Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Non-Mystery and Obligatory Question: What Race is Herman Cain's "Mistress" Ginger White?

High comedy: so Ginger White's business partner preferred to date black men, but she disliked black women's hair. Hmmmm...the plot thickens. How twisted indeed is the intimate relationship between blacks and whites, feet intertwined mid-coitus on the cotton bale, but the mystery of the hair has too much symbolic weight to overcome?

What a sick society we are; white supremacy truly is a poison that has hurt us all.

If the visitor logs to We Are Respectable Negroes are any indication, there are many people who are curious as to the race of Herman Cain's "mistress" Miss Ginger White. As a service, I will try to offer some guidance on this most vexing and pressing issue of public concern.

First things first, there is only one race of people on this blue marble called planet Earth (allowing for hobbits and Neanderthals), and that is the human race.

Clarifications aside, in our contemporary nomenclature while she may be light, bright, and damn near white (as the expression goes), Ginger White is a black woman.

As a student of race, and a keen practitioner of "race science," her features, habitus, and "energy" are dead giveaways to my eye.

Does she claim the tribe? I do not know.

Yes, there is a long history of passing in the black community (as well as in others too).

Could Ginger White play that game and slip by the hypodescent rule, crossing over to whiteness in New Orleans, and dancing at an octoroon ball? Damn straight. Could she go to Latin America or Brazil and reverse the one-drop rule, where any bit of "white" ancestry makes you anything but "black?" Absolutely.

Could Ginger White move to New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles and reinvent herself as a "white woman," turning her back on her kin and people? Yes. It happened all of the time.

Folk wisdom and life experience are also good aids in matters related to the race game. I asked my mother, a black woman from the South, about Herman Cain's habits. She said months ago that he was a womanizer and had an "arrangement" with his wife. I ask moms if she thought Ginger White was black. She laughed and reminded me that a man of Herman Cain's age and social background would see a "high yellow," and "damn near" white woman who had "good hair" as the ultimate prize. He would mess around with a white woman, but Cain would keep a light-skinned black woman as his status symbol.

Commonsense goes a long way on these matters. It can also be easily deceived and tricked. So folks, what clues do you use to win the "guess what box to put this racially ambiguous person in" game? Is it their "habitus?" Skin color? Cues and hints in speech? Other tricks?

And when we play this game, we are often wrong. One, either because said person refuses to acknowledge their racial group, and gets upset when "outed." Or two, our lens is just off, and sometimes we encounter a person whose lineage we just can't place.

Do tell, I bet you have some legendary faux pas to report...all players in the race game do.

A Pitch Perfect Portrait of Narcissism: Herman "the High Achiever" Cain Reflects on His Career and Life

"There is no racism to see here boss! I am shaking the tree, you sees me boss?"

With Herman Cain apparently about to drop out of the race, it is time to have a fire sale. Over the past year I developed a portfolio on the Grand High Vizier of the Black Garbage Pail Kids Black Conservatives. As events develop, I now have to pick some gems from that repository before they transmute into copper.

This interview from the Black Conservative propaganda hit piece "Runaway Slave" is a great distillation of Herman Cain's weaknesses of character. All of the elements that would bring him down are present; all of the elements that would make him appeal to white populist racial reactionaries are also on display as well.

Cain is arrogant, narcissistic, outside of history, and honestly believes that he stands alone, a self-made man. Free rider, Herbie Black Walnut Cornbread Cain, also believes that he is accountable to no one.

Of course, the Civil Rights Movement, and the life and death hard work of black and brown folks, with a few white allies, did not make Cain's success at all possible. Moreover, Herman Cain is the very definition of an "affirmative action baby"--a label that was once worn with pride, but has now been sullied by the Right, a move enabled through a surrender of language by progressives and liberals. While Cain momentarily signals to the old school Conservatism of Booker T. Washington in this interview, he ultimately defaults back to being a race neutral fantasy projection for the White Conservative Soul by its conclusion.

No longer a "raging elephant" or "a runaway slave," Cain is now hobbled by his libido. His channeling of American exceptionalism--as performance art and flim flam artistry in the role of Tea Party GOP candidate--is coming to a close, to now soon be seen exclusively on Fox News.

There are second and third acts in American life. What do you think awaits Herman Cain as he shuffles and dances, exiting stage right, with his sack full of money, and pockets overflowing with duckets? Will he go off into the night, satiated and spent, sleeping off a political bender of sorts while he frolics under the watchful eye of Dionysus and Pan's satyrs?

Or is this just the beginning of The Herman Cain Saga?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Well Lookie Here! Will the Wonders Ever Cease? Herman Cain's (Alleged) "Mistress" is a Black Woman

Cain attempted to get out in front of the news Monday afternoon in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, in which he revealed that the woman will accuse him of an extended affair. According to a preview story posted by the Fox affiliate in Atlanta, the report is scheduled to air at 6 p.m. and will include an interview with Ginger White, a local woman who claims she had a 13-year affair with Cain. The preview promises "records that [White] says back up her story."

On CNN, Cain denied the charge. He acknowledged knowing the woman, whom he characterized as an "acquaintance that I thought was a friend." But he said there was no affair.
[Well damn! I stand corrected. Herman Cain's "mistress" is a black woman. Dude is so old school--he marries a black woman, has a sister for a long term "secondary relationship," and harasses white women. Herman Cain needs to start writing blues songs. Seriously.

I will let this post stand as originally written, for it is a testimony for how wonderfully surprising life can be.]

Time to invoke the mercy rule for Herb Cornbread Bojangles Cain. A month or so back, I offered an over/under for Herman Cain's sexual peccadillo count. For humor's sake, I prayed that at least one of his many accusers of sexual harassment would be a big, fat, white woman (the jury is still out). Now, Mr. Cain's supposed side piece, lover, partner to he who is a sexual dynamo and tyrannosaurus pizza maven and troubadour, is scheduled to appear on Atlanta's Fox News affiliate this evening.

A month or so ago I had a theory about Herman Cain's relationship with Sharon Bialek, the woman who accused him of forcing her head into his lap, and of putting his hand up her dress. I slept on this one because it was missing one or two bits of confirming information. With the most recent accusation, I feel a bit more confident in playing Negrodamus.

When Herman Cain was a lobbyist, he lived apart from his wife for months at a time in a "corporate apartment" in the Washington D.C. area. By itself, this is not a sin; for many people, such an arrangement would be practical. Moreover, these apartments are a perk of the job to be enjoyed.

Herman Cain also kept his wife out of the spotlight (I do suspect that they may have an "arrangement" regarding outside relationships; at present, she is without a doubt, none too pleased with him putting business out in the street). Again, not common for someone running for high office. But by itself, his wife's absence is a factor that is neither a death knell, nor especially problematic, when viewed by itself. However, when you factor in the accusations that Herman Cain has sexually harassed (at least) five women, the plot does become more interesting.

