Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Fun: How Would You Caption This Photograph of Corrupt Clarence Thomas and Honest Abe from The New York Times?

Ethically embattled corrupt mute black golem who sleeps during Supreme Court hearings Justice Clarence Thomas is at it again.

Apparently, he is not content to get kickbacks via his wife for making decisions favorable to her business interests. When not looking at the TV show 24 for guidance on how to write Supreme Court decisions, Uncle Justice Clarence Thomas is getting goodies for a museum that will highlight his relationship to the town of Pin Point, Georgia.

One of the gifts Justice Clarence Thomas has received from a Conservative booster includes a 15,000 dollar bust of President Abraham Lincoln. Together the two cut quite a profile in the above photo, do they not?

Let's play the caption game. Given the kindness and professional comportment of The NY Times, they couldn't take advantage of such a great juxtaposition.

But we can...here are some of my opening parlays:

1. What unintended consequences the emancipation of the slaves has wrought.

2. Clarence, embarrassed, caught once more pilfering chickens from massa's chicken shack.

3. In the foreground, a profile in courage; in the background; a profile in cowardice.

What captions would you offer?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Grognard Military News Roundup and Some Shameless Self-Promotion



I will be on Ring of Fire Radio tomorrow discussing the Republican presidential debate, Herman Cain, and other such matters. It should be good--the interview ran about 20 minutes at taping and we had a good rhythm going.

Here is the first of my military ghetto nerds Grognard roundups for those who are interested in such things. I grew up playing Gary Grigsby's strategy games, Microprose flight sims, and read too much G.I. Joe and military history. The interest as a layperson is still with me years later. These Internets only make it easier to learn things that years ago were confined to a very narrow set of specialist magazines and journals.

As always if you come upon something of interest send it along and I will offer a comment or add it to the list every so many weeks or so. Given the wide range of interests held by the readers of WARN, this could be fun. Let's have at it.

1. The Atlantic has some gems this week. This photo gallery of the do it yourself weapons of the Road Warrior Mad Max Libyan Rebels is a great example of both human ingenuity and foolish recklessness. If necessity is the mother of invention, these rebels are certainly proof of that folksy truism. The photo essay has some cool stuff for the gun crowd (make note of the bullpup design Belgium FN F2000). And how can you not love a guy who disassembles a land mine while smoking Marlboro cigarettes?

The past and future of camouflage is pithily surveyed here. Little did I know that one person, a genius of sorts, is responsible for most of the innovation in camo designs over the last decade or so. Active camouflage, the stuff of Predator is coming. Or is it already here?

2. This is your brain on combat: Neuroscience for Combat Leaders: A Brain-Based Approach to Leading on the Modern Battlefield. The above article also references Dave Grossman's indispensable book Learning to Kill. So it gets extra points from this ghetto nerd.

3. I'd buy that for a dollar! Active vehicle defenses are apparently a go for the U.S. military. The Israelis and the Russians have been playing with these systems which deflect incoming anti-tank rounds a few years. Question: Aren't these systems lethal to the dismounted infantry?

4. The Ipad goes to war. This makes sense given how many field manuals, translation software, and other necessities you could put on one device. And yes, the U.S. military has its own app store.

5. I have always had a good amount of worry about the effectiveness of UAV's as a catch all solution across the full spectrum of air combat needs. Call me traditional, but I am a man in the loop sort of guy. I remember luminary Robert Pape telling me some years back that UAV's were/are the future. This decision was made long ago. Thus, the sea change is inexorable.

Maybe I am paranoid about how easily some of their systems have been hacked, or that a foreign combatant could simply flip a switch and turn the Reapers, Global Hawks, and Predators off? For missions like SEAD, UAV's are quite literally a life saver. But for other duties, and in contested airspace, I remain uncertain as to the maturity of the technology. The Department of Defense would seem to share my anxieties.

6. Back to Libya. How hollowed out is NATO? After a few months of operations the European partners are running low on ammunition, cannot maintain their sortie levels, and are wavering in commitment. Never mind how sad the British navy looks--once the world's greatest force, now she is reduced to borrowing surveillance aircraft from the U.S. and consolidating flight operations with the French on their carrier.

Was NATO always such a hollow organization? Would they have been nothing but a speed pump for the Warsaw Pact? Or is this flaccidity the direct result of the post-Cold War "peace dividend?"

[Random story: my former building super was a crewman on the M60 series of tanks in the late 1970s and very early 80s and he was stationed near the Fulda Gap. I asked him if he thought the U.S. had a chance at the time. He smiled and said their expectation was to hold off the Reds for as long as possible and then beat feet out of there. My super smiled when I asked him about the nuclear land mines...]

7. Some random academic and online finds:

The first is an article that examines letters from African-American soldiers in World War 2 and how black enlistees and officers fought back against Jim Crow under arms; The second traces the rise of the "warfare state" and "how it rests upon two assumptions: that safety can be achieved only through power, that prosperity depends upon the constant pump-priming of the domestic economy through the expenditure of military billions. Both assumptions are false."

The real prize of the week is a serendipitous discovery that comes totally out of left field. Here is an issue of Collier's magazine from 1951 that worked through a hypothetical World War 3 scenario. "Preview of the War We do not Want" has it all: there are nuclear raids on the city of Chicago, saboteurs in Grand Central Station, suicide paratrooper raids over the U.S.S.R., and the occupation of Alaska. Oh yeah, some of the contributors to the issue included Edward R. Murrow with illustrations from the legendary World War 2 comic artist Bill Maudlin.

8. Did you know that China has no plans to wage cyberwar against the U.S.? Yeah, right. Try not to laugh at that one. In an admission of what we already know, the U.S. already has cyberweapons in the toolbox ready to be deployed if necessary. Stuxnet?

9. Don't mess with the Ghurkas. No, I mean never, ever...seriously.

10. Any thoughts on the free to play mmorg military game World of Tanks? Is the grind worth it?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Workings of a Pathologically Narcissistic Mind? Sarah Palin Channeled God in an Email About Her Unborn Son Trig



It is okay to talk to God. When a person hears God's voice responding to them they are certifiably crazy. Question: if a person writes letters in which they pretend to be God are they similarly demented?

Sarah Palin's emails were gangbanged crowd-sourced by The New York Times, CNN, and other members of the 4th Estate. There were no great discoveries (Palin writes at an 8th grade level-- which is of course no surprise). But, there was a fun find that has been the object of some good back and forth online.

While we know that Palin is a lightening rod for controversy, a person who wallows in the slop bucket of white populist mediocrity that is the mouth breathing, knuckle dragging Tea Party GOP crowd, little did we know that she also channels the word of God.

In a letter to friends and family about her then unborn son Trig (a human political prop who she carried around like a football during the 2008 campaign as proof of her Right-wing, fecund womanhood), Palin writes in THE ultimate first person voice as she welcomes her bundle of joy into the world. Not content with this private exercise, Palin emailed her Godly proclamations and wisdom to friends and family.

Question: is this more proof of Sarah Palin's grand narcissism? Evidence of a person whose megalomania and self-importance know no limits? Or is Palin's God email to Trig the act of a loving and compassionate mother? Could it be both?

For your amusement and inspection:

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Date: Mon, 7 Apr 2008 14:17:11
To:gov.sarah@yahoo.com
Cc:gov.palin@yahoo.com
Subject: Baby

To the Sisters, Brother, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Friends of Trig Paxson Van Palin (or whatever you end up naming him!) :

I am blessing you with this surprise baby because I only want the best for you. I've heard your prayers that this baby will be happy and healthy, and I've answered them because I only want the best for you!

I heard your heart when you hinted that another boy would fit best in the Palin family, to round it out and complete that starting five line-up. Though another girl would be so nice, you didn't think you could ask for what you REALLY wanted, but I knew, so I gave you a boy because I only want the best for you!

Then, I put the idea in your hearts that his name should be "Trig", because it's so fitting, with two Norse meanings: "True" and "Brave Victory". You also have a Bristol Bay relative with that name, so I knew it would be best for you!

