Friday, April 29, 2016

"Boogie Woogie!" Is Donald Trump the New "Handsome" Jimmy Valiant?


I am proud of my Donald Trump as professional wrestler carnival show con man cult leader necromancer oeuvre. I am especially proud of how it has been imitated by many but they have, for the most part, fabulously failed to channel my original voice and analysis.

But I may have been "trumped". During his podcast this week, legendary professional wrestling manager and historian Jim Cornette (who has also given his blessing to my professional wrestling as politics framework) discussed Donald Trump. There, he pointed out how Trump is channeling the legendary 1980s talker "Handsome" Jimmy Valiant with a mix of the great Chicago promoter Bob Luce thrown in the mix.

Yup. Cornette has nailed it. "Boogie Woogie!"

What other characters is Il Duce Immortan Joe Trump channeling in his political performance art shtick?

Random question. Am I the only one, concerned, albeit not surprised, by how violence at Trump's rallies has become so normal and expected, that the mainstream media has surrendered to this new status quo?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Conversation with Lt. Colonel (Retired) Dave Grossman About the Psychology of Killing and Battle

Former United States Army Ranger and Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Dave Grossman is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. Lt. Colonel Grossman is one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of killing and combat. He is the author of several books including On Killing and On Combat.

Lt. Colonel Grossman travels approximately 300 days a year, where in seminars and workshops he shares his insights on "killology" with military special forces and elite law enforcement personal from around the world,

In this installment of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey and Lt. Colonel Grossman discuss war and warfare, mass shootings, America's culture of violence, if armed teachers help to prevent school violence, how sleep deprivation is directly connected to suicides, police brutality, and questions about firearms and self-defense.

During this week's podcast, Chauncey also offers some sharing on the passing of Prince and the former WWE/WWF professional wrestler known as Chyna, how best to die, open marriages, adultery, and Beyonce's amazing "Lemonade" video music-essay.

In this week's installment of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey also talks about the death penalty and his eye-opening experience attending a panel on the subject at Chicago's Harold Washington Library. And not to be too dragged down by the morbid, this week's show concludes with a discussion of the heartwarming and life affirming marriage of 90-year-old former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford to his 40-year-old partner Matthew Charlton.

This episode featuring Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Dave Grossman can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes and at Stitcher. The Chauncey DeVega Show can now be found on Spotify as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Seven Stages of Grief and the Bernie Sanders Campaign

During yesterday's primaries, Trumpmania continued to run wild and Hillary Clinton's march towards the Democratic nomination continued largely unabated.

As the 2016 primary grinds to a conclusion, the Republican Party's elites are continuing their hand wringing about the political poison pill that is Donald Trump, and how such a charlatan carnival barker reality TV show proto fascist rose to power. The answer is not complicated: Trump's ascendance is 1) the inevitable result of a political ideology where conservatism and racism are now one and the same thing and 2) how the Right-wing hate media echo chamber has constructed an alternate reality for those ensconced in it. Contemporary conservatism is a political religion. Trump is simply its most persuasive cult leader and political necromancer.

The Democratic Party faces a challenge in this moment as well...but one that is not as dire or extreme as that faced by the Republicans. Intraparty competition between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton means that the respective factions will have to unite behind the chosen candidate for the general election. These factions have different levels of enthusiasm, somewhat different demographics, and distinct (while often overlapping) policy goals. Moreover, the Democrats' political strategy is complicated by how Bernie Sanders polls higher against Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP candidate, than does Hillary Clinton.

Alas, our fates are not in the stars but rather in the hands of men and women--voters and delegates--who have decided, to this point, that Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. This is a hard fact for many people to accept. Realpolitik deems that they should.

The 7 stages of grief are a helpful framework for understanding the political malaise and frustration that some voters are experiencing as the path to victory for their respective candidates shrinks into oblivion.

These stages are:
  • SHOCK & DENIAL
  • PAIN & GUILT
  • ANGER & BARGAINING
  • "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION, LONELINESS
  • THE UPWARD TURN
  • RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH
  • ACCEPTANCE & HOPE
As a practical matter, the Democrats have a "good" problem. If the polling data is correct, either Clinton or Sanders will defeat the 2016 Republican Party candidate. Bernie Sanders' campaign has also done a public service by broadening the political issue space and educating young voters (and others) that there is a third way outside of the tired, stale, neoliberal, plutocrat-serving, and anti-democratic policies that have come to typify American politics since the end of the 1960s.

Bernie Sanders and his movement captured political lightning in a bottle. This was no small feat. It was both inspirational and aspirational.

