Sunday, July 20, 2014

Israel's Butchery in Gaza, Bought and Paid for by the American People: A Question. Is Israel an Apartheid State?

The recent events in Gaza are disgusting.

Watching Bill Maher's panelists support Israel's fiendish behavior towards the Palestinian people on Friday's edition of Real Time made me feel dirty. Am I alone in that sensation?

Dream booking: wouldn't it be great if Norman Finkelstein was invited to be a panelist on Maher's show. Talk about a hell of a show.

Americans, because of a failed educational system and a corporate media, are not forced to ask hard questions about foreign policy and their complicity with the deeds and actions which the United States makes in their name. 

Consequently, when blowback occurs they sit around like ignorant children who are surprised that Santa Clause isn't real and that mommy and daddy actually had sex in order to bring them into existence. Sorry kids, babies do not come out of mommy's belly button.

Israel's butchery in Gaza is bought and paid for by the American people. The Israelis are "mowing the lawn" in Gaza. And please do take note of the old habit wherein how language is used to reduce people to objects in order to legitimate their murder and abuse.

[The Israeli government extracts a high price when its citizens are killed. What is the exchange rate? Is it one thousand Palestinians for 1 Israeli? Higher? Lower?]

I wonder, in the post Hobby Lobby, neoliberal, Age of A La Carte Citizenship, can I cite my deeply held "religious" beliefs and deduct the portion of my tax dollars that support Israel's militarism (which actually undermines American national security)?

I believe that Israel--historically along with Australia and the United States--is an Apartheid society. Apparently, this is a provocative claim in some circles. The great Desmond Tutu agrees with me; I count myself in good company.

What are your thoughts on Israel's status as an Apartheid regime? And what do you make of the recent events in Gaza?

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Potpourri of Political Ugliness and Fantasies: Of Ancient Aliens, "Illegal" Immigrant Children in California, White Nativists, Know-Nothings, White Supremacists, the Fictive Viking Origins of America, and Fox News Hate Talkers

I do hope you have a nice and safe weekend. As is our habit, do treat this as a semi-open thread to discuss and share news items or other topics which you think would be of interest to the readers and friends of WARN.

I have been thinking a great deal about the potpourri of ugliness which has been directed at the "illegal alien" children and refugees in Murrieta, California (and elsewhere) by the Right-wing hate machine.

Some random (but related) thoughts:

1. I wonder how the White Right and its allies and sycophants would respond if it was white children who were sent on a hellish journey to the United States in order to escape rape, murder, sex slavery, and other torments? The Tea Party GOP nativists the love iconography and slogans of "real America" and its nationalist mythologies. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island implore America to:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

I guess such platitudes and commandments do not apply to black and brown people.

2. Black and brown children are not allowed the luxury of childhood. Adultification is the rule for people of color in the United States. Whiteness is innocence, safety, security, and obligatory empathy. For example, if a white child is in crisis the world is expected to stop. The suffering of black and brown children is expected, thus the world keeps on turning.

3. Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs has done yeoman's work calling out the overt lie by Right-wing professional sewer dweller Jim Hoft that refugee children from Latin America will be housed in a "resort". Unfortunately, the White Right's clumsy grey and black propaganda works despite being exposed as a set of lies and distortions because their public is indifferent to the world of facts. Movement conservatism, the white racial frame, white supremacy and authoritarianism are powerful intoxicants--they are political meth.

4. Friend of WARN, Werner Herzog's Bear also has a great piece on today's White nativists and Know-Nothings in the Tea Party GOP. Do check it out if you are so inclined.

5. The Fox News echo chamber and overt white supremacists both live in a world of fictions, delusions, and conspiranoid thinking. Conservatism is a cult-like religion; overt white supremacists have a high place in their temple. Both traffic in made up fantasies about "Christian America" and its historical origins.

When I survey the White Right's websites and other media I want to laugh at the bizarre alternate reality which they have constructed for their jihadists and zealots. I choose not to laugh because the Right-wing noise machine is killing people and poisoning the United States's political culture.

Reality is to movement conservatives as the History Channel is to ancient aliens.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Perils of Anti-Racist Triumphalism: The NY Times' Helpful Reminder That Not all White Supremacists Are Stupid

Last weekend, The New York Times offered a palliative for triumphalist American anti-racist triumphalism with its essay "The Data of Hate".

