Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On Those Lazy Parasitic Cockroaches Who Want Free Stuff from the Job Creators...

It was a bunch of people who invented the assembly line to make them efficiently and quickly. Government had nothing to do with it! The second point about this is, you know what this really is? This is a bunch of people that don't count. 
This is a bunch of people with miserable, meaningless lives who are lying to themselves; trying to tell themselves that they matter. So you had Mr. Big Factory Owner who is Mr. Big Business Guy and Mr. Wealthy in their view. 
"Well, he didn't do it on his own! He couldn'ta done it without all of us. We built the roads and we built the regulations. We built the stoplights, and we built the trains!" Yeah? Well, if you did all that, how come you're sitting there with nothing? If you made it all happen, how come you've got nothing? "Well, the rich business guy stole it from me! We're the ones that actually made it all happen." 
This is such a crock. 
This is a bunch of meaningless people (who know that their lives don't account for anything) trying to matter, and coming up with this ridiculous philosophy that says, "Successful people have not done it on their own. Successful people only exist because of the nameless, faceless, real, true hard workers." You know, before Marx there was no such thing as class-driven economics. If that guy had been aborted, we'd have a whole different world today. 
--Rush Limbaugh, July 16, 2012 show
Language is violence. Language can incite physical violence and murder. Language can inflict pyschic violence as well. Language can also be used to demean whole groups of people such that their citizenship is called into question as their human value is marginalized.

Of course, we have seen this dynamic at work in genocides around the world. We also saw this same mobilization of language in order to legitimate America's policy of "Manifest Destiny," enslavement of blacks, exploitation of other people of color (both domestically and internationally) in the service of empire, and abuse of the working classes and the poor.

In an earlier post on the sociopathy of Mitt Romney and the Ayn Randian logic of the Tea Party GOP, I alluded to how I never would have imagined that I would live in an era where eliminationist rhetoric has become so apologetically central in our political discourse. It is now common place for Conservatives to talk about "surplus" human beings, and the poor and working classes (and in some cases the middle class), as "parasites." 

For example, Rush Limbaugh, White-wing hate bloviator doubled down on his eliminationist rhetoric yesterday when he suggested that people who are not rich industrialists or financiers are in fact "losers" who never contributed anything to American society. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, in discussing Barack Obama's granting the states more latitude regarding how they dispense federal welfare funds, characterized those millions of Americans in need of public assistance during the Great Depression 2.0 as cockroaches. 

[Random observation, I thought conservatives were all for States' Rights? Riddle me that one...]

Language does political work. It helps to create a type of common sense which naturalizes certain policies. Language shapes public opinion by introducing ideas and concepts which citizens internalize and respond to. Public opinion is a barometer of the public mood; political elites (which includes the media) have a great deal of power over how it is shaped. The manipulation of language through the repetition of certain concepts is integral to all of these dynamics, as it establishes a narrative frame which shapes the nation's political agenda.

The Right's eliminationist language is being used by its agents towards an end goal. It is not floating out there in the social ether, harmless, neutral, and benign. Branding people as cockroaches, non-productive, parasites, who should in turn submit to the "job creators," has been extensively refined, workshopped, and focused grouped. It is not a coincidence that more and more of this rhetoric is being offered up by the Right as the 2012 Presidential campaign moves forward. 

It is a given that the Right wants to eviscerate the social safety net and radically alter the social compact between citizens and their government. However, they can accomplish this goal without using the language of genocide. Why then has the Right and its pundit classes made such a choice? 

These questions are a serious matter.

I am going to start a running feature where I list all of the instances of eliminationist and genocidal language used by the Republican Party and its operatives going forward. I am afraid of what we will discover, but I am compelled nonetheless. 

Moreover, there is a power to metrics here, of presenting a running count with examples and context for these eliminationist appeals. The patterns will tell us a great deal about the themes Right-wing opinion leaders are using to shape their public's mood. When this language starts to bear fruit either in a shifting in public attitudes, or violence (which the hate talkers will deny they have any connection to), we will have a document that points out how this all came to fruition.

As you come across Right-wing eliminationist hate speech by Tea Party GOP candidates, officials, and their media elites, please send me an email so I can keep our list up to date.

The Source Magazine's Most Ironic Moment? The 50 Greatest Hip Hop Lyricists for an Era When Lyricism in Commercial Hip Hop is Dead

I am in a pop culture mood this week given that the finale in Nolan's Batman Trilogy is coming out Friday. I am swollen and heavy, prepared for an epic geekgasm come Thursday at midnight!

I am a member of the hip hop generation. I remember walking down Michigan Avenue one evening and a brother about my age was hustling his CDs to passersby. He asked me if I loved hip hop. I replied that I still love hip hop, but hip hop doesn't love me anymore. 

This does not mean that hip hop has not given me so very much. She has bestowed many opportunities upon me. But, I worry that we have failed her, and by implication the younger heads simply do not know any better because those of us with wisdom have not passed it down...and they, like young folks of every generation, are especially resistant hearing from us "old" heads.

Of course, we age out of youth culture. Such is life. But, and I have said this many times in classrooms, workshops, and at conferences, hip hop--commercial hip hop in particular--is in crisis because 1) we have grown ass men in their 30s and 40s making music for people with the intellectual capacity of 12 year olds; and 2) that mediocrity and low hanging fruit have become the norm and standard for greatness in the craft. 

For folks who grew up in an era when excellence in flow and lyricism actually mattered in how the public appraised and judged an MC's ability, to hear the assorted Two Chainz, Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka nonsense that has become the norm for commercial hip hop is truly depressing. 

For folks of my generation, we could never imagine or dream that any of us could be as good as Rakim, B.I.G., Pac, KRS-ONE, Redman, or Big L. Even more frightening and shocking is that you heard all of those titans on commercial radio. 

Now the heroes are far closer to the public; the music is more democratized. Perhaps it is a personal quirk, but I do not want to be able to stare eye to eye with my gods and idols as equals. It would appear that many do not share this guiding principle as they wallow in the mud of nasty, uncritical populism. As such, this explains a great deal about the state of American political and social life, a moment when mediocrity has been elevated to greatness.

The much (fairly) maligned Source Magazine has offered up its list of the 50 greatest lyricists of all time. I was surprised that while they catered to current trends by including Rick Ross and Lil Wayne on the list, there was not much there to disagree with. 

My only interventions would be that Raekwon and Ghostface are obvious omissions bordering on the criminal. Where is AZ? Ludacris is a beast. Why is he so low? How did Lauryn Hill, who is a glorified RnB singer, even make the list? What about Phife Dog? I do like their ranking of Pac. He had a great deal of heart, and was a great MC, but not the greatest of all time as many would want to anoint him. 

And this may be sacrilege to some, but 50 Cent should be much higher, as he is the synthesis and refinement of a model for the prototypical commercial MC which was offered up many years ago. And frankly, there is no way that Bun B, Fabolous, or Queen Latifah are "more lyrical" MCs than 50 Cent.

How would you (re)rank this list?

Monday, July 16, 2012

White Like Mitt Romney?

I am going to let you in on a big secret. Mitt Romney is white. In certain political circles we are not allowed to talk about such an obvious thing. Conservatives and the Right-wing media also tend to get upset when the American people talk about the fact that Mitt Romney is a white man. Apparently, to do so is to commit an act of “reverse racism”—and we all know that in the Age of Obama there is no greater sin.

I have a second secret that may surprise you as well: I do not care one bit if Mitt Romney is a white man.

