Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Introducing number 70 on our now sort of famous, "How to Say 'White' Voter Without Saying 'white'" list: Joe the Plumber!
At this moment we have crossed the line from the absurd as embodied by Sarah Palin to the surreal as embodied by Joe the Plumber.
I am rendered speechless.
At this point, you have all figured out that Chauncey, Gordon and I differ a lot in our writing styles, in our sense of humor, and in our perspectives on the politics of race. This isn't something that typically bothers us; indeed, in the great Negro tradition, we glory in our diversity. However, there is one area that we continue to struggle with -- What do White folks think? and Do we care?
I have to say that from the early beginnings of this blog, I have always been conscious of how White readers would interpret our posts. My concerns have had to do less with whether or not they will see them as acceptable nee respectable, and more to do with them misinterpreting our project. We all know that there are things that we might say among ourselves that we would never say in mixed company. (I think that this must be true for every racial or ethnic group in America, including Jews, Desi, Chinese-Americans, etc.)
Alexyss Tylor has been the subject of several Chauncey DeVega posts. And, to quote Monty Python's Pontious Pilot, Alexyss is indeed "wisible." I have never been completely comfortable highlighting her on this site, however, because I don't think that White folks get the joke. Do they see truth where we see irony? In order for something to be ironic, it has to have some basis in reality. If our White readers have a skewed understanding of African-American life in the first place, how can they ever get our jokes? This is the conundrum that Dave Chapelle found himself in: are they laughing with me, or are they laughing at me?
Being a respectable Negress, I also worry about how certain images and narratives will reflect on the African-American community at large. We actually have a post label titled "politics of respectability" that we attach to postings that either challenge negro respectability or engage it in some way. Among our "dislikes" are malt liquor, Tyler Perry and ghetto literature. Why? Because they either confirm or reinforce negative racial stereotypes. Chaucey recently wanted to post pictures from You Know You Dead Ass Wrong on our blog and I flat out refused. I don't want any part of promoting negative images of Negroes, for there is an abundance out there already. On this subject, Gordon often loses his patience with me. He feels no attachment to the figures on sites like Hot Ghetto Mess. His sense of linked fate does not extend to them. He and Chris Rock share the sentiment that there is a difference between "niggers" and black people. Gordon may have a valid point, but do White people get that difference?
Finally, I don't like double-standards. How would we react if we found out that Hot Ghetto Mess was produced by a bunch of elite, White kids? Or, better yet, by Republican operatives? Can we refer to ourselves or to others as "niggers" and then get upset when someone White does the same thing? Can we be essentialist about other races and ethnic groups and then protest when we are essentialized? Does it matter if we are "just joking?"
"It's a very delicate line to walk," says David Allen Grier in discussing his new show Chocolate News. "...It's one thing to put on a dress and be that sassy black woman, which is a negative African-American female archetype. Now it's another thing to comment on just that phenomenon ... There has been a genetic mutation ... that the only way black men can be heard is by dressing like fat black mamas."
Both Chauncey and Gordon often say that we shouldn't waste our time concerned about how others will interpret our work. We simply can't control what readers, Negro or not, will take away. Even while they say this in the context of this blog, I also know that they are strivers who study and work in circles where they are often "the only one." No matter what they say, they have to care what White people think.
What do other Negro bloggers think? How are you all navigating this terrain? Who's your audience? And for White bloggers and readers, what do you people think? Am I underestimating you?
The Good People of Harlem Speak on Barack Obama--The Wisdom of the Masses is Clear....and They Are Quite Confused
Wow! Political Science in action--we should make a t-shirt or two or three with that slogan emblazoned on the front.
I guess the research which suggests that voters are ill-informed, make poor choices (more often than not), and many don't know what their candidate's actual issue positions are--folks be confused-- is in fact correct.
One more reason why I don't think all folk need to have full access to the franchise. But, it is another reason to be hopeful for our democracy as low information voters are common across the color line.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
John McCain has promised to whip Obama's butt in the 3rd debate. If the desperation and vitriol demonstrated by the McCain-Palin ticket during the last few weeks is any indication, it may be a rough night for Barack Obama. McCain has nothing to lose (maybe the election?) by not going "all in." To date, McCain and Palin are trying to link:
1. Obama and Ayers;
2. Michelle Obama and Ayers's wife;
3. Obama to the economic crisis;
4. Obama to the discredited male prostitute who claims he used drugs during sex binges with Obama;
5. Obama to Reverend Wright (again);
6. Obama to residential developer Mike Rezko;
7. Obama to terrorists;
8. Obama to Marxists;
8. Obama to anyone they possibly can.
I am of the mind that the best way to beat an opponent is to give them exactly what they want, but only on your own terms, and in the way, and at the time, which best serves your strategy.
I call your bluff Mr. McCain. As we posted some months ago, I am going to once more provide you with a handy chart that details Obama's "problematic" relationships: use this at your own peril Mr. McCain because I am one respectable negro who can't wait to see how you are going to play your hand Wednesday night:
1. Barack Obama-->Michelle Obama--> Princeton University
(where she wrote her "unpatriotic" senior thesis)--> Cornel West
(a dangerous Democratic Socialist who makes lots of money on the lecture circuit and from his hip hop cd's)-->either Karl Marx (Cornel has probably read Marx)--> or even worst to Black Jesus (the Black church is going to be the end of Obama isn't it?).
2. Michelle Obama-->Black people (yes, "real" black people)...
3. Obama-->1960s radical and (now) Professor Bill Ayers-->Father Pfleger-->Reverend Wright (via Trinity Church) and to Louis Farrakhan ('nuff said)-->Libyan President Muamar Quaddafi (remember Farrakhan was getting bankrolled by the now cross-dressing and somewhat insane Libyan leader-->the terrorist organization Hamas-->Yasser Arafat-->Osama Bin Laden. This one could be the end for Barack because Osama is far worse and far more dangerous than Black Jesus...