Conservatives and liberals both indulge in the habit; the Times' piece should be a wake up call and incentive to see the world as it actually is, not as one would like to imagine it being.

The Right is desperate to portray white supremacists as throwbacks and rare outliers in order to advance the twin lie that white racism no longer exists as a significant social problem in the United States as a means to advance a narrative of white victimology where the end goal is maintaining white privilege and white power.

The Left enjoys anti-racist triumphalism as a way to declare moral superiority over conservatives and while also celebrating the hard fought victories of the civil rights movement which (in the popular imagination) culminated in the election of Barack Obama.

"We" want to believe that white supremacists are toothless wonders, hillbillies, or country rube Southern primitives who put on Klan robes and shoot cockroaches with guns. Those easy caricatures exist to fulfill a fiction of social/racial integration and cohesion along the color line that legitimates America's multicultural corporate liberal democratic political regime.

The NY Times' "The Data of Hate" subverts those stereotypes:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What Sort of White Person Do I Want to Be? A Conversation With Dr. Paul Breines, Veteran of the Freedom Rides and the Civil Rights Movement

History is made by people.

It is easy to forget that the past isn't really ever the past.

The United States has or soon will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the monumental legislative gains and victories of the Civil Rights Movement. It is poignant that five decades after the Great March on Washington, Freedom Summer, and the high point of the Black Freedom Struggle, that an African-American is President of the United States. The efforts and spent lives of the black, brown, and white warriors for the full civil rights of African-Americans (and by extension all Americans across the color line) radically transformed the United States. Much work remains to be done; their efforts are betrayed if the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement is viewed as something of the past and not of the living present.

In this new episode on the podcast for We Are Respectable Negroes I had the most fortunate and blessed opportunity to speak with Dr. Paul Breines, a Freedom Rider and activist in the Civil Rights Movement. 

He reminds us that the Civil Rights Movement was and is much more than documentaries such as the magisterial Eyes on the Prize or scenes in movies such as The Butler

Paul was so very generous and honest in our great conversation where he provides a first person account of the Freedom Rides, his coming of age as a political activist, experiences with the real, day-to-day folks who had to live under the white supremacist regime that was Jim and Jane Crow, and how he negotiated those experiences morally, ethically, and philosophically. Dr. Breines also connects his work as a political activist to his intellectual work and career as a professor of history at Boston College.

Dr. Breines asks a foundational question during the podcast: what sort of white person do I want to be? The struggle for justice along the colorline would be much improved if more white brothers and sisters were as reflective.

Paul does some great teaching and sharing during our conversation on the podcast. I know that you will learn a great deal from his wisdom and experiences. I most certainly did.

02:18 Given all of the important historical events you were involved in with the Civil Rights Movement, how do you remain humble?
04:25 The Civil Rights Movement was an insurgency. Meeting black men with guns who protected the Freedom Riders, reflecting on the black women and other warriors who supported the movement
07:00 Learning how to be a moral and ethical person from his mother
11:44 How did you decide to become involved with the Freedom Rides?
17:05 Massaging the memory, history, and public image of the Civil Rights Movement
22:20 What sort of white person do I want to be?
26:56 Why did you choose to get involved with the movement and other white folks did not? 
31:07 What did you feel like to be an enemy of the state? Did you think of your work with the Civil Rights Movement in those terms?
33:20 How did you manage your emotions--fear, anger, worry, etc.--in those moments? Some thoughts on being "brave" or "courageous"
37:39 Returning to Madison, Wisconsin after the Freedom Rides
39:30 Memory and reflecting on the Freedom Rides during the 1960s and in later years
43:00 What is it like talking to younger people about the Freedom Rides? What are some of the common questions that students and other young people have for you? How do you feel when you reflect upon the Civil Rights Movement and the Freedom Rides?
46:00 The absurdity of "the race card", white victimology, and racial resentment
54:00 Personal responsibility and signing their last wills and testaments for the Freedom Rides
56:31 How and why did you become a professor? Was your activist work related to your intellectual life? 
64:30 What was it like to be a witness to the Right-wing Culture Wars at Boston College during the 1980s and early 1990s? Some thoughts on life philosophy and life reflections
73:20 Have "we" won or lost with the election of Barack Obama?
81:00 Are young people more or less politically involved and aware than they were during the 1960s?
88:30 How can folks contact you? Concluding thoughts and observations about the Freedom Rides, the law, civil rights, and trying to effect social change

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why is Eric Holder Finally Telling the Truth About the Republican Party's Racist Opposition to Barack Obama?

