Thursday, October 4, 2012

Historically, Presidential Debates Do Not Impact Vote Choice...But Then Again Obama is the Country's First Black President

In my earlier post on how the "rope-a-dope" analogy is not an apt description for Obama's strategy in last night's defeat by Mitt Romney, I referenced this piece on how presidential debates have historically had little to no impact on how individual's choose to vote on election day.

There are some sections in the Bloomberg piece that deserve a bit more exploration:
"Where you started the debate season is pretty much where you end the debate season," said Christopher Wlezien, a political science professor at Temple University and co-author of the book "The Timeline of Presidential Elections."  
No candidate who was leading in the polls six weeks before the election has lost the popular vote since Thomas Dewey in 1948, according to Wlezien and Robert Erikson, a political science professor at Columbia University. They studied polling data going back to 1952 and computed a running average "poll of polls" for each presidential election...  
Wlezien and Erikson found only one campaign with a big movement in opinion polls from the start to finish of the debate series - and then it was the candidate widely judged to have lost the debates who gained in the polls...  
What influence debates have had on public opinion historically has stemmed from matters of style rather than substance. A glance at a watch or a distant reaction to an emotionally charged question have been more consequential than clashes over war, taxes or economic policy.  
A 2008 Gallup review of polling data surrounding presidential debates concluded the events are "rarely game- changers" yet may have made a difference in 1960 and 2000, both among the closest presidential contests in U.S. history.
Barack Obama is the country's first black president. As such, he is playing a game which is not designed for him. Given that these models of how debates impact voters have been based on white presidents, are they a good fit for assessing the relationship between Obama's debate performance and the vote choice on election day?

Despite what right-wing pundits would have you believe--that being black in America is a net advantage, or that the American people will have "pity" on Obama and give him a do over because of his skin color--serious people suggest that racism cost Obama about 5 percentage points in 2008's election.

Moreover, the politics of white racial resentment and overt racism have been repeatedly used by conservatives to subvert support for the country's first black president, and were the driving force between the white political insurgency known as the Tea Party.

Optics matter: there is a symbolic power to Obama as the country's first African-American Chief Executive that many white folks, especially on the Right, are repulsed by; the stated and unstated burdens of blackness, what Du Bois famously summed up with the question "how does it feel to be a problem?", are the background radiation which colors how many in the public perceive the President. He can't get angry. He can't show emotion. He can't talk about race. And he most certainly cannot remind anyone that he is black.

My instincts would suggest that cultural politics, the white racial frame, and our country's long history of white racism, must in some way be impacting how members of the public assess his performance in the debates. However compelling, instincts are not a substitute for empirical rigor.

Teach me something if you would. 

Sorry, That Was No Rope-a-Dope, Barack Obama Got His Butt Kicked by Mitt Romney


In a fight between an enthusiastic lie and a tepid truth the former will always win. The most noble of us will hold on to the abstract virtues of the truth. Pragmatists will understand that a win is a win regardless of how it is delivered.

The supporters and allies of the President are trying to "spin" a basic and self-evident fact: Barack Obama got his butt kicked by Mitt Romney in their first debate.

In their efforts to salvage victory from the jaws of (obvious) defeat, Obama's people are making claims about the long game. Apparently, Obama is thinking several steps ahead, and Mitt Romney's naked lies will come back to haunt him as the days to election day tick down. They are also making appeals to Political Science: research indicates that presidential debates have little impact on a given voter's choice come election day, so Obama's defeat in the first debate means little.

These are accurate observations. But, my favorite excuse and explanation is that President Obama is playing a game of rope-a-dope like Muhammad Ali; Obama had baited Romney and will close the deal in the debates to come.

When discussing politics, there is a great temptation to use boxing analogies. However, this temptation does not always make the analogy either a good fit or an apt description of reality.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ann Coulter Needs to Get Malcolm X Out of Her Mouth...But I Doubt She Would Want To



Ann Coulter and the other bloviators on the Right have done caught themselves a case of negro mania. The natives are restless, arming themselves like we are going to have a second Stono Rebellion, and are joining up with the black radicals wearing dashikis, carrying Saturday night specials, who are waiting to waylay innocent whites on the way back from church on Sunday.

The Right's grotesque view of blackness and black humanity occupies both their dreams and nightmares.