The question now becomes, how should the healing begin within the Democratic Party and what is the best way to proceed going forward to the convention? Ultimately, is there a way to leverage the spirit, energy, and critical insights of Bernie Sanders in such a way as to force Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party leadership back to the Left as opposed to being dragged farther Right as they have since the 1990s?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Special Episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show: Bill Clinton vs. 'Black Lives Matter'

This special installment of The Chauncey DeVega Show features four different guests in three acts.

In the first part of this week's episode Rufus Farmer and Erica Mines, the two African-American activists who Bill Clinton lectured and finger pointed out during a recent rally in Philadelphia, share their on the ground experience(s). Rufus Farmer's and Erica Mines's account of the Philadelphia rally is quite different from how the mainstream corporate news media framed "Black Lives Matter" "protesting" against Bill Clinton and his role in the 1994 Crime Bill.

Bill the Lizard, friend of the podcast and Chauncey DeVega's heterosexual life partner, stops by to discuss the horrible Batman vs. Superman movie, the new Star Wars: Rogue One trailer, and the amazing second season of the animated series Star Wars: Rebels.

Adding to an already overflowing with goodness episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey's mom (aka "Momma DeVega") makes her second appearance on the podcast. Momma DeVega and Chauncey talk about the naming practices of the ghetto underclass, self-destructive behavior, and why she does not watch TV shows like Maury Povich, Hoarders, or My 600lb Life. Chauncey's mother is in a grumpy mood and proceeds to make fun of how a Catholic priest wanted to seduce a young Chauncey DeVega. She also finds it especially entertaining when Chauncey reminds her of how, when he was a child, a perverted man in a public bathroom tried to pee on him.

During this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey offers up some extended and heartfelt comments about colorism and self-hatred in the black community. And because he was feeling especially creative and inspired, at the end of this week's fun and special podcast, Chauncey also offers a poem about Bill O'Reilly's obsession with black people who have tattoos on their faces.

This episode can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes and at Stitcher. The Chauncey DeVega Show can now be found on Spotify as well.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Feeding the Black and Brown Poor to the Maw of Neoliberalism and Military Academies


When I was in high school, I wanted to join the United States Army or Marines. Raised on 1980s action movies and comic books like G.I. Joe, I saw myself jumping out of planes as a paratrooper, or maybe skulking about in a jungle like a scout sniper. The recruiters made their rounds and tried to snatch me up. I was a smart young black kid from the working class who scored, in their words, “amazingly high” on the ASVAB test. I would never be courted by a college sports team, but I would be repeatedly called by military recruiters for months, each one trying to increase their offer in order to secure their human prize. The intimidating bald white Marine with a huge neck sat with me in his office and asked, “Do you want to be part of the country’s most elite fighting force?” The African-American Army sergeant told me that the Marines were “crazy,” and that I could “join up with the 101st or 82nd airborne as an officer one day.”

My father, a World War II veteran, entertained my schoolboy dreams of military fame and fortune. But one day while sitting in the family car, he told me we were going to take a trip to the VA Hospital. He wanted me to see the “basket cases”—men with no arms or legs, their bodies destroyed by war. I was scared, embarrassed, as my made-in-Hollywood and by video game militarism and masculinity wilted away. I never did take the trip to the VA. It’s easy to play wannabe soldier when you don’t have to face the human consequences of when the bullets are real, and the pain is not pretend.

I was lucky. I would not have to mortgage my body to go to college. I had a father who had seen war and other relatives who told me, “No way! The Army ain’t for you!” My dad fought in the “big one,” my cousins and uncles in Vietnam and Korea. They were both united in their belief that as Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler famously said, “War is a racket,” and Uncle Sam has little to offer working-class and poor black and brown folks.

During my Friday morning train ride here in Chicago, I see young boys and girls, some high school-aged, others much younger, in their military uniforms. Khaki pants, shiny black shoes, white or tan shirts with banners or insignia on the sleeves and chest, and blazers with the names of schools on the arms, the occasional rank insignia on the collar of a dress shirt. The clothes may be ill-fitting—allowing for growth spurts is more important than a perfectly tailored fit. These young folks wear them with pride and a sense of destiny and purpose.