I hope that you all had a nice and restful weekend. Here in Chicago, we alternated between torrential rains and thunderstorms and wonderful, unseasonably mild weather. The Taste of Chicago, one of the country's largest food festivals, also took place. The additional traffic and tourists are annoying. But, I do like watching folks marvel at a city which I often take for granted.

If I was a professional wrestler, my bio would read "from Connecticut by way of Chicago". "Parts unknown" always makes for an intriguing origin story--rest in peace Ultimate Warrior.

I would like to begin the week with a question. In a recent interview with ABC, Attorney General Eric Holder told the truth about the role played by white racial resentment and racism in the White Right's opposition to Barack Obama where he said how:

“There's a certain level of vehemence, it seems to me, that's directed at me [and] directed at the president,” Holder told ABC. “You know, people talking about taking their country back. … There's a certain racial component to this for some people. I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there's a racial animus."
The readers' comments in response to Holder's statement are boilerplate "colorblind" conservative racism: they follow the tired, but still very revealing script, where white racists use racist logic and speech to deny that they are in fact racists.

Movement conservatism is a white supremacist ideology. Its adherents and advocates are unable to reason outside of that framework; white supremacy is their normal and foundational assumption about the nature of empirical reality. Moreover, white conservatives become extremely agitated and rageful when the role of white supremacy as a unifying ideology for their political belief system is exposed.

Religious fundamentalists act the same way when the concept of God is challenged as a childish myth and fantasy. Contemporary conservatism is a cult where white supremacy is one of the godheads. Both rage at their heretics and those others who are non-believers.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Myth of the Liberal Media: Intellectual Bumper Bowling. Did You See Michael Eric Dyson's Interview With Dinesh D'Souza About His Propaganda Film 'America'?

How would you demolish Dinesh D'Souza's arguments in his movie America: Imagine a World Without Her?

Once again, there is no liberal media; there is only a corporate media. If there was in fact a liberal media, the nonsense and intellectual poison offered up by Right-wing hacks such as Dinesh D'Souza would not be given a national platform from which their toxins could be spread.

Moreover, if there was in fact a "liberal media", Dinesh D'Souza would not have been interviewed by MSNBC and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson about his Right-wing propaganda movie "America" earlier this week.

I have met and talked to Michael Dyson on several occasions. He is smart and good people. I have no doubt that he could have destroyed, with minimal effort, Dinesh D'Souza during his interview on MSNBC. Propriety and the informal rules of being a good host dictated that Dyson hand off D'Souza to the panelists. Unfortunately, they too were nice, polite, and careful in their criticism of a Right-wing professional liar and thug.

The slavish devotion to "fairness" and "balance" by supposed "liberals" in the mainstream media means that equal time is given to foolish and specious claims about the nature of truth and empirical reality by conservatives. Consequently, myth and fantasy are then debated and engaged by serious people as worthwhile and rigorous propositions instead of the alternative where such claims are rightfully rejected as childish nonsense. In this exercise, the Right wins every time.

Dinesh D'Souza's discussion with Dr. Dyson and his guests was the equivalent of evolutionary biologists "debating" creationists. The latter cannot lose because the former have legitimated their absurd premises.

D'Souza's Right-wing propaganda disinformation film "America" could be easily dismissed by basic questions such as the following.

America is an "exceptional" country is it not? Then why excuse-make for its crimes?

What about pointing out how chattel slavery and the Maafa were a singular and unique crime against humanity?

In a sickening display, D'Souza lies, distorts, and willfully misreads history in order to claim that white European genocide against First Nations people was somehow similar to interstate conflict between those powers.

Dinesh D'Souza and the cabal of Right-wing propagandists (who are routinely given time by the "liberal media") are raping the truth.

Liberals, progressives, and reasonable centrists who provide a platform for Right-wing propagandists are legitimating the latter's fictions and lies. Why do they accept the specious premises of the debate?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ammosexuals and Open Carry Gun Fetishists Will Not Like 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

I had the good fortune to see a screening of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes several hours ago. What follows are some preliminary thoughts on what is a great film, and one guaranteed to make many millions of dollars at the box office.