Then, I let Trig's mom have an exceptionally comfortable pregnancy so she could enjoy every minute of it, and I even seemed to rush it along so she could wait until near the end to surprise you with the news – that way Piper wouldn't have so long to wait and count down so many days – just like Christmastime when you have to wait, impatiently, for that special day to finally open your gift? (Or the way the Palins look forward to birthday celebrations that go on for three, four days... you all really like cake.) I know you, I knew you'd be better off with just a short time to wait!

Then, finally, I let Trig's mom and dad find out before he was born that this little boy will truly be a GIFT. They were told in early tests that Trig may provide more challenges, and more joy, than what they ever may have imagined or ever asked for. At first the news seemed unreal and sad and confusing. But I gave Trig's mom and dad lots of time to think about it because they needed lots of time to understand that everything will be OK, in fact, everything will be great, because I only want the best for you!

I've given Trig's mom and dad peace and joy as they wait to meet their new son. I gave them a happy anticipation because they asked me for that. I'll give all of you the same happy anticipation and strength to deal with Trig's challenges, but I won't impose on you...

I just need to know you want to receive my offer to be with all of you and help you everyday to make Trig's life a great one.

This new person in your life can help everyone put things in perspective and bind us together and get everyone focused on what really matters.

The baby will expand your world and let you see and feel things you haven't experienced yet. He'll show you what "true, brave victory" really means as those who love him will think less about self and focus less on what the world tells you is "normal" or "perfect". You will grow and be blessed with greater understanding that will be born along with Trig.

Trig will be his dad's little buddy and he'll wear Carhartts while he learns to tinker in the garage. He'll love to be read to, he'll want to play goalie, and he'll steal his mom's heart just like Track, Bristol, Willow and Piper did. And Trig will be the cuddly, innocent, mischievous, dependent little brother that his siblings have been waiting for...in fact Trig will – in some diagnostic ways – always be a mischievous, dependent little brother, because I created him a bit different than a lot of babies born into this world today.

Every child is created special, with awesome purpose and amazing potential. Children are the most precious and promising ingredient in this mixed up world you live in down there on earth. Trig is no different, except he has one extra chromosome. Doctors call it "Down's Syndrome", and Downs kids have challenges, but can bring you much delight and more love than you can ever imagine! Just wait and see, let me prove this, because I only want the best for you!

Some of the rest of the world may not want him, but take comfort in that because the world will not compete for him. Take care of him and he will always be yours!

Trig's mom and dad don't want people to focus on the baby's extra chromosome. They're human, so they haven't known how to explain this to people who are so caring and are interested in this new little Alaskan. Sarah and Todd want people to share in the joy of this gift I'm giving to the Palin family, and the greater Alaska family. Many people won't understand... and I understand that. Some will think Trig should not be allowed to be born because they fear a Downs child won't be considered "perfect" in your world. (But tell me, what do you earthlings consider "perfect" or even "normal" anyway? Have you peeked down any grocery store isle, or school hallway, or into your office lunchroom lately? Or considered the odd celebrities you celebrate as "perfect" on t.v.? Have you noticed I make 'em all shapes and sizes? Believe me, there is no "perfect"!)

Many people will express sympathy, but you don't want or need that, because Trig will be a joy. You will have to trust me on this.

I know it will take time to grasp this and come to accept that I only want the best for you, and I only give my best. Remember though: "My ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts... for as the heavens are higher than the earth, my ways are higher than yours!"

I wrote that all down for you in the Good Book! Look it up! You claim that you believe me – now it's time to live out that belief!

Please look to me as this new challenge and chapter of life unfolds in front of you. I promise to equip you. I won't give you anything you can't handle. I am answering your prayers. Trig can't wait to meet you. I'm giving you ONLY THE BEST!

Love,
Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father



Why do Germans Choose to Reenact the American Civil War by Playing the Confederacy?



Why the above clip? Because Werner Hernog's Bear is back, one of our resident experts for all times, and I would do a monster movie infused tag team match with him as my partner ready for a "hot tag" any day of the week as we take on the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania.

The Atlantic Monthly had a particularly sharp and insightful piece on why Germans are fascinated with the Civil War--and when they choose to play, the reasons explaining their choice to reenact the CSA in America's brother on brother conflict. I play in those waters but cannot swim in them. The solution: call up our favorite historian of modern Germany to get his take. As always, he never disappoints.

I really like Werner's essay. I hope you too do. As always please chime in with your thoughts, reactions, and suggestions.

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Chauncey recently showed me a couple of articles about Civil War reenactments in Germany and asked me for my thoughts, which as a scholar of German history I am happy to give. I had heard a great deal about Germans dressing up like the Sioux and living in teepees on the weekend, but never about the Civil War. As in the United States, German reenactors are more likely to dress up in Confederate gray (or butternut) rather than Union blue.

Before hazarding my own analysis as to why this is the case in Germany, there are some basic facts that need to be understood. Germans have a uniquely fraught relationship with their past; to be a good German means to remember the Holocaust and feel some sense of responsibility forcommemorating its victims.

This is not just a matter of lip service. The massive, recently built Holocaust memorial in Berlin takes up an immense amount of space in the center of the city, located between the Reichstag (the capitol, essentially) and Potsdamer Platz (Berlin’s version of Time Square.) Essentially, Germans have chosen to take some of the most central and well-traveled space in their capital city, and have devoted it to remembering Germany’s most shameful crime. It would be as if the center of the Washington Mall were taken up by monuments to the victims of slavery and the genocide of Native Americans. (I, for one, would like to see such monuments in such a place.) Even the history before 1933 is often tainted as a precursor to Nazism, especially the period under the Kaisers.

It would be difficult to have any historical reenactments of moments from the German past, because they would be so difficult and politically suspect. Hence the desire to reenact the past of a different country.

However, this hardly explains the attraction to the Confederacy, especially given the fact that many German immigrants to the United States, including prominent military and political leaders like Carl Schurz, fought on the side of the Union. Even among the small pockets of Germans in the south, such as in central Texas, German Americans denounced slavery and the Confederacy both.

One of my German immigrant ancestors fought for the Union despite living in Tennessee. (On the other hand, I should note that German Catholics, like their Irish brethren, served the Union army at lower rates than the general public. That had more to do with not wanting to serve a society hostile to them and retaining white privilege than it did with love of the Confederacy.) Much of this has to do with the fact that many Germans, including Schurz, fled to the United States after participating in the failed democratic revolutions of 1848.

They had reason to fear persecution if they stayed around, and brought their ideals of democracy and equality across the Atlantic.

I get the feeling that modern day Germans are attracted to the Confederacy for the same reasons that the South has had plenty of apologists north of the Mason-Dixon line over the years: the false romanticization of the “Old South” and the depoliticization of the Civil War. In the aftermath of Reconstruction, as historian David Blight has skillfully shown, the commemoration of the Civil War emphasized reunion and the similarities between the both sides, something predicated on excluding African Americans from the story, and literally excluding them from important celebrations, like the 50th anniversary of Gettysburg (It was especially important for the racialized reunion to erase the memory of the black regiments which were absolutely crucial for Union victory) .

Fifty years after the Civil War’s end, its causes and effects had been depoliticized in the public mind. It was simply a “tragedy” without a real cause, a fight fought nobly “brother against brother.” That view has been remarkably resilient, and it colored all the Civil War books I read as a child. (It even creeps into Ken Burns’ famous documentary, especially when Shelby Foote is given free reign to put a romanticizing gloss on events.)

Once slavery’s centrality to the Civil War was removed from the story (and it still is in the minds of most reenactors today) a very southern rendition of the antebellum South began to insinuate itself in the North, and even around the world. This vision of the Old South presented a bucolic, orderly society full of genteel men and beautiful, virtuous women. Their human property did not resent their state, but were loyal and happy. It was a world of cotillions, hoop skirts, and mint juleps, carefree and pleasing. Of course, this is all complete bullshit. (I don’t have the time to get into all the reasons, but the fact that ten percent of the Union army at the end of the war was made up of black soldiers fighting to eradicate slavery, when black people were only one percent of the North’s population, just about says it all.)

