Friday, October 24, 2008

Zora Says: The Literature of Urban Affairs

Not only have we had to suffer the indignity of having great African-American literary works shelved alongside bad Iceberg Slim knockoffs, we now have to endure a New York Times discussion of those knockoffs as a window onto the "urban" experience. So now "ghetto lit" / "urban fiction" reflects my life as an Oakland transplant in New York City? Of course, not. It's supposed to reflect my life as a Negress in modern America --> urban=Negro.

One expert on "urban affairs" offers in the article, "... the genre tells the stories of African-Americans who survived the 1980s drug wars. This is about documenting history, or, I should say, collective memory." Can I ask whose collective memory? A more accurate comment might have said that this genre of fiction is about documenting a collective imagination. In that collective, I would include all of America -- black and non-black.

A parallel can be found in gangster rap with its exaggerated violence and masculinity. The more it was sold to American audiences as an authentic representation of the Negro experience, the more we saw young, black suburbanites posturing as thugs at the local malls with their white friends in tow. We also witnessed white, frat boys hosting "ghetto" theme parties where they would talk, dress and act as they imagine black people do. The members of NWA, and currently Rick Ross, are masters of performing and reinforcing this collective imagination of authentic Negritude. (The reality is that they all come from lower-middle to middle class backgrounds.) Travel around the world and you will see idiots of all nationalities performing as Negroes, as hawd rappuhs. At one point, it seemed that all you had to do was have a jerry curl and hold a forty-ounce in your hand in order to get a record deal. Remember looking around wondering what happened to groups like Tribe Called Quest and Poor Righteous Teachers?

In the same way that gangster rap played into the collective imagination of black men as aggressive, thoughtless criminals, ghetto lit is playing into the collective imagination of black women as hard, gold-digging whores: "And then there’s Angel, a Versace-clad seductress who shoots her boyfriend in the head during sex, stuffs money from his safe into her Vuitton bags and, as she fondles the cash, experiences a sexual frisson narrated in terms too graphic to reproduce here." Says Shonda Miller, 35, "I read what I can relate to. They’re writing about what I’ve experienced. It’s easier than reading about Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.” Really? If this is what she relates to, am I wrong in thinking that Ms. Miller should be in jail, or at least in counseling?

I am fearful of what ghetto lit will do to the already negative images of Negro women in America. Yes, there was Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines before, but they were never legitimized in the same way. They simply weren't placed in the same category as Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. Publishers were not falling all over themselves to produce them and they certainly weren't getting regular press in mainstream newspapers. The images of Negro women as oversexed and threatening are being articulated as never before. And sadly, I have to add, by ourselves. While we may be writing this smut ourselves, we certainly are not the only ones consuming it. I have found ghetto lit dominating the African American literature section in bookstores across Vermont, Idaho and Maine. New Englanders, Christians, Main Streeters, Gun Enthusiasts and Real Americans are reading these books, gaining perspective on "urban affairs." Shiver, shiver.

The New York Times praises the genre for bringing in new readers: “We’ve got people who are reading for the first time. We’ve got people coming into our building asking for Teri Woods who have never come here before,” said Lora-Lynn Rice, the director of collections at the Martin Library in York County. “Why would we not embrace this?” Why? Because not only is it negative, most of it is terribly written. Have these librarians read these books for themselves?

One reader responded to the article by saying, "People often miss the point when discussing these "urban fiction". They are poorly written, loaded with grammatical errors and typos, since most of them are self published. They are found mostly in areas where there is a vast population of African Americans. Young African American readers are being exposed to these materials that are filled with errors. So when they're test scores in reading, for instance, are lower than other students; how rewarding that they were exposed to poorly written materials such as these overrated urban fiction materials. Furthermore, I don't want my stinkin' tax dollars paying for a book called "Gold Digga" or "Wifey". Yuck!" Well-said.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gordon Gartrelle offers some reflections on linked fate

I recently commented on Zora’s thought-provoking post about linked fate. In my comment, I noted that, even after years of wrestling with linked fate, I am unable to articulate a clear philosophy.