Why? Because his racial background means little in the context of the many challenges facing America in the time of the Great Recession. However, this does not mean that Mitt Romney’s particular type of whiteness is unimportant to either his political worldview or his chances of becoming the next President of the United States.

Race still matters despite the “colorblind” rhetoric of the post-civil rights era: it impacts life chances, job opportunities, health care, income, and wealth. Race is also a type of common sense that helps orient people in relation to the world around them. Here, racial identity, while not as fixed as it once was because the color line has evolved over time, influences the neighborhoods in which we live, who we marry and socialize with, our country’s politics, and the types of privileges (unearned or not) that individuals enjoy in this country.

Mitt Romney’s identity as a rich, white, heterosexual man is integral to his political brand. It also explains much of his appeal for conservative voters. This is especially crucial given that since the 1960s, the GOP has effectively become a de facto white political party. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Final Thought on that NAACP "Free Stuff" Speech: Could Mitt Romney be a Sociopath?

That set of facts alone made the “free stuff” speech shockingly offensive. But the problem isn’t just that Romney’s wrong, and a hypocrite, and cynically furthering dangerous and irresponsible stereotypes in order to advance some harebrained electoral ploy involving white conservative voters. What makes it gross is the way he did it. 
Romney can’t even be mean with any honesty. Even when he’s pandering to viciousness, ignorance and racism, it comes across like a scaly calculation. A guy who feels like he has to take a dump on the N.A.A.C.P. in Houston in order to connect with frustrated white yahoos everywhere else is a guy who has absolutely no social instincts at all... 
Most presidents have something under the hood – wit, warmth, approachability, something... 
But Romney doesn’t buzz with anything. His vision of humanity is just a million tons of meat floating around in a sea of base calculations. He’s like a teenager who stays up all night thinking of a way to impress the prom queen, and what he comes up with is kicking a kid in a wheelchair. Instincts like those are probably what made him a great leveraged buyout specialist, but in a public figure? Man, is he a disaster. It’s really incredible theater, watching the Republicans talk themselves into this guy.
Matt Taibbi's observations about Mitt Romney's NAACP speech (and its aftermath) are spot on. As I suggested here, Romney's insincere ploy at bridge-building with African Americans was really an effort to put them "back in their place" by signaling to the GOP base that as President he would not encourage our "parasitic" and "welfare queen" like behavior. This is ugly race baiting of the first order; it is also masterful political strategy.

Taibbi also picks up on how Romney's speech is part of a broader pattern of behavior. Mitt Romney is a bully. As such, he is the perfect candidate for a party of bullies. But, could Mitt Romney also be sociopathic?

This is a bold claim; but given Mitt Romney's behavior, it demands more than a flippant dismissal.

When the public thinks of sociopaths they envision a psychotic killer or mass murder. These are outliers who are more caricatures/ideal typical cases than the rule.

Frighteningly, sociopaths are apparently quite common in American society where they constitute at least 4 percent of the population. They are characterized by a lack of empathy, an inability to form deep and meaningful interpersonal relationships, coldness, and flat affect. In total, the sociopath is marked by a lack of conscience.

They can feign and perform emotional reactions like an actor or actress following a script. However, they do not feel emotions in the same way as "normal" people. In certain professions and trades an amount of sociopathic behavior can actually be an advantage--the world of business, the highest levels of government, and elite military units for example. Robber baron gangster capitalists such as Mitt Romney would certainly find a lack of (or even inhibited) conscience a great aid towards their success.

Ultimately, sociopaths view human beings as chess pieces to be moved and manipulated towards their own personal ends. Here, the following observation as offered in The Sociopath Next Door is both provocative and insightful:
About one in twenty-five individuals are sociopathic, meaning, essentially, that they do not have a conscience. It is not that this group fails to grasp the difference between good and bad; it is that the distinction fails to limit their behavior. The intellectual difference between right and wrong does not bring on the emotional sirens and flashing blue lights, or the fear of God, that it does for the rest of us. 
Without the slightest blip of guilt or remorse, one in twenty-five people can do anything at all...We are not commonly aware of, nor do we usually identify, the larger number of nonviolent sociopaths among us, people who often are not blatant lawbreakers, and against whom our formal legal system provides little defense 
Most of us would not imagine any correspondence between conceiving of ethnic genocide and, say, guiltlessly lying to one's boss about a coworker. But the psychological correspondence is not only there; it is chilling. Simple and profound, the link is the absence of the inner mechanism that beats up on us, emotionally speaking when we make a choice we view as immoral, unethical, neglectful, or selfish...Those who have no conscience at all are a group unto themselves, whether they be homicidal tyrants or merely ruthless military snipers. 
Does this group include Mitt Romney?

Friday, July 13, 2012

From the WTF? Files: The International Global Jewish Conspiracy and the Trayvon Martin Case

I get forwarded videos from sources on both the Left and the Right. I typically do not post them. I am especially loyal to this policy in regards to the white supremacist materials which I am informed about. Given some of the fun we are having here with the various black activists hot sweaty men in an informal think tank aka basement "Anon" trolls who are fixated on a "Jewish conspiracy" to destroy black America, this newest video from David Duke is quite timely.

Help me understand the following if you would. A certain strain of black activist type is obsessed with Jews and believes that they are actively conspiring to hold back and derail the Black Freedom Struggle. Likewise, white nationalists suggest that the Jews are actually manipulating blacks, and have done so historically from Emancipation, and on through to the post Civil Rights era, in order to hold down white Americans.

These theories comprise one of the most fascinating paradoxes in racially chauvinistic political thought. Are there shared origins here that can trace their wellsprings back to centuries-old garden variety anti-Semitism? Or has there been a cross-fertilization of anti-Semitic thought that crosses the color line and just ends up with different mechanisms and consequences for the global Jewish conspiracy in the 21st century?

There is the potential for comedy gold here as our various "Anons" end up arguing with whatever white nationalist types who may find their way to this discussion thread about Trayvon Martin and the "Jewish Media."

This could be more than mildly entertaining.

The Law of Unintended Consequences: My Early Review of the New Movie "The Obama Effect"

I always tell folks the truth; I don't pull any punches. Is that to my advantage or disadvantage? We shall see.

I just got back from an early screening of the new film The Obama Effect that is premiering across the country during these next few weeks. Here is my review. Consider yourself warned.


The Obama Effect is a well intentioned, but tonally confused and challenged movie that follows the political awakening of an African-American insurance agent named John Thomas, portrayed by the always reliable Charles Dutton, during the 2008 Presidential election.

Despite its many flaws in tempo and tone, The Obama Effect is a healthy and much desired departure from the black buffoonery and new age race minstrelsy foolishness offered up by Tyler Perry and others of his ilk.

The Obama Effect also features a great group of reliable black and Latino “B” actors who deliver solid performances. Unfortunately, just like Dutton, they are unable to transcend a poorly written script.

The Obama Effect’s plot is simple in its premise, but becomes increasingly confused and overwrought as the movie continues through to its conclusion. Charles Dutton’s character is an everyman who is forced to face his mortality after suffering a near fatal heart attack while arguing about politics at a hot dog stand with his friends…and yes, this scene does in fact occur in the movie.

As he recovers, John Thomas realizes that supporting then candidate Barack Obama’s run for the White House is a personal, almost religious, calling. Thomas subsequently dedicates himself to Obama’s campaign—even quitting his job to do so—and the plot finds its momentum going forward from this odd and bizarre choice.