In my mind, Gone with the Wind is even more nefarious a film than The Birth of a Nation. The ugliness of the naked racism displayed in the latter is obvious to modern audiences, but Gone with the Wind takes a horribly brutal society and drains away its violence while puffing up the hoop skirts. It presents a seductive idyll, especially for White people who secretly yearn for unquestioned mastery and racial hierarchy.

We tend to think of the romanticization of the Old South as a southern tradition, but it has long been embraced in the north. Although Margaret Mitchell wrote the initial novel, it was primarily northerners who acted in and worked on Gone with the Wind the film. It was a British actress, Vivien Leigh, who played Scarlet O’Hara. As the articles about German reenactors note, it was a popular book and film in Germany as well. Its vision of the Confederacy seems very much alive, and much of the attraction for German reenactors to dressing up in gray and butternut.

I see two deeper reasons for this: modernity and race. As far as the former is concerned, northerners and Europeans living amidst the upheavals and displacements of modern industrial life were and are eager to romanticize a pre-modern society like the Old South, and to eradicate its many problems and brutalities from their minds. That flight from modernity, which has a very strong and troubled cultural tradition in Germany, also explains the Native American reenactments as well. By taking the side of the Confederacy, German reenactors can thus fight the onslaught of modernity, as embodied in the Union army. Of course, seeing the Civil War in this way requires draining away slavery and African Americans from the story.

Race, of course, has a whole lot to do with the idealization of the Confederacy, in Germany as well. Most Americans are unaware of this, but one of the best selling books in Germany last year was written by a man named Thilo Sarrazin, who argued that the immigrants from Muslim countries living in Germany are genetically less intelligent than white Germans. (His more recent comments are even more inflammatory.) A growing portion of the German population is made up of recent immigrants and their descendants, with Turkey being the most prominent country of origin.

Despite recent positive changes, they have been excluded from mainstream German society, and have been the targets of violence. Germans have been very resistant to seeing Germany as a multi-ethnic state; even Chancellor Merkel declared multiculturalism to be a “failure.” I found that statement rather comical, since multiculturalism hasn’t really been attempted! In a country full of people lapping up Sarrazin’s racialized nationalism and blaming all of their problems on racial others, it’s hardly a surprise that many would be attracted to the Confederacy. After all, states like Mississippi and South Carolina included statements about the superiority of the white race in their declarations of secession.

This is not to say that all Germans who dress up like Confederates are hardcore racists. However, we should still be disturbed by such a phenomenon, since it shows how the past can be manipulated in order to support horrible ideas in the present. As a historian, I think we, in this 150th anniversary of the Civil War, need to combat the depoliticized narrative of the conflict which is so easily bent to the most odious political purposes.

We need to stress the centrality of slavery, as well as the agency of the slaves themselves, who did a great deal to bring the institution to an end. We need to stop romanticizing the South, and view it for what it was: not a unique paradise but one of many slave-based staple-crop plantation societies in the New World (just like Brazil, Cuba, etc.) reliant on unspeakable cruelty to its African American bondsmen and bondswomen. We need to remember the Fort Pillow Massacre and other events that show men like Nathan Bedford Forrest not to be noble warriors on horseback, but racist war criminals.

In short, we need to show history in all its bloody reality, not a fashion show drenched in sweet tea. It simply a tragic misunderstanding, the Civil War was a war between two competing visions of America’s future, and the vision that more fully (but not yet completely) embodied the American promise of freedom thankfully won out. The romanticizers and apologists are out in full force, we must get out there and expose their myths.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Doing the Race Hustle: How "Mixed Race" Students Game the College Admissions Process

"But students can now choose from a menu of new boxes of racial and ethnic categories — because the Department of Education started requiring universities this past school year to comply with a broad federal edict to collect more information about race and ethnicity. The change has made it easier for students to claim a multiracial identity — highlighting those parts of their backgrounds they might want to bring to the fore and disregarding others, as Ms. Scott considered doing with her Asian heritage.

So the number of applicants who identify themselves as multiracial has mushroomed, adding another layer of anxiety, soul- (and family-tree-) searching and even gamesmanship to the process."
The racial state is a bureaucracy. Like any other arrangement of power it has a set of rules and expectations that can be navigated, manipulated, and little cracks found to slip over or through. When race, a social construct that is a true lie, a fiction that is real, fixed, and also simultaneously changing is added to the mix, the bureaucratic game can both be simplified ("no blacks need apply") as well as made more complex (colorblind but still color conscious, where last hired means first fired). In theory, the bureaucracy is also supposed to be a consistent set of fixed rules where efficiency and fairness reigns, and the old world customs of patronage and noblesse oblige do not apply.

As The New York Times' "On College Applications a Question of Race or Races can Perplex" explores, the coloured class/middle races seem particularly adept at playing the college admissions game to their advantage. Given that one of the driving impetuses behind the mixed race movement is a desire to claim some sort of white privilege, such leverage makes a great deal of sense in practice.

For outsiders and those not privy to the inner workings of the college admissions process (or how fellowships and other goodies are dolled out) the article in The Times would seem to justify the very unfair--and what on the face of seems very unseemly--role that race plays in how colleges decide who to admit and what types of financial aid and scholarships to award.

For the layperson who is drunk on some half-digested, misunderstanding of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech," the fact that a student must decide which race to emphasize or identify with on a college application seems to clearly disadvantage white applicants.

Moreover, for the disingenuous Ward Connerly bottom feeding types of the political ecosystem, the idea that race matters is one more reason to jettison the whole racial bureaucracy and live a life of colorblind fiction and fantasy. The bottom line of their objections is at its heart a simple one: white folks are somehow losing out in college admissions--and good, hard working white students (and in some circles those "model minority" Asian-Americans) who did everything "right" even more so.

This is untrue for a variety of reasons. First, college admissions are based on a number of variables. And as recent research has found, being the relative of a donor or an alumni with money counts much more than any other factor (once more to the wages of Whiteness). The other issue is the nebulous category of how a given student is deemed "qualified" for a given school (and if they are then going to be offered a seat).

Many Sam and Susy snowflakes believe that they "deserve" to be admitted to a given (elite) institution and that they "earned" it. Sorry to break it to you Sam and Susy Snowflake: the college admissions process does not work that way.

SATs are weak tools for predicting college success beyond the freshmen year. Moreover, the more important goal is how to best assemble a diverse and compelling class of students who can be successful at a given institution. Where everyone is more or less qualified, intangibles carry a great amount of weight.

To point: a working class kid who held 2 jobs and managed a 1100 on her SATs is far more compelling than an upper class kid who had tutors and access to all sorts of support and then proceeds to only score a 1300. A kid from the 'res, or rural Appalachia, or the South Bronx, or a Latino from rural Texas with similar (or even lower) scores is more compelling to many college admissions committees.

Granting all of those realities does not mean that the college admissions process should not be modified. Where race matters it can also be gamed and manipulated. In my time I have seen many versions of the race hustle at work in the college and university admissions process. Here are some of the cons in the "check off your race box game" that I have either witnessed directly or heard about:

  • The rich student from North Africa who decides to identify as "African-American" because they are from the continent of Africa.
  • The white students who check off African-American because human life began on that continent (and they will provide their own DNA tests to prove it...and sue if they do not get admitted).
  • The white South African who checks off African-American. Riddle me that one.
  • The student who claims a black/Hispanic/Native American/Asian relative some two or three generations ago (and whose heritage they do not honor or identify with) in order to get some imagined advantage.
  • The mixed race student who lives and identifies as a white person, but wants to see what they can "get" for being something other than White. Said student gets admitted, is invited to the multicultural student weekend and never shows up, and lives the rest of their college tenure counted in a database as a student of color...always being sure to quickly throw out any mail they get from the Office of Multicultural Relations lest their friends find out they are not a full blooded WASP.
  • The African or Caribbean student who feels no affinity for Black Americans, is admitted on grounds of "diversity" as an "African American," and then makes sure to maintain as much distance as possible from said group.