Their anti-black mania is a tool which aids them in manipulating the white mouth-breathing classes into working against their own material self-interest. Black genius, competence, intelligence, strength, and beauty terrifies them. In American, conservatism and racism are one in the same; black success calls to attention the twin insecurities of imperiled whiteness and nurtured/protetced white mediocrity which lie at the heart of the Tea Party GOP's white identity politics.

The power of a centrist African American president to magically transform into a black brute who hates whitey is a caricature of Obama--and by implication of black folks as a community--where no matter how gentile, respectable, and "conservative" we may on the surface appear, black Americans are all really anti-white bigots waiting to betray our gracious, colorblind, and loving hosts.

My use of the word "hosts" is intentional: for conservatives and the "real America" crowd, black people really have no place in their civic project as in another life we, the "guests" in the house that race built, should have been deported back to Africa in the 19th century.

In keeping with their fantasy world, for Ann Coulter and the color aroused and deranged Right, blackness is now an advantage in American life, and it is white people who are now victims in the Age of Obama:
Obama is such a fraud. He grew up in Beverly Hills 90210 existence but is just desperate to have this angry black person persona. It's rather like reading about, you know, Hitler's musings on his Germanic identity. You know, he graduated from this fancy, fancy school in Hawaii, voted recently the greenest school in America. And yet when he wants to, he just turns it on and suddenly we got Malcolm X speaking to us...

Yes, and still angry. It's all an act. It's like his 70% of Twitter followers being fake. The whole thing is just smoke and mirrors. And at least for people of our generation, I mean this is a large part of why we have more child molesters than racists in America. It just isn't part of our existence. During our entire lifetimes, the only affect of being black is that you get benefits, doors open for you. You are more likely to get a position in the Harvard Law School.

 Anyone who grew up watching the Brady Bunch -- racism and discrimination, at least discrimination against black people, there is some discrimination against white people -- simply isn't a part of our conceptional apparatus. Which is why it is so strange, of all people, this half-black man born in Hawaii in 1961 walking around like he's Martin Luther King.   
If Ann Coulter met Brother Malcolm I am unsure if she would 1) drop on her knees in joyous supplication, her head in his lap enacting a fantasy of self-hating, reverse racism, private guilt, glee, and then begging him to spend the night; or 2) after performing said acts, she would then call the cops in a well-practiced, centuries old script of imagined black on white rape.

Either way, Ann Coulter is a contemptible human being. That is not a revelation; it simply demands restating. In all, she should get Malcolm X out of her mouth; but given her oral fixations, I doubt she would want to surrender the object of her simultaneous pleasure and disdain.

Barack Obama Dares to Talk to Black People at Hampton University in 2007, Conservatives Go Crazy in 2012



The Right-wing media are up in arms over a "racist" speech given by then candidate Barack Obama at Hampton University, a historically black college, during 2007.

In trying to read through the 2,500 comments on the conservative website The Daily Caller which leaked this "new" story, I have come to a few conclusions.

One, conservatives who believe that Barack Obama hates white people, and that this speech is a smoking gun of sorts which will derail his campaign, have probably not listened to it.

Two, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and other Right-wing bloviators are also apparently shocked and surprised that black folks may speak to one another with one type of inflection and tone, while modifying their speech habits for other audiences. This peek inside the black community's semi-private spaces requires an appreciation for what is called "code switching."

At present, racial resentful and reactionary white conservatives seem incapable of understanding this simple fact: code switching is not an act of lying or dishonesty; it simply is a fact of life for those of us who have to navigate the color line, and are possessed of Du Bois' famous observation about double consciousness, and the "two-ness" that is being both black and American in a society which has constructed citizenship on your back, neck, blood, and stolen labor.

Black Americans love a country that has for most of its history not loved us back; Part of the genius of Black Americans is that we have found a way to be the best of what America can be, while also pushing her forward to fulfill the promise of the democratic creed and the Constitution in order to make the country better for all of its citizens.

Our capacity for adaptability and genius terrifies many in White America--far Right conservatives are most vulnerable to this terror when they realize that black and brown folks know more about liberty and freedom than most white Americans ever will, for they were lazily grandfathered into Whiteness and civic inclusion.

By contrast, liberty and freedom were a condition systematically denied to black folks (and other people of color): not allowed its fruits, we appreciate and know democracy much more deeply than many others in this country.

And ultimately, there are some conservatives, the Fox News, Tea Party Crowd especially, who hate Barack Obama as a human being. These sentiments go deeper than mere partisanship.

I do not use that language casually.