Along the way, we encounter a range of characters such as Thomas’ loyal wife played by Vanessa Colloway, his Latino neighbors, an ex-con trying to stay on the right path, and their respective children and love interests. Kat Williams’ character Martin Luther Kennedy steals the show as a black Republican who is a hybrid of the foolish showmanship of 2012 Tea Party GOP candidate Herman Cain and the much maligned black conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

However, The Obama Effect meanders from a film about politics, to one about family relationships, to a sports drama about corruption in boxing, a public service announcement about the dangers of heart disease and obesity in the black community, a meditation on the “browning of America,” a reflection on felony disenfranchisement laws, and an exploration of the political and social tensions between blacks and Latinos.

If the producers and writers of The Obama Effect had decided to do a narrow drama focused on the relationship between Dutton’s and Williams’ characters they would have been much better served. Alternatively, if The Obama Effect decided to be a straight political comedy such as Idiocracy (or even a dark comedy such as Wag the Dog), the final product would have been much improved.

The central problem with The Obama Effect lies in its genre label as a “dramatic comedy.” This is a signal to a basic problem that the film’s creators cannot overcome.

While all of the performances are sincere—especially Dutton’s—the film is not sure about what it wants to be. The audience seemed confused as well, where they laughed at inappropriate times and seemed confused about the general direction of the film. Hybrid descriptions of a film’s intent like “dramatic comedy” are usually signs that its creators were not able to reconcile the project’s tone and direction. The Obama Effect would seem to validate this wisdom, as it tried to be all things to all viewers and left most unsatisfied.

For example, in one of the most odd and bizarre plot devices in the film, Dutton’s character speaks to a spectral, ghost-like vision of Barack Obama who offers him wisdom and guidance akin to a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits TV show episode. John Thomas is either crazy, deranged, impassioned, or just off of his anti-psychotic meds—the film offers little clarification in this regard. The film’s narrative is also awkward here: are we to laugh at Dutton’s obvious mental health issues and bizarre fetish for Barack Obama? Or are we to be inspired by his dedication to a political cause that he truly believes in? Is Dutton a Democratic and liberal version of the tragic black conservative character Uncle Ruckus in the Boondocks cartoon, a man who obsesses about Ronald Reagan and has ghostly visions of his idol? Should we embrace Dutton’s character or pity him?

I am a resident of Hyde Park in Chicago. I live down the street from the President. I voted for Barack Obama in the last election and will do so again (not because of a sense of racial group affinity, but rather because I find Mitt Romney and the Tea Party GOP’s policies a hellish alternative that I cannot in good conscience support).

I have also spoken to Barack Obama when he was a senator (and local celebrity) on more than one occasion—he is cool people. I cried when he was elected because I thought that given this country’s history that a black American like me could never become President of the United States. The power of that moment is hard to communicate across lines of race—trust me it was real, sincere, and deeply felt. As such, it was fascinating to see The Obama Effect in Chicago with a predominantly African-American audience.

The movie has an unintended impact and meaning. While The Obama Effect focuses on “hope and change,” and the excitement of that singularly important political and history changing moment, I left the film feeling sad and depressed. The dreams we impose on a candidate rarely survive the difficulties of practical governance—Obama’s tenure is proof of that fact.

Thus I must ask the following question. After watching the film, will Obama’s supporters be left feeling buoyed for what could have been and that which has not yet transpired? Or will they be upset and disgusted?

After seeing The Obama Effect I am concerned that his detractors will have further evidence of “group think,” and silly stereotypes about “Obamabots” and “Obamazombies” (voters who supported the President without thinking because they were caught up in the thrill of the moment) as ammunition to attack the country’s first President who happens to be black.

Of course this is not fair, and is an incomplete analysis of how voters come to decide if they should support a given presidential candidate. Nevertheless, it is a failing of The Obama Effect that the film could have an impact which is precisely the opposite as intended by its creators. This is the central problem with The Obama Effect: after watching the movie viewers are potentially left feeling less supportive of the President than before they entered the theater.

There is no way that such a sentiment can be considered a success given the plot and tone of the movie.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Did Mitt Romney Want to Get Booed by the NAACP in Order to Shore Up His Right-wing Bonafides?

Even before Mitt Romney delivered his speech before the NAACP National Convention on Wednesday, it seemed unlikely that his primary motive was to convince large numbers of black voters to turn against President Obama. After the speech, many pundits concluded that Romney actually wanted to get booed, and he even admitted in an interview that he "expected" to get a negative response. By the end of the day, things took a nastier turn when Romney told supporters that if those in the NAACP audience like "free stuff," they should vote for Obama, prompting some to accuse him of race baiting.
As my grandmother would say, Mr. Charlie sure can be smart and tricky.

We speculated about Mitt Romney's reasons for speaking before the NAACP given the pitiful support he enjoys among black voters. Was it a symbolic gesture? Was Romney sincere in his effort to court the black vote? Could it be that the NAACP was not the real intended audience for Romney's speech?

Mitt Romney is turning iron into gold here. Disdain and hostility for black people (and other people of color) is the glue that holds together contemporary conservatism in America. The boos of the NAACP in response to Mitt Romney's stated promise to work against the policy priorities of that organization are points scored in the eyes of the white Right.

Rush Limbaugh "white-wing" conservative bloviator would seem to echo this possibility:
Rush Limbaugh said Mitt Romney’s speech Wednesday to the NAACP fell flat because it was “over these people’s heads” and that the group booed the Republican candidate, who “sounded like Snow White with testicles,” simply because he’s white.
Limbaugh, who regularly refers to the NAACP as the “NAALCP” — the extra L is for “liberal” — claimed that President Barack Obama insulted the group by sending Vice President Joe Biden instead. 
“He’s confident they’ll boo Romney, simply because Romney’s white,” Limbaugh said. “He’s confident of that. But he knows that he’s gonna have hell to pay in private meetings with these people. He’s not gonna get anywhere near it. So what an insult. Here’s Obama sending Biden, not going himself.” 
Limbaugh portrayed the crowd at the NAACP’s annual convention in Houston as ignorant of what was good for them and susceptible to pandering from Obama and other Democratic politicians. 
“This group wants to hear about tax increases and bigger government to take care of people,” he said, according to a transcript. “They don’t want to hear about self-reliance, they don’t want to hear about free enterprise. Free enterprise means you’ve gotta do it yourself. Free enterprise means it’s up to you. Free enterprise means you’re on your own. This group doesn’t want to hear that. I don’t think Romney got a single vote in here today.”
As I observed regarding his genius campaign slogan which argues that Barack Obama is a lazy black man, Romney is a devious foe. Deadly in fact. Romney's speech before the NAACP was a classic misdirection and feint. Just like in chess, or on the battlefield, be very mindful of what the enemy is giving you--the real attack is usually coming from where you least expect it.

Mitt Romney, the NAACP, Ayn Rand, and Libertarian Racism

Mitt Romney is polling at about 1 percent support among African Americans. Consequently, he had nothing to lose by giving an address to the NAACP yesterday.

I will give Mitt Romney extra points for showing up before such a hard audience. Given how Romney was booed, and the unpopularity of his policies, such a speech before the NAACP took some tenacity (others would call it hubris) and strength of conviction.

However, politics is ultimately about winning friends, giving interest groups something they want in order to support you, and securing the votes of a given public: Mitt Romney fell flat in all these regards before the NAACP on Wednesday.

Consider the following. What politician, who is serious about winning over a constituency, spends time in front of one of their most important organizations, and then proceeds to tell them, to their faces, about his support for policies which would hurt them and/or are counter to their interests?