1. Andy Serkis is a revelation as Caesar. His ape brethren Maurice, Rocket, and Koba are equally impressive. Serkis should be nominated for an Oscar. The "human" actors all give solid performances. The apes in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are the stars of the film as they should be.

2. Koba's character will be the basis of a meme that conquers the Internet for a few days. He is that compelling.

3. Dawn offers up a nice bit of armchair cinema philosophy about human nature, violence, the state, power, authority, and ethics. There are no easy solutions to the conundrum faced by ape and human society in the movie.

4. The reboot is closer to the original French novel's themes about animal rights, the evils of vivisection, as well as the intellectual and moral perils posed by speciesism. Dawn continues with that narrative, and unlike the 1968 classic largely ignores questions of race and civil rights. Given how white supremacists are obsessed with the original Planet of the Apes films--they view it as a cautionary tale of black dominance and white servitude--I am curious as to how they will shoehorn the new films into their twisted and sick political imaginary.

5. Dawn rewards careful viewing. There is a great deal of detail both in the foreground and background of the scenes. The writers, producers, and cinematographers who crafted Dawn have done a wonderful job creating a believable world. The San Francisco scenes were evocative of the work done in Children of Men, another great film which rewards careful and deep viewing.

The score also does an excellent job of complementing the on screen events while remaining unobtrusive.

6. Dawn's CGI and motion capture work is stunning.

7. Dawn's ending is ambiguous. Two thoughts.

One, fans of the original series will likely be excited that the horrible Battle for the Planet of the Apes will be reimagined as the sequel to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Dawn is heavily influenced by the original Battle; And in many ways, Dawn is Act One of a reimagined Battle).

Two, the reboot is also drawing on the energy of the 1975 Planet of the Apes cartoon series. If the sequel(s) to Dawn can successfully combine those sensibilities then success is ensured.

8. Ammosexuals, the Gun Right, and open carry gun fetishists who massage their personal "Preciouses" in public at stores like Target, will not be happy with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Fox News and the Right-wing echo chamber will attack the movie as one more example of "liberal" Hollywood pushing its "anti-gun agenda" on the American people. Remember, guns don't kill people, people kill people...or in this case, apes and people armed with guns kill each other.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Managing the Optics: Black Conservative Race Hustlers and the Anti-Immigrant Protests in Murrieta, California

The harassment and poor treatment of the refugee families and children in Murrieta, California by Tea Party militia hooligans and thug nativists is embarrassing. I am not bewildered, although I will confess to being disgusted, by how those who wrap themselves in the flag of American Exceptionalism and tired bromides that "America is the greatest country on Earth!" do not understand that a truly great country offers aid and comfort to those in need.

The 24/7 news media is a circus. The Right-wing echo chamber is the center ring, and is in many ways, the greatest show on Earth. As I wrote here regarding D'Souza's propaganda piece "America", and have mentioned many times elsewhere, there is a special role to be played by black and brown people in the Right-wing's human zoo and freak show. 

Black Americans (and other people of color) are loathed by conservatives because conservatism and racism are one in the same thing in the post civil rights era. Black Americans are loved by conservatives when they can be used as part of a political blackface routine or passion play, acting as human proof that white conservatives are not racists because they have a "best black friend" who can vouch for them.

Racism involves a mix of fascination with and disgust for the Other. The Tea Party GOP's relationship with people of color is a clear object lesson in that dynamic.

The protests against Hispanic refugee children and their families which are occurring in Murrieta, California are not spontaneous. Organized anti-immigrant activist groups are coordinating the "protests" with the Right-wing media. Consequently, the optics of the events must be managed and massaged: the crowd should be cross generation, multiracial, and multiethnic. People of color, "Latinos" and "Hispanics" especially, should be foregrounded, as their presence excuses away the ugliness, meanness, xenophobia, nativism, and bigotry on display in Murrieta, California. 

The ultimate trump card in this act of political theater is the obligatory black person. Because black folks are identified in America's public memory as having a unique historical experience with racism and discrimination, their presence is a magical salve which fully insulates the White Right and other nativists from the charge that they are bigots.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Quick Thoughts: Life Lessons and Philosophy Learned from Kill Bill and Hattori Hanzo

Something random...