After watching the parade of white racial resentment, overt racism, and "polite" deployment of anti-black bigotry--a variety of racism which is rooted in stereotypes many centuries old about African Americans--by Mitt Romney and other Republicans during this campaign season, the rage at President Obama is beyond that of "normal" politics.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

To What End? Right-wing Fantasies of Black Helicopters, Phantom Buses, Rigged Polls, and Voter Fraud

But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. 
The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.
I grew up talking to the former (and now made semi-indigent) Black Panthers that hung out near the Yale Co-Op bookstore, Educated Burger, and Yorkside Pizza who my dad would buy coffee for while trying to direct to jobs he either procured for them on campus, or with his small janitorial company.

As a young ghetto nerd, I would also read the zine Cover Action Quarterly with all its tales of the Drug War, narco-terrorism, the rise of the national security state, and black ops. And of course, I have spent many an hour listening to Coast To Coast AM in its heyday when Art Bell was predicting the now/then/soon to be future back in the early 1990s. 

I was groomed to love and appreciate a good conspiracy theory.

In the Age of Obama, the Right-wing media and its bloviators have moved on from the black helicopters, and a looming United Nations Army that was poised to invade the United States via improperly insured Mexican trucks, on to various varieties of birtherism, trutherism, and a "Muslim" Black American President who hates white folks and is going to put them in chains.

Conspiracy theories can thrive both on a surplus of information (look! don't you see! it is obvious! the truth is hiding in plain sight!) as well as a paucity of data points (it is there if you just look harder! they are hiding the truth from us all! the absence of evidence is evidence in and of itself!).

In total, my rule has been to look for patterns; I also have come to realize that it isn't the big conspiracies that you need to worry about. Rather, it is those small incremental changes that are working towards a larger paradigm shift which catch a people flat-footed and unaware.

In all, power is not always punitive and punishing. Power is most beguiling when it rewards participation and obedience.

Those qualifiers and instincts having been noted, I am at a loss to explain the deeper game at work with the various Right-wing conspiracy theories that have unfolded as of late.

Consider the following:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Who is a Greater Threat to the United States? The "Obama Phone" Lady or Angry White Men with Guns?

It does not take a degree in cultural theory, visual culture, or expertise in semiotics to process the differences between these two pictures.

The first image, taken from The Washington Post's story about political polarization in Virginia, is of a white gun shop owner who believes that Barack Obama is a "socialist" working to destroy America. The second image is from a video that has gone viral on Right-wing websites: it features a poor black woman who supposedly receives a "free" phone through the "federal government."


These images are representations of reality that viewers and audiences invest with meaning and value. They are also stand-ins which are not wholly accurate because the public imposes its own priors, context, and assumptions onto the people who are depicted in these pictures.

Moreover, these visual representations also carry the weight and burdens of such identities as race, class, and gender. The latter are social frames and markers that help us to locate these two people--one a black woman, the other a white man--in our own cognitive map. Bodies, and our efforts to represent them visually, do not exist in a social, political, or cultural vacuum.

Our shared political culture in the United States is prefaced upon common understandings about democracy, political inclusion, meritocracy, and the virtues of civic participation. However, this model of political consensus is being strained and exhausted by a highly polarized media, political actors that are invested in amplifying our differences about (what should be) areas of common concern, and a self-fulfilling model where Red and Blue State America are depicted as being so vastly different, that "normal" politics and compromise across divides of party and ideology are made nearly impossible.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fond Memories of Growing Up as a Ghetto Nerd: The New York Times Discovers the World of Bowling for "Action"

FIVE frames into the match, Rocky Salemmo was taking a beating. 
He and a partner had challenged a pair of young guns at Showplace Entertainment Center on Staten Island to a doubles bowling match for $50 a man, and now Mr. Salemmo, 48, who was once known as one of the top action bowlers, or betting players, in New York City, trailed by 68 pins. But when Mr. Salemmo’s bowling ball fails, his mouth takes over. He began telling his opponents about the time he jumped out the bathroom window at a bowling alley to avoid losing four grand.
They say that the worst and laziest form of conversation is "do you remember when?" I have always disagreed with that argument: when used occasionally,  "do you remember when?" can bring you to some nice places with friends who you have not seen a in a while, back full circle to some common and comfortable ground.