I believe that Sharon Bialek was Herman Cain's lover. One does not generally presume to put their hands up a woman's dress, and to force her head into your lap to perform fellatio, unless there exists a general understanding, some history between you. Cain and Bialek had an intimate relationship, and during the infamous evening when he supposedly assaulted her, the latter was calling in a favor that Cain summarily refused. In fact, there are photos of them being quite friendly and familiar with one another taken some weeks after Cain supposedly assaulted her.

Ultimately, Bialek was pissed at Herman Cain and took the moment afforded by his presidential run to get a bit of sweet revenge. But, here is what I cannot figure: why wouldn't she just come out as Cain's mistress? Was it a fear of ruining her own marriage? Or did Bialek reason that she could do more harm to Cain with the sexual harassment charge?

We are creatures of habit. Thus, at this point in the Saga of Herman Cain, it is anticlimactic to speculate as to Miss Ginger White's race--but with such a name, laughter would immediately and rapturously ensue if she were a beautiful, dark complected, black woman. But, I do eagerly await how Herman Cain and his supporters will excuse-make for this most recent accusation of moral behavior perfectly in character with not at all befitting a "values voter," Tea Party GOP, candidate.

Herman Cain's white populist base gave him a pass for pursuing 5 white women. Will the sixth be the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back? Will the Right's inner racists, and anti-miscegenation credo as projected through the White Racial Id, finally come out to put Herb Cornbread Cain in his "correct" place?

As Limbaugh and other conservative bloviators are so fond of saying about President Obama and the First Lady, me thinks Herman Cain is being a bit "uppity" with his obsessive pursuit of the decadent delights and sweet pleasures of Caucasian yoni...and he is gonna get checked for it, sooner, rather than later.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A New Scooby Doo Mystery: The Washington Post Asks "Why Aren't Blacks Embracing Occupy Wall Street?"

Blacks have historically suffered the income inequality and job scarcity that the Wall Street protesters are now railing against. Perhaps black America’s absence is sending a message to the Occupiers: “We told you so! Nothing will change. We’ve been here already. It’s hopeless.”
The Scooby Doo mystery about the relationship between race and the OWS movement continues...

The Washington Post is jumping on the bandwagon with their own version of the game Where is Waldo?, with an opinion piece by Stacey Patton entitled, "Why African Americans Aren't Embracing Occupy Wall Street."

This penetrating essay, written by a memoirist, citing a comedian named "Alter-Negro" as an expert source, offering up a conspiracy between cable, cell phone, cigarette, and liquor companies to depoliticize the black leadership class in service to the interests of corporate America, commenting on the predatory evils of commercial hip hop, and pondering if the black church has lost all political and moral authority, is a fun read.

It is not a deep political analysis; nor is Patton particularly insightful as she takes a shotgun approach to the relationship between race and OWS.

[A question: who gets to determine the minimum threshold for when the Occupy Wall Street Movement is sufficiently "diverse?" Is there a census, a quota, a barometer, do we have to read tea leaves and chicken bones to know when this magical moment has occurred?]

However, her essay is useful as an entry point for working through why black folks have not flocked to OWS in mass.

Thus, some working working questions and hypotheses:

1. Jaded, well-earned, cynicism. Where was OWS, and the white folks who make up its base, when black and brown people were catching hell this last decade? If OWS is so concerned about a broken economy and a general sense of grievance about austerity and government retrenchment, many, if not most, were deaf of ear to the concerns of people of color, specifically, and the poor, more generally, on such issues as police brutality, predatory banking and mortgage practices, wage stagnation, and a broken labor market. Why should black Americans be expected to ally with people who appeared to be none too concerned with these issues, until they, quite literally, hit home?

2. Exhaustion. Black folks have been either 1) at the forefront of social and political change in this country, or 2) their struggles have served as models for organizing and resistance by other groups. Perhaps, now is the time for white Americans to carry the weight.

3. Common sense. Black folks don't want to go to jail, understand that their interests are not served by a racist criminal (in)justice system, and know that they will be treated differently by police, judges, and the State, than the (relatively) privileged white folks who make up the backbone of the OWS movement.

4. The failure of the black political leadership class. In the post-Civil Rights era, black political elites have struggled with obsolescence. Many are trying to get their shine back by connecting their glorious struggles of decades past to those of the OWS movement. But, are the models of black political mobilization from the 1950s and 1960s going to upset power, and create social and political change, in the Age of Obama?

5. Experience and vision. Black folks have seen this all before. We know that OWS ends with a whimper and not a bang. Thus, given the perils of the economy, a general sense of instability and political malaise, and a wisdom born of experience, many in the black community are getting ready for what comes two or three steps down the road. As Stacy Patton smartly alludes to, since black Americans have long known that the game is rigged, we are not at all surprised by the Great Recession and the new Gilded Age.

White Americans necessarily bought into a lie as they earned the wages of whiteness. Now, the emptiness of the bargain is exposed. White America simply does not have the political maturity, one born of experience and struggle, that is common to black and brown people in this country. Now they are waking up. Perhaps, White America should put on its critical thinking-political swaddling clothes all by itself? Hope may be born from this experience: White folks may not develop a Blues Sensibility, but maybe, just maybe, they can develop a whee bit of an ear for the sorrow songs.

6. A function of numbers. The percentage of a given population who participates in any type of organized political behavior is not large. The percentage of a given population who participates in political behavior that can be described as "civil disobedience" is rather minuscule. For example, social scientists suggest that the tipping point for an idea to become infectious and spread through a society is approximately 10 percent.Yes, just 10 percent.

By implication, allowing for the indifferent, most folks are free riders who assume that this rather numerically small number of voices speak for the mass public. Ultimately, OWS is comprised of a minority of the general population. To expect African Americans and other people of color to participate in mass--what is a minority of a minority--is unrealistic, and a false barometer for how "diverse" the OWS movement actually is.

7. A thought on strategy and realpolitik. Perhaps, OWS is best served by being a group comprised of the upset, momentarily disenfranchised, and alienated privileged classes? Given the deep linkages in the white popular imagination between black people and "unAmerican" political radicalism, perhaps OWS will be more effective precisely to the degree that it is perceived as speaking for the silent majority--a group that by definition excludes black Americans?

How do you explain the lack of diversity in the OWS movement? Or are these concerns based on a false premise, i.e. that OWS is in fact "diverse," but the media and the pundit classes are looking in the wrong places, invested in marginalizing the movement?

What hypotheses would you offer to explain the relative lack of participation by black people, other racial minorities, and the white poor, in OWS? How would you correct this dynamic?

Friday, November 25, 2011

What if Africa Conquered Europe?: Charles Mills Explains How Race is a Social Construct

As I did with Joel Olson, here is another thinker whose work I often discuss.

In my recent posts on Daily Kos (especially), and here on WARN (to a far lesser degree), some readers do not seem to get how race is a fiction, a true lie, a social construct, yet one that is nonetheless real. There is much emotion here--when we call out whiteness and the relationship between race and power, many people believe themselves to be experts because they "possess" a racial identity; this is far afield from having done the hard work and research necessary in order to develop expertise on such topics.