A string of recent events have helped me work through some of my difficulties with linked fate, so that now I’m at least able to throw out some inchoate thoughts on the subject:

First, on Thursday I began my second year as a volunteer reading mentor at a public school in which all of the students are poor and black. This is the youngest group of children (2nd Graders) I’ve ever mentored.

Then, minutes after leaving the school, I saw a woman in her late 20s waiting at the bus stop. She had her name written on the back of her tracksuit, but I could only see part of the name. When she got on the bus ahead of me, I saw the full name in all its glory: FALACIA!

Finally, on Friday I snagged front row seats to a stellar performance by a troupe of West African dancers. Before they even started dancing, I caught a whiff of one dancer who smelled like a mildewed onion frying in vinegar. Instead of devoting my full attention to the show, I found myself trying to pinpoint which of them was so damn musty. Ultimately, I located the culprit and decided to breathe through my mouth when he was near.

All three events occupied my mind throughout the weekend (the dance show largely because I was haunted by traumatic olfactory flashbacks). While these events haven’t led me to a coherent position on linked fate, they’ve at least started the ball rolling.

Before I detail what I learned from the events, let me reiterate what I said in response to Zora: linked fate may be a practical reality, but it doesn’t have to carry moral implications. I’m tied to black degenerates because those who accept white supremacy are too corrupted to distinguish between me and the degenerates; I do not, as Zora said, feel any moral connection to degenerates.

“this makes us look bad”
I have tutored and mentored poor black children for over a decade, primarily because I exhibit a sense of race pride when it comes to black folks’ academic and professional successes. The flipside, of course, is that I have a deep sense of shame about black folks’ academic and professional failings. For whatever reason, even though the failures aren’t my own, they feel like my own. It goes without saying that this should be the ethos of all members of a community, but given the numbers, it is especially important for black communities.

Lesson: As it turns out, I do have a moral sense of linked fate, but it applies mostly to children, and especially to their educational achievement; once these children grow up, however, my sense of linked fate only extends to them if they chose to be respectable. By “respectable” I mean that they work hard, they try not to bring kids into the world unless they can support them, they support kids they do bring into the world, they have a respect for the law (when the law makes sense), they act beyond mere impulse and self-satisfaction, and they have a regard for the common good.

This only sounds like a right-wing talking point because the left has failed to address the matter in a serious way. I’m about treating children like children and treating adults like adults. This runs counter to the approaches of most conservatives—who want to treat children like adults—and many liberals—who want to treat adults like children.

“this makes her look bad”
Ah, the hours I’ve spent thinking about Falacia (I wonder if her brother’s name is Connalingus). Whenever I see black people with bizarre names, I feel bad for the individual, because I know that her life chances will likely be unfairly limited, Falacia may be an intelligent, industrious woman. And though her name should have no bearing on her success, it probably will. Unlike some respectable negroes, I don’t recoil in horror and argue that her weird name somehow embarrasses black people as a whole. I feel the same way about black folks who dress in loud, tacky clothes or consume ghetto lit and crappy music and TV shows.

Lesson: When it comes to black taste (child names, taste in clothes, books, movies, TV, music), I think that each black person’s taste reflects only on that person. TAN seemed to suggest the opposite when he inquired why there is a dearth of mainstream black satire. He worried that this lack might make it seem as if black people aren’t sophisticated enough to understand satire. This is, without question, the wrong way to look at these matters, and I scolded TAN accordingly.

“this makes them look bad”
When I first smelled the one pungent dancer, my thoughts immediately focused on the other 13 dancers. I was concerned that the funky one would reinforce stereotypes not about African-Americans, but about Africans and “foreigners” in general. All it takes is one rotten apple to taint the whole bunch.

Lesson: Whatever sense of black linked fate I have doesn’t really extend past African-Americans, but I am sympathetic to the linked fate situations of other groups of black people.