Black folks support President Obama's health care reforms. Black folks disproportionately work for federal and state governments--and are thus put out of their jobs and on the street by Romney and the Republican Party's assault on the public sector and unions. Black folks, as a group of Americans disproportionately represented among the working and lower middle classes, would see their taxes go up under Romney's proposed tax initiatives.

Yet, in a major speech before the NAACP, Mitt Romney says he will work against all of those stated interests and priorities. Riddle you that one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

For Ghetto Nerds and Grognards: Just Like a Good Iron Monger War Profiteer, Pratt & Whitney is Caught Selling U.S. Military Technology to China

The Canadian arm of the aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney closed a six-year U.S. government probe last week by admitting that it helped China produce its first modern attack helicopter, a serious violation of U.S. export laws that drew a multimillion dollar fine. 
At the same time it was helping China, the company was separately earning huge fees from contracts with the Pentagon, including some in which it was building weapons meant to ensure that America can maintain decisive military superiority over China's rising military might. 
The Chinese helicopter that benefited from Pratt's engines and related computer software, now in production, comes outfitted with 30 mm cannons, anti-tank guided missiles, air-to-air missiles and unguided rockets. "This case is a clear example of how the illegal export of sensitive technology reduces the advantages our military currently possesses," Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said in a statement released on June 28. 
The events are once again raising questions about the circumstances under which major defense contractors might be barred from government work. Independent watchdogs have long complained that few such firms have been barred or suspended, even for egregious lawbreaking, such as supplying armaments or related equipment to a hypothetical adversary. 
Nothing in the settlement agreement, in which Pratt & Whitney and two related companies, United Technologies and Hamilton Sundstrand agreed to pay a total of $75 million for multiple violations of export rules, directly threatens Pratt's existing or future government contracting.
Gangster Capitalist Mitt Romney and his handlers are trying to massage away the difference between "outsourcing" and "offshoring" in order to protect the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee's reputation as a defender of the common man and the American dream.  

Regardless of this exercise in Orwellian newspeak, we are reminded once more of how corporations are sociopathic, and not at all beholden to notions of patriotism, nationalism, or the Common Good.

More from the Atlantic:
When Hamilton finally discovered the military use of its software in Feb. 2004, it shut down its production in less than a week. Pratt, still holding out hope for the large civilian helicopter contract, picked up where Hamilton Sundstrand left off and exported its own versions of the software to China through June 2005. 
Prosecutors, in a court filing, said the company turned a "blind eye" to any doubts because it was hungry to earn up to $2 billion from the civilian program. Canadian authorities, after being told about the parallel Z10C helicopter, approved the export of 10 engines. 
Pratt & Whitney's Canadian subsidiary next asked its sister subsidiary Hamilton Sundstrand -- headquartered in the United States -- to write the software needed to control the engines, without saying that the purpose was to equip a military helicopter. From January 2002 to October 2003, Hamilton Sundstrand exported 12 versions of the software to Pratt & Whitney, which sent six of those on to China for use in the development model of the Z10 helicopter, according to the settlement agreement. 
United Technologies made a limited disclosure about its involvement to the State Department in 2006, after an institutional investor said it was researching the company's role in helping China's military and threatened to disinvest. The company has now admitted that disclosure -- which claimed the company believed at the outset there were dual civilian and military helicopter programs -- was inaccurate. 
In the end, Pratt got little more for its troubles than a federal probe. In early 2006, China's Aviation Industry Corporation told Pratt & Whitney the supposedly parallel civilian helicopter development would be scrapped. Instead, China said it would instead build a much larger civilian helicopter, too large for the engines built by Pratt & Whitney.
According to the Justice Department's statement announcing the settlement, the first batches of the Z10 attack helicopter were delivered to the People's Liberation Army of China in 2009 and 2010.
China is a (rising) superpower. It is not at all outside of the realm of reason or possibility that the United States and her allies will be in a conflict with China in the near future. Yet, an American company sells them the software and technology necessary, in violation of the law, to make their war machine more effective at killing American soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines.

There will be few if any consequences for this act of treason. The issue is too technical for the public to latch onto as presently framed; political elites live in a revolving door universe where they move seamlessly from the public to the private sector; and the military-industrial complex has so much money and influence over American life that few folks have the moral fortitude or personal integrity to speak up against it.

Apparently, such trading of technology and secrets between "rival" nations by their corporate actors in order to profit maximize is not at all new or novel. 

For example, I am finally finishing up Adam Hochschild's World War One social history To End All Wars. There he details a similar story of corporate self-interest working contrary to the public good. 

Until reading  To End All Wars, I did not know that during World War One German and British companies traded weapons and material with each other while the citizens of those respective countries were simultaneously killing each another by the millions.

Henry Ford was a notorious anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer. His companies made arms and equipment for the Allies while also providing material support to the Nazis during World War 2.

After the horrors of World War One, the Nye Report on the "merchants of death" concluded that arms manufacturers had a vested interest in war, would act to encourage conflict, and were agents who had little commitment to peace, international stability, or global order. If given the chance, the iron mongers would create and encourage war and killing in order to fatten their bottom line and the shareholders' wallets. 

The corporation is a sociopathic entity. Consequently, if the corporation was a person it would likely be a serial killer. It has been decades since what was good for General Electric was good for Main Street. Ironically, many Americans--especially conservatives where such a belief is held with religious zeal--take this sentiment to still be true.

If the modern corporation is indeed sociopathic, would it not follow that its CEO's and managers are similarly inclined? Why does this not automatically disqualify a candidate like Mitt Romney as a potential protector of the general welfare and steward of our national prosperity?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Freedom Dreams: Paul Gilroy on The Age of Obama vs. The Age of Malcolm X

I occasionally bemoan how the Internet has taken the mystery out of geek and nerd culture. Like others, I too am worried about how social media and the democratization of information has encouraged a dysfunctional public discourse. Anyone can claim expertise with little vetting; opinion based news is now dominant; emotions and feelings are privileged as a type of evidence in lieu of empirical rigor and critical thinking.

However, there are times when the Internet and the digital revolution can aid learning as opposed to stifle it. This great panel discussion about the legacy of Malcolm X is one such example. In the near past, it would have taken months or years for a video or transcript of an event such as this one to circulate. Now, the public has ready access to these types of conversations. This is a net gain.

The featured panelists at the Legacy of Malcolm X conference held in February 2012 are a wonderful mix of thinkers. Paul Gilroy is a noted and highly accomplished philosopher who is best known for his foundational work The Black Atlantic. Tariq Ramadan is a scholar of Islamic Studies, a philosopher, and is frequently called upon to comment on the relationship between religion, secular ethics and law, and the future of a more cosmopolitan Islam. Zead Ramadan is Chairman of the Board for the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Center, and was a family friend of the late Malcolm X.

Heroes are (almost by definition) myths. Some members of the public hold on to these fictions in order to find strength and inspiration. Others find these fictions troublesome and thus take great pleasure in disabusing people of silly thoughts and childish dreams. 

As we have discussed here on a number of occasions, I like my heroes a bit rough around the edges. For me, the details of a person's shortcomings, complexities, and quirks makes them more accessible, and an object of more admiration as opposed to less. Martin Luther King Jr. may have been a womanizer and in many ways a hypocrite (and even a plagiarist). Muhammad Ali was a cruel trickster and provocateur who manipulated the country's ugly racial politics to his own ends.

Malcolm X may have had sex with a man (to some this is an unforgiveable possibility).

Moreover, despite how Brother Malcolm is lionized, he was not a perfect thinker, and much of the political ideology he channeled was not a good fit for confronting the practical political realities (and constraints) of Jim and Jane Crow America.