These are “public” school students who attend one of Chicago’s military style “academies.” I hope that they have someone like my father or other kin to tell them the truth about service, war, and glory. If they are really lucky they will have a man like Rory Fanning tell them the things—about American empire, the military, and how the poor and working classes are ground up by the system—that their teachers and recruiters will not.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Requiem for a Trickster: Prince and the Cult of the Black Weirdo

After David Bowie died earlier this year, I listened to his final album, “Black Star.” And I cried.
In the album, Bowie took us on a journey through the fever dreams and delusions caused by chemotherapy. One of my best friends died of brain cancer in our early ’20s, and Bowie helped me to understand my friend’s mental confusion, and the often prophetically beautiful insights about the world that he shared with me from his deathbed.
The passing of Prince is different. It feels like the death of my youth. Those of us — the “hip hop generation” — who came of age in the ’80s and ’90s have lost another one of our icons. Michael Jackson is gone. Prince is now gone. Who remains from that era?
Prince’s legacy will be reflected upon in many ways. Of course, there will be books written about his music and his life. He was a transgressive race- and gender-bending figure who once sang, “Am I black or white? Am I Straight or gay?” Prince was Afro-futurism in the present. He was a trickster figure. Like George Clinton and Sun Ra before him, he was also one of the leaders of what I like to call “the cult of the black weirdo.” It is in this role that I will miss him the most.
The persona “Prince” gave Prince Rogers Nelson the freedom to be himself. Many black men have internalized the White Gaze, seeing themselves and their masculinity through a lens that returns a distorted view of their own personhood. Some black men and boys assess their racial and gender authenticity relative to success in sport, their humanity reduced to the physical. Others have taken the mass media’s narrative of black hyper-thug masculinity, as portrayed in commercial rap and other types of popular culture, to be a type of role modeling behavior and a measuring stick for “real” and “authentic” black manhood.
American popular culture (and the collective subconscious it represents) both historically, and in the present, stereotypes black men as superhuman, “angry,” mean, criminal “super predators,” “black beast rapists,” as natural criminals with poor impulse control and out-of-control libidos. Prince defied all of those ugly distortions of what it means to be black and male in America.
Celebrities are projections of their fans’ hopes, wishes, dreams, and fantasies. They are also — and this is especially true when they pass away — focal points for our memories, our personal stories, for generational experience.
I will personally remember Prince as the “light-skinned” black dude that even the brown- and darker-skinned brothers and sisters could admit they liked back in the 1980s. Even at house parties where folks were posturing to N.W.A., Wu-Tang, Biggie and Nas, no one would complain if Prince’s music were played to close out the night. I smile as I think about how, on a bet, I went out as Prince for Halloween — with wig, makeup and full regalia.
Prince provided the music when George Lucas married Mellody Hobson in Chicago. It was a great day as I got to see Lucas, one of my personal heroes, in person; like many of my neighbors, I strained my ears to hear a free concert provided by Prince from a few blocks away. I remain unsure if I actually heard Prince play “Purple Rain” that night, but I certainly imagined that I did.
As a member of the hip hop generation, I know I am not alone in reminiscing about graduating out of the  awkward high-school groping and sex to a soundtrack by Al B. Sure and Jodeci, and finally fucking like an adult while Sade, Anita Baker, D’Angelo, and, yes, Prince played in the background.
Because he was a great artist, Prince also had a good number of misfires and outright failures. To wit: “Grafitti Bridge” is a horrible film. The heckling by the audience I saw it with during the summer of 1990 merited a Comedy Central special or “Mystery Science 3000” episode. Like other great artists, Prince was not afraid to fail, gloriously and with confidence.
I keep hoping that this is all an elaborate gag or an exercise in performance art; that Prince, the trickster musical genius, is laughing at us all. But he is gone, now likely playing a song with David Bowie in some alternate dimension where all of the beautiful geniuses go. Ziggy Stardust is finally together with Alexander Nevermind. If we close our eyes and listen really closely, I bet we can hear the duet.
I will not say goodbye to Prince, but rather in the spirit of his eccentricities, genius, and artistry, I offer an “until next time.”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R.I.P. Prince, My Favorite Black Weirdo Genius


One more legend has passed away.

Prince Rogers Nelson is my favorite "black weirdo". He transgressed lines of race, gender, and musicality. In honor of his leaving this plane of existence, I will be delaying this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show until next Tuesday.

A question. Yes, we of the "hip hop generation" are now officially old. Yes, there are folks of a younger generation who may not understand why Prince was/is so special. For example, when I told my students earlier today that I was out of sorts because of Prince's passing quite a few of them looked at me as if I was speaking of a stranger.

If you were to suggest some "best of" or "essential" Prince songs to pass along to those who were not familiar with his greatness what would they be and why?

Michael's passing away made me sad. Bowie's departure was just a shock. This feels very personal and in a different way. I wonder why. Help me understand if you could.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Honorary Whiteness? NYPD Cop Peter Liang to do no Prison Time for the Killing of Akai Gurley

I wish that I could tell you that I am surprised by the following outcome.