Those who study these questions for a living often get frustrated by how so many in the general public are unable (or unwilling) to grasp these basic priors. We have to do so much work to explain the very idea that power is real; then we have to explain how individuals are invested in social institutions and systems (such as race, gender, class, and sexuality); and finally, now exhausted, the work still has to be done to soothe hurt feelings and clarify how none of this is "personal."

In less than academic-speak I could care less about how people, White folks especially, feel about these basic matters. But inevitably, much energy is spent allowing for personal anecdotes, qualifiers, exclusions, and the "but not me" card, while still trying to explain how macro-level forces, more often than not, operate independent of individual and personal intent.

Ultimately, to correct that gap in understanding (an imperative often colored by a desire to reject the messenger in order to save one's pride, as well as a yearning to live in a cocoon of safe and warm denial), it is both useful and helpful to go to the original citation so to speak, those scholars who we make reference to, and channel, in making claims about race and politics. Expertise should not be based on magic tricks or subterfuge; our Lengua Franca ought to be made naked.

In all, Charles Mills is cool folks for a variety of reasons. First, he is one of the few black philosophers in the game, and he smartly locates race as central to political theory, as opposed to secondary to it. From the great book The Racial Contract, to The Contract and Domination, he is fearless. Plus, Mills has a British-Afro Caribbean accent. In my neck of the woods, he also gets extra points on the authority scale for such a persuasive and cool affect.

True, I am a ghetto nerd academic fanboy of Charles Mills. He is very nice and patient in person. I also find his dry humor, and sharp wit, disarming. Nevertheless, Mills has so much to offer on these matters.

There are a series of lectures with Dr. Mills now on Youtube. For anyone at all interested in a serious study of the relationship(s) between race, politics, and philosophy, these lectures are all worth watching.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Something You Should Read: Joel Olson Keeps On Winning With His Essay "Whiteness and the 99%"

Occupy Wall Street and the hundreds of occupations it has sparked nationwide are among the most inspiring events in the U.S. in the 21st century. The occupations have brought together people to talk, occupy, and organize in new and exciting ways. The convergence of so many people with so many concerns has naturally created tensions within the occupation movement. One of the most significant tensions has been over race. 
This is not unusual, given the racial history of the United States. But this tension is particularly dangerous, for unless it is confronted, we cannot build the 99%. The key obstacle to building the 99% is left colorblindness, and the key to overcoming it is to put the struggles of communities of color at the center of this movement. It is the difference between a free world and the continued dominance of the 1%.
In my research and writing on the relationship(s) between race, power, inequality, and political culture, I often reference Joel Olson's concept of "white democracy." A complement to Joe Feagin's white racial frame, white democracy is a deceptively simple construct, with much explanatory power, and offers a theoretical lens that neatly groups together many other (seemingly disparate) findings.

Olson's piece on whiteness, the OWS movement, and white privilege is meme worthy, and as such, deserves as wide an audience as possible. "Whiteness and the 99 percent" is dispassionate; this is its strength. The essay is also wonderfully transparent as it grapples with white privilege, the Left, and liberal racism, in a way that is provocative, yet accessible.

As I am fond of saying, I don't have time to hold the hands of white folks and do any teaching about how they should get their house in order. Olson, as a member of the tribe, is imminently more patient and kind.

To that end, he smartly crystallizes the problem of white privilege and the OWS movement down to several key points.

Olson suggests that liberal colorblindness does the work of white privilege, and by implication, white supremacy. White democracy is real. The racial state is not an aberration in American history, rather it is the norm. Liberal colorblindness is given life through the white racial frame. This creates a "distorted white mindset" which sees the interests of people of color as "special" and "particular," while the interests of white folks are deemed "normal":
Left colorblindness is the belief that race is a “divisive” issue among the 99%, so we should instead focus on problems that “everyone” shares. According to this argument, the movement is for everyone, and people of color should join it rather than attack it. 
Left colorblindness claims to be inclusive, but it is actually just another way to keep whites’ interests at the forefront. It tells people of color to join “our” struggle (who makes up this “our,” anyway?) but warns them not to bring their “special” concerns into it. It enables white people to decide which issues are for the 99% and which ones are “too narrow.” It’s another way for whites to expect and insist on favored treatment, even in a democratic movement. 
As long as left colorblindness dominates our movement, there will be no 99%. There will instead be a handful of whites claiming to speak for everyone. When people of color have to enter a movement on white people’s terms rather than their own, that’s not the 99%. That’s white democracy.
Olson's latter point is a neat reframing and statement of what critical race theorists and others have described as white/liberal "universalism," wherein the interests of whites (as the in-group) go uncommented upon and uninterrogated because they are a "given." Consequently, the interests of White people, and Whiteness more generally, are not framed in terms of race. The irony is rich: Whiteness and White people do of course have racialized group interests--American history is a testament to this fact--they simply do not name them as such.

Like Olson, I too have similar worries about OWS. I am happy to see organic efforts such as Occupy the Hood, and moves by local groups to make issues of identity and racialized power more central to the OWS agenda. Nevertheless, I remain concerned that white group interests, white experiences, white politics, white understandings of the good life, white history, white humanity, and white concerns, remain normalized by OWS.

To counter this tendency towards a de facto embrace of white privilege as the status quo ante, Olson concludes "Whiteness and the 99%" with a set of helpful questions which challenge the OWS movement to remove their White (and middle class) blinders. He suggests that OWS should:
Occupy everything, attack the white democracy 
While no pamphlet can capture everything a nationwide movement can or should do to undermine the white democracy and left colorblindness, below is a short list of questions people might consider asking in movement debates. These questions were developed from actual debates in occupations throughout the U.S.
  1. Do speakers urge us “get beyond” race? Are they defensive and dismissive of demands for racial justice?
  1. If speakers urge developing “close working relationships with the police,” do they consider how police terrorize Black, Latino, Native, and undocumented communities? Do they consider how police have attacked occupation encampments?
  1. If speakers urge us to hold banks accountable, do they encourage us to focus on redlining, predatory lending, and subprime mortgages, which have decimated Black and Latino neighborhoods?
  1. If speakers urge the cancellation of debts, do they mean for things like electric and heating bills as well as home mortgages and college loans?
  1. If speakers urge the halting of foreclosures, do they acknowledge that they take place primarily in segregated neighborhoods, and do they propose to start there?
  1. If speakers urge the creation of more jobs, do they acknowledge that many communities of color have already been in chronic “recessions” for decades, and do they propose to start from there?
These are challenging questions that could serve as powerful rubrics for decision-making and agenda setting. 
As is my habit, some questions in the interest of sharing:
For those on the front lines of the OWS movement, are Olson's suggestions being heeded? Would they be met with a positive response? Is OWS actively interrogating white privilege?
Or are the knee jerk, "it's about class and not race" ideologues, limiting the conversation, and enforcing their own version of political correctness which marginalizes the broader interests and concerns of black and brown people?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Wealth of Riches for Ghetto Nerds: David Brooks and Star Wars; The New England Patriots, the KC Rout, and Pro Wrestling

Just a little ghetto nerd vanity and sharing.