Now that I've put these thoughts out there, I invite our readers (and Zora and Chauncey) to tear them apart. Do any of these ponits need to be clarified? Am I contradicting myself somewhere?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Why Do Space Aliens Only Kidnap White People?--The British Open Their Secret UFO Files

The Brits have finally come clean. It seems that the British government has decided to open their secret UFO files. These files are a treasure trove of information. They contain stories of UFO's the size of Aircraft Carriers terrorizing British airspace, landings near military bases, and abductions of British citizens. Now, as a ghetto nerd I certainly believe in extra-terrestrial life. One would have to be a an overly religious, Luddite, mouth breather who doesn't believe in evolution to not concede the obvious. Random thought: I really have never understood how religion cannot include space aliens as God's creations (I think there are several beliefs systems outside of the Judeo-Christian which do have that expansive view), but that is a conversation for another time.

But, while I believe in aliens, I am unsure if they have ever visited Earth. As I often say, why would they? We are a planet located in the equivalent of a galactic trailer park. Unless they are slumming, we are likely far away from the inter-galactic equivalent of I-95. But, I have always wondered where are the black and brown folk who have been kidnapped by aliens? Why don't we get some love?

Interestingly, one of the first documented cases of alien abduction was that of an interracial couple, Betty and Barney Hill in the White Mountains near Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1961. This was a widely discussed and documented case that attracted much media attention. It was also one of the first cases where repressed memories were recovered through hypnosis. Funny thing, the Hills weren't taken too seriously at the time because they were an inter-racial couple, and of course, you have to be crazy to marry across the race line. Moreover, the aliens--the grays as they would come to be called in the ufology community--wanted Mr. Hill's sperm so this hurt his credibility a bit. Damn it, why do those aliens come all that distance to collect semen and put things in people's behinds? Perverts.

Random thought: when black folks are featured in these shows, why do they announce to the world that they had hot, alien sex? Are we that irresistible?

I know the aliens, if they have perfected free energy and can travel between the stars, must certainly have evolved beyond petty colorism and race prejudice. Perhaps, we respectable negroes can start a support group for people of color who have been abducted by aliens or have seen ufo's? We are a galactic people by nature, so perhaps our alien brothers will eventually come back to Earth in order to claim us?

As a primer for potential members of our Respectable Negro Alien Abductee and Visitation Support Group, I offer the following useful videos:

1. Betty and Barney Hill describe their abduction by extraterrestrials:

2. Betty and Barney Hill under hypnosis:

2. Noted physicist, Michio Kaku discusses how governments would respond if ET were to visit the Earth:

3. Riley Martin on Jerry Springer--simply classic:

4.Riley Martin discussing his 72 hour love making session, courtesy of alien Viagra, with the Biavians:

5. An unforgettable episode of the Art Bell show which featured a phone call from Area 51:

Come out of the closet my brothers and sisters. I know I am not alone. In fact, I actually saw a UFO in 1995 near New Britain, Connecticut and have never been the same since that fateful evening...maybe they touched me psychically. Come clean my friends. Share your stories and experiences. You are safe here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Caught Between Joe Louis and Jack Johnson--Obama's Black Man Dillemma

Allow me this blasphemous thought: Did Barack Obama really win the final debate with John McCain? I know that most pundits, critics, and other informed observers declared Obama the winner. But, and I have struggled with this in the days following the event, in my heart of hearts, I don't really know.

Now, allow me a qualifier. Returning to the boxing metaphors so common to politics and punditry (and which I used in my analysis of Biden-Palin), I certainly believe that Obama won on points. But was Obama really victorious? In his artful moves, skillful jabs and counter punches against McCain, did Obama let him land too many head shots and visibly damaging punches? The very types of blows that judges--in this case those Joe Six Packs and teetering Reagan Democrats--respond to in their scoring?

Barack Obama's dilemma in how to best approach McCain and Palin's attacks is a literal embodiment of the "two-ness," the schism which exists at the heart of being Black and American.