4. Obama-->his white, hippy, race mixing mother (she had a thing for the brown folks)-->Marx (she is an anthropologist by training)-->Dirty Hippies. We all hate dirty hippies:
5. Obama--> his African, lapsed-Muslim, apostate, father-->Hamas-->Arafat-->Al Queda. This is an easy one because many Americans already believe Obama is a Muslim, that Muslims are all terrorists, and that Obama could be a closet supporter of Islamic terrorism (or alternatively that Obama's father and by extension Obama could somehow be targets of suicide bombers because of dad's status as an "apostate"). The Right has been on this one since jump street so they will only increase their emphasis of this point in the coming months:
6. Obama-->his African father-->his African extended family-->Shaka Zulu. I love Shaka Zulu and in fact believe that any link to Shaka should give a candidate instant credibility. While all folks may not agree with the power of Shaka, I couldn't resist sharing it:
This chart is less than comprehensive. For example, I left out the noted scholar Rashid Khalidi and how from Obama to Khalidi one can go instantly to Osama and Al Queda (because of course, anyone that is critical of either the Israeli occupation or of political zionism is anti-Semitic.
One could also instantly go from Marx to just about anything that the Right would find threatening, problematic, scary, or unsettling (full employment, yikes!!!) but that link was too obvious.
Thank you for your honesty Mr. O'Reilly--ain't life funny? I never thought I would say such a thing.
Not that we are at the center of a vortex or anything, or even that we are deists of whiteness (get the joke, it has meanings within meanings within meanings), but our little Euphemisms for Naming White Folk List seems to have its finger on the collective American political pulse.
Maybe a little birdie will email Fox and CNN and tell them where they saw this list first?
As Hannibal on the A-Team said, I love it when a plan comes together!
Can we just call white voters white voters?
OK, I’m not trying to be the race guy, but these labels are driving me nuts!
Earlier today CNN aired a piece on Joe Sixpack, and not a single African American, Hispanic or Asian was interviewed.
Now, do these groups drink six packs? Yep. But don’t we know that Palin isn’t talking to them? Yep. So why not just say it?
We even played a soundbite of Palin saying Joe Sixpack and hockey moms. Trust me, she’s not speaking to anyone who looks like me!
But there are other terms that have been thrown around by candidates, political strategists and the media, and no one wants to be honest as to who we are talking about.
Wal-mart moms. Soccer moms. NASCAR dads. Small town America.
Seriously. Read all of those phrases, and when you think of who candidates, political strategists and the media are talking about, who immediately comes to mind? I can tell you no one black, Hispanic or Asian!
So, can we just stop the nonsense and say, all at once - WHITE AMERICANS.
I just think it’s so obvious, but it as if we - the collective media - just doesn’t want to say it.
But to further explain the Joe Sixpack stuff, I saw an interview on American Morning with with Jackie and Dunlap, two redneck comedians. So essentially we’re going to two country white guys to define Joe Sixpack. Need we say anything more as to who Joe Sixpack is?
Now they were hilarious, and I love ‘em - got Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy on my iPod - but it’s as if the white elephant is in the room and we close our eyes and act like it’s not there.
See, if we’re discussing black, Hispanic and female voters, we just say, “black, Hispanic and female.” But we try to be cute and not say what we really mean.
Lastly, can someone tell me the last time you heard McCain or Palin say inner city? Maybe those aren’t the voters they care about.
Monday, October 13, 2008
The people have spoken! James T. Harris is officially "out" of the tribe. These are the moments when democracy works.
We will email him our proclamation and share the response with you once we receive it.
Always remember that the tribe of Respectable Negroes is a participatory democracy. So please be vigilant and secure in the knowledge that you too can nominate lapdog Uncle Toms and Aunt Tomasinas for discommendation.
We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be the equal of the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him. -- Benjamin Tillman
A not insignificant body of white Americans are feeling imperiled. Their dominance in global affairs is declining. Their personal economic security is crumbling. Their social dominance is being challenged everyday with the growing visibility and influence of colored folks. The world as they know it, and expect it to remain, is rapidly changing.
As Miz Hillary herself began to feel insecure in the face of negro assumptions of political power, she began tapping into white racial fears: "In an effort to scare off white voters, Mr. Obama was ghettoized as a cocaine user (by the chief Clinton strategist, Mark Penn, among others), 'the black candidate' (as Clinton strategists told the Associated Press) and Jesse Jackson redux (by Mr. Clinton himself)." All the while, Obama took the high road -- not talking about race and not highlighting obvious weaknesses in the Clinton history, e.g. Whitewater and Bill's philandering. The fact that the Clintons and their supporters are still angry at and resentful of Obama says a lot. Aside from not "staying in his place" and deferring to a white woman, what exactly did he do to so offend them?
The McCain-Palin campaign is cultivating ground that the Clintons have already sewn. Their early ad Lashing Out accused Obama of referring to Palin as "good looking" and concluded that he was "disrespectful." The implied question was, "Are the good white people of America going to let this negro get away with disrespecting a white woman?" At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are viewed as new and unheard of by the mainstream press. This isn't new at all.
It is not surprising that white women are at the center of opposition to Obama's candidacy. Historically, lynch mobs and white supremacist rallies in America have often used the need to protect white female virtue as a justification for violence against Negroes. Just beneath the surface of those claims, however, have been economic and social insecurity. In much of the Deep South lynchings peaked in the late 19th century, as whites turned to terrorism to dissuade blacks from voting and to enforce Jim Crow laws. In the Mississippi Delta lynchings of blacks increased in the early 20th century as white planters tried to enforce control of labor when more blacks became sharecroppers and laborers.
Typically, Negro fears of white violence in recent decades have been dismissed as histrionic and unfounded. It is both refreshing and sobering that the mainstream media are now beginning to openly identify the racial fears that have been so much a part of this election year -- refreshing in that they are finally validating real concerns and sobering in that they are validating real concerns. On the Discovery channel tonight, Ted Koppel will link the phenomenon of lynching to today's political climate in what should be an illuminating one-hour documentary. "Lynchings are a form of terrorism. And the particular purpose was to say to African Americans that you will never vote or be a part of the political process in this country. And if you think you will move in that direction there will be terrible consequences," Koppel told Tell Me More host Michel Martin.