I grew up at a bowling center. Bowling is my lost friend that I had to put aside for a few (too many years) as I went to do other things. There were and are many friends, all of us, tied together by being at tournaments on the weekend, practicing during the week, and trying to bowl as much as humanly possible for free in the summer. We too have gone our separate ways; I hope we can come back together again.

As a ghetto nerd, I know many of you/us have similar stories. Bowling has gone the way of arcades and Times Square. These spaces once  had personality, were full of seedy and fun characters, human mascots who seemed to be there everyday and all day, cigarette smoke, and vice. Now, they are sanitized and bereft of all personality and charm.

The New York Times rediscovered that almost lost moment with its story about local "action" bowling legend Rocky Salemmo:
Rocky got his first bowling ball at age 11 from his father, who died shortly afterward in a motorcycle crash on Hylan Boulevard. His mother worked the snack bar at Country Lanes on Staten Island, and Rocky played there constantly. During his early teens, he began tagging along with his cousin Lucy, a top money bowler. He fell in with money players with names like Snake, Mike the Crook and the Count. 
“We called him the Count because he only came out at night,” Mr. Salemmo said. 
Driving together to the lanes, they would hatch that night’s hustling schemes: the secret signal before purposely losing a match; the fake fight to make the group look drunk and beatable; and where to rendezvous if they ran out of money and had to flee a losing bet. 
Mr. Salemmo, who is of short stature and bowls lefty, throws a big hook that teeters on the edge of the left gutter before swooping back to the pins. His stories, too — delivered rapid-fire with a thick New York accent — are elliptical but somehow come back to the point: how bowling for bets has supported him for most of his adult life. He added that as well as he bowled, he was equally bad at gambling, and that he would promptly blow much of his winnings on bad bets on horse-racing and other sports. 
There are still the occasional matches, but the bowling wagering scene has largely faded in recent years, and Mr. Salemmo has begun driving a stretch limousine for his brother Joe, 47, who runs a limo and D.J. company.
He really is a relic of another time

Bowling has souled out and gone corporate. The sport has long been in a crisis, and the choice to go all high tech, with glowing pins, horrible music, laser light shows, and other distractions were desperate efforts to appeal to a generation raised on video games and cable TV. The Professional Bowling Association, on the cusp of dying, crossed over as well by introducing new formats, focusing on bowler's personalities in order to tell a compelling story for viewers, and trying to update the style of its broadcasts on ESPN. In total, these efforts have been a mixed blessing.

It is apparently now more difficult to find a real pro shop, and a traditional bowling alley that is not ruined by all of the distractions and spectacle; bowling is staying alive, and hopefully it will bring in enough young people and children who will have their curiosity sparked as they realize the amount of skill and practice necessary to compete on an elite level in the sport.

Ultimately, whatever ghetto nerd locale you frequented, it was about the people, the memories, and the formative experiences you had there, that in adulthood, you look back upon with a smile. 

As such, I love this part of Rocky Salemmo's reminiscence, for it is very familiar:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Barack Obama isn't a "Real" President: Newt Gingrich Channels Birth of a Nation (Again)



Sometimes they make it all too easy. I called out this predictable strategy months ago on The Ed Schultz Radio Show. My gifts of prognostication are not that great; it is simply that the Republican Party is desperate, uncreative, and bereft of new ideas. The Southern Strategy is simply a bad rerun that the Right has given up trying to update or repackage.

Newt Gingrich and the Tea Party GOP are so very 19th century in their fears of "Black Reconstruction," "Negro Rule," and President Obama. Prominent conservatives have developed a set of talking points which suggest that the country's first black president--and by extension African-Americans as a community--is lazy, irresponsible, shiftless, incompetent, uppity, arrogant, a thief, not a citizen or "real" American, wants to steal money from hard working white people in order to give it lazy negroes, and oppresses the good white people of America.

At this point, it is abundantly clear that Gingrich, Romney, and the assorted "polite racists" in the country's de facto White Party must either carry around copies of Thomas Dixon's The Clansmen in their pockets (right next to their laminated copies of the Constitution), or host weekly viewings of D.W Griffith's movie The Birth of a Nation at their homes or offices.



During Reconstruction, African-American legislators were described by the white southern democrat press in terms not too unlike those used by Gingrich and the Right-wing media when they talk about Barack Obama today. Given that the Dixiecrats are now Republicans, and the Tea Party GOP has absorbed the former Confederacy, conservatives should simply go back to the future and publicly state that Barack Obama is a "monkey," or alternatively describe the White House, the First Family, and black elected officials as a "menagerie."