Their accomplishments are made no less great because of these facts.

Paul Gilroy's intervention about black masculinity and how we, black men in particular, invest ourselves in Brother Malcolm is one of the high points of this panel. But as we approach the 2012 Presidential Election, Gilroy's plain spoken realpolitik observations about Barack Obama as a man whose race is secondary to the institutional constraints placed upon him merits (re)emphasis. As he suggests, we can be a society where race is meaningless, but where racism and white supremacy are still a changing same which governs much of American political and social life.

For all of the talk in 2008 about post racial America, and the promise of a President who happened to be black, many in the public forgot that whoever is elected to the country's highest office is a cog in a bigger machine. To believe that you could have radical transformational change through institutional politics was a chimera and a joke. The system is designed to be sedentary, slow, and constrained by inertia. As such, the Age of Obama vs. the Age of Malcolm is a false comparison. The latter was a figure who worked outside of the system (and in fact created little actionable political change); the former is a product of a multicultural, elite class which is deeply invested in maintaining the status quo of the American as a passive consumer-citizen in a market democracy, and of protecting America as an empire.

Many first time, as well as young voters, did not understand this basic fact of American political life. Now, they are disenchanted and less likely to support Obama in the 2012 election. He is not a radical. He is not a "black" president. Obama is quite simply the President of the United States, and a figure who is part of a system which is beholden to certain interests above and beyond all others.

How do we reenergize these disaffected voters? Can we work with their newly gained political maturity in the interest of the Common Good in order to mobilize them against the plutocrats and the Ayn Rand Tea Party GOP? Or are they just disgusted and are going to sit this election out, thus letting Romney, the far worse of the alternatives, into the White House come November?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Suggestions Please: On the Obligatory Necessity of Developing a Commenting Policy for We Are Respectable Negroes

I like to ask folks for feedback. One of the things I have to decide in the next few months as I move We Are Respectable Negroes forward is what to do about an official commenting policy. 

When I started We Are Respectable Negroes I wanted to create a salon of sorts where different people could talk about topics and issues that are not receiving due attention in the mainstream media. Consequently, there is much complexity of thought and opinion surrounding the various issues addressed on this site. We talk about race, politics, popular culture, history, academia, and other issues of both private and public concern. Sometimes these exchanges can become impassioned. However, they should still be grounded in mutual respect, intellectual honesty, and rigor. 

I also decided to have a relatively relaxed policy towards comments and posting. I have chosen to leave the option available for folks to post anonymously for example. I also do not require OpenId or registering in order to comment here on WARN. I did this so that new folks could feel free to contribute without being unduly hindered. Blogger's software is also not very robust in the options it allows for comment moderation. Consequently, this choice was a practical one as well.

I have a few questions--especially for those of you who read WARN but do not comment--this is also a chance for lurkers to introduce themselves as well. 

Is the current tone of the comment section encouraging or discouraging you from participating? Are there issues you would like to discuss but feel that your point of view would be dismissed, subject to bullying, or otherwise rejected prima facie by other posters? Is there anything I could do as an administrator to make you more likely to chime in?

We have a nice group of folks who always comment. My goal is to broaden that community as much as possible, while still allowing for civil discourse. As we broaden the conversation, out of necessity we are going to have to ensure that some basic rules of order, politeness, and common sense are stated plainly for those new arrivals.

At some point, I am going to have to write a more formal commenting policy. For now, here are my principles going forward here on We Are Respectable Negroes. Please feel free to make suggestions.

1. Don't be impolite. Please be respectful of the other commenters. The goal here is to have a robust conversation. WARN is not a "chat site" or place to "try to get your name up" by "owning" other people. This site is also not an opportunity for you to blog by proxy. If you want to share your talking points, propagandize, write a treatise, or free ride, you should start your own web project. If you would like to offer up a guest post please email me and we can talk about your proposed idea.

2. Keep the conversation moving forward. Chime in on the topic at hand, relate it to other pertinent matters. Share some readings, links, or other material that could enlighten us. Conversations have a life of their own. That can be indulged without derailing the topic at hand.

3. Disagreement is welcome and encouraged. We Are Respectable Negroes is not an amen corner. However, if you cannot disagree without calling names, acting childishly, or generally being a jerk, then please refrain from posting. I am pretty flexible and pragmatic. Readers who have been here longer and have a track record get much more leeway than new arrivals. The rule still generally holds. Such is life. 

4. I reserve the right to delete comments which are not moving us forward or that otherwise violate these very basic guidelines for civil conversation. I also reserve the right to ban repeat offenders. I have only done this on one occasion. I hope that I will never have to do so again. After talking to other people who have been writing online for much longer than me (and are much more successful at it), I am slowly coming to see the wisdom of occasionally pulling the weeds out of the garden in order to encourage growth and new life.

5. I write about the topics which interest me. I do not write for the approval of others or to otherwise please people. I enjoy learning from all the good folks who have found their way to WARN. However, I am not going to be subject to the whims of others who get upset because I do not parrot or mirror their political views, hobbies, or interests. As I always say, the Internet is a big place; feel free to start up your own project.

6. I believe in free speech. However, free speech is not a license to be rude, uncivil, harass, bully, or heckle others here on WARN. If this is your preferred means of interacting with people online it is not a good fit for We Are Respectable Negroes.

7. For now, I am going to leave the "anonymous" option available for those who would like to comment. However, I am going to be very robust in policing comments written under that category. I would suggest picking a name and using it for purposes of encouraging responsible dialogue where we can all learn by talking--and hopefully listening more--to each other. 

Fifteen Kids and Three Baby Daddies: Of Welfare Queens and the Guilt of President Obama by (Black) Association

This is going to be a huge story in the Right-wing media. 

The 2012 presidential election is going to be very, very close. It is a given that Mitt Romney and the Tea Party GOP will use any means necessary to defeat Barack Obama--honorable or otherwise. In addition, they are much buoyed by the recent unemployment data which suggests a further stagnating economy and an extremely vulnerable incumbent: no President in the modern era has won reelection with unemployment figures as dismal as those offered up on Friday.

In these next few months I am going to be detailing the nuts and bolts of how Mitt Romney and the Tea Party GOP are going to use sophisticated appeals to white racial resentment in order to defeat the country's first President who happens not to be white. 

For example, as I suggest here, Mitt Romney's "Obama isn't working" slogan is one of the most nakedly racist campaign slogans which American politics has seen in many years. 

This is part of a broader strategy. The Republican primaries featured almost every degenerate and racist stereotype that can be used to slur black personhood and humanity: their strategy was so brazen that it even included a "black" candidate named Herman Cain who was a walking double-corked, race minstrel. 

The 2012 election will only see more of this Southern Strategy 2.0 redoubled for the Age of Obama.

To this point, the Tea Party GOP has successful deployed Ayn Rand conservatism, with its language of "surplus/unproductive" people and "job creating" citizens, to hoodwink the white authoritarian inclined populist classes into supporting policies which are against their immediate political and economic self-interest(s). 

Attitudes about the State, "big government," and taxes are closely tied to racial animus and hostility. These are dog whistles and code words for white conservatives which enable them to talk about "lazy" black and brown people. Without exception, these appeals are rarely, if ever, centered on how the white middle class is subsidized by the submerged state.

Consequently, the mouth-breathing Tea Party Populists who want lower taxes and a strong national defense (or alternatively, love Social Security and despise "big government") can valorize themselves as "real Americans" and the "guardians" of the national prosperity despite the internal inconsistency of their own political views.