That McCain has felt the need to address the jeers and racism of his own supporters says a great deal. Is he surprised at the hate and ignorance he and others have been able to give voice to? Is he scared that he will be called upon to explain violence committed in his and Palin's names? Or, is he just covering his ass?
The past is never dead ...
Sunday, October 12, 2008
60 Minutes pulled the curtain back a bit tonight on the present/future of military technology and war making in its feature story "How Technology Helped Win the Sadr City Battle." Now, this wasn't an expose on the U.S. military's "secret" weapons alluded to by Bob Woodward in his interview a few weeks ago, but it did provide some tantalizing bits of new information.
As a ghetto nerd student of military affairs I am always proud of our war fighters and their courage: imagine being a combat engineer and putting up a cement wall while taking all that fire. As I am fond of saying, those brothers are born again hard. And whenever those operators in Task Force 17 are mentioned I can't help but have a crooked smile while I say a prayer for whoever those Army Delta and Navy Seals are going to send on an express, one way trip to the afterlife.
That having been said, in this most dire of moments, I just hope that we can extend our ingenuity at making war abroad to fixing our broken economy at home.
Some other choice "war porn" as we like to call it:
Special Ops in Sadr City
So much like a video game it is scary:
A typical day in the office at Ramadi:
Say hello to my little friend:
Some balance lest we become too fond of war:
Never forget, "It is good that war is so horrible, or we might grow to like it."
A Sunday Afternoon Dose of Politics and Prayer: An Obama Win Means "Their" God is Bigger Than "Our" God
“There are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that his [McCain’s] opponent wins, for a variety of reasons,” said Arnold Conrad, former pastor of Grave Evangelical Free Church. “And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name in all that happens between now and Election Day.”
As the Wall Street journal is reporting, apparently McCain's camp has a direct hot line to God. Funny, Palin and McCain are calling in all the favors they can get this electoral season. Palin the Christian Nationalist seeks blessings for pipelines, fiscal growth, and political success from African witch doctors and McCain allows his rallies to be opened with blessings that explicitly speak in terms of "our" God and "their" God. And folks wonder why there are many critics, pundits, and observers on both sides of the partisan divide who find this effort to "Otherize" Obama so sickening and disturbing. Funny, it makes one think which candidate really has the "pastor problem?"
Two thoughts. First, do these moments not highlight the wisdom of being a strict secularist, especially in all things political? Second, isn't it ironic that the Christian Nationalists who are McCain and the GOP's base want to criticize the Arab world and "Islamo-fascists" for being theocratic, while in their hearts McCain-Palin and company believe much the same?
The McCain camp's response is typically evasive. We are never responsible for the actions of our staff members or what occurs at our rallies (or for what our VP candidate says or does) yet we continue to benefit from them:
“While we understand the important role that faith plays in informing the votes of Iowans, questions about the religious background of the candidates only serve to distract from the real questions in this race about Barack Obama’s judgment, policies and readiness to lead as commander in chief,” said McCain spokeswoman Wendy Riemann.
It is at these moments that I recall Thomas Jefferson's words that:
"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
I do sincerely hope that both camps will reflect on this practical wisdom.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
The McCain camp is really digging deep in its Rolodex to find these Black conservatives: there is probably a list of names kept in a file akin to Who's Who in America's High Schools, and it is affixed with the label "break in case of dire emergency."
As I have said many a times, I just don't get these folks. Do you? Palin wouldn't pee on a black person if they were on fire (she has that pwt with a little bit of money smugness about her) and McCain was a second away from calling Obama "boy" during the debate (instead he substituted "that one" in its place). So why claim loyalty to, and membership in, the Republican Party?
Do they grow these folks somewhere? Is there a cabbage patch or pumpkin patch somewhere from which the GOP harvests these black Republican knuckledraggers? Do they get scared for their safety at the Palin-McCain rallies? Or do they feel like they have a special we are one second away from being the colored class/collaborators/nouveau over-seers/slave catchers in the New World Order pass from the Right?
Who knows? Maybe these collaborators can be purchased at a discount from the irregular sized clothing bin at TJ Maxx (Marshall's and Filene's Basement are too high rent for them). Perhaps they find them in an alley or refuse pile? Behold! black McCain-Palin supporters, a sad and cast off group of misfits who are desperate for attention and affirmation--the Garbage Pail Kids of the 21st century:
I hereby resubmit my form for his discommendation, updated appropriately:
I propose that James T. Harris should suffer discommendation from the tribe of respectable negroes for the the following reasons:
___ Driving Miss Daisy
X Bagger Vancing
X Clarence Thomas Lap Dogging
___ Blatant Victomology a.k.a. the Jesse Jackson Offense
X Black Lap Dogging before a Conservative Audience
X Consistent and Chronic Lack of Race Pride
X Cooning and Lawn Jockeying a.k.a the Crime of Committing the Flava Flav
As a senior member of the We Are Respectable Negroes leadership council, I need the agreement of one other founding member, and the votes of 5 other members of the respectable negro tribe (or alternatively, 4 lifetime members and one white honorable ally) to complete the expulsion of James T. Harris. If I have indicated the incorrect offense, or if James T. Harris should suffer discommendation because he has instead violated some other unstated and auxiliary regulation not listed above, please indicate this discrepancy according to our established rules and procedures.
As per our procedures we will notify James T. Harris of his expulsion. In addition, all respectable negro friends and allies should query Mr. Harris on his website regarding his lack of race pride and cowardly behavior.
Massa, Our House Be Burning Down!--A Black, Vocal, and Unapologetic McCain Supporter is Now an Internet Celebrity
Now, Tom negroes are on the stump begging McCain to go after Obama? Lord have mercy because we are indeed living in strange times! Some of our folks are so pathetic that they make Flavor Flav look like as radical as Marcus Garvey. I know Zora will be all over this fool negro, but I must immediately begin the procedure to kick this McCain boot licking, lapdog out of the tribe.
I am loathe to do this again because the tribe of respectable negroes and their white allies needs as many members as we can muster, but I must act immediately lest the disease embodied by the above handkerchief head spread any farther.