From the New York Post:
The former rookie cop convicted in the 2014 shooting death of an unarmed man in a housing-project stairwell dodged prison Tuesday — as his victim’s angry kin warned that “justice will be served one way or another.” 
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun largely followed the no-jail recommendation of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson in sentencing ex-Officer Peter Liang to five years probation and 800 hours of community service for the death of Akai Gurley. 
Chun also downgraded the jury’s finding on manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide. 
There is “no evidence, either direct or circumstantial, that the defendant was aware of Akai Gurley’s presence and therefore disregarded any risk [to him],’’ Chun explained.
I wish that black and brown people who are tried in America's courts were treated with the compassion and understanding that was shown Peter Liang by the judge and prosecutor:
The judge said he agreed with Thompson’s no-jail recommendation because “as I watched the video of the defendant entering the lobby of the Pink Houses, I couldn’t help but feel he was entering with the serious mind of protecting the people. 
“Shooting somebody never entered his mind,’’ Chun said. “I find incarceration to be unnecessary.”
I wish that more families of the black folks who are killed by American's out of control cops would publicly channel the very human emotions of revenge and anger towards the thugs in blue:
Gurley’s aunt, Hertencia Petersen, raged after court, “So you’re telling me it’s OK for a black man in America, good ol’ America, to get murdered, and these officers who took an oath to serve and protect are not being held accountable? 
“But don’t worry, what goes around, comes around,’’ she said. “Sooner or later, Peter Liang, if not him in his lifetime, someone in his family, is going to feel our pain.”
The color line is never simple where matters of "law and order" are involved. We know that black life is cheap in America. We also know that in the United States (and elsewhere) Asians and other non-white groups have historically had to triangulate themselves relative to the black-white binary.

A question, is Peter Liang's relative lack of punishment for killing Akai Gurley one more creeping step towards honorary whiteness for Asian-Americans? Or is the fact that Liang, a Chinese-American, was even prosecuted for killing a black man (when white cops rarely are), a reminder of how East Asians are still a relatively marginalized racial group in the United States?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Be Wary of the Lofty Perch of Hindsight: Bill Clinton, 'Black Lives Matter', and the 1994 Crime Bill

At a recent rally in support of his wife’s 2016 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton argued with protesters about the negative impact of his 1994 crime bill on the black community. In his exchange with Rufus Farmer and Erica Mines, the former president — finger-waving, angry, lecturing and condescending, said:
I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped on crack and sent them out into the street to murder other African American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens…. You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter. Tell the truth!
As he continued, it also became clear that Bill Clinton — through some great leap of faith and twisted logic — believes that his wife’s aid work in Africa immunizes her from any criticisms about the role she may have played in slurring a generation of poor and working-class black youth as out of control and monstrous “super predators.”
This was not one of Clinton’s finest hours, either as an advocate for Hillary’s campaign, or as a former president of the United States trying to reconcile what was considered by many to be a landmark legislative achievement 20 years ago with how its consequences — both intended and otherwise — are being evaluated at present. In total, Bill Clinton’s comments to Farmer and Mines were ill-timed, poorly considered and impolitic.
As Princeton’s Eddie Glaude Jr. recently wrote about this moment, it exposed Bill Clinton as a “two-faced Janus” politician who “revealed one of his contrasting sides. Not the smooth, white Southern politician who moves among African Americans with ease and grace, but the smug and paternal Southern white boy who simply wants you to hush and swallow his lies whole.”
However, from the lofty perch of hindsight, complicated public policy challenges are all too often made to look simple and easy. Bill Clinton’s confused and angry response to being questioned about his role in the mass incarceration of black Americans (and what scholars such as Michelle Alexander have described as the “new Jim Crow”) is a reflection of the messy politics that birthed the 1994 crime bill (The Violent Crime Control Act).

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Conversation with Professor Joseph Lowndes About Obama, the Color Line, and the Future of American Politics

Professor Joseph Lowndes is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. He is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Oregon and the author of several books and articles including From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism as well as Race and American Political Development.

In this wide ranging conversation, Joe and Chauncey discuss topics such as America's "post-post racial" present and future, the challenge of reconciling history, the past, and the present along the color line, the role of black and brown conservatives in the neo liberal conservative agenda, and the symbolism and shortcomings of the Obama presidency.

During this installment of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey complains about having to pay taxes (and is angry at the global plutocrats who do not), and talks about Ted Cruz's college onanism habit, shares a story about his college roommate having sex with a strange woman who had a broken arm, and is excited about potentially receiving IRS tax exempt status for his new religion "porkism".

This episode with guest Professor Joseph Lowndes can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes and at Stitcher. The Chauncey DeVega Show can now be found on Spotify as well.