Esquire magazine has two fun pieces up today, they are are so cool in fact, that after reading them you utter to yourself "damn, I wish I had written that."

1. My New England Patriots opened a can of whoop ass and took the Kansas City Chiefs to Jabroni Drive on Monday Night Football (bonus points for you folks who watched the Rock do his thing, sans any ring rust, during Survivor Series on Sunday). Now, I will admit that I was nervous for a second, as the Chief's backup QB showed some heart and spark during the first quarter of play--unknown variables are always confounding to the game plan--but Brady and the Gronk-monster asserted their will to earn the never really in doubt win.

Esquire's Eric Gillin summed up the game in the following way:
If you're me, if you're from Boston, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant running wild on too many multi-vitamins. The belt is theirs for the taking. But at this point everyone else thinks they're "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, and everyone else is kinda right. The Patriots pull hair. They videotape practices. They give up 400 yards a game, and they don't even really care.
But Tyler Palko cares. 
The jobber completed five of his first six passes. Brady went one for five, including an intentional grounding. Palko drove for three, and Brady fumbled for a fourth straight game. At this point — and this was not very far in — even Ron Jaworski was enjoying it: "This Palko has been unbelievable so far!" Here was the backup, down just 10-3 in primetime, outplaying the MVP and ready to steal an injured veteran's job. Sounded enough like a former professional clipboard-holder out of Michigan to scare the wrestling out of me. 
Is Tyler Palko the second coming of Tom Brady? Of course not. But it was fun for a half hour.
In keeping with the pro-wrestling analogy, I guess Tyler Palko is the golden age of ECW's Mikey Whipwreck.

2. David Brooks is always good sport. On one hand, folks hate on him because he gets to write for the New York Times, go on TV, and they don't. Many also shake their head at Brooks' analyses because he has figured out the first rule of punditry: make big predictions, even outrageous ones, because the public never remembers when you are wrong.

Esquire's Charlies Pierce uses the mighty Star Wars saga, including some well-put allusions to the problematic Prequels, to goof on Brooks' latest essay on the Republican Party and the idea of a "political solar system":
The other day, I jokingly mentioned that David Brooks, soi-disant regent prince of the Island of Misfit Sociologists, gave every indication that he writes his columns from the moons of Neptune. Turns out, I was wrong. As is plain today, Brooks is a native of Tatooine. Not a sand person, surely, nor a vapor farmer, like the unfortunate Owen Lars. Probably not an habitue of the Mos Eisley cantina, either. ("I have the death sentence for boredom on five systems!") Just a guy writing columns for the local daily newspaper in which he explains to sand people, and the vapor farmers, and the derelicts at the bar that there simply is not enough moral consistency in them to make the place more livable, always neglecting to mention that the place is a desert largely because there is no fking water there.
Pierce goes Mandalorian on Brooks here, where he offers comments in bold on the latter's trite observations:
...used to contain serious internal debates — between moderate and conservative Republicans, between New Democrats and liberals. Neither party does now. 
(Yes, here on the planet we call... Earth, I have noticed that Barack Obama has received no criticism at all from within his own party, while the Republicans bristle with internal strife over whether Barack Obama is a socialist born in Kenya or a socialist born in Hawaii. Worse than the Clone Wars, that is.)
The Democrats talk and look like a conventional liberal party (some liberals, who represent, at most, 30 percent of the country, are disappointed because President Obama hasn't ushered in a Huffington Post paradise). 
(The Huffington Post Paradise is on Naboo, where Natalie Portman once tried to bury her career and where everything looks like an old Breck commercial. Arianna Binks provides the comic relief.)
It is worth your time to read Pierce's full piece just for the smile that comes from seeing the photoshopped graphic with David Brooks' head as one of the moons of Tatooine.

Do any of you have any fun finds worthy of ghetto nerd glee to share? Add to the pile if you so desire.

Colin Powell on the Quintessentially American Nature of the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Colin Powell is one of my favorite conservatives who happens to be black. A question: whatever happened to this type of reasonable, pragmatic, reflective, and problem-solving oriented Republican?

I like this interview because Powell hits on a point that is remarkably clear to all those observers who look at the Occupy Wall Street Movement with any type of reasonable and considerate eye. While Cain, Gingrich, and other mouth pieces of the Right-wing want to savage and caricaturize those Americans who "dare" to use free speech in order to call attention to gross disparities of financial, and political power, there is much to suggest that the OWS movement, despite some challenges, does indeed speak for the silent majority.

The OWS movement is remarkably centrist: they want to challenge the robber barons and plutocrats who have destroyed the economy for their own enrichment; they argue that we need to return to an economy that grows the middle class; they hold a belief that gross disparities of wealth and income inequality create social instability; and OWS wants to make certain the promise of a America where there will not be a permanent elite, and that the nation is to stop being one where inter-generational upward mobility is less than that of France.

In all, these are reasonable claims on citizenship, the polity, belonging, and justice.

However, because of the power of the Right-wing echo chamber to reframe reality, reinforce corporatism as being synonymous with the Common Good, and a public that is woefully ignorant of the United States' deep vein of populist resistance, these efforts are savaged as somehow outside of the American political tradition.

This Rightward shifting of the public discourse should be no surprise. It is the result of decades of maneuvering by conservatives to establish think tanks, position themselves in the media, and make neoliberalism a type of common sense gospel where market solutions, tax cuts for the rich, and now "austerity policies" which balance State and Federal budgets on the backs of the poor, are the de facto solutions for times of economic crisis.

Ironically, these policies are a reversal of causality, as they in fact created the Great Recession; consequently, thus, and in no way, can these same broken policies expedite us out from our present morass.

Thinking broadly on these questions, The Guardian UK has a great piece on the political possibilities symbolized by the Occupy Wall Street Movement that is well worth reading.

It follows here:

Anti-Capitalist? Too Simple. Occupy Can be the Catalyst for a Radical Rethink

The Occupy London movement is marking its first month this week. It is routinely described as anti-capitalist, but this label is highly misleading. As I found out when I gave a lecture at its Tent City University last weekend, many of its participants are not against capitalism. They just want it better regulated so that it benefits the greatest possible majority.

But even accepting that the label accurately describes some participants in the movement, what does being anti-capitalist actually mean?

Many Americans, for example, consider countries like France and Sweden to be socialist or anti-capitalist – yet, were their 19th-century ancestors able to time-travel to today, they would almost certainly have called today's US socialist. They would have been shocked to find that their beloved country had decided to punish industry and enterprise with a progressive income tax. To their horror, they would also see that children had been deprived of the freedom to work and adults "the liberty of working as long as [they] wished", as the US supreme court put it in1905 when ruling unconstitutional a New York state act limiting the working hours of bakers to 10 hours a day. What is capitalist, and thus anti-capitalist, it seems, depends on who you are.

Many institutions that most of us regard as the foundation stones of capitalism were not introduced until the mid-19th century, because they had been seen as undermining capitalism. Adam Smith opposed limited liability companies and Herbert Spencer objected to the central bank, both on the grounds that these institutions dulled market incentives by putting upper limits to investment risk. The same argument was made against the bankruptcy law.