It would be much more efficient than the charade of racial dog whistles and air raid sirens that the Right and its noise machine have deployed to date. Honesty can be refreshing, even when it has the stench of white racism and white racial resentment, that in combination, form the go to game plan for the Republican Party in the Age of Obama.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Brother X-Squared, Black Revolutionary Genius and Freedom Fighter, Returns to Discuss "The Master" and the 2012 Presidential Election

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

As long time followers of WARNNN already know, Brother X-Squared is a potent activist, black futurist, scholar, philosopher, and visionary thinker. He is also a noted cultural critic in the greatest tradition of African American commentary and letters. It has been seven months since our last interview, where Brother X-Squared offered his thoughts on the Oscars, the Republican Primaries, and the future of President Obama. 

In this interview, Brother X-Squared has returned to update us on his travels, make predictions about the 2012 presidential race, and to discuss the new films The Master and End of Watch.

WARNNN: Hello Brother X-Squared, it has been quite a while since we chatted online. You and have talked a few times over the last few months but you have been otherwise distracted and quite involved with other matters. I was concerned about you and your state of mind. Given some of things you were alluding to, I had become worried about your health. How are you?

Brother X-Squared: I am fine. I appreciate your concern.


WARNNN: You are not going to yell at me for suggesting that you were distracted or otherwise imperiled? This is out of character for you. I am even more concerned about you now.


Brother X-Squared: The great beast of the wilderness does not have to show rage and anger for you to feel his power. Does the wind need to blow for you to respect its force? Does the Earth Mother, all respect due to our First Nations brothers and sisters, or Brother Wind from Africa who blew the slave ships across the Atlantic so that our souls could be sent back home in flight, freed as warrior spirits hardened into steel by the white man's whips and chains, have to arrange a demonstration of their power for you to believe in it? 


WARNNN: I would not risk such a demonstration.


Brother X-Squared: As you should not! My powers have only grown as I have traveled this country, laying in wait for the inevitable changes that are upon us! The Alpha and Omega of my freed African Black Atlantic consciousness has been playing a game of Go mixed with Chess, there are games within riddles and you lost Nubians are either sitting around afraid of Tea Party nonsense racism or wasting time worshiping a half-African whose blood is diluted by his white ancestry. 

You are all lost! Children complaining about chairs stuck in trees being lynched, caught up there like they were being flown by that old white man who talks to dogs in that movie Up! Babies look at stars projected onto ceilings and play with mobiles and other toys. 

Boohoo complainers about the white man's petty racism are in the same league! Afraid to look at the true light that is Brother X-Squared!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mitt Romney Simply Doesn't Care That Black Americans Purchased Their Full Citizenship in Blood

Mitt Romney's claim in his "47 Percent" speech that black Americans are anti-citizens who will destroy the Republic is still needling me.

There are pundits, and other members of the commentariat class whose work I respect, that have somehow found a way to explain away Romney's comment as somehow "normal partisanship." Their rationalizations transform his ugly speech into something relatively "benign." 

The argument goes as follows: Romney believes that the Democrats are destroying the country; any group that supports the Democrats are part of that "problem"; consequently, if blacks and Latinos remain loyal to the Democratic Party then the country will be imperiled. 

I have tried to work through that logic. I cannot accept it given the broader context of Romney's campaign to "blacken" and "niggerize" Barack Obama. For Romney and the Right, Obama is "stained" because of his imagined proximity to the black community, and how African-Americans are supposedly lazy, irresponsible, disloyal, dependent, and parasites on White America.

The race-baiting of the Right works not only by making claims on Barack Obama as an individual: the racist stereotypes and white racial resentment channeled by populist conservatives are a function of how imagined group attributes are linked to a given person by virtue of their membership in that community.

Ultimately, there are many in the pundit classes who are beholden to the news cycle.The fact that Romney is a racist, one who uses white racial resentment as a cudgel, is no longer interesting to them. For others, especially journalists of color, I would imagine that "racism chasing" fatigue sets in at a certain point. Predictably, they become tired of pointing out the obvious.

Truth-telling becomes a hostage to practical concerns. 

By comparison, I am hardheaded and indefatigable.

On Sunday, I was reminded of why any suggestion that places the loyalty and commitment of Black Americans as citizens in question is so deeply unsettling to me. PBS aired a great documentary exploring how the American Civil War impacted the country's understanding of death and loss. Republic of Suffering, the book upon with the documentary was based is an essential exploration of those themes. Death and the Civil War was a fitting companion to that excellent text.