As we did with Cowboy Troy, the following criteria and rules still hold. I propose that the Tom Negro McCain supporter in the above video should suffer discommendation for the following reasons:
___ Driving Miss Daisy
X Bagger Vancing
X Clarence Thomas Lap Dogging
___ Blatant Victomology a.k.a. the Jesse Jackson Offense
X Black Lap Dogging before a Conservative Audience
X Consistent and Chronic Lack of Race Pride
X Cooning and Lawn Jockeying a.k.a the Crime of Committing the Flava Flav
As a senior member of the We Are Respectable Negroes leadership council, I need the agreement of one other founding member, and the votes of 5 other members of the respectable negro tribe (or alternatively, 4 lifetime members and one white honorable ally) to complete the expulsion of the Tom Negro McCain supporter. If I have indicated the incorrect offense, or if the Tom Negro McCain supporter should suffer discommendation because he has instead violated some other unstated and auxiliary regulation not listed above, please indicate this discrepancy according to our established rules and procedures.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Tony Viessman, 74, and Les Spencer, 60, got politically active last year when it occurred to them there must be other lower income, rural, beer-drinking, gun-loving, NASCAR race enthusiasts fed up with business as usual in Washington.
"We need to build the economy from the bottom up, none of this trickle down business," Spencer said. "Just because you're white and southern don't mean you have to vote Republican."
Racism "has softened up some, but it's still there," Viessman acknowledged from Belmont University, site of Tuesday's McCain-Obama debate in Nashville, Tennessee.
Surely [Obama] alienated many rural voters earlier this year when the Harvard-educated senator told a fundraiser that some blue-collar voters "cling to guns or religion".
But Viessman, who says he owns a dozen guns, said Obama "ain't gonna take your guns away."
Viessman says he'd like to think his grassroots movement could sway enough people in small-town America to make a difference.
"There's lots of other rednecks for Obama too," he said. "And the ones that's not, we're trying our best to convince them."
I am always struck by the inclusiveness of our memories for that era. Black and brown folk were omnipresent by virtue of our invisibility. Sure, we were in hip hop movies, we could get shot by Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson, were the athlete or cool friend a la Forest Whitaker in Sixteen Candles, the black fraternity members who save the geeks in Revenge of the Nerds, or Clubber Lang or Apollo in Rocky, but we never really got to shine as central characters.
Ironically, we ghetto nerds always found a way to make ourselves central to the narrative when we were recreating scenes from popular movies and television shows. If we were playing Rambo we could either imagine ourselves as Rambo (in our version of the movie we would get to make love to the beautiful Asian sister who is Rambo's compatriot)--a post-racial colorblind move before such concepts entered the public imagination. If we were acting out the Terminator we could be the second terminator sent back to kill John Connor--a sequel never to be made. Vietnam War movies provided a different challenge. Black and brown folks were too numerous in these movies and almost always type cast (has anything changed really?). But again, this did present the opportunity to imagine ourselves as Lee Arney's assistant in Full Metal Jacket, or as one of the more central characters in Hamburger Hill or the Siege of Firebase Gloria:
The other Cold War era, the Russians are coming, hysteria driven popcorn movies wrote us out of the script entirely. As a qualifier, the Day After and the British nuclear holocaust docudrama Threads were more diverse, but they were so horrifying that we did not feature them in our lunch break/after school play rotation. And the movie a Boy and his Dog was simply to surreal and bizarre for our simple preteen/early teen minds to get a handle on:
Question: am I the only 1980s ghetto nerd who prayed the world wouldn't end in a nuclear holocaust? Or tried to figure out how close they were to likely targets so they could come up with a possible "escape" plan? Second Question: Am I the only person still traumatized by Threads and consider it one of the most frightening movies ever made?
By contrast, Red Dawn was pornographic in its mixture of violence, sadism, and overwrought, jingoistic patriotism. In total, it was a two hour advertisement of the NRA and the "right" to bear arms as one never knows when you will need an assault rifle to fight off a Soviet tank or a helicopter gunship.
Here is the dilemma: there aren't many brown and black folk in the flyover states featured in the movie. And if I recall, the Russians nuke most of the population centers leaving good ol' white folk, the "real" Americans, to fight the Reds. Maybe the Russians and their Cuban allies were afraid to set up shop in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or D.C.? Or maybe Red Dawn is implying that the big city, latte drinking liberals and their masses of colored supplicants would collaborate with the Soviet invaders?
Nevertheless, the forced whiteness of Red Dawn didn't stop me from hypothesizing about how urban and semi-urban communities would resist. Would the former gang bangers get organized and fight the Russians? If Patrick Swayze could lead a bunch of High School kids against the Soviet and Cuban war machines, I can only imagine what the brothers on the block would have done, especially if the NOI or the Zulu Nation had their back. Would the kind people of the Bronx and Brooklyn snipe at them from their windows? Would they wage an urban insurgency? What would we ghetto nerds do to resist? Ohh the dreams of teenage ghetto nerds. Ironically, Red Dawn was so historically inaccurate, the Soviet and Cuban strategies so ill conceived, and the action so unbelievable that it would inevitably become a cornerstone of ghetto nerd culture.
The undeniable power of Red Dawn is explored by Slate magazine in the following piece:
Its portrait of Russia is dated. Its portrait of America is timely—and terrifying.
By David Plotz
The middle Reagan years—the fingernail-gnawing, doomsday-clock-watching, pre-perestroika finale of the Cold War—were a dreadful time for movies in general, but they were the heyday of the Armageddon film. The mid-'80s gave us War Games, The Day After, Invasion USA, Testament, Amerika, and The Terminator, and they gave me nightmares. For much of my teens, I had a dream in which I was standing alone, minding my own business, when a huge helicopter gunship would appear from behind a building or a tree or a cliff and start shooting at me. This nightmare was, of course, a tribute to the feverish power of the World War III movie Red Dawn, whose most famous scene involved a Soviet Hind helicopter sneaking up on our American heroes, the "Wolverines," and unleashing a hellfire of bullets against them.
