student, even if he was being non-compliant and argumentative. "I'm of the opinion that Tasers should be used only in circumstances that require a weapon. This kid refused to stand up, but in the end he never did stand up, and the officers had to carry him out of the library," Brady writes at Some Guys Are Normal. "The tasering was excessive use of force and it was completely unnecessary, especially the number of times that they used it."

And Phillip Weaver is "disturbed" by the suspect being "repeatedly tasered while still in handcuffs." "Abuse of power much? yes, much to much," a blogger at Highgate adds.

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Melissa McNamara

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