As The New York Times points out, college administrators and faculty are participants in the racial bureaucracy. They can decide to enable the race hustle. The same personnel can also choose to stand firm on their principles as they work to match up both the spirit and the letter of the law in a long game which sees sincere diversity in colleges and universities as a net gain for all students.

On that point, and in the best spirit of the Notorious B.I.G., I got a story to tell.

In a previous life, I worked on two rather prestigious fellowship and summer training programs for undergraduate students. In that capacity I had to decide who to admit, who to late list, and who to reject outright. These programs were targeted at students from a very specific socio-economic and racial background, groups which were/are grossly under-represented in graduate and professional programs.

One of my easiest criteria for making the first cut was a simple one: Does the applicant meet the admissions criteria? As a standing rule, I would put any application which checked off "other" as their racial identity in the "to be looked at later" file. If an applicant wrote in their own label (Tiger Woods's "Canablasian" for example) or came up with some crazy, bizarre, race hustle identity such as "white, African-American, Polynesian, Native American, whose third Aunt was from Brazil" I smiled and put it in the "down the memory well" circular file.

These choices were made as much on principle--these programs were targeted at students with some sense of linked fate, shared history with, and membership in, a racially disadvantaged group in this country--as for efficiency. To this day, I do not feel that I did anything either inappropriate, or outside of the programmatic rules I strictly adhered to in my role as a gatekeeper in the racial bureaucracy.

Apparently, I was not alone. There are annual meetings which the staff and faculty of these fellowship programs are obligated to attend. In one of the training sessions these very questions came up. How do you categorize mixed race applicants? Do students who check off "other" count? Are they eligible?

I volunteered my rubric. Half the room responded as the Amen! chorus and shared that they too use a similar set of rules. The other half of the room was visibly angry and upset, that this was somehow unfair and penalized students who may identify as white or have a "mixed" background.

Triumphantly, I quoted the regulations governing the fellowship program verbatim. Folks smiled. Others sneered. Talk about a moment where I cut some heads in the best jazz improv session sense.

Thus the paradox of life in the Age of Obama and colorblind, multicultural America: Long live the racial bureaucracy! Down with the racial bureaucracy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Willie Horton 2011 Campaign Ad: "Give Us Your Cash Bitch" Courtesy of Tea Party Affiliated Group Turn Right USA



Once more why I am a bit of a Luddite. Nothing but bad can result from all of the excess computing power folks have on their home PCs.

[Is it that hard out there on the block? Do these brothers so desperately need to get their money that they would embarrass themselves in this way?]

I enjoy deconstructing campaign commercials in my classes. This gem against California councilwoman Janice Hahn is most certainly going to go in the hall of shame along with Carly Fiorina's demon sheep and Dan Fanelli's anti-Muslim suicide bomber racial profiling hit piece.

Please help me out with the semiotics of the Turn Right USA's advertisement as I cannot even begin to make sense of something so obvious. On one hand I want to call this ad genius in its unconscionable level of political pornography, woman hating, and race baiting. But then again I am loathe to dignify something so grotesque with the distinction of genius (is "expert" a better word?). Oh, what a conundrum.

In the Tea Party Right wing imagination, with its corrupted White soul, this is just one more unsurprising when "Giant Negroes Attack" episode served up with a little interracial sex for flavor and a healthy dose of moral panic for seasoning.

Ultimately, I love the myopia of the White Gaze and how it sees all black folks as universal, interchangeable thugs. It makes me feel a bit dangerous and wild--so much so that I may go out and scare some white people tonight. How exciting and fun!

13 Ways that the New Hampshire Republican Presidential Debate was a Monster’s Ball

They say that great trees--like great republics--rot not from outside, but fall apart from within. How did the United States arrive at a place where policy positions held by the lunatic, late night, talk radio crowd of the Right-wing could catapult into a televised debate, espoused by "serious" candidates?

The 2011 Republican debate in New Hampshire was a car wreck where all seemed to crawl out with vitals intact. Nevertheless, it was a freak show where opinions once held as anathema to normal politics were casually given voice by the Tea Party GOP candidates. Here are the top 13 ways of how this night was a Monster's Ball in the worst sense of the American political tradition.

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1. Ayn Rand inspired wet dream. The Tea Party GOP wants to make her dystopian vision of unregulated free markets and a further maldistribution of wealth upward into America's salvation. In total (and despite three decades of evidence to the contrary), the Great Recession will be cured by less regulation and not more, where the State gives more resources to those with the most with the hope that they will somehow "trickle down" to the rest of us. Please don't pee on my head and tell me that it is raining.

And oh yeah, if Ron Paul is to be taken seriously, don't be a person who is sick and in need of emergency health care because you will need to wait for the free market and charity hospitals to develop a fix for what ails as you lay dying on the floor.

2. The American Theocracy is real. God. Family. 23 adopted kids. God. Family. Faith. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. According to the 2012 Republican candidates one must be a person of "faith," i.e. a Judeo-Christian of some stripe, in order to be a "moral" person.

Insert finger into throat and induce vomiting.

Question: if God supposedly wants all of the 2012 Tea Party GOP candidates to win, what will happen when they lose? Moreover, which God was correct in its whisperings in the 2012 Republican candidate's individual ears? Which of these "Gods" was lying? How would we know? Will there be a holy war over this issue? Will fatwas be issued by the losing candidates?

3. The Constitution wept once when the Tea Party GOP candidates--a group who supposedly worship America's founding document as a fetish or totem that should be judged by the magical, divinely inspired intent of the "founders"--gave lip service to the notion of repealing birthright citizenship in order to solve America's immigration problems.

4. The Constitution wept a second time when the Tea Party GOP candidates repeated the spurious and willful lie that America was founded as a quasi theocracy, where Jefferson's "thick wall" between church and state was intended only to protect the former from the latter. The establishment clause apparently does not apply, as America was founded as a Christian republic. Perhaps, the Right-wing Tea Party GOP Glenn Beck crowd is reading too much of that pseudo-historian David Barton's nonsense histories?

5. The Constitution wept a third time when the Tea Party GOP candidates led by Herman Cain supported the argument that there ought to be a loyalty oath to the Constitution that is exclusive to Muslim Americans. Never mind that the Constitution prohibits such tests of religious faith as qualifiers for holding public office. Not content to let Herman Cain grab the theocratic zealot vote, Newt Gingrich doubled down on stupid by connecting American Muslims to Nazis and Communist infiltrators. Uncle Joe McCarthy would indeed be proud.

6. The government is bad. The government is always the problem and never the solution. As America witnessed in the death of a great American city during Hurricane Katrina, all of our contemporary problems at the nadir of empire can be cured by rolling back citizens' expectations of the State that it should act in the interest of the Common Good. In fact, the State's failure should be expected as citizens should never have any sense that the government will act in the collective interest, or for the protection of the weakest and most vulnerable.

7. The truth suffered quite a few black eyes at the hands of the 2012 Republican Presidential Nominees. If you listen to their mouth utterances, the American people overwhelmingly hate Obama's efforts to reform the health care system (in fact the public is quite split). The American people are also very concerned with the budget deficit more than they are with job creation. The bailout of the Auto Industry will lose money and further destroy the U.S. economy. And finally, if Michele Bachmann is to be believed, it is only the liberals and the democrats who pass big spending bills upon getting into office. These are all lies. Apparently for Conservatives, reality is making the real world bend to your ideological priors.

8. America is not an exceptional country. There are some candidates who want the U.S. to model their Social Security system after Chile...a country with one of the worst distributions of income in the world. Question: I thought that the Tea Party GOP never looked to other countries for solutions to American problems? Is there a Latin or South American kleptocracy clause to the Constitution that I overlooked? Is this an auxiliary to the Monroe Doctrine?