Except for The Terminator, none of the mid-'80s Armageddon movies has had as much enduring influence as 1984's Red Dawn. The film is beloved of American military types. In 2003, the Army named its operation to capture Saddam Hussein "Red Dawn" and dubbed the two Saddam safe houses it was raiding "Wolverine 1" and "Wolverine 2." Recognizing that we're again living in an age of existential dread, MGM recently announced plans to remake Red Dawn. With the Russian army having run rampant over Georgia and the Kremlin hissing over American plans to base a missile defense system in Poland, this seemed the right moment to revisit Red Dawn. I could think of no better way to recall the anxieties of the Cold War than to cheer on the Wolverines again. But Red Dawn did not conjure up the chest-swelling patriotism I felt as a 14-year-old. Instead, it turned out to be disturbing in an entirely unexpected way.
the story continue here.
Here is a clip from another classic, the movie Damnation Alley--a cinematic achievement that deserves critical attention if only because of its creative depiction of radioactive, man eating, cockroaches!
How would you have resisted the Soviet invasion? What were the movies in your play rotation? And lest I gender the conversation too much, what were you ghetto nerd girls and teenagers up to during the waning years of the Cold War?
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Miss Palin and Mr. McCain you should be mindful of the fabled Pandora's Box because the forces you unleash may ultimately be your undoing.
Sarah Palin's race baiting has unleashed the demon spawn and not so closeted anti-black animus that bubbles beneath the GOP's particular brand of false populism.
Palin calls Obama a terrorist--I thought we weren't attacking people's patriotism or loyalty this election?
Palin supporters call for Obama to be killed--or is it Ayers?--and does it matter?
Palin tells her supporters that women who don't vote for women will burn in hell--we can't make this stuff up.
Palin supporters harass reporters and call one African-American reporter, "boy"--not surprising considering that McCain uses a cousin to that most dismissive of phrases "those people" and calls Obama "that one" before a national television audience numbering in the tens of millions.
For all of our progress as a society these are the moments when I shake my head in disbelief. It seems they/we are not as evolved as one would like to believe. Apparently, this researcher is inclined to agree with my observation:
Human evolution is grinding to a halt because of a shortage of older fathers in the West, according to a leading genetics expert.
Fathers over the age of 35 are more likely to pass on mutations, according to Professor Steve Jones, of University College London.
Speaking today at a UCL lecture entitled “Human evolution is over” Professor Jones will argue that there were three components to evolution – natural selection, mutation and random change. “Quite unexpectedly, we have dropped the human mutation rate because of a change in reproductive patterns,” Professor Jones told The Times.
“Human social change often changes our genetic future,” he said, citing marriage patterns and contraception as examples. Although chemicals and radioactive pollution could alter genetics, one of the most important mutation triggers is advanced age in men.
This is because cell divisions in males increase with age. “Every time there is a cell division, there is a chance of a mistake, a mutation, an error,” he said. “For a 29-year old father [the mean age of reproduction in the West] there are around 300 divisions between the sperm that made him and the one he passes on – each one with an opportunity to make mistakes.
“For a 50-year-old father, the figure is well over a thousand. A drop in the number of older fathers will thus have a major effect on the rate of mutation.”
Professor Jones added: “In the old days, you would find one powerful man having hundreds of children.” He cites the fecund Moulay Ismail of Morocco, who died in the 18th century, and is reputed to have fathered 888 children. To achieve this feat, Ismail is thought to have copulated with an average of about 1.2 women a day over 60 years.
Another factor is the weakening of natural selection. “In ancient times half our children would have died by the age of 20. Now, in the Western world, 98 per cent of them are surviving to 21.”
Decreasing randomness is another contributing factor. “Humans are 10,000 times more common than we should be, according to the rules of the animal kingdom, and we have agriculture to thank for that. Without farming, the world population would probably have reached half a million by now – about the size of the population of Glasgow.
“Small populations which are isolated can evolve at random as genes are accidentally lost. World-wide, all populations are becoming connected and the opportunity for random change is dwindling. History is made in bed, but nowadays the beds are getting closer together. We are mixing into a global mass, and the future is brown.”
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I sat in amazement as this cipher of a human being somehow charmed the talking heads with an utterly transparent display of phony “aw shucks” populism. While the commentators disagreed on her substantive points, there seemed to be a consensus that Palin’s “folksy” mannerisms and sayings were charming and allowed her to connect with the American people. I’m almost positive that The National Review’s Rich Lowry typed his ode to Palin with one hand.
I took away two main nuggets from the Vice Presidential debate and its aftermath: 1.) that Sarah Palin, in effect, performed rural blackface, and 2.) that the so called charm of this performance hinges on the small town fantasies of conservatives and media elites.
Consider that traditional blackface saw refined black entertainers performing a base, stereotypical blackness for adoring audiences. Everything about minstrel blackness was exaggerated: the movements, the language, the clothing, the color. Let’s revisit Palin’s debate. Along with the exaggerated down-home sayings, (she actually said “I’m the Joe Six-Pack candidate.” How’s that for subtlety?), she twice made reference to the liberal media filtering her straight talk to the American people, and incredibly, made plain her intention to not answer the moderator’s questions in the name of this supposed straight talk. Palin took the negative aspects of rural America—the simplistic worldview, the anti-intellectualism, the hostility to difference—and magnified them to the point of near parody. That, my friends, is rural blackface.
Contrary to popular belief, Palin’s folksiness (and indeed the Palin pick itself), is not directed toward “regular Americans;” it is directed toward elites, media elites in particular. It’s clear that media elites on the right have bought into the notion that small town America is the real representation of the country, that one must go to the “heartland” to see American values. Surprisingly, though, Palin’s shtick is just as effective on liberal media elites because these liberal elites share the same faulty assumptions and insecurities as their conservative colleagues.