Since the mid-19th century, many measures that were widely regarded as anti-capitalist when first introduced – such as the progressive income tax, the welfare state, child labour regulation and the eight-hour day – have become integral parts of capitalism today.

Capitalism has also evolved in very different ways across countries. They may all be capitalist in that they are predominantly run on the basis of private property and profit motives, but beyond that they are organised very differently.

In Japan interlocking share ownership among friendly enterprises, which once accounted for over 50% of all listed shares and still accounts for around 30%, makes hostile takeover very difficult. This has enabled Japanese companies to invest with a much longer time horizon than their British or American counterparts.

Japanese companies provide lifetime employment for their core workers (accounting for about a third of the workforce), thereby creating strong worker loyalty. They also give the workers a relatively large say in the management of the production process, thus tapping their creative powers. There are heavy regulations in the agricultural and retail sectors against large firms, which complement the weak welfare state by preserving small shops and farms.

German capitalism is as different from the American or British version as Japanese capitalism, but in other ways. Like Japan, Germany gives a relatively big input to workers in the running of a company, but in a collectivist way through the co-determination system, in which worker representation on the supervisory board allows them to have a say in key corporate matters (such as plant closure and takeovers), rather than giving a greater stake in the company to workers as individuals, as in the Japanese system.

Thus, while Japanese companies are protected from hostile takeovers by friendly companies (through interlocking shareholding), German companies are protected by their workers (through co-determination).

Even supposedly similar varieties of capitalism, for example Swedish and German, have important differences. German workers are represented through the co-determination system and through industry-level trade unions, while Swedish workers are represented by a centralised trade union (the Swedish Trade Union Confederation), which engages in centralised wage bargaining with the centralised employers' association (the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise).

Unlike in Germany, where concentrated corporate ownership has been deliberately destroyed, Sweden has arguably the most concentrated corporate ownership in the world. One family – the Wallenbergs – possesses controlling stakes (usually defined as over 20% of voting shares) in most of the key companies in the Swedish economy, including ABB, Ericsson, Electrolux, Saab, SEB and SKF. Some estimate that the Wallenberg companies produce a third of Swedish national output. Despite this, Sweden has built one of the most egalitarian societies in the world because of its large, and largely effective, welfare state.

And then there are hybrids that defy definition: China, with its large socialist legacy, is an obvious case, but Singapore is another, even more interesting, example. Singapore is usually touted as the model student of free-market capitalism, given its free-trade policy and welcoming attitude towards multinational companies. Yet in other ways it is a very socialist country. All land is owned by the government, 85% of housing is supplied by the government-owned housing corporation, and a staggering 22% of national output is produced by state-owned enterprises. (The international average is around 10%.) Would you say that Singapore is capitalist or socialist?

When it is so diverse, criticising capitalism is not very meaningful. What you have to change to improve the Swedish or the Japanese capitalist systems is very different from what you should do for the British one.

In Britain, as already physically identified by the Occupy movement, it is clear the key reforms should be made in the City of London. The fact that the Occupy movement does not have an agreed list of reforms should not be used as an excuse not to engage with it. I'm told there is an economics committee working on it and, more importantly, there are already many financial reform proposals floating around, often supported by very "establishment" figures like Adair Turner, the Financial Services Authority chairman, George Soros, the Open Society Foundations chairman, and Andy Haldane, the Bank of England's executive director for financial stability.

By labelling the Occupy movement "anti-capitalist", those who do not want reforms have been able to avoid the real debate. This has to stop. It is time we use the Occupy movement as the catalyst for a serious debate on alternative institutional arrangements that will make British (or for that matter, any other) capitalism better for the majority of people.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A History Too Personal: The Slave Master Forced Her to Drink A "Pint of Piss" as Punishment...

I have a colleague who is an astrophysicist. He is also the only African American in his laboratory, and is quite fond of joking that he is "free of all that identity and race stuff" because he studies the stars, dark matter, and black holes. Of course, race matters in his career path--the STEM fields can be none too kind to people of color and women--but he is spot on in the observation that his work isn't "personal" to him in the same way that research and teaching can be to many folks who are in fields related to gender, race, sexuality, or other matters of identity and power.

Sometimes, one's research can take them to a dark place where critical distance is upset and disqualified. For example, I have read about professionals who study genocide, and the problem of evil, who were quite literally consumed by the darkness of their work. Sadly, the great Iris Chang is one of those people. I was/am also friends with someone who could not escape the demons of his own research on the relationship between genocide and ontology--and took his own life as a result.

At present, my "fun" reading is the The Ruling Race by James Oakes, a classic text on chattel slavery in the United States. Oakes is a master historian, and this work does much to get beyond a narrow and simple depiction of white elites in the South's Slaveocracy. Oakes goes beyond if they were "good" or "bad" people (most certainly many were more of the latter than the former), by highlighting how white slaveowners rationalized that "the peculiar institution" was a cultural, economic, political, and in many cases, religious and moral imperative.

There are sections of The Ruling Race that are just too personal to me; I can certainly reconcile and contextual Oakes' work within a broader literature on Southern slave systems, but I could never do so much, making a living by looking at original source materials where folks like me, my kin and people, are routinely debased, objectified, and subject to gross cruelty.

I do not have the emotional or mental discipline. I hold those who do in the utmost of respect, and with the highest regard.

In the interest of sharing found bits of knowledge, as I often do, here is a particularly potent passage from Oakes' compelling work:

William Pitman shocked even his family when he came home in a drunken rage one night and tied up a young slave by the neck and heels, beat the boy with a vine, and then "stomped him to death." Pitman's children testified against their father, and one newspaper editor declared that the convicted murderer had "justly incurred the penalties of law."

Yet the open condemnation of extreme cruelty standsin contrast to the pervasive silence on the widespread use of harsh physical punishment. Even the best masters accepted whipping as essential to the maintenance of discipline. When William Dunbar found one of his slaves drunk, he had the bondsman "confined to the Bastile." The following day Dunbar "ordered him 500 lashes...in order to draw a Confession from him." The slave acknowledged his misdeed and was promptly chained about the ankles. After several days, Dunbar had the irons "taken off, his leg being swelled, as I intend carrying him up to Point Coupee, where I shall see him if I find an opportunity." Dunbar skillfully employed public punishment in an effort to terrorize all of his slaves. At one point he "ordered the Wench Bessy out of Irons, & to receive 25 lashes with a Cow Skin as a punishment & Example to the rest."

It did not take much provocation for William Byrd to raise the lash. He whipped slaves for not reporting their illnesses, for "laziness," for wetting the bed, for "doing nothing." Byrd branded one slave with a hot iron and put a bit in her mouth. He forced another to take "a pint of piss to drink." That Byrd does to appear to have been a particularly cruel master reinforces the conclusion that physical abuse was not an aberration, but rather a hallmark of slavery. As such, it contributed to the dehumanization of the slaves in the masters' eyes.