9. Clarity and transparency were made sick by the debate's dancing around the issue of gay marriage. So, is it the states or the federal government who gets to decide if same sex marriage should be legal? And if we have a Constitutional amendment in "defense of marriage" does that not trump all of the States' Rights talk on the issue as offered during by the 2012 Tea Party Republican field? What of that inconvenient part of the Constitution called the Equal Protection Clause?

10. Civility towards the President of the United States of America in the body of Barack Obama is truly dead. During the Bush administration there was all this screaming by the Republican Party about the need to respect the Office of the President. With President Obama as President this rule has apparently been jettisoned. According to the 2012 Tea Party GOP first class, Obama is a traitor, a failure, and an incompetent who wants to destroy the United States. He is somehow accomplishing this from within...Obama's killing of Osama Bin Laden conveniently aside. In sum, President Obama is some type of Manchurian candidate who is cuckolded by nefarious foreign powers--and probably his Kenyan father's voodoo African ghost who controls him from beyond the grave.

11. Unions violate the rights of the American people. They are antithetical to freedom of association as protected by the Constitution. The reality that most Americans are no longer unionized, that wages have been flat for at least 30 years in part because of this fact, and that those countries with strong unions have a higher standard of living (and their citizens more happy), is an inconvenient aside. Just remember: unions are taking your freedoms away you loyal patriotic Red State Americans!

12. The shadow of Sarah Palin is indeed long: one must never say the name of she who must not be mentioned lest you be smited. Most importantly, you must kiss the Mama Grizzly's ring and tell all who would listen that she is more qualified, and in fact would have been a better President than that failed, elitist, high-foreheaded, intellectual, rapscallion, uppity black constitutional attorney Harvard/University of Chicago guy by the name of Barack Obama.

13. Just like the legendary Ol' Dirty Bastard, Mr. Herman "shucky ducky Soul Train" Cain is for the children! Wu-Tang forever!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Historian's Epic Fail: John Brown is not Osama Bin Laden

With the official government killing of Osama bin Laden last month, the issue of using violence in a good cause has once again surfaced. "Justice has been done," said President Obama as he announced bin Laden's death by a team of Navy SEAL operatives. Americans reacted, American-style, with bibulous celebrations in Times Square and, more quietly, with feelings of relief and contemplation. Some of that contemplation included the question: Did the United States have the moral authority to assassinate bin Laden, no matter how much evil he had committed?

Personally, I don't have a straightforward answer to that question, but I can tell you as a historian that the connections between violence and terrorism and our country's long history of responding to violence with violence always leads me to think about John Brown and his raid on Harpers Ferry, Va. (now West Virginia), in 1859, an event that historians believe intensified the sectional controversy between North and South that eventually led to the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861. And when I think about John Brown, a radical abolitionist who believed that violence could -- and should -- be used to end slavery in America, I can't help also thinking about the place he raided, Harpers Ferry -- one of the most peaceful, scenic spots in the entire United States.
In the world of advanced academic pedantry, sometimes folks miss the forest for the trees. That would seem to be the case with Glenn W. LaFantasie's essay, "The Thoroughly American Soul of John Brown" which was recently featured on Salon.com.

How anyone can parallel Osama Bin Laden with the Abolitionist freedom fighter Mr. John Brown is beyond me. Moreover, Professor LaFantasie's accompanying question of how and if America is a violent society seems to be a bit uninteresting and obvious. But alas, each academic subfield has its own compelling questions and inside baseball debates that others may not get or have ready access to.

[On a related note, check out the comments section on "The Thoroughly American Soul of John Brown." There is some serious sonning going on where lay-readers and other folks are tearing the good Professor to bits....which is one more reason many academics prefer to play in safer and more secure waters where the Queenberry rules apply].

There is a disturbing tone to LaFantasie's essay, one that is none too uncommon: the love and affinity of black folks for John Brown is viewed as somehow aberrant or a special case.
In our own day, Brown still stirs up controversy and sets people -- especially historians -- at odds with one another. Yet among one group of Americans -- African-Americans -- there seems to be a consensus about John Brown that exists among no other segment of the society. For black Americans, John Brown is a hero, and ever since his death they have sustained their high opinion of him and have elevated him to a place occupied by few whites.
This is myopic because the story of black America is the American story. Ultimately, to track it is to better understand some of the basic questions which this democracy in progress has struggled.

The more obvious problem with LaFantasie's analysis of John Brown's radical freedom fighting and revolutionary work is that his premise is misdirected and underdeveloped: The raid on Harper's Ferry is viewed as a wild eyed provocation against the South; Brown's deeds are misguided; the use of violence to settle political differences is wrong because it exists outside of the State's monopoly on force.

What is missing here is an acknowledgement that chattel slavery is a perpetual state of violence and war against those held in bondage. Simply put, the Southern Slaveocracy--and later the CSA--were military states that practiced daily acts of terrorism against their black American citizens.

One of the early commenters on "The Thoroughly American Soul of John Brown" got it spot on when they observed that there is no hand-wringing over the violence committed by the Allies against the Nazis or the Japanese during World War Two. Those wars are simply viewed as "just." Thus, why all this introspection about the legitimacy of John Brown's violence (which the author characterizes as "abhorrent"), and not an emphasis on context? That John Brown acted in the name of liberating black humanity from the chains and shackles of inhuman bondage?

I am hesitant to say it, but in the eyes of some, even into the present, is black life that cheap? So cheap in fact, that all sorts of mental gymnastics have to occur in order to come to a decision rule for when acts of liberation balance out in the ledger?

John Brown understood the redemptive and necessary power of violence. Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, and many nameless others throughout the Black Atlantic also understood the prime directive of agency, resistance and survival. Many folks in the United States--both black and white, North and South--do not want to tell that story.

Thus the irony: the slave owners and slave resisters were all quintessentially American. They could also be quite violent, the former by definition much more so. In a world of simple, flat, binary answers many fear that uncomfortable truth.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Of Herman Cain, Pesky Negro Agitators, and the Free Rider Problem in the Glorious Black Freedom Struggle

Heading into his senior year of high school, Cain had the opportunity to be in the first class of black students to integrate Atlanta high schools. But he didn’t choose the path of the Little Rock Nine. “I was a good student, and my principal and my counselor came to me and asked if I would be willing to be one of the kids to be bused to another part of town,” Cain said. “I talked to my dad about it, and he didn’t say ‘Don’t do it.’ But he said, ‘Well, you could do that if you want to, but that’s not your fight by yourself. You’ve got a chance to go on to college,’ which he couldn’t do.”

How could leaving Archer have kept him from college? “I could have gone over there, and they could have made it so unbelievably difficult that I might not have graduated. We didn’t know what to expect.” He paused to take a few bites. “Remember, the world wasn’t fair then. Okay? So I prayed about it, decided not to do it.”

A quick thought before the Tea Party GOP demolition derby debate in New Hampshire on Monday night.

Most folks would like to believe that they would fight the good fight, join up with the Freedom Riders and take on Jim Crow, struggle as guerrillas with the French Underground, or fly their Y-wing fighters with the Rebel Alliance against the evil Galactic Empire. But how many of us actually would?

According to The Weekly Standard, Herman Cain wants all of the good white folks to know that he was not one of those pesky Negro rapscallion agitators who were causing trouble in the South during The Civil Rights Movement. This is not a dog whistle--what is a much overused phrase these days. Rather, Cain's interview with The Weekly Standard is a naked signal to his white public that he is one of "the good ones."

As a black conservative, playing the role of racial accommodationist, good luck salve and lucky charm is de riguer: especially given how Herman Cain makes light jokes about segregated water fountains, the tone of his interview with The Weekly Standard is not at all surprising.

Nevertheless, there is an interesting and productive question that comes from Herman Cain's admission that he had better things to do instead of fighting Jim and Jane Crow White supremacy. In any struggle or movement there really is no real incentive to participate. Because the goals are usually a type of public good (i.e. something that has to be granted to all parties and cannot generally be denied to a given individual) why risk one's life, limbs, health, and safety when there are others who are perfectly willing to carry the burden with little if any cost to you?