Most of these elites, conservative or liberal, are stinking rich, were reared at the same elite schools, and live in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. These elites enjoy the freedom, variety, and bustle of big cities, yet they suffer from a great deal of self-loathing, guilt, and insecurity about their metropolitan lives (the cities they call home may as well be Sodom and Gomorrah). They therefore construct fantasies of a simpler, more pure life in rural America and regard small town residents as morally superior folks uncorrupted by the big, bad city. It’s like nostalgia for the 50s, only set in the present.
In any case, Palin and McCain know all of this and are more than willing to have Palin “coon it up.” W.C. Fields described legendary blackface performer Bert Williams as “the funniest man I ever saw – and the saddest man I ever knew.” Part of this sadness stemmed from the internal conflict based on building his personal success on hideous racial stereotypes of his people. I doubt that Sarah Palin has any inner-conflict. She strikes me as a supremely happy person.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I am of two minds on tomorrow's Sarah Palin-Joe Biden Vice Presidential Debate. The conspiratorial part of my psyche keeps telling me that something is afoot, that this is an amazing example of playing down to low expectations just to sucker your opponent in so that you can give them the knockout punch.
Now, I am a firm believer in the truths that often lie behind alternative narratives for explaining the world's realities. For example, I don't believe in the Willie Lynch Letter. But, I do believe that the U.S. either did not go to the moon or only went a few times before being told by aliens not to return. I don't believe that Snapple is funded by the KKK. But, I do believe that Church's Fried Chicken was a conspiracy against Black people. By the way, Popeye's is just a blessing.
I don't believe that 9-11 was an "inside job," but I do believe that some folks chose to look the other way, and yes, the fourth plane was shot down. AIDS was not a biological weapon designed to kill black folks, but the Tuskegee experiment and tainted small pox vaccines in Africa have to make one think about the possibility. You see, my conspiratorial credentials are quite sound.
I have to be honest folks, my spidey sense is tingling on this one because either Palin and the Republicans are playing us all and she is a genius who will emerge to greatly surprise and embarrass Joe Biden in a manner akin to the movie the Ringer, where an "able bodied" and not mentally "handicapped" person participates in the Special Olympics to rig the games for the Mafia.
Or is she going to be outplayed and outmaneuvered by Joe Biden? Could she perhaps be brought to tears? If there is a God of debates and political blogs she will indeed be brought to tears...but I won't hold my breath. Assuming that truth is stranger than fiction, and that Palin is as vapid as she appears to be, Biden can still lose this debate. Why? the law of low expectations and the amazing capacity for the public at large to feel pity for a loser, especially if they are Walmart moms who are "scrappy" and are the political equivalent of the football player Rudy--Red State types love those stories. Random thought: do they love the movie Radio just as much?
In the spirit of Paul Begala's post on 10 rules to win a debate, here are some quick tips for Obama's VP.
1. You can't hit a girl. I know that sounds sexist, but it is true. I know she could be alot bigger and stronger than you, but we, and by we I mean women and men, don't really want true gender equality in this country. This is one example of that fact. Joe, you have to be nice. Joe you have to be civil. And yes, you can't pull a McCain and just ignore her as he did Obama. If during the debate she proverbially gets in your face, calls your mother out of her name, and spits on you, you can't hit her. But as Chris Rock said, you sure as hell can shake her (you can start sending those angry emails now).
2. Visualize yourself as an adult who is fighting a child. Alternatively, visualize yourself as a tall person fighting a "little person." You have the advantage of reach, strength, and in this case, experience and power. Your foe is slippery and fast. Sarah is also able to get in under your guard--in MMA this is called "passing the guard"--therefore, you need to be very careful. The little person/child also has a low center of gravity. As a consequence, you can't really knock them down without leaning forward and putting yourself off balance. The larger competitor also has an advantage in weight and the ability to absorb a blow. Remember, that in a debate you don't necessarily want to go for the knockout punch early. Instead, you want to set them up and punish them until you are ready to put your foe to sleep. Biden must remember this fact because an early knockout will work against his cause rather than in favor of it. My suggestion, move around, dodge and weave, and at some point simply put your hand on their forehead, hold them back, and let them swing at the air. Remember Joe, Palin doesn't have the reach to hit you. The solution: don't get overconfident and get up close where she can hurt you:
3. To point 2, the child or little person you are fighting has your groin at eye level. As a result, they can't help but to hit you low. Biden, you need to wear a cup. Sarah is going to be hitting you low all night long and you are going to be bruised. It is the same rule that governs being in a knife fight, you have to accept that you are going to get cut. It is unavoidable. All you can do is get cut at a moment when it is too your advantage as the attacker (counter-intuitive but true). Again Joe, Sarah is looking at your crotch. Not because she likes you, but because she can't look or swing any higher.
4. Similarly, the smaller opponent can literally trip you up or take out a knee. If this happens you are on the ground and they have the advantage. Solution: avoid getting close enough to be tripped up.
5. Joe Biden is a bit of a hothead with a sharp tongue. He must remember Bruce Lee's advice, "be water my friend."
6. On points 4, 5, and 3, Joe Biden must be judicious in his application of force. In all likelihood he has forgotten more about government and foreign affairs than Palin has every known. He cannot betray his superiority over her. If Biden does this he will look like a lecturing bully. And this would almost certainly push some female independents, Hillary supporters, and Joe Six Packs (or is it 3 packs because of the economic downturn?) to McCain. Random thought: can't you imagine the complaints from Fox News and Joe Q. Public/Bush supporters if Biden were to expose Palin? "There go those know it all liberals again! We need a regular person who respects "real" Americans!"--Insert hand into mouth in order to induce vomiting.
7. On point 6, Joe Biden cannot be Joey Buttafuoco . Do you remember that piece of human debris? In his effort at petty stardom he boxed Chyna, the former WWE "women's" wrestler. Guess what? He lost by winning because he humiliated and embarrassed her--and he looked boorish while doing it. Joe, I beg you, even when you smell blood in the water don't go for the kill shot. You can punish your prey a bit, expose its weaknesses, but don't go for the kill shot unless you have to:
8. Finally, don't underestimate Sarah Palin. I repeat, do not underestimate Sarah Palin. Always hold close and true to your heart the wisdom of Return of the Jedi and how the Ewoks, those fuzzy little teddy bears, were able to defeat the Imperial war machine:
If you were in Joe Biden's corner what would you tell him to do? What does he have to be careful about? Who is going to win? Am I being too paranoid in my worry that this is a set up and Palin is suckering everyone in for the kill shot?