Obama's racially marked life is a careful balancing act on the precipice of authenticity politics. On one hand, Obama is not black enough. On the other hand, he is too black. Barack Obama, as vanguard flag bearer for a 21st century understanding of Blackness, is still shadowed by a set of 20th, 19th, and 18th century stereotypes about black personhood and humanity. These stereotypes, of black violence, underachievement, arrogance, of being "uppity" and untrustworthy are the fuel for McCain and Palin's assault on his candidacy. Obama's eloquence is dismissed as snake oil--a contemporary spin on the oft-used phrases, "you are so articulate," "or where did you learn to speak so well?" that many of us are all too familiar with. He is told to "respect" Sarah Palin, a polite nod to the rule that "boy you better know your place" and "you best not reckless eyeball at a white woman."

In Barack Obama's metaphorical boxing match with McCain-Palin (and yes, they are flip sides of the same coin--2 heads on a Right wing leviathan) he has been urged by his supporters to fight back, to take the battle to the Republicans in a visible and direct way. Obama has skillfully countered with commercials, through his surrogates, and in eloquent campaign speeches. But here is my worry, in those moments of direct interaction, in that squared circle of the boxing ring that was the debate, he has avoided direct counters for fear of scoring too damaging a shot.

For example, during the debate Obama passed up obvious attacks and counters, including a lazy left hand cross that was the moderator's question on Sarah Palin's candidacy, in favor of dodges and quick flurries. When McCain dared to play the victim and label Congressman Lewis's comments about Republican race bating as a type of hate speech and smear against Republicans at large, Obama took the blow and shrugged it aside. Likewise, the provocative shots on Acorn and William Ayers were parried but never counter-punched despite the relative ease of Barack landing a killing blow in that instance if he so desired (the Keating Five; Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters; Reverend Hagee, the Bridge to Nowhere, Palin's association with the Alaska Independence Party; McCain's support for death squads in Latin America, etc. etc.).

Barack is forced to be the gentleman's champ. In our boxing metaphor he is Joe Louis. In his efforts to remain above the fray and to speak to the issues, Barack has avoided being too aggressive lest he lose the tenuous support of a significant segment of the white public. Like Joe Louis--America's heavyweight champion during World War 2 who happened to be African American--Obama has to deftly perform a non-threatening black masculinity. He is cool. He is calm. He is collected. And he can never let himself be perceived as too impassioned or angry.

Again, the two-ness, the duality of Barack's identity comes to the forefront. Obama is already perceived by many in the Heart Land, and those others immersed in the Republican echo chamber, as an uppity negro who doesn't know his place. Most important, this stereotype looms in the hearts and minds of some voters who are actually considering voting for a black Man despite the power of their racist fears and anxieties.

In the racial subconscious of these voters, Barack Obama is Jack Johnson. He is unrepentant blackness. Yet, and this is the absurdity of racism, they are fundamentally different figures who are somehow related in this twisted psyche of white supremacy. Unlike Papa Jack, Obama does not defy white supremacy and the threat of white racial terrorism by publicly cavorting with white women, a life threatening move when the noose was still enforced. Nor does Obama stuff socks down his pants in order to intimidate his opponents through a performed and exaggerated black masculinity. Nevertheless, in the minds of many voters, Obama is a moment, a split second, an opportunity to be taken away from becoming that figure.

In a slightly more benign form, Barack Obama represents the dual figures of Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang. The Rocky films, thinly veiled narratives of white ethnic uplift in the face of black entitlement, are caricatures by design, but their story speaks to this political truth. Like Apollo Creed, Obama is in the eyes of Right wing conservatives, arrogant, a show off, and a celebrity figure. Rocky, is the All-American Horatio Alger in boxing trunks, a scrappy hard worker who lacks physical gifts but who succeeds despite the odds against him.