Such cruelty followed logically from the nearly universal goal of the slaveholders--material advancement.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Peanut Gallery Speaks: A Video of a 29 Year Old Barack Obama Surfaces; Conspiranoid Conservatives Go Crazy

I love the Right-wing echo chamber and their peanut gallery. Of course, extreme partisanship and gross ideology leaves all involved less intelligent and prone to drooling, half-formed mouth utterances; but what counts as "discourse" by populist Conservatives, and their supplicants, rises above mere mediocrity and to the level of performance art.

A new video of a "young" 29 year old Barack Obama has recently surfaced. In this "Black History Minute," he offers a comment on Charles Hamilton Houston, the mentor of the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. This video is a novelty in the best sense of the word: the soon to be first black president of the United States reflecting on the first African American member of the Supremes; we get a glimpse of a boyish, accomplished, and not yet fully polished man, who would soon become the most powerful person on planet Earth.

In all, some good stuff.

But, if you wear the blinders of the Tea Party GOP and are addicted to the Right-wing talking point crack rock, you see something nefarious, racist, a sign of all the evil that is to come, and evidence of a conspiracy by the "mainstream media" to suppress the release of this decades old video because it would have derailed Barack Obama's campaign for President.

I do love the twisted, labyrinth-like, minds of those who reside in the Right-wing echo chamber--as we must study our enemies in the interest of protecting the Common Good.

As I occasionally do, dredging the sewer and septic tank of the Conservative blogosphere for your enjoyment, here is a selection of comments from the Daily Caller:

joe grandberg

Those who espouse "fixing the deficits" by stripmining more revenue from the productive class have no comprehension of the trillions owed and the continuing indebtedness thanks to this president. It is mathematically impossible to pay off at any rate of "growth" so the US will PRINT or DEFAULT. Are you prepared? You'll remember dismissing these comments as "hyperbole" and regret not listening.

Joseph Hores

The conservative Republicans are the only ones who I see actually supporting the constitution. The (so-called conservatives, as you call them) faulse conservatives, are the 'so-called' neo-cons, and rinos. Real conservatives are not bad for the republic. If not for the conservatives, the Progressive Left would have this country much farther down the toilet of Socialism.

The Left uses the accusation of racisim because they 'feel' that they can get some taction, due to the fact that they still think that everyone is afraid of the charge. Liberalism is not about being honest, it is about wining with any propaganda and mud slinging that is usable. Grow up, the Libs care not one little bit about honest debate exept to avoid it.

You are not doing much good at dissuading pepole of the notion of that Ron Paul folks have a high percentage of NUTS.

John Breckenridge


his English in this video is without any Southern or Black sounding accents.
Wow, he later on must have put a lot of effort in order to sound like a black
person who was born and raised in the United States of America!


Twenty years ago was about the time the "Rev" Wright, David Axelrod and other American hating Socialist started grooming BHO to be the Socialist Dictator of the United States.


Then you are aware of the racism that is behind the attacks on Herman Cain -- Mr. Cain, in all likelihood, has GOT to be obama's "worst nightmare", and I truly believe that with Herman Cain's business success, REAL intellectual prowess, and even his FAR more personable demeanor, a Herman Cain presidency would sppotlight the FLAWS in the "obama adventure" we've all be subjected to. If Cain is the nominee, I WOULD ABSOLUTELY vote for him!!!!


Vet their leaders??? No, destroy the Republicans. B.O. has admitted to using pot and cocaine. He has been accused of homosexual sex, (heard that on the drive by media?) his administration has been involved with funding (money laundering) his top donors and unions, ie UAW, SEIU, AFL-CIO, and teachers unions through the stimulus bill, Solyndra, Beacon Power, etc. His administration has 1/2 as much of the debt as ALL THE PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATIONS SINCE GEORGE WASHINGTON, all spent on failed policies.

The B.O. Administration has been involved in Operation Fast and Furious, which would have brought down any president if the media were honest and dug into this. They have raped the treasury and thrown this country into a depression, refused to make NECESSARY cuts in spending to entitlements and unrealistic programs (NEA, PBS, NPR) that can only lead to further collapse and calamity, and embraced the lawless anarchy and riots that are going on at this very moment (just wait till next spring/summer).

No, The press isnt interested in vetting. They are interested in destroying any competitor to B.O. as they are not only complacent, but complicate. They are the propaganda wing of the White House.


The Marxist, Islamist, anti American and his training wheels. No one can watch this and think were he not Black, he never would have been the editor of the Harvard Law Review. Were he White, he would have been seen as mediocre. It reminds me of the saying,' It's easy to stand out when the level of competence is so low." Everyone should be judged on their ability, this affirmative action crap at all levels of society has resulted in an "adjusted scale" for competence, and frankly, this sub standard POTUS is costing the US dearly home and abroad. We can't afford to select or promote someone because they are a color we want to feel good about ourselves!


OHMGOD! FTA: "As the 2012 election cycle heats up, the Obama campaign should expect more early videos to be unearthed as Americans take a closer look at the early beliefs of their President."

Don't you think the MEDIA and those Americans should have done their homework the first time!!!!

This man is a fraud those of us screaming it in 2008, were poo poo'd as fanatics, NOW America's CHICKENS are coming home to roost!

Elilla Shadowheart

Boy oh boy. The media sure could have done a bang up job nearly 4 years ago digging this up. But nah, what the hell am I talking about. This guy is their pet favorite.


I'd believe that this is barack obama except for one thing -- he's ACTUALLY LOOKING INTO the camera! The barack obama we all know now almost NEVER does that -- HIS head is on a swivel from one TOTUS to the other -- and looking straight into the camera is NOT what liars do!!!!

None None

You should have used a qualifier, "Allegedly graduated from Harvard Law School". No one has ever seen a transcript or diploma to prove it and no one remembers having classes with him.


DEmocratic policies responsible for Economic collapse you can go back to Jimmy Carter who passed the community reinvestment act when the Govt started forcing Banks to make risky loans to the poor then the DOPE from HOPE Bill Clinton doubled down on Community reinvestment act and made it easier for the poor to buy houses which gave us the Sub prime no income verification process were people were allowed to borrow upwards of 500,000 thousand clams without even haven to prove they had a JOB. Left Wing Social engineering at its worst. Hey loonie Leftist havent you herd? Central planning does not Work it failed in Russia,North Korea,Cuba etc.Best thing to do is cut size of Federal Govt by 90% the Founders understood the limitations of Govt seems like the american people have lost their way if they think Govt can fix things.Govt would screw up a cup of coffee.


There's a video on you-tube where a young woman on welfare desribes her benefits: free housing, food stamps even for McDonald's and other fast food places, free daycare. She ends by saying "Why would I want to work:".. That's the Obama notion for all of America.


So did his white half do a "white history minute?" You know, the half that didn't abandon him... the half that raised him... the "typical white person" half. It's all about race with this douchebag... then and now. I guess when you've got no other qualifications or executive acumen, you have to trade on the ancestry of your deadbeat dad and a teleprompter.