Monday, September 24, 2012

More Than the 47 Percent: Mitt Romney's Ugly Marriage of Ayn Rand and the Southern Strategy

Mitt Romney’s recently leaked speech where he described 47 percent of the American people as freeloaders, moochers, and bums because they are “dependent” on the federal government has spawned many questions. However, he has also presented the American people with a puzzle.

Mitt Romney believes that taxes are a horrible thing, and that they should be cut despite any harm such a move may do to the federal budget, the common good, or the social safety net.

Given this fact, why are Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans not cheering for those in the 47 percent who are not paying any federal taxes at all?

The answer has been hiding in plain sight: those people, the “takers” are coded as black and brown. The “us,” the “makers” are understood to be white.

Of course, this is a lie and a misrepresentation of reality (more whites are poor and on government assistance than any other group in America); nevertheless this fiction serves Romney’s campaign of overt and subtle racism against Obama quite well.

Romney’s narrative of “makers” and “takers” is rooted in the Republican Party’s ability to put a black and brown face on poverty in America by the use of what has come to be described as “the Southern Strategy.” Since at least Richard Nixon, conservatives realized that by linking anti-poverty programs to people of color that white support for these policies can be undercut.

 The irony is harsh: more white people are on welfare and Medicaid for example; yet, white voters are driven by a fear of a black bogeyman or “illegal immigrants” to make choices that are not in their immediate or long term economic interests.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: A Selection From My Novella in Progress "Zombie Lives"

I was able to go to Chicon 7 thanks to the kind fans and boosters of WARN.

When my begging bowl was in hand, I offered a bargain. In exchange for your support, I would offer up a story of both lascivious embarrassment and romantic "epic fail." I would also share parts of a side project I have been working on for fun.

I like to keep my bargains whenever possible. As I mentioned earlier, I have shared portions of this project with a few published fiction writers and other folks that I trust. The response to the sample chapters range from "you got something here that is really good, do x, y, and z," to "not my thing, I don't get speculative fiction or zombie stuff," to "I like this, keep writing, you have enough chapters, and send it off with a pitch/query letter and use the feedback as advice until you get lucky."

At Chicon 7 I had the good fortune to talk to Jack McDevitt. His advice was simple. Don't be afraid. Learn to accept rejection. Listen to trusted friends and others who tell you the truth. He told me directly, in a very kind way, that I already have cashed checks (not enough) for my writing, non-fiction or not, and this means you can do something well enough to get paid by someone. As such, I am already ahead of 90 percent of those other folks who never get a check from anyone.

He asked me, "what do you have to lose?" Not much.

My, much a work in progress, elevator pitch (still too long) is something like this:
Zombie Lives is a work of speculative fiction that is a combination of George Romero meets No Country for Old Men. Zombie Lives is set in the near future where the undead, called "Grabbers," have come to rule most of the world. However, the living have adapted to their existence, residing in fortified cities and communes in relative comfort. 
For most people, the idea that people die and that some return to eat the living is simply a fact of life. However, the vast majority of human beings have never seen a Grabber. As the generations pass, most people become comfortably numb to the fact that they are a minority in the world, forever imperiled.  
Written as a series of interconnected stories, the central conflict in Zombie Lives revolves around how an ensemble of characters, a college aged student, a bounty hunter, a group of constables, and a self-style religious mystic turned street preacher, have come to realize the absurdity of their lives. While they have come to accept the truth--that humans are a minority in a world now ruled by the walking dead--most other people are in denial. 
Ultimately, this culture of denial and lying will destroy them all. The Grabbers are coming, and what were once just phantom bogeymen will soon make themselves all too real for the denizens of the community known as Low Town.
Most of the current books about zombies are all about blood and guts and don't try to use the genre to say anything substantial about our human condition, existential dilemmas, or society at large. Zombie Lives is of course a good old fashioned zombie story where the undead walk the Earth, wreak havoc, but where we, the living, are as always, the real monsters. It is also a meditation on politics, culture, race, and emotion which reflects a political and social moment where citizens have lost faith in government and its ability to solve shared problems.

Have fun at my expense. For obvious reasons, here is just a small excerpt that makes sense on its own, and teases what is to come. If you want more, are curious, have suggestions, do chime in.