To this same public, Barack Obama is a Clubber Lang figure. And if Obama responds with more force to McCain and Palin's assaults, he moves a step closer to validating their worst fears about black criminality, violence, and of how an Obama presidency may disrupt the "rightful" and "natural" order of things:

This is the ugliness at the root of white Conservative fears and anxieties about Obama, and how they have so easily cast him as some variety of strange, foreign, Other. When local Republican Party Organizations depict Obama with fried chicken, Kool-aid, and watermelons on their posters and flyers they are signaling to this deep and profound racism and prejudice. When the Right links Obama to Osama bin Laden they are speaking to this bigotry. When they circulate emails with a picture of his African relatives in traditional clothing, the Right is speaking to a sentiment that Obama, on an existential level, does not belong in their "White" house.

But, if politics is the exercise of compromise, of a practical exercise of power, Obama needs the support of some of these voters. People, who like those featured in Sunday's New York Times Magazine harbor deep levels of anti-black animus, but are actively considering voting for Barack Obama because economic self-interest trumps their bigotry.

My ultimate worry is that Barack's tactically sound engagement with McCain and Palin may surprisingly hurt him: if there is a "man-code" of sorts, a set of rules regarding personal honor, dignity and reputation, will Barack's necessary and artful dodging, jabbing, and amazing footwork be his demise? Should Obama move to a more devastating and direct strategy where he goes for the inevitable knockout punch?

Perhaps, these gun-toting, "God fearing" "Heartland" voters want to see if Barack will stand up to these attacks on his manhood and honor. Maybe, and I truly worry, their assessment of his manhood, of his ability to be an effective president is linked to Obama's necessary unwillingness to land a devastating knockout punch to John McCain's metaphorical glass jaw. This approach is a direct contrast to Obama's current strategy of beating McCain-Palin through a death of a thousand cuts. Will this be enough? Will McCain's newest cut man, Joe the Plumber, be enough to recapture momentum during these last few weeks? Or will Obama's newest trainer Colin Powell push him over the finish line?

Sarah Palin and John McCain are textbook, school yard bullies. And maybe, just maybe, Barack Obama just needs to punch John McCain in the nose to prove a point. And maybe, just maybe, Obama through that one deed will have earned the respect (and votes) of those Joe Six Packs and Lunch pail voters come election day. Or am I being too hopeful?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: Now That is Respectable Negro Behavior--Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama

(CNN) -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell announced Sunday that he will be voting for Sen. Barack Obama, citing the Democrat's "ability to inspire" and the "inclusive nature of his campaign."

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says he is voting for Barack Obama.

"I think he is a transformational figure, he is a new generation coming onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Sen. Barack Obama," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Powell said he was concerned about what he characterized as a recent negative turn of Republican candidate Sen. John McCain's campaign, such as the campaign's attempts to tie Obama to former 1960s radical Bill Ayers.

"I think that's inappropriate. I understand what politics is about -- I know how you can go after one another, and that's good. But I think this goes too far, and I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for," he said.

The story continues here.


It is a good Sunday isn't it?

Music is about feelings and energy. Sometimes what a song says is different from how it captures a particular mood. Right now, in my twisted ghetto nerd mind where neural pathways sometimes connect in strange and unexpected ways, my mental Ipod is blasting these songs, and two moments of random popular culture bliss, when I think about the Obama-Powell connection:

For some reason, as I think about Obama's run for the White House I think of the King--that greatest of kings the Burger King--And yes, I know I have issues:

Obama is about to put McCain to sleep:

Shook Ones, because it just feels right:

Together, the smell of success:

Blowback or how Bush and Company played themselves in their treatment of Colin Powell:

Let's get it on, 'nuff said:

I feel like you can't stop the prophet:

I don't know what the personal cost to Colin Powell will be for this endorsement, but this moment rings of Obi-Wan passing the torch (literally and figuratively) to young Luke Skywalker:

Today is a good day, is it not?

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Quick Video Montage: Bachmann's Loyalty Test Meets Sarah Palin's "Pro-American" Parts of the Country

Did you know that Republican Michelle Bachmann wants loyalty tests for Congressional representatives?