Enter: the classic free rider, collective action problem. If most folks just want to stay out of the way of history and are content to remain anonymous as they simply go about their business in the face of Power, is it fair or reasonable to expect them to fight the good fight? More bluntly, are the Herman Cains of the world--those who stood by while others struggled--cowards? Or is coward too mean and imprecise a word?

Maybe the black, brown, women, gay, working class, and other folks who stood on the sidelines while other people labored to expand democracy and make citizenship more full were simply rational actors who played the game well.

That may not seem very civic-minded, but it is perhaps a cold, hard, truth.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Of Christian Nationalism, the Israel Lobby, and Herman Cain's Loyalty Oath for Muslim Americans



Going to see Super 8 tonight, and am still working on a post on X-Men. Others have most certainly beaten me with my thoughts on the latter, but there is still lots to be said on the film.

A quick thought.

I have little use for religion. I also smile and smirk at the hypocrisy of Conservatives and all of their "values," "God," and evangelical talk. But I do love Bobby D's movie The Apostle. Riddle me that one.

Much of the Right's religious talk is rank hypocrisy. Rarely (if ever) does their interpretation of Jesus Christ as a historical figure's teachings mesh up with their anti-poor, kleptocratic, intolerant, judgmental, mean spirited politics--on that note, if you want to make the head of an evangelical Conservative explode give them a copy of JimWallis's book God's Politics.

In short, this country's founding document clearly mandates that there should be a thick and substantial wall between matters of church and state. It is ironic then that Constitutional fetishists like Herman Cain and other Tea Party GOPers want to tear down those barriers. It is doubly funny, that characters like black garbage pail kid Herman Cain want to impose unconstitutional litmus tests for Muslim Americans who want to be elected to public office. That a black man, a member of a group whose citizenship and fitness for national belonging has been repeatedly questioned would do such a thing, is tragic.

Moreover, when Alan Keyes is a voice of reason calling a person out for pursuing intellectually and morally indefensible canards of questionable thought and reason in respect to the Constitution we know that the Republic truly is on life support.

In the interest of consistency in all things, if Herman Cain supports a loyalty test for Muslim Americans because they are somehow conflicted in their support of the Constitution (and by implication are not patriotic), when is Congress going to have hearings on the Israel lobby and the role of Christian Nationalists in shaping American domestic and foreign policy? Will there be loyalty tests for members of groups such as Christians United for Israel or AIPAC? Where was the outcry when President Bush, without embarrassment, talked about God telling him to invade Iraq?

I am not religious. But I am fair. And if we are going to be fair the obvious must be stated: the Evangelical Right and Christian Nationalists have done more long term damage to the domestic and international security of this country than any Muslim American ever has.

Where are the hearings on those folks Mr. Cain?

Of Racism, Air Conditioning, and Constructive Feedback's Brilliant BTU to Black Empowerment Analogy

I was thoroughly miserable on Wednesday because I am unwilling to give in to my landlord's rule that we must rent an air conditioner from his company and then pay an additional fee for its installation. In disgust, I then went to downtown Chicago and proceeded to sweat through my linen suit because the air conditioning was turned down in my office. I wandered about and a friend picked me up and drove me to get Chinese food. I was hot, grumpy, and my yummies from Joy Yee's did not make me smile. What a crappy day.

All was wrong. Now I know why. My malaise is not related to the heat and lack of A/C throughout my overpriced apartment. No, it is an existential conditional related to my negritude that is best captured by the unit of measurement known as the British Thermal Unit (BTU). I was not privy to this fact until my daily read of Constructive Feedback's (a fixture in the black blogosphere) website.

I am moved that the black community's perpetual struggle with the ghetto ign't classes, structural inequality, and colorblind racism in the Age of Obama can in fact be reduced to an air conditioner analogy. Forget a check in every bank account, or a turkey in every pot, we need air conditioning as the vanguard of race and class progress in this time of the Great Recession.

Constructive Feedback's model is a great heuristic and metaphor for diagnosing all that ails us and by extension--because black and brown folks are the miner's canary--America. I say this without snark, meanness, or irony.

Ultimately, I give love where deserved. Constructive Feedback gets a good deal of well-deserved hate and is an object of thrown uncleaned chitterlings innards towards the back of his head at the black family cookout at the beach. The beta in the wolf pack, he is abused because his suffering diffuses conflict among the group. Nevertheless, we ought to acknowledge the role he plays in maintaining harmony. In this moment, Constructive Feedback deserves some love for his air conditioning/BTU/black empowerment moment of wit and genius.

As a Klingon once said to Captain James T. Kirk, Constructive Feedback I salute you! My friends, on a Friday, and in the interest of friendship, please share your thoughts on why you too love Constructive Feedback's air conditioning analogy.

If you were going to piggy back on Constructive Feedback's BTU/AC analogy for all that ails black folks and America (more broadly) what metric to appliance relationship would you use?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Leaked! Herman Cain's New Campaign Video "We are the Real America" is Seeking Actors: Here is the Call for Extras



I have friends and contacts in places high and low. One of them forwarded me a call for extras from Herman Cain's newest campaign commercial, "We are the Real America." It fits perfectly. I cannot help but to laugh and smile as I read it. Enjoy.

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Herman Cain, Republican Party 2012 Presidential Candidate is seeking extras for the shooting of a new campaign video called "We Are the Real America." This project is currently auditioning actors and is being cast in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

The campaign video is being shot by a well-known director who is a notable supporter of Conservative political causes in Hollywood. The 5 minute video is financed by the group Friends of Herman Cain for President in 2012. The campaign film highlights Herman Cain's broad appeal to a diverse group of Americans and how he speaks for the silent majority.

The film is seeking extras for crowd shots, as well as individuals and families for close in profiles. For extras, we are looking for the following:
  • Active seniors who convey a sense of happiness and excitement about the future
  • Young, clean cut blacks and Latinos
  • Soccer moms and their children
  • Traditional, middle class Americans from suburban and rural backgrounds. Country music and Christian gospel fans are especially sought after.
If you are located in the Atlanta, Georgia area and would like to be considered for Herman Cain's new campaign video "We are the Real America" please email Hermancain.com with the role you are auditioning for in the subject heading.

We are also seeking actors and actresses for the following roles:
    1. Patriotic Muslim. She should be a very exciting, captivating and beautiful Muslim-American. An observant Muslim, she will be comfortable wearing a colorful hijab in the film. This actress radiates a love of the United States. Very charming and delicate, she will be shot waving a small American flag at a backyard barbecue while dancing with her American friends.
    2. Real American Motorcycle Rider. He is a powerfully built American with long blond hair, tattoos, and a goatee. Always ready for action, he is never far from his Harley Davidson motorcycle. Wearing jeans and a leather vest, he will have his patriotic tattoos prominently featured in Herman Cain's campaign video. If possible, this actor will have an American flag on his biceps that he will flex for a climactic close in shot.
    3. Upwardly Mobile Black Professional. He is a slight to small framed African American who wears glasses. With a clean cut look (no dread locks or other ethnic haircut) he is very excited and charmed by Herman Cain's presence. They will likely embrace each other and exchange a high five. He should be athletic because their meeting will occur while playing golf. This actor will wear a relaxed corporate look of khaki jeans, a cell phone on his belt, and a white baseball hat.
    4. Multiracial Family. This group of two parents and at least two children should be of different racial backgrounds. Both are professionals and very much in love. An African American and white couple is preferred. An Asian and white couple is also acceptable. The child should be no older than 2 years old (small enough to be placed on their father's shoulder while securely waving an American flag), and have light brown or red hair. Grey, hazel, or blue eyes are preferred.
    5. Sikh and Jewish Friends. At least one observant Sikh (turban wearing) and one observant Jewish actor (with yarmulke) or actress are needed. They should be young (no older than 30 years old), very athletic, and fashionable hipsters or otherwise edgy, cool, and tuned into popular culture. Both will be in the campaign video playing either soccer or Hacky Sack among a larger group of Herman Cain supporters while they update their status on Facebook or Twitter by using their Ipods or Ipads.
    6. Latinos in Military Uniform. A former veteran or active duty service person is needed. We are especially open to groups of military personnel from Latin or South America who are enthusiastic supporters of Herman Cain. They will be expected to appear in both their dress uniforms and camouflage. Battle ribbons and medals should be prominently displayed. Replica weapons will be furnished to the actors and actresses.