There is no need rationalizing with the liberal left. They have their opinion and the middle and right has their own. There is no compromise nor agreement to be had. The embrace of the ows crowd by this administration and the lib democraps in wa is understanding enough. They are the enemy as bad or worse than any abroad in the eyes of the right. They loath us on the right and we loath them right back.


Yes, the voice is discernibly deeper, but the tone is much less condescending or arrogant. Perhaps he should just let Michelle keep his balls a while longer.


You don't know what the f*ck your even talking about . We broke from England to be free of a strong central all powerful government . Obma 'would be king if he could and you know it .
Leftist swine like you want the same kind of all powerful government that owns and runs and dictates EVERYTHING and takes care of you , cradle to the grave. Thats the exact opposite of why the country was formed. Now that I have sufficiently smacked the crap out of your stupid statements I think you need to get off line and let educated folks talk on here. Marixist a hole


Thats Not the Same Person who Goes by the Alias of Obama look at his Buck Teeth and
Cheek Bones, No We Know Why the Stooge Secret Service Collaborators when Searching
for a Water Glass that went missing at a Recent Fund Raiser So No One Could Lift the
Finger Prints the Person in this Video has Long Been Liquidated.


"I'm Arrogant Phony, Barack Obama. "formed a cadre" and "masterminded" "Mr. Justice ....Thurgood Marshall." "I've never done and never will, accomplish anything. I'm Barack Obama and I'm an angry half-black who is glomming onto a cause to make a false life out of my false life." "It's all I've got and my life is a lie and I am a lie." "Thank you for noticing who really awesome I am. I have a gift.........for BS."


"Additional vintage videos of the president may yet emerge for the benefit of a public more eager than ever to vet their future leaders."

Yeah, in 2007 and 2008 our corrupt media gave a big pass to Obama. They did not look into ANYTHING about his background. Nor did they whine when Obama produced noting in terms of his history...school grades, who paid for his education, etc, etc.
What we did get were two books written by Obama (or BIll Ayers, his American born America hater)


I find it hard to believe anyone would vote for obama. He has destroyed our country and four more years with him will be total destruction. Forget his color, his liberalism, his false promises and education yourself about what is going on. It's not hard, just look around you and compare the last four years and the four years before obama. Hint: gas was about $1.75 a gallon before obama's time in the WH. It wouldn't hurt to study history either, try Argentina, it was a thriving country before its downfall. With obama America is following the same pattern.

Perhaps IQ tests should be given before anyone can vote.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Disposable History: Tweeting World War Two; Tweeting The Middle Passage and Slavery; Losing Ourselves

I am a bit ambivalent about "tweeting" World War 2...

There is a great deal of pressure to make the study of history and politics "relevant" to "the general public" and "young learners." The arguments are familiar: history must be made to come "alive" if it is to remain relevant; technology is an aid, an enhancement to how we share information and communicate with one another. Thus, it must be embraced, lest our culture stagnate.

I am not a Luddite. However, I do not think that newer is necessarily better. In the case of "tweeting" World War 2, I am unsure if there is any value gained from the exercise. Moreover, there is a wealth of film, radio, and other footage about World War 2--much of it still not seen or heard by the general public--so why reinvent the wheel?

Alwyn Collison is ambitious and should be commended for his efforts. Nevertheless, the question remains: what does an instantaneous, blow-by-blow accounting of World War 2 "as it happened" on Twitter expose, accomplish, or make more clear?

My worry about these types of projects is not that Google (and the Internet, more generally) is making us more stupid (which remains an open question). Rather, that some experiences are cheapened, and basic misunderstandings of the complexity of social/historical and political events furthered, by a limitation of form. Can a person really capture the spirit of World War Two in bits of text that are no longer than 140 characters?

Reality is mediated. We learn about the world in part through the mass media, and are also bounded by the limits of our own sensory perceptions. These limitations are important: they form the experience of a moment, and color how we locate a specific historical event in the proper framework and context.

For example, World War 2 was a war of radio and film. These mediums were central to how publics understood these world-changing events. The Civil War was a war of the telegraph and photographs. The Great War straddled these two moments. For outcomes, both ill and good, The Gulf Wars and the Afghan campaign are conflicts typified by immediate and near-instantaneous communication.

The lag between events, and how people removed from those direct happenings experienced them afterward, is part of the spirit of that age; in turn, distance and removal impacted how policy makers, the public, and elites responded to them. The closing of the distance between the front lines, war fighters, and commanders has changed how wars are fought. Ironically, the American public now gets its information "instantaneously" too--but, only after it has been sterilized and processed into an approved package by the propagandists, spin doctors, and dream merchants at the Pentagon and White House.

But, what of events that are made too comprehensible by Twitter, and thus in their immediacy gain "a matter of factness" which robs them of their import and historical weight?

For example:

How would one "tweet" the uprisings in the Warsaw Ghetto?

"The fighting is intense. We are out of ammo. Being killed and surrounded."

How would one "tweet" their being set upon by the SS as they are herded into cattle cars to the death camps?

"So scared. What is happening. They are taking our luggage, robbing people, beating them."

How would one "tweet" the bombings of Nagasaki or Hiroshima?

"I heard a noise, There was a bright light. I can barely see. I am burned all over. What happened?"

Reaching to another moment, how does one "tweet" The Middle Passage and the Transatlantic Slave Trade?

"Went to the other village. There was a raid. We are being locked up in this castle. Losing reception. So hot, scared, people dying."

How flattening and banal.

Some events ought to be incomprehensible. These same events also benefit from the distance of the photograph, the radio, the page, or perhaps even film and TV. But Twitter? I will have to pass.

Tweeting World War 2 is a well-intentioned effort, but one which is a sign that our culture, and its legacy and meaning, are becoming (if they are already not in fact) utterly disposable and transitory.

We are left with a meta-level, ontological question: How do we communicate meaning in a substantive way, when technology is making so much of our shared experiences utterly ephemeral? Is there even "history" anymore? And should we dare to care?

Friday Fun: Pastor Manning Channels God and Curses Herman Cain and His Daughters

Hat tip to Cnu of Subrealism for sending this link to me.

I was going to post something troubling, depressing, provocative and a testimony of man's inhumanity to man, but I would rather laugh at Brother Manning.

What is the angle here? Pastor Manning hates Obama, and one would think that he would be down for Herman Cain. But, Manning has a habit of allying with the Tea Party White populist of the day (Glenn Beck, Palin, and others) and then turning on them. Is it that Pastor Manning has to be the negro of the moment, he who gets all of the shine, and thus cannot share Massa's stoop?

Regardless of his motives, Manning sons Herman Cain, calls out his sexual perversions, predicts that Providence will visit suffering on Cain's daughters, and paints a picture of the Koch brothers as whore masters for their Tea Party mouth-breathers--and that Herman Cain is their human puppet.

Cursing Cain's daughters aside, and with all that god hoodoo mumbo jumbo discounted, I am gonna have to cosign Pastor Manning's warning to Herb Cornbread Bojangles Cain. He must repent and have hands laid on him so that the purifying waters of righteousness can flow down and over him.