As Martin Gilens and others have smartly detailed, beliefs about poverty are inexorably connected to stereotypes about race. In the white popular imagination, to be poor equals to be a person of color. Gender is part of this narrative as well. This is especially true in the Right-wing conservative imagination: women are to be controlled by men. Black and brown women especially so. 

Political narratives about poverty are also claims about morality, as well as the value of certain groups of people over others. Because conservatives are incapable of acknowledging the force and power of social structures in determining life chances, poor people are framed as being immoral, lazy, craven, decadent. and
They deserve their circumstances. As such, they should be "dispensed" with.

Stories such as the above about a black woman with more than a dozen children by numerous men are going to be increasingly common as the 2012 Presidential election approaches. 

Why? Stories about "professional victims" activate white racial resentment. Such feelings work to win over independent leaning whites and solidify conservatives in their hostility towards President Obama. Because political ideologies are part of a bundle of beliefs that are not cleanly separated, political attitudes which link black and brown folks together (in however tenuous a manner) with poverty and crime have great currency in American politics. 

This racial frame can be easily applied to other issues. It synergizes with the ghetto underclass meme and the Welfare Queen stereotype. Consequently, it also hurts President Obama on issues like healthcare reform and the economy. On the surface, these issues would appear to have little to do with matters of race. However, conservatives understand that if they can attach a black or brown face to any matter of public concern, this move could potentially undermine white public support for the President. 

Ultimately, it does not matter that health care reform should be a race neutral issue, or that poor whites outnumber poor people of color. Alternatively, that we can construct similar stories about wayward white baby daddies, fecund irresponsible white women with kids by multiple fathers with no resources or jobs, and who live on the public dole with hands out expecting Joe Q. Public to support their irresponsible habits, and said narratives are rarely circulated via the mass media.

Since the 1960s, the face of poverty in America has been African American. As such, "black" poverty and "black" degeneracy will be repeated themes in Romney's Ayn Rand-like campaign language of "productive citizens," "job creators," and "lazy" "parasites."

President Obama is guilty by (black) association. There is little, even allowing for a Bill Clinton Sistah Souljah moment, that Obama can do to remove such a vulnerability. Consequently, it is critical that this Right-wing con game be called out at every opportunity.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Herman Cain TV: A White Tea Party Conservative Enabling National Platform for Coonery and Buffoonery

I was a Herman Cainaholic. I have been sober for almost a year. Now, commenter Sabrinabee has forced me off of the wagon. Damn her. 

So, "if you can laugh at me, then you can laugh at yourself?" By implication, white folks' embracing of race minstrelsy Steppin Fetchit coon foolishness is actually an act of self-effacing humility. No racism here; to even suggest as such is unfair and mean to those good white conservatives who just want a laugh...as they always have:
The coon caricature is one of the most insulting of all anti-black caricatures. The name itself, an abbreviation of raccoon, is dehumanizing. As with Sambo, the coon was portrayed as a lazy, easily frightened, chronically idle, inarticulate, buffoon. The coon differed from the Sambo in subtle but important ways. Sambo was depicted as a perpetual child, not capable of living as an independent adult. The coon acted childish, but he was an adult; albeit a good-for-little adult. Sambo was portrayed as a loyal and contented servant.
Indeed, Sambo was offered as a defense for slavery and segregation. How bad could these institutions have been, asked the racialists, if blacks were contented, even happy, being servants? The coon, although he often worked as a servant, was not happy with his status. He was, simply, too lazy or too cynical to attempt to change his lowly position. Also, by the 1900s, Sambo was identified with older, docile blacks who accepted Jim Crow laws and etiquette; whereas coons were increasingly identified with young, urban blacks who disrespected whites. Stated differently, the coon was a Sambo gone bad...
Unlike Mammy and Sambo, Coon did not know his place. He thought he was as smart as white people; however, his frequent malapropisms and distorted logic suggested that his attempt to compete intellectually with whites was pathetic. His use of bastardized English delighted white audiences and reaffirmed the then commonly held beliefs that blacks were inherently less intelligent. The minstrel coon's goal was leisure, and his leisure was spent strutting, styling, fighting, avoiding real work, eating watermelons, and making a fool of himself. 
If he was married, his wife dominated him. If he was single, he sought to please the flesh without entanglements.
Herman Cain is one of the greatest race minstrels in American history. He is also a brand--one who now has a global platform for circulating his own version of new age race minstrelsy

I mean that as a complement. There is a certain amount of artistic and performative genius necessary for Herman Cain's political blackface routine. Cain is utterly humble and transparent. He has no shame or embarrassment. This transparency enables Cain to connect with his audience by legitimizing their racism, and yearning for a time when it was okay to wear the burnt cork, and before "the blacks" got all sensitive and uppity.

I have a question. Is Herman Cain part of one of the best psyops in recent memory? Is his game that deep?

At present, the race minstrelsy coonery and buffoonery ranking of inequalities would look something like this:

Tyler Perry > BET > Herman Cain > Mantan Moreland

However, Herman Cain TV could push him to the front of the pack.

In total, Herman Cain is the anti-matter relative to Barack Obama. If the latter's ascendance represented a cultural high point for black respectability, Cain's popularity is a function of the white body politic's psychic overcompensation in response to that same moment.

Friday, July 6, 2012

New Age Race Minstrelsy Strikes Again: 6-Year-Old Black Child Rapper "Stars" in Viral "Booty Pop" Video

As a rule, I try not to give degenerate low culture such as the "Booty Pop" video a broader platform than it deserves. I am also breaking a second rule in that I usually do not use profanity: this video featuring six-year-old Albert Roundtree Jr. is pure fuckery.

The past ain't even past, it remains alive long into the present. Booty Pop is a 21st century version of the centuries old racist archetype known as the picaninny.
Picaninnies as portrayed in material culture have skin coloring ranging from medium brown to dark black -- light skinned picaninnies are rare. They include infants and teenagers; however, most appear to be 8-10 years old. Prissy, the inept and hysterical servant girl in Gone With the Wind (Selznick & Fleming, 1939) was an exception. 
She was older than the typical picaninny, but her character was functionally a picaninny. Picaninny girls (and sometimes boys) have hair tied or matted in short stalks that point in all directions; often the boys are bald, their heads shining like metal. The children have big, wide eyes, and oversized mouths -- ostensibly to accommodate huge pieces of watermelon. 
The picaninny caricature shows black children as either poorly dressed, wearing ragged, torn, old and oversized clothes, or, and worse, they are shown as nude or near-nude. This nudity suggests that black children, and by extension black parents, are not concerned with modesty. The nudity also implies that black parents neglect their children. A loving parent would provide clothing. The nudity of black children suggests that blacks are less civilized than whites (who wear clothes). 
The nudity is also problematic because it sexualizes these children. Black children are shown with exposed genitalia and buttocks -- often without apparent shame. Moreover, the buttocks are often exaggerated in size, that is, black children are shown with the buttocks of adults. The widespread depictions of nudity among black children normalizes their sexual objectification, and, by extension, justifies the sexual abuse of these children.
We have a black President, but we also have a global popular culture in which the most debased images of black humanity are a type of currency that stands in for our personhood.

The black superpublic is made real...again. If anyone would like to defend the Booty Pop video as innocent, harmless entertainment, please do so. I need the laugh.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What is the Common Good? Why the Supreme Court's Ruling on Obamacare is an Opportunity for a National Civics Lesson

In civics class we learn that federal courts decide whether laws passed by Congress and the state legislatures are constitutional. Therefore the federal courts are the guardians of our Constitution. That is certainly true, but it not the whole story. In fact, the most important function of the federal courts is to legitimate state building by the political branches...