Did you know that Sarah Palin speaks for real America? Apparently there are "pro-America" and "anti-American" parts of the country. I guess we respectable negroes aren't real Americans.

Perhaps there are some among us that yearn for the good old days of McCarthyism and the Red Scare.

If this wasn't so sad it would indeed be funny. God bless America...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Joe the Plumber, I Will Say It Again, Joe the Plumber

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.

Zora Says: What Would White Folks Think?

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

McCain Versus Obama in the 3rd Debate: We Respectable Negroes Call Your Bluff Mr. McCain

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:

Some "dangerous" relationships

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.
I think this video sums it up best:

It Seems that Our 69 Ways to Name "White" Folk Without Saying "white" Has a Life of Its Own

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!

From CNN:

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

Resolved: James T. Harris has Been Voted Out of the Tribe of Respectable Negroes

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.

Lynch Mobs and White American Insecurity

The past is never dead. It's not even past. -- Faulkner

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

We're all feeling uneasy lately with the frighteningly blatant, white supremacist tone that has entered national politics. Not only are we more acutely fearing for Barack Obama's safety, many of us are also fearing for our own. I wish that I could lay blame solely on the Republicans for this, but I can't. Miz Hillary and her husband were instrumental is stirring up white America's latent fears about losing their supremacy and power. Miz Palin and her running mate are not just stirring the pot, but are bringing it to a full boil. Republican rallies as of late are just short of lynch mobs.

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

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: The Battle for Sadr City featured on 60 Minutes

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.

Friday, October 10, 2008

African American McCain-Palin Supporters are the New Garbage Pail Kids

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:

Updated-We Now Have a Name for John McCain's Tom Negro Supporter-James T. Harris

We can now move forward with vigorous speed. As featured in today's Washington Post, the boot licking, lapdog who so vocally supported McCain during a rally earlier this week is a radio talk show host by the name of James T. Harris. He is a "motivational" speaker and also a radio host on 620 WTMJ Milwaukee. Of course, he is selling himself by being the token black conservative cast in the mold of Ken Hamblin. Mr. Harris's most recent proclamations have included calling for the closing of Milwaukee's Black Holocaust Museum because it should not have access to public monies and it also symbolizes black "self-segregation." Typical Tom behavior. Even more troubling, his parents named him closely after the great, and respectable, white ally to negro people Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek fame. Sad, so sad.

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

___ O.J.'ing

___ 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.

Respectfully submitted,

Chauncey DeVega

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

___ O.J.'ing

___ 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.

Respectfully submitted,

Chauncey DeVega

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rednecks for Obama

With the frightening developments of recent weeks, I offer some encouragement. It seems that not all of the "Joe Six-Pack," "God-Fearing," "Gun-toting," "Hard-working," "Values Voters" are drinking the McCain-Palin kool-aid. Some of them are actually voting with their heads:

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."

Chauncey Devega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Black and Brown and All Into Red Dawn

Oh, the glories of being a child of the 1980s. We had pleasures too numerous to mention: the Cold War, G.I. Joe, the Transformers, Robotech, Nintendo, Voltron, etc. etc. etc.

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.

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

Human Evolution has Stopped--Behold the Pitbull Sarah Palin's Unrepentant Ugliness

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:


Leading geneticist Steve Jones says human evolution is over

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.”


As a species we take one step forward and one step back. How are you feeling a little under a month out from the election? Are you worried or concerned about how ugly things are going to get from this point on? What will the low point in the campaign be? A videotape of Reverend Wright praying with Barack Obama? Are the Republicans going to trot out that discredited misanthrope psychopath who claimed that he and Obama used cocaine and other drugs together during their gay love affair? Perhaps, McCain Palin will feature Obama's impoverished African brother in a campaign ad? Or in a fit of frustration they could rent movie theaters for free screenings of Sean Hannity's "documentary" about Obama's ties to terrorists and American haters?