Chapter Two: Toro the Constable

Toro knelt on one knee, eyes looking up at the seams of the door. Light crept from out and under them, dust fluttering about. Only five foot six in his biggest and most imposing pair of combat boots, his mom thought it good luck to give him the family name, handed down from her great great grand-mom back in Aztlan to her daughter Kikoko and then all the way to him.

“Mariposa” doesn’t fit too well with boys. And even accounting for the absurdity of a world in which the dead had long ceased dying, being named “butterfly” (even if it was given the masculine edge of "Mariposo") was an indignity that resulted in many a fight and none too few a black eye.


Toro even went by the name Mothra during his teen years (a gender mismatch given that the famed monster was female...but few knew such details); re-christening himself after the great kaiju monster he grew up watching on the old holovids his mom had spoiled him with as a young boy. Mothra only lasted for a few years though, discarded as soon as he left his old clique turned street gang at 18 to move into a new living community with an ailing mom, two younger sisters, a cousin, three very wizened and old, but still quite tough dogs, and one semi-feral cat named Trina.


Thus, Mariposo, a male butterfly, turned Mothra a female kaiju monster, turned Toro a bull, found himself in a household of women.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beyond Mitt Romney's "47 Percent" Quip: Black and Hispanic Democrats Will Destroy the United States

Something to think about for a Friday.

If you have not listened to all of Romney's leaked speech, it is worth watching in its entirety. There is one portion of Romney's fundraising in private "let me tell you what I really think about the little people" conversation that has been little discussed by the pundit classes.

There, Romney said the following:
We're having a much harder time with Hispanic voters. And-- and if the Hispanic voting bloc-- be-- becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting bloc has in-- in the past, why we're-- we're in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation. 
This is a slap in the face to tens of millions of Americans.

[And you wonder why the Tea Party GOP is trying to keep black and brown folks from voting.] 

First, Romney assumes that black people are anti-citizens whose participation in the democratic process has severely damaged the country. Second, Hispanics and Latinos are going to complete this destruction if they let themselves be tainted by the bad habits of African Americans, and those anti-American tricksters in the Democratic Party.

Romney's racialization of black and brown folks' citizenship, especially given how we have been politically marginalized in a country where white supremacy was the law of the land for centuries, is one more example of the ugly racism which drives his "turn out the base" strategy. As Toure said some weeks ago, Romney is engaged in the systematic "niggerization" of President Obama. One of the ways this is done is by "niggerizing" black people as a group.

Some questions.

Why has there been so much silence on this issue? Are Romney's opponents and critics in the media saving this soundbite for a later moment? Is his quip about half of the population being lazy bums viewed as enough of a bullet, and to bring up another racist claim by Romney is considered overkill? Or do the pundits feel that they have already established the fact that Romney is using racist dog whistles, as well as trying to mobilize white racial resentment. Consequently, why go there again?

The black blogosphere and social activist types online are boohooing and bemoaning the "lynching" of two chairs, but they are silent about a candidate for the Office of the President of the United States who suggested that African Americans, a group which has helped drive and force American democracy forward, are actually agents of its imperilment.

Help me understand. What are your theories?

The Ku Klux Klan Blows Fire Out of Their Noses as Racism Chasers Panic Over "Lynched" Chairs

The image at left was taken by a person passing through the neighborhood. Now, one could easily argue "it's just a chair, what's the big deal? That's not racist!" 
However, in light of Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention, in which he had a largely one-sided conversation with an empty chair he pretended was Barack Obama, this imagery is now associated with the President. 
The image of the chair is associated with the President. Now, lynch that chair from a tree, and you've got a pretty awful racist sentiment calling for lynching the first African-American President!... 
I called the homeowner to ask about his display, citing my concerns as a fellow Austinite. He replied, and I quote, "I don't really give a damn whether it disturbs you or not. You can take [your concerns] and go straight to hell and take Obama with you. I don't give a shit. If you don't like it, don't come down my street." 
Ironically, the homeowner in question, Bud Johnson, won "Yard of the Month" in August 2010 from his Homeowners Association. I guess his display was a little different that month?
In these moments, I am struck by the dualism that is multicultural democracy in the Age of Obama. In many ways, formal racism has been vanquished. Yet, we are obsessed with finding examples of racism in order to remind ourselves of how far the nation has to go. The result is a national play coloured by the absurd and the bizarre.