    7. Arab American with Dog. One person from the Middle East is needed with his or her dog. Preferably, a yellow Labrador retriever or a lovable mutt who enjoys interacting with others. The dog should be a puppy. If it is exceptionally talented and has prior acting experience, an older animal will also be acceptable.

Please submit photos and resumes by email only.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brother X-Squared Returns to Talk About X-Men: First Class, President Obama, and to Reveal a Shocking Secret to Chauncey DeVega

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) is proud to bring you the latest installment in our recurring series of interviews with Brother X-Squared, president of the North American Chapter of the Renewed Black Panther Party.

As long time followers of WARNNN already know, Brother X-Squared is a potent activist, black futurist, and visionary thinker. He is also a noted cultural critic in the greatest tradition of African American commentary and letters. It has been six months since we last spoke with Brother X-Squared. He has been incommunicado and apparently in hiding. Brother X-Squared has promised us an explosive and jaw dropping expose on the future of America. Brother X-Squared has teased that his appearance on WARNNN will be of particular import to Chauncey DeVega, Editor and Founder of We Are Respectable Negroes.

WARNNN: Brother X-Squared, it has been too long. Where have you been? What have you been up to? What is this information that you are going to share with me? Are you safe? Where were you hiding?

Brother X-Squared: Silence child! I see that my absence has allowed your mental musculature and integumentary system of melanin wisdom to atrophy like the little penis of that white sex freak Anthony Weiner from New York. Brother X-Squared is never in hiding! Can you hide from the sun? From its heat? From its rays? The sun and the moon are in a dance and it is only cosmic forces that keep me from irradiating you 24 hours a day! I have taught you so much since we met those years ago. Yet, in my absence it seems that you have taken 5 steps backwards for every 1 step forward! Try again. This time with patience and be deliberate in your speech.

WARNNN: My humble apologies. What have you been up to these last few months? Were they productive?

Brother X-Squared: A little better. Do cicadas come out at night and sing the blues for moon crickets when the slave ship is coming into port?

WARNNN: You lost me, Brother X-Squared...

Brother X-Squared: Even in your confusion and stupidity there is truth. You truly are one of the lost mentally captive negroes in this hellish land called Amerikkka. Once more you do not understand the Negro folk wisdom. Sad. Tragic. Even the evil White Man knows of my wisdom and is making a special computer that can translate metaphors from different languages so that the CIA can spy on people. They will never create a cipher that can beat Brother X-Squared...but that is a talk for another time.

Chauncey, you need to get a copy of Laurence Levine's book Black Culture and Black Consciousness so you can learn something about your own great heritage as a Nubian! The answer is yes! I have been productive! I have put plans into motion that are still bearing fruit, I am a perpetual self sustaining nuclear reactor that is powered by my melanin. I have foreseen the decline of America. It is here as we speak! The visions came to me while I led a special month long training retreat for my soldiers in the North American Chapter of the New Black Panther Party.

WARNNN: What did you discover?

Brother X-Squared: You and the other mental idiots who comprise the majority of the captive black Africans in America are not ready for the whole truth. So, I will give you just a little dose. The White Man hides his truth in plain sight. He also wraps them up in lies. Sometimes he twists up the language--what the white genius devil George Orwell called newspeak in his book 1984. I can divine it because my mental state is strong and transcendent as it resonates through the dark matter of the universe. All this talk about the debt ceiling is your first clue!

How can debt be an evil calamity that is high in the sky? No, it is a hellish burden that sucks you in like quick sand! The White Man's evil is so deep that he is even trying to appropriate the wisdom of the great African empires of Kush and Benin and their gold standard to save his sorry butt! Impossible, the White Man can never master the economic systems of the black gods because his mind is corrupt and cruel from his natural state as an ignorant cave dweller.

WARNNN: I have to agree with you. The world is on the verge of a second Great Depression and the corporations and financiers are using the shock doctrine and disaster capitalism to bring the American people down. Ironic then that Barack Obama, America's first black President, may be her last if the economy continues its decline.

Brother X-Squared: Fool. I mock you.

WARNNN: Excuse me?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Intellectual Scatology: Ann Coulter's New Book Calls Liberals "Demonic" and Possessed of a "Mob Mentality" That Will Destroy America

In "Demonic," Coulter traces the words and movements of groups from the Ku Klux Klan and the SDS to anti-war protesters and Democrats today to argue her point that liberals have "consistently used mob tactics to implement their idea of the 'general will.'"

"Just as fire seeks oxygen, Democrats seek power, which is why they will always be found championing the mob whether the mob consists of Democrats lynching blacks or Democrats slandering the critics of Obama Care as racists," Coulter writes.
Ann Coulter has penned a new missive in which she argues that "the liberals"--anyone not a Right-wing Republican--are part of a dangerous mob. In turn, this mob will destroy democracy. There are also biblical overtones because these mobs are also apparently possessed by demons--or perhaps even are demons themselves. Coulter's mob of evil liberals is exemplified by the KKK, environmentalists, unions, advocates of health care reform, the L.A. riots, the O.J. Simpson trial, and anti-war protesters. She also connects the dots to Hitler and Mussolini and floats the suggestion that the liberals may start killing conservatives...

Let me stop. I can't even write anymore of this stuff. Have you ever encountered a mentally unhinged person? One whose rambling thoughts are so utterly believable to themselves that through sheer persistence they wear you down and suck you into their reality?

After trying to make sense of a few of the excerpts taken from Ann Coulter's new book Demonic (which was featured on ABC), I am exhausted. Truly. Tired.

Demonic is hot garbage which does not even rise to the level of failed political satire--but those on the Right who consume such tripe will take Demonic as authoritative because it confirms their priors.

For the anti-intellectual Conservative book reading crowd, Coulter's Demonic has facts, dates, and the names of people who are experts is mass psychology; it is written by someone they agree with; Demonic calls anyone who is not a Conservatives harsh names; thus, her arguments must be true.

You can't polish a turd--which makes any serious engagement with her premise impossible. But, you can try to understand the fecal waste in much the same way that Hippocrates studied the humors of the body, or Chinese herbalists would exam the excretia of their patients for indicators of disease.

There are multiple levels of Freudian projection going on in Coulter's screed: at present, the mob and the mouth breathing horde are a fixture of the White Populist Right and the Tea Party GOP brigands; but of course that reality goes uncommented upon.

This is serious stuff. As we have repeatedly seen, the Right-wing is creating an alternative reality fully equipped with their own "experts," schools and universities, and rewriting history when the facts do not match up with their ideology.

As an example of Tea Party GOP newspeak in action, here are seven intellectually scatological excerpts from Demonic to pick through...I couldn't muster the strength or patience to do more. My comments are in brackets.