I know in my heart that Crom, the Force, the Most High, J.C. Soul Brother Number One, the Four Winds, Gravity, and the various other life forces and entities that govern and direct our lives are real.

I am a secular humanist. I am also not a fool. Perhaps, I have read too many philosophical treatises and science fiction novels over the years? Have I listened too closely to the lessons of Brother Bruce and movies such as Kill Bill and gleamed lessons which are not contained therein?

We must meditate on our decisions; we must also live in the moment. To what do we owe our regrets? Ought we not to follow through on our first, best, destinies?

To point. The movie Kill Bill is a portrayal of people who cannot help but to be themselves--they are ruled by inexorable destiny.

Thus, a philosophical question, observation, and conundrum.

I have come to realize, during these last few weeks, that I have been so focused on what I perceived to be bad luck and misfortune that I have been unable to see and acknowledge my good fortune and blessed opportunities.

Are we/us/you that myopic? Or I am alone?

When I am processing important thoughts and decisions that have already been made, I retreat to my best "Kosh voice" from Babylon 5: one can be cryptic and also transparent in the same instance.

"Over-sharing" can be a good thing. What philosophical musings or random observations do you have to share on similar or related matters? Life lessons to offer?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Broken Saxophone Playing 'Hail to the Chief: Are Black Americans Worse Off After Six Years of Barack Obama?

There is an black saxophone playing street musician who is a fixture on Michigan Avenue here in Chicago. I have been living in Chicago for more than ten years. I would guess that he has been here for many more years than me.

There are many black street musicians, drummers, creative types, shoeshine men, newspaper salespeople, panhandlers, and others who comprise the familiar faces, on every block, that make a neighborhood, a town, a city, or a well-traveled thoroughfare more than just a collection of random people and buildings.

This saxophone playing street musician is distinguished and made special by his limited catalog of songs. He plays "When the Saints Go Marching In" with passion and glee. The theme from Sanford and Son is another one of his crowd pleasing classics. He loses his way on songs by Sinatra and the standard "Feelings". His limitations may be a function of a broken saxophone and tired reed, hands not as dexterous as in years before.

He is self-trained. The saxophone man is not a virtuoso who has fallen on hard times, where drink, or drugs, or love, or a bad economy and poor investments broke him.

He is a workaday man who went to a job for many years and somehow through poor decision-making--did the saxophone man do a bid in prison for a petty crime that had the promise of great fortune attached to it by his more streetwise and crooked friends?--found himself with his Alto sax, playing outside, everyday, for monies that he brings home to a relative, friend, lover, or fellow traveler, the latter blessed with more luck than him, which the saxophone man throws into the communal rent and utilities pile.

The brother is always clean. His old clothes are very neat. He takes pride in his work and appearance.

Tourists pay him because that is what tourists, especially white tourists in the "big city" do, throwing some change into the hat or cup of the poor black street musician as part of the fee, the noblesse oblige that is "taking it all in" while on holiday. While on safari, one is expected to feed the animals.

The saxophone playing street musician also extracts a tithe and blackmail money. The folks who work in the office building above wherever he has created an informal stage for the day's performance must pay him, for purposes of productivity, sanity, and piece of mind, to relocate his atonal concert once the novelty and familiarity have grown thin. His playing is an announcement that a new day is here; his playing is also an announcement that a new day in a job that I already do not like is here too. He smiles while accepting the bribe.

On the night of Barack Obama's election in 2008, the black street musician saxophonist played "Hail to the Chief" with enthusiasm and vigor. The marks cum pigeons were ready to be plucked. A smart businessman understands that success is a function of timing, luck, and leveraging the emotions of a potential customer. Obama's election in 2008 was a night of lucre for him, sadly it was the finite and limited lucre of a poor or working class man earning 50 dollars a turn.

He knows it is not much in relative terms. There are businessmen who spend that amount as part of their nightly after work winding down drinking ritual. Some people would kill for less. It is several meals, a fix, or enough to feed their children and pets for a week or two. The symbolic value of 50 dollars is what matters to the saxophone man. The transaction makes him feel like the richest person in the world. His work and art were acknowledged by strangers, they who are his friends.

The Michigan Avenue black street performer saxophonist herald and Pied Piper of Obama's 2008 presidential election blew a broken saxophone that produced off key notes for an emotion filled rendition of "Hail to the Chief".