Here is the tale of the tape and pre-fight video:
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
69 Is The Loneliest Of Numbers: The Final Count For Our How Many Ways to Say "White" Without Saying White Competition
Our contest is officially closed...unless you come up with some more gems. It was epic. It was amazing. And frankly, how can you top 69 ways to say "White" without saying white? Now, I had another clip to post but I didn't want to get a lecture from Zora if I put it up. The above video will have suffice. So--insert drum roll--the final count is:
1. Values voter
3. Mainstream voter
4. Hard-working Americans
5. Lunch pail voters
6. Soccer moms
7. Walmart Moms
8. Nascar Dads
9. Blue collar
10. Regular Americans
11. Real Americans
12. The Base
13. Culture War voters
15. Palin's Army
16. Joe Six Pack
17. Joe Lunch Pail
18. Hockey Mom/Hockey moms
19. American Workers
20. Work Force
21. Regular Folks
22. Ma and Pa Kettle
23. My (or your) neighbors
24. Average American Voter
25. Rural Voters
27. My accountant
28. Small Town Voters
29. The Woman Vote
30. Middle America
32. American People
33. Good hard-working people
34. Working Class voter
35. The Nascar Vote
36. Midwestern Voters
37. Suburban Voters
38. White Collar Voters
39. Main Street
40. Wall Street
41. New Englanders
43. All-American Girls/Boys/All-American
44. The latte voters
45. Dogwalking voters
46. The Recycling bloc
47. Folks in the heartland
48. Decent, hard-working people
50. God-fearing Americans
51. The people who want to have a beer with the sort of candidate who might like to have a beer with them
52. Reagan Democrats
53. One of us
56. Bubba Voters
57. Gun enthusiasts
58. People who are just worried about paying the bills on time
59. Voters in fly-over states
60. Scranton Voters
61. Kitchen table voters
63. Evangelical Voters
65. My friends
66. Honest Workers
67. Ordinary people
68. Responsible Americans
69. Security Moms
"Lakefront liberals" and "swing state voters" were certainly in the running, but for reasons of poetic license it seemed oh so appropriate to end the contest at the number 69. What phrase or name on our list do you think is the most creative so that we can give out our inaugural prize?
The Great Economic Collapse of September 2008: Let's Just Slow Down For a Moment and Catch Our Collective Breath
Do we let markets work and "self-correct" or not? Is a belief in the ability of markets to right themselves a religion of sorts? What happens if we all panic and run to the bank and get our loot? Good or bad? Let's just take a second and reflect. You know I am a paranoid respectable negro, but maybe a panic is just what THEY want? How are you protecting your loot if you have any? Securities and bonds? Sugarwater and Now and Laters? Hiding out in the closet with some MRE's and water? Share you investment strategies and survival strategies with the We Are Respectable Negroes Family...
From the Wall Street Journal:
Wall Street is dead.
30 September 2008 06:37
Wall Street is dead.
Whether it was murder or suicide is beside the point: Wall Street as it has operated for the past 75 years has been obliterated in a matter of weeks. And witnessing this violent death in broad daylight has traumatized investors everywhere.
The Wall Street domino has toppled just about everything in sight: U.S. stocks large and small, within the financial industry and outside of it; foreign stocks; oil and other commodities; real-estate investment trusts; formerly booming emerging markets like India and China. Even gold, although it has inched up lately, has lost 10% from its highs earlier this year. Not even cash seems entirely safe, as money-market funds barely averted a "run on the bank."
Of all the dominos that have tipped over, the most psychologically damaging collapse was the last: the very notion of diversification itself.
A trader rubs his face as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange September 29, 2008 in New York City. U.S. stocks took a nosedive in reaction to the global credit crisis and as the U.S. House of Representatives rejected the $700 billion rescue package, 228-205. Dow Jones Industrials fell as much as 700 points in midday trading.
Every day, my mailbox fills up with messages from agonized investors who can find nowhere to hide. The most common refrain: "I've lost money on everything." If you feel this way too, you are certainly not imagining. According to the researchers at Morningstar Inc., 91% of all mutual funds in existence have lost money so far this year. To put that in perspective, in 2001 -- the year Enron imploded, Internet stocks kept crashing and al Qaeda attacked the U.S. -- more than one out of every three funds still managed to generate positive returns.
How much worse might things get? Is there any way to prevent Wall Street's death from taking you out too?
Let's consider some of the arguments that have been surfacing lately.
"We're going into another Great Depression." The failure on Monday of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the bailout plan makes those G-D words seem possible for the first time. But I don't think another depression is likely, for two reasons.
First, when you spend time studying the Crash of 1929 and the depression that followed, what stands out the most is the dearth of doomsayers. Even Roger Babson, the economist known to posterity as "the man who called the crash," did no such thing; he forecast only a 15% to 20% drop, not the apocalypse that actually occurred. Depressions start not when lots of people are worried about them, as we have today, but when no one is worried about them, as in 1929.
Not again? Bewildered investors milled about New York's financial district after the stock-market crash in October 1929.
Second, the Great Depression and the Panic of 1873 (which triggered what arguably was the worst depression in U.S. history) both occurred before the Federal Reserve Bank had aggressively grown into its role as "lender of last resort." In the wake of 1873, after a railroad-building boom had swept the nation and then gone bust, companies and consumers alike were left gasping for capital. Nothing but the passage of time could supply it; the Fed would not be established until 1913. After the crash of 1929, when the Fed was still weak, years passed before the federal government could flood the economy with cash.
Today, however, the resolve of the Fed is not in question; nor is there any doubt that the Treasury Department is willing to provide the financing it takes to get the economy moving again. Furthermore, U.S. nonfinancial companies have just under $1 trillion in cash on their books. Even though Wall Street is dead, innovation is not: In the months to come, clever new financial go-betweens will spring up and find a way to get that cash flowing again. It's hard to see how a depression could get under way when so much capital is waiting in the wings.