Fate is a trickster. Perhaps, he/she/it could arrange for an old school church tent revival in Harlem, in which Herman Cain publicly confesses his sins, lays prostrate before Pastor Manning, and is naked before the Lord.

We can only dream...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pew Survey Reveals that the Public's Belief in American Exceptionalism is on the Wane: It is All Barack Obama's Fault!

The public has lost faith in the idea of American Exceptionalism. You know this is all Barack Obama's fault. Don't you?

He travels around the world on "apology tours." He refuses to wear an American flag pin on his lapel. Obama was born outside of the American cultural and political tradition and has a deep dislike for this country. In fact, we have long suspected that he isn't even a U.S. citizen. Michelle Obama, the First Lady, did not have pride in America for most of her adult life (as is her selfish way, she only became proud of this great country when her husband was elected president, the nerve of that woman!). Obama even believes that Americans are "lazy." Horatio Alger and the Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves.

And now, the President's lack of faith in American exceptionalism has infected the country's young people. It isn't surprising that those befouled liberals who have been brainwashed in college classrooms by Communist Socialist Fascist Maoist professors believe that America is not a special and exceptional nation. But, the very idea that "real Americans" would believe such a thing, is truly revelatory of the cultural rot which is holding this great nation back at the most inopportune of times, just as the Red Chinese conquer the world.

Seriously folks, what I offer in mocking jest will be the Right-wing talking points of the week when the findings from the Pew survey on American and Western European values trickles down and out to the mouth-breathing, Fox News, talk radio, chattering classes, and then is disseminated to their unwashed masses and Tea Party GOP supplicants.

American exceptionalism is a true lie. It does a good amount of political work in creating a sense of nationalism, legitimating government rule, and providing the fuel for those moments when "we the people" must rally around the flag in defense of the Common Good. A belief in American Exceptionalism, and its auxiliary premise that the United States is a "shining city on the hill" is a great story to play with, to inspire, and to use as a goal and barometer for achieving the best of what we can, and should be, as a nation.

However, as Dick Gregory sharply alluded to in regards to Bill Clinton, he who was our first "black president," it's okay to pretend that a cardboard box is your house, just don't try to use it as your address.

In all, American exceptionalism illuminates as much as it blinds.

For example, a certain generation is unwilling to admit that their understanding of America's role in the world, and the uniqueness of our singular destiny, is a function of a very particular arrangement of circumstances, power, and resources. Those are conditions which do not necessarily hold in the present. One of the key elements in the cultural crisis which is the United States at the nadir of Empire, is that the trope of American exceptionalism has become a cudgel to beat down cosmopolitanism, pragmatism, and creative solutions to challenging public policy dilemmas.

Here, the cultish personality of the Republican Party, and populist conservatism at large, clings to a dead corpse, a type of American exceptionalism that ceases to be valid or real in the present: it is a fetish, a magical totem that has lost its Ju-Ju. Instead of using the ideal of American exceptionalism to inspire ourselves to improve (for example, this country now ranks behind France in terms of inter-generational class mobility), it is now a tool for political chauvinists and bullies.

Feelings trump facts. Sentimentality fuels nostalgia. Nostalgia, a hopeful and inaccurate yearning for, and dreaming of the past, drives contemporary Conservatism. This willful misremembering and misperception of the past fuels the American partisan divide in the year 2012.

Conflicting views on American exceptionalism are central to this story.

The full report, The American-Western European Values Gap, can be found here. A particularly relevant section follows:

Cultural Superiority

About half of Americans (49%) and Germans (47%) agree with the statement, “Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others;” 44% in Spain share this view. In Britain and France, only about a third or fewer (32% and 27%, respectively) think their culture is better than others.

While opinions about cultural superiority have remained relatively stable over the years in the four Western European countries surveyed, Americans are now far less likely to say that their culture is better than others; six-in-ten Americans held this belief in 2002 and 55% did so in 2007. Belief in cultural superiority has declined
among Americans across age, gender and education groups.

As in past surveys, older Americans remain far more inclined than younger ones to believe that their culture is better than others. Six-in-ten Americans ages 50 or older share this view, while 34% disagree; those younger than 30 hold the opposite view, with just 37% saying American culture is superior and 61% saying it is not. Opinions are more divided among those ages 30 to 49; 44% in this group see American culture as superior and 50% do not.

Similar age gaps are not as common in the Western European countries surveyed, with the exception of Spain, where majorities of older respondents, but not among younger ones, also think their culture is better than others; 55% of those ages 50 or older say this is the case, compared with 34% of those ages 30 to 49 and 39% of those younger than 30.

As is the case on other measures, opinions about cultural superiority vary considerably by educational attainment. In the four Western European countries and in the U.S., those who did not graduate from college are more likely than those who did to agree that their culture is superior, even if their people are not perfect.

For example, Germans with less education are twice as likely as those with a college degree to believe their culture is superior (50% vs. 25%); double-digit differences are also present in France (20 percentage points), Spain (18 points) and Britain (11 points), while a less pronounced gap is evident in the U.S. (9 points).

Finally, among Americans and Germans, political conservative are especially likely to believe their culture is superior to others. In the U.S., 63% of conservatives take this view, compared with 45% of moderates and just 34% of liberals. Similarly, a majority (55%) of right-wing Germans see their culture as superior, while 47% of moderates and 34% of those on the political left agree.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Malleability of Truth? Capturing the Friedmans and Jerry Sandusky's Adventures in Pedophilia

I enjoy watching masters at work. There is something about effortless and natural competence which I cannot get enough of: Michael Stones' interviews with serial killers; Shawn Michaels' last two matches with the Undertaker; and now Bob Costas' interview with Jerry Sandusky.

The saga of Penn State University has provided an object lesson in bad behavior. The coaches and staff who suspected that children were being molested. The students who riot over their beloved coach being held accountable for his behavior--but who sadly are more compelled to act like fools over football than to be active and responsibly engaged citizens in their communities and nation. The police and other authorities who looked the other way.

When the families of these children come forth--and do not be mistaken, these "underprivileged" kids are indeed black--the victims will have a face, and the drama will enter another act. Will this be the denouement? Rising action? The climax?

I am unsure. Whatever moment in the drama ensues, it will be both epic and tragic.

Listening to Jerry Sandusky's interview with Bob Costas, I was reminded of the award winning documentary Capturing the Friedmans. One of the best films in recent memory, it exposes how a family quite literally imploded when its patriarch, Arnold Friedman, and his son Jessie, were accused of molesting dozens of children in the community of Great Neck, New York during the 1980s.

The film resonates because it highlights how the very nature of the truth is malleable, and largely dependent on context and perspective. The film is also a damning indictment of our society's culture of victimhood and a legal system that has to confront monsters, while doing its best to adhere to some minimum norm of procedural justice.

There are some eerie similarities between Jerry Sandusky's honesty about "innocent" naked play with young boys, and Arnold Friedman's confession of his own pedophilia. To my ear at least, the resonance of their words is interchangeable.

Frightening. Sad. In all, not surprising in the least bit.

This one is yours folks. I am at a loss for words.