Some have called Roberts' opinion statesmanlike, putting aside personal ideology to apply the law. Others have called it clever, handing conservatives an ideological victory while giving Democrats a policy result they like. My own view is that the Court as a whole performed the traditional function of federal judges in our constitutional system. The political branches sought to build out the American state and change the terms of the American social contract. The Court legitimated this result, but set new ground rules for politics going forward.

What does the decision mean in terms of constitutional doctrine? Much will depend on who wins the next several presidential elections.
As expected and fitting given its importance, the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act (the "ACA" or what conservatives have derisively labeled "Obamacare") has generated much national discussion. For all of the partisan hackery, hysterics, bloviating, right-wing madness and appeals to a Civil War, as well as orgasmic histrionics, there are some really smart people, who are saying some really smart things about the Supreme Court's decision--and what the debates surrounding the Affordable Care Act tell us about American politics and political culture.

[There is so much good stuff out there on this issue; please do send in your reading suggestions as well.]

The Supreme Court's decision upholding the ACA is a lightning rod for the deep divides of party and ideology in the United States where one person's belief that it is reasonable, long overdue, and ethically justified to provide a modest extension of the social safety net through the ACA, is another person's tyrannical decision by "big government" to usurp their individual rights and liberties. These fractious moments--if folks can get past the yelling and reason interfering with emotion--are actually opportunities to conduct a national civics lesson.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Trevion Davis vs. Trayvon Martin: Is "Racism Chasing" the Slot Machine of Blogging and Online Media?

CBS Atlanta 46

A few months ago the great John Scalzi of Old Man War fame, and author of the new book Redshirts, generated quite a bit of controversy with his essay Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is. I am usually not a fan of working through the complex realities of race, power, and politics, via analogy. In my experience, such examples, when used to simplify complex social realities, flatten more than they reveal. That qualifier having been offered, John Scalzi's piece was quite spot on in how it discussed, in a novel manner, the realities of white privilege in post civil rights, Age of Obama, American society.

Yesterday, I took the bus to the casino in order to escape the heat afflicting Chicago. I love slot machines. I also love people watching on the bus. When done together, both bring me to a happy place...especially so if I end up winning a few dollars at the casino. This, the randomness of the slot machine, and learning to surrender to it, is a cathartic and zen-like experience for me.

When I returned home I looked online to catch up on the latest controversy of the day.

As a "black blogger" (I am still trying to figure out exactly what that means), many of the stories which are forwarded to me revolve around matters of racial injustice. Some of these news items are important and deserve more attention. As we saw with the Trayvon Martin murder, the Internet and the independent media/blogosphere can do a good job of shaping the public discourse towards a positive end. I am always keenly on the lookout for such  moments, causes, and opportunities.

However, some news items where the topics just happen to coincidentally involve a person of color, as opposed to revealing something substantive about the relationship between the color line and power, just leave me shrugging my head in disbelief. 

For example, the cause of the day is the shooting of Trevion Davis by the Atlanta police--while the former was robbing an innocent person's home. An important detail: this teenager was armed with a replica gun and pointed it at the officers before he was shot and killed. My motto here is a simple one: if you live a life of crime the wages of sin are death. It is readily apparent that given his life vocation, Trevion Davis was killed because he was a street pirate who just happened to be black, violent, criminal, and stupid. 

[Who knows? Perhaps, my disinterest in such stories is a function of home training and common sense.] 

I understand how a given public can be deeply suspicious of the police--this is especially warranted given how police authority has been used to harass, kill, wrongly arrest, and beat innocent people, many of whom are members of marginalized communities. Nevertheless, I can only respond with consternation at the excuse-making and denials by Davis' family in response to his death. As my mother says, you know what your kids are capable of; don't act surprised when the seeds you have planted bear fruit.

Those of us who are "race men" and "race women" have to be very cautious about how we expend our very limited political capital. Like any people, not all of our folks are noble, perfect, valorous, or good. We hurt ourselves by claiming tragedy and victimization where the matter is crystal clear, and is really about agency and personal responsibility. The infantalization of African Americans, be it by white conservatives or white liberals, or as in the Trevion Davis case by black opinion leaders, is damaging to our pride and dignity as a community.

This brings me full circle. As WARN has grown over time, I have become increasingly interested in the meta level rules that govern social media, the blogosphere, and online communities. By analogy, the garden variety racism chasing embodied by the faux controversy that is the Trevion Davis shooting, reminds me of the recent day I spent playing the slot machines.

There is really no rhyme or reason to winning at the slots. You put your money in, push a button, and win or lose. However, there are various strategies that can be used if one wants to be less unsuccessful and to maximize the return on their investment. Likewise, there are tried and true strategies that can be used to drive traffic, get attention, and rise in prominence online.

Let me be clear. I am not discounting the skill, ability, gifted sense of timing, and creative talent which distinguishes the best online writers and personalities from the vast majority of average players. I would never do such a thing. However, I am compelled to ask how do we balance the formula--if there is such a thing--for being "successful" online with a commitment to truth-telling, rigor, and intellectual honesty?

Thus my question: is racism chasing the slot machine of blogging? 

Here are some suggested slot machine strategies. Do they parallel those used by successful bloggers and other online writers? If so, what does it suggest about the role of digital and social media media as a means of influencing and shaping public opinion?


Slot Machine Tip #1 - Each spin of a slot machine is entirely random.

Slot Machine Tip #2 - Slot machines pay out less than they take in.

Slot Machine Tip #3 - Don’t fall for slot machine myths. Slots don’t get hot or cold, and wearing your lucky red blouse isn’t going to increase your odds of winning. The slots don’t care how many times you play, what you’re wearing, or the temperature of the coins being inserted. They’re going to give you an equal chance of success or failure on each spin.

Slot Machine Tip #4 - Anyone who promises to share a winning slot machine system with you is either lying or delusional. There is no such thing as a winning slot machine system, because all slots are designed to take in more money than they pay out.

Slot Machine Tip #5 - Know when to stop playing. Before you walk into a casino, figure out how much money you can afford to lose. When that amount is gone, it’s time to call it quits for the day. If you lose your predetermined amount and still find yourself headed to the ATM machine or the Western Union office, there’s a distinct chance that you have a gambling problem.

Slot Machine Tip #6 - Learn the rules of the game. Some slot machines can be confusing at first, so take the time to examine the rules printed on the machine. How many lines need to be activated? How many coins can be played on any given spin?

Slot Machine Tip #7 - Don’t play progressives.

Slot Machine Tip #8 - Playing maximum coins doesn’t matter in the long run.

Slot Machine Tip #9 - If you want to lose less money, play the lower denomination slot machines. You’re going to lose more than you win on any slot, but playing the lower denomination games means you’ll be putting less money in on each spin. While the overall return on cheaper slots is less, it’s still surprisingly easy to bust out while chasing a payout on a five-dollar machine. Stick with nickel or penny slot machines and you’ll be playing for hours.

Slot Machine Tip #10 - Always use a slot card (also known as a player’s card). While using a slot card doesn’t increase your odds of winning, it will allow the casino to monitor how much you play and possibly make you eligible for comps such as free meals and hotel accommodations. Registering for a free player’s card only takes a few minutes, and you can end up saving money in the long run, especially if you’re a frequent slots player.

Slot Machine Tip #11 - Stay away from video reel slots.