For safety sake, be sure to wear latex gloves to avoid any pathogens or diseases from Coulter's "treatise":
1. The demon is a mob, and the mob is demonic. It is the nihilistic mob of the French Revolution; it is the revolutionaries who seized control of Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century; it is the Maoist gangs looting villages and impaling babies in China; it is the Ku Klux Klan terrorizing Republicans and blacks in the South; it is the 1992 Los Angeles riot that left fifty dead and did $1 billion of damage after the first Rodney King verdict; it is the bloody riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention; it is the masked hoodlums smashing up Seattle when bankers came to town; it is the 500,000 illegal aliens marching under a foreign flag in Los Angeles; it is throngs of Islamic fanatics attending the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's funeral, tearing his body out of its coffin; it is left-wing protesters destroying property and attacking delegates at the 2004 and 2008 Republican National Conventions.
[Huh? What a piss poor example of reasoning from a set of disparate cases. How many of these things are not like the others?]
2. The Democratic Party is the party of the mob, irrespective of what the mob represents. Democrats activate mobs, depend on mobs, coddle mobs, publicize and celebrate mobs -- they are the mob. Indeed, the very idea of a "community organizer" is to stir up a mob for some political purpose. "As so frequently happens when a crowd goes wild," historian Eric Durschmied says, "there is always one who shouts louder and thereby appoints himself as their leader." Those are the people we call "elected Democrats."
[In political analysis one should strive for specific historicity, i.e. in less fancy talk making sure that you are grounding your cases in the correct temporal context. There are many examples of Conservatives killing, murdering, plundering, and engaging in "mob like" behavior. Moreover, the "Democrats" of today and not the same party as yesteryear. The same can be said of the Republicans. Note the "community organizer" dog whistle for trouble-making Negro agitators...you know, that guy Barack Obama, or Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, or Suffragists, or anyone else who believed that you can use your Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms to organize and demand a redress of grievances from the State.]
3. The Democrats' playbook doesn't involve heads on pikes -- as yet -- but uses a more insidious means to incite the mob. The twisting of truth, stirring of passions, demonizing of opponents, and relying on propagandistic images in lieu of ideas -- these are the earmarks of a mob leader. Over and over again, one finds the Democrats manipulating the mob to gain power. It is official Democratic policy to appeal to the least informed, most weak-minded and perpetually alarmed members of the public.
[Classic projection. The Right-wing media echo chamber is rife with Eliminationist rhetoric that calls for the killing, murder, and destruction of liberals and progressives. It is par for the course that the Right refers to liberals as "libtards," or uses the slogan that "liberalism is a mental illness." Where facts are proof of intent, we have seen cases of actual murder and violence incited by the Right-wing media machine, where Glenn Beck's devotees for example have actually gone on shooting rampages at the behest of their Great Leader.

To Coulter's last point: The Southern Strategy, Palin's faux populism, and the post 9/11 playbook of the GOP have all leveraged fear and appeals to low information Conservative voters to mobilize their base.]
4. Although the left in America is widely recognized as hysterical, unreasonable, and clueless, the "root cause" of these traits has generally been neglected. More than a century ago, Gustave Le Bon perfectly captured the liberal psychological profile in his 1896 book, "The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind." Le Bon -- a French physician, scientist, and social psychologist -- was the first to identify the phenomenon of mass psychology. His groundbreaking book "The Crowd" paints a disturbing picture of the behavior of mobs. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini used his book to learn how to incite a mob. Our liberals could have been Le Bon's study subjects.
[This is another gem from Coulter. The structure of the argument and its conclusions are classic propaganda and New Right communication strategy. Begin the observation with an opinion, one that you in turn take to be common knowledge and fact (the Tea Party GOP could certainly be described as "hysterical, unreasonable, and clueless"). Then link the observation with a source you signal as authoritative, which you in turn proceed to rid of all complexity and nuance. Mention an onerous historical figure, i.e. Hitler, and then link it to the target of your assault--here "the liberals."]
5. All the characteristics of mob behavior set forth by Le Bon in 1895 are evident in modern liberalism -- simplistic, extreme black-and-white thinking, fear of novelty, inability to follow logical arguments, acceptance of contradictory ideas, being transfixed by images, a religious worship of their leaders, and a blind hatred of their opponents.
[This is the best example of intentional propaganda and misrepresentation so far from Coulter's Demonic. All of these traits are common to what the literature on social psychology calls the Conservative/Authoritarian political personality type.

As a result of upbringing, and perhaps even brain structure, Conservatives are more likely to be fearful of change and difference, exemplify binary thinking in regards to problem solving, and be compelled by moral appeals and scripts.

The Authoritarian personality type craves strong leaders and is particularly vulnerable to the allure of the charismatic figure. Coulter must have been privy to this widely available information and intentionally lied for the validation of her readers.]
6. Conservatives don't cotton to slogans...Conservatives write books and articles, make arguments, and seek debates, but are perplexed by slogans...An orator wishing to move a crowd must make an abusive use of violent affirmations.
To exaggerate, to affirm, to resort to repetitions, and never to attempt to prove anything by reasoning are methods of argument well known to speakers at public meetings." Liberals love slogans because the "laws of logic have no action on crowds." Mobs, Le Bon says, "are not to be influenced by reasoning, and can only comprehend rough-and-ready associations of ideas."
He could be describing the New York Times and other journals of elite opinion when he describes periodicals that "manufacture opinions for their readers and supply them with ready- made phrases which dispense them of the trouble of reasoning." You will see all the techniques for inspiring mobs in liberal behavior.
[People's exhibit number one: Fox News and their disingenuous slogan "Fair and Balanced." The Right-wing in America is expert at disseminating talking points, coordinating them across multiple outlets, and focusing on the theme of the day. Coulter's attack on the "liberal media" is a great example of how Conservatives are able to so effectively propagandize their audience.

The strategy is simple. First, you make an assertion for which there is little if any evidence (that the media is liberal), then proceed from the premise to argue the opposite (Fox News is "neutral"), which in turn insulates you from any rebuttal (so what if Fox News has admitted they are opinion based journalism, that they routinely distort facts, and are in the pocket of the GOP, they are a "fair" alternative to the "liberal" media!).]
7. The only traditions liberals are eager to smash are moral and sexual ones, such as marriage and protecting the unborn. Crowds are too impulsive to be moral, according to Le Bon, which explains why liberals are mad for innovation when it comes to thousands-year-old institutions like marriage. Only when it comes to scientific innovation, are they hidebound traditionalists. Indeed, the only way to get liberals interested in novel scientific research is to propose slaughtering human embryos.
When adult stem cell researchers had already produced treatments for eighty different diseases, while embryonic stem cell researchers were stuck in the dark ages, the failed researchers won liberal hearts by pointing out that their method destroyed human fetuses, while adult stem research did not.
As long as Democrats can win by demagoguing the mob, they are perfectly happy to turn America into a banana republic.
With the country drowning in debt and Medicare and Social Security putting us on a high-speed bullet train to bankruptcy, the entire Democratic Party refuses to deal with entitlements. Instead, they will gin up the mobs to throw out any politician who cuts these increasingly theoretical "benefits." The country will have the economy of Uganda, but Democrats will be in total control.
Rich liberals want chaos for everyone except themselves, confident that they can afford a "green" lifestyle and their children will still attend Sidwell Friends. The rest of us are forced to live in a lawless universe of no energy, gay marriage, girl soldiers, and marauding criminals because liberals can't enjoy their wealth unless other people are living in complete pandemonium. They promote anarchy, believing the middle class should live in squalor, while liberals will be protected by their wealth against the mob.
[Wow. This is a buffet of talking points that exemplify the Right-wing media shotgun approach. As exemplified by the above passage, Ann Coulter really is a poop flinging monkey. She hits on just about every part of the Right-wing's Culture War meme: liberals are immoral and want to destroy "traditional" American values; the liberals want to kill babies in the womb; after ruining the nuclear family with their godless Communism, the liberals then want to make everyone gay.

Coulter also gets a dig in for the white populists by suggesting that Obama and his imagined cadre of "elitists" think they are better than the silent majority, red state, steak and potatoes crowd. Like most Right-wing propaganda, Coulter's analysis is decontextualized and does not link any of the country's contemporary economic or political challenges to two Bush terms or decades of trickle down and failed supply side economic policies.

She reserved her best money shot for Barack Obama, America's first black President--under his tenure the United States will become a "banana republic" like Uganda. Coulter and the New Right's formula for Obama derangement syndrome? Add race, hyperbole, histrionics, some Culture War seasoning, rinse and repeat.]