"Diversification is dead." There's an old saying that the only things that go up in a down market are correlations -- the tightness of the linkages among various assets like U.S. and foreign markets, stocks and bonds, commodities or real estate. Normally, one asset will tend to zig while another zags. But in bear markets, they converge -- and in really terrible bear markets, they move in complete lockstep.
That's what is happening now, but it will not last indefinitely. It never does. While diversification does not work all the time, it does work over the course of time. There's nothing wrong with raising a little cash if that would prevent you from panicking completely. This is particularly true for retirees. Whittle down your stock position gradually, in baby steps -- say, 1% at a time -- not in one fell swoop. And set a limit beyond which you will not go; otherwise, when stocks stage their inevitable recovery, you will miss out.
"Investors hate uncertainty." Well, that's just tough. Uncertainty is all investors ever have gotten, or ever will get, from the moment barley and sesame first began trading in ancient Mesopotamia to the last trade that will ever take place on Planet Earth.
If tomorrow were ever knowable with absolute certainty, who would take the other side of a trade today?
The financial future is no more uncertain now than it used to be; in fact, it's far less uncertain than it was in the summer of 2007, when the Dow shot above 14000, the future seemed bright, and utterly no one foresaw the disaster that would befall the financial system. The absolute certainty of blue skies ahead was an illusion then, and the notion that we all know that worse misery lies in store is an illusion now.
The only true certainty is surprise.
You've probably spent a lot more time worrying about negative than positive surprises lately. But we could get surprised on the upside by a further fall in oil prices, a kick from low interest rates -- and, of course, untold other possibilities that no one can foresee.
Whatever happens with the bailout, don't bail out.
For now, let's just relax:
Or am I just being naive and too hopeful?
Monday, September 29, 2008
After a long hiatus, Spike Lee has finally given us a new production -- Miracle at St. Anna. As respectable Negroes, I know that you have all been eagerly anticipating its release. I, myself, stood in the rain on Friday afternoon expecting to have to fight for a good seat. Surprisingly, I was only one of six patrons in the entire theater. After nearly three excruciating hours, I understood why.
Let me offer a few phrases that can sum up my feelings about Spike's rendition of Miracle at St. Anna:
I'm Glad I Didn't Bring My White Friends to See This
Cinematic Affirmative Action
Flags of Our Fathers Meets Hogan's Heroes
Saving Private Ryan Meets Tropic Thunder
Clint Eastwood was RIGHT
Call Me a Handkerchief Head
If a White Man Made This, Spike Would Start a Riot
We're Not "Bamboozled" When Spike Makes It
I Could Have Done More, But Hollywood is Racist
You Don't Get My Movie Because You're a House Negro
My Unique Perspective as the Black Filmmaker that Hollywood Loves to Hate
Can you sense where I'm going with this?
Spike Lee built his film on a compelling story developed in 2003 by James McBride who drew on the history of the overwhelmingly African American 92nd Infantry Division in the Italian campaign from mid-1944 to April 1945. Not content to rest on the merits of the story alone, Spike insists on adding his own recognizable branding -- in this instance, poor editing, overwhelming music scores, and cartoonish characters. On top of this, it is as if he was afraid that he would never again find funding to make another movie. This latest "joint" wraps a drama, an epic, a war movie, a melodrama, and a fantasy film all into one with a little comic relief on the side. Simply put, Miracle at Anna was not Spike's best effort by a long shot.
I have to say that what bothered me the most about this film was it's predictable, one-dimensional characters. The White American characters are, of course, largely racist crackers. We all know what form they take. The Italian female lead was hyper-sensual and all too ready to raise her skirt for some cioccolata americano.
Surprisingly, however, the negro characters were just as flat. "Train" was a character who could have easily been exchanged for Michael Clark Duncan's character in The Green Mile; he's the seven-foot, country negro who couldn't hurt a fly. Perhaps because of his "simple" nature, he becomes a vessel for God to act through (Chauncey refers to such commonly portrayed figures as "magical negroes"). As gentle as this character seems, we all know that his anger can be awakened in the face of injustice.
"Bishop" is the light-skinned pimp with no race pride. Terrence Howard has often served in this role. Bishop cares about nothing more than getting ahead and getting some pussy, preferably white. Before getting drafted, he was a preacher -- original, no? Ultimately, his selfishness endangers his fellow soldiers.
"Stamps" is the opposite of "Bishop." He is ebony-hued and noble, a true race man. He is the ambassador for negroes abroad and carries this burden with an uptight dignity. Sydney Poitier would have been great for this role. Stamps also yearns for the Italian damsel, but alas he shows her too much respect and it turns her off.
Finally, Spike offers us "Negron" (the name was obviously chosen to remind us of his negritude in case folks got confused with his Puerto Rican accent). Negron keeps to himself, as if he doesn't want to get mixed up in our black American foolishness. His means of survival is a crucifix attached to a length of Santeria beads. Do any of you remember Pedro Cerrano in Major League? Negron is the only one of the four who makes it back home. Hmmmmm.
Ironically, the most complicated characters were in the form of Nazi soldiers. The two that Spike chose to highlight were deeply conflicted and clearly didn't want to be a part of the Nazi project. They were humane and compelling. I was more interested in seeing how their characters might develop than I was in any of the four primary characters. What was Spike trying to say here?
If a white filmmaker had offered us four leading roles that were this flat and stereotypical, Spike Lee would have used him/her as fodder for his case that white people can't tell black stories. He would have led BedStuy in a boycott of the film. Why then is it excusable for him to offer up such crap? Are we to consume it simply because he is African-American? Not this respectable Negress. I am so past the point of not holding my folks accountable simply because they need to be "encouraged" and "supported." We can't progress with this mindset.
Spike Lee is mature enough and powerful enough as a filmmaker that he has to be held accountable. He is capable of good, even great, work. You've seen it with Do the Right Thing, with Malcolm X, and with his documentaries. Sadly, you won't see it with Miracle at St. Anna.