Slot Machine Tip #12 - Play in casinos with the best payback percentage.

The next time you visit a casino, be sure to keep these slot machine tips in mind. While you may still end up losing money, the advice provided in this article will ensure that you’ll be able to play longer and smarter than those around you.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Class Now Trumps Race in America: Have Conservatives Gotten the Memo Yet?

Robert D. Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, issued a strong warning to anti-poverty advocates at a forum on social connectedness at the Aspen Ideas Festival Saturday, urging the audience to get beyond talking about poverty and race and start thinking about social mobility and class instead.

"Those two conceptual moves, framing it as poverty and thinking about it as a matter of race, have a very deep history... and I think both politically and analytically that's an almost fatally flawed framework," said Putnam, the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, in response to remarks from co-panelists Anne Mosle, vice president of policy at the Aspen Institute, and Mario Small, chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago.
For most of American history race has overdetermined life chances. Social capital, life spans, health, wealth, and rates of inter-generational class mobility were all impacted by the color line: here, white Americans received a de facto leg up by virtue of their skin color; black and brown folks were penalized by their status as racially marked individuals whose citizenship was contingent and not full.

Robert Putnam, elder god, and author of the foundational book Bowling Alone, is now complicating this narrative. Along with one of his heirs apparent, the University of Chicago's Mario Small, they are suggesting that class now appears to be trumping race in determining one's life trajectory. If black folks have long been maligned as the poster children of the ghetto underclass, Putnam suggests that macrolevel changes in American society are now beginning to impact white people in similar ways.
"You say poverty to most ordinary Americans, most ordinary voters, they think black ghettos," he continued, whereas over the last couple of generations "class, not race is the dominant -- and becoming more dominant -- dimension of difficulty here."

"Relatively speaking, racial differences controlling for class are decreasing while class differences controlling for race are increasing in America," he said. "Non-white folks with a college education are looking more and more like white folks with a college education and white folks who haven't gotten beyond high school are looking more and more like nonwhite folks who haven't finished high school." 
This is a complex story--and one that will be the subject of much discussion in the near future--as it unsettles many of the long standing assumptions held by social scientists, and experts in public policy, about the nature of poverty in America.

It is clear that America's economy has contracted, and thus put its most vulnerable workers at risk. Consequently, the de facto subsidies used by the submerged state to keep white semi and unskilled labor solidly among the ranks of the middle class have long been disappearing.

Black and brown folks were made victims of neoliberalism, and its gangster capitalism ethos, many decades ago. Urged on by the Republican Party through its skillful deployment of the politics of racial resentment and the Culture War narrative, the white working and middle classes sneered and mocked "the welfare queens" and "ghetto underclass" for their "shiftlessness," poor decision making, and "decision" to not abide by "traditional family values." Thus, the ghettto underclass were "surplus" citizens who "earned" their status as second class citizens.

As Charles Murray demonstrates in Coming Apart, the language and political logic of "surplus," "pathological," and "non-productive" citizens is now being applied to the white poor and working classes. One can never forget that globalization, the Great Recession, and Ayn Rand capitalism takes no prisoners. It is simply a matter of who these elites come for first in the interest of profit maximization. In the United States black and brown folks have historically been the most vulnerable groups. Therefore, their position made them the most precarious and expendable.

Here, the miner's canary got ethered; instead of feeling empathy for the bird, the white guy (perhaps an ethnic who just earned his racial bonafides) holding the cage smiled, happy that it wasn't (yet) him...fate is indeed a trickster as he/she is now laying dead in the bowels of the cave.

America is increasingly a bifurcated society of the haves and have nots, where the rich have seen record corporate profits and growth in income during the worst economy since the Great Depression. Simultaneously, the poor, middle, and working classes have been financially eviscerated as the Great Recession cut away all of the metaphorical fat and left only the toughest muscle and bone. Inevitably, this would impact the body politic across the color line where economic Darwinism would leave some black and brown folks, and many whites, in a strong position, while casting off the others onto a human waste pile.

While respecting Putnam's and Small's prescient insights, I am concerned about how a downshifting of race as an overarching variable for framing the relationships between social capital and upward mobility could imperil our ability to explain broader changes in American political economy. Race and class have historically operated (and continue to do so) as interlocking variables in American social life. To abandon such a foundational understanding is too bold a move and one that comes with great risks.

America is organized as a racial state. While it has evolved, this fact has not changed. In a capitalist society, one where whiteness has been protected as property by law and social convention, those norms run deep. They are not easily discarded. Moreover, as an empirical matter, there is a substantial body of data which details how being born black in America negatively impacts your standard of living, chances at getting a job, return on investment in higher education, makes you more likely to be harassed by the police, die at an earlier age, subject to disparate treatment by the criminal justice system, and face unfair burdens in both housing and lending practices.

As a complement this reality, the following two examples are damning and devastating arguments in favor of a nexus of class inequality through the machinations of race and white supremacy in practice.

First, as the book Black Wealth/White Wealth compelling demonstrates, a poor white person has a better chance of moving to the highest income bracket in a lifetime than a black person born at the top of the income scale has of remaining there. In fact, a rich black person born to the upper class is more likely to fall to the bottom rungs of America's income pyramid than they are of remaining there--as compared to a white person born into the same cohort.

Second, while the Great Recession has hurt the middle class in America, white folks have maintained (if not increased) the amount of wealth they have relative to black and brown Americans.

It is a given that most Americans have been hurt by this economic catastrophe. And of course, capitalism is "creative destruction." But, if class is increasingly less important for determining life chances, it seems odd that on an aggregate level that white folks now have at least two dollars for every ten cents which African-Americans hold in wealth--a differential that has increased during the time of the Great Recession.

Robert Putnam's and Mario Small's argument(s) that race is now trumped by class is sweet music for those of us who have long yearned for interracial, cross class alliances, that break the color line in the pursuit of shared social justice and political struggle. The real world often interferes however. The wages of whiteness are real, sweet, and tempting. They are made even more so when imperiled.

For example, white working class men still support Mitt Romney even though they admit that Obama will do more for people in their class position. Although they are doing much better than black and brown folks in the Great Recession, the white working class is more upset, angry, threatened, and negative about the future.

If they possess any construct validity at all, Whiteness and White Racism are ultimately about maintaining a sense of group superiority over people of color. American history has repeatedly demonstrated that Whiteness is the "complexion for the protection." As such, Whiteness is remarkably aspirational and long sighted. To point, White people--good noble race traitors aside--have consistently chosen racial affinity over class alliances across the color line.

Why? Because White elites have compensated the White masses, not always well, for doing so.

This pattern continues into the Age of Obama. The Tea Party GOP is a White Nationalism political party that mines anti-black and brown affect, as well as white racial resentment, to encourage many white Americans to sell out their substantive economic interests in exchange for a superior position in the country's racial order.

Consequently, the members of the White Right are paid the psychic wages of Whiteness as they suck at the tit of  "real America," "Christian," "god and country," sloganeering.

Professors Small and Putnam have demonstrated that the milk of this source of material nourishment is drying up. The sad irony then becomes that many White conservatives (and others who are overly White identified) that are wedded to their position in the racial order will keep sucking away, ever more desperate for its life force, and made more paranoid (as opposed to less) that a black or brown person will want a taste of that shriveled political breast from which the psychic and material wages of Whiteness flow.

Mario Small and Robert Putnam are likely correct that class is soon to eclipse race as both a determinant of life chances and predictor of social mobility in American society. The unfortunate reality remains that broad swaths of the American public have not yet gotten the memo.