I am all for calling out racism. I am also all for calling attention to white supremacy. However, there are moments when I just have to laugh at how racism chasing runs amok, and otherwise well-meaning people follow a fool's errand, taking the enemy's feint, holding on like a junkyard dog.

Be warned. Such choices are exhausting and will put holes in your racism chasing shoes.  

Apparently, two white racist reactionary conservatives have chosen to hang chairs from trees in order to lynch President Obama in absentia and by metaphor.  

I understand the deeply rooted structural inequalities of white racism in this society.

I also fully understand how the foul deeds of a few can tell us something about whiteness' deep sociopathology, and its assorted micro-aggressions against people of color.

However, something is horribly amiss when given all of the evidence about systematic white racism in this society, that "lynched" chairs are the source of a mass upset

There is a curious element at play here. For example, the Daily Kos has an essay on these "lynched" chairs, and the foul bigots who would defile furniture, that has almost 400 comments. By comparison, substantive discussions of white racism are often met with denial, deflection, and rage on the same site.

Ultimately, I would suggest that all of this hullabaloo over lynched chairs is a pathetic joke. It is a sugar high that lets good liberals feel that they are winning the good fight against those evil, old school, paleo-racists, that still lurk among us.

It is easy to confront low hanging fruit. It is far more difficult to critically engage how day-to-day white racism and white privilege, often enabled by "well-meaning" white folks, is a reality in this country. 

I must ask: how would those folks who are offended, upset, scared, and not at peace over the equivalent of a failed Chappelle skit respond to real racial violence, or an event such as the KKK's march on Washington during the 1920s?

History teaches us again. During the postbellum period, the KKK were masters of psychological warfare who went to great lengths in order to intimidate and frighten free black Americans. For example, the lynched chairs remind me of this darkly comic anecdote:
Special effects designed to support the belief that Klansmen were Confederate dead returned from hell were later added to their tricks. If a Black was on trial, Klan members sprinkled a little powder which they called "hell fire" on the floor beforehand. When the Black defendant looked down at the floor, one of the Klansmen would run his foot over the powder line, causing a fiery-looking trail. Sometimes and immense volume of flame was blown from the nose.  
We have been conditioned to respond like Pavlov's dogs to racism. Consequently, in our efforts to do right, many of us have lost a sense of calibration, proportion, and precision. Black and brown folks, and white anti-racists, need to expend our efforts on those battles that can really make a difference in our collective life chances, as opposed to weakening our forces on fool's errands such as "lynched" chairs. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"The Man" is Still Holding Down Working Class White People...and Helping the Blacks and Other Minorities Too Much

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has a new survey on the attitudes of "white working class" voters. That label has become an imprecise catch-all that makes for great headlines and conversation among the pundit classes; but it is much more slippery when actually examined empirically. 

For example, a good amount of research has demonstrated that poor people tend to vote for the Democrats. Yet, white men who do not possess college degrees, and have "blue collar" jobs, tend to vote overwhelmingly for Republicans. And in the aggregate, "white working class voters" men without college degrees, and who are not working in salaried jobs, overwhelming support Mitt Romney.

The idea that working class white people are possessed of false consciousness, and are voting against their material interests when they support the Tea Party GOP has become a type of truism. Nevertheless, I believe it is largely an accurate description of their behavior. However, I have also come to realize that perhaps these voters are simply using a different voting calculus, one where white skin and the psychic wages of whiteness matter more than other variables. Their politics are not "abnormal" per se; rather, these voters are simply working towards a different set of goals.

As a complement to this observation, the PRRI has some rich findings that include:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More Conservative Commentariat Class Eliminationist Rhetoric about the "47 Percent": "Thanks To Romney, We Can Single Out ‘Parasites’"



What do you do with parasites? You crush them like cockroaches.

Once more the Right and the Tea Party GOP show us who they have always been. Romney and Ryan are drunk on the Ayn Rand Kool Aid where society is divided between worthwhile people who are "suppliers" or "job creators" and surplus people who are government tit suckers. Instead of running away from Romney's "47 percent of the American public are a waste of oxygen who are dependent on the State and a black President who gives them things they don't deserve" comment, a few brave souls are doubling down.

The eliminationist rhetoric that has become a type of political Esparanto for the Right over the last few decades is dangerous, inflammatory, and violent. On CNN, Mary Matalin, Republican talking head, doubles down on the Tea Party GOP's understanding of those citizens who are "valuable," and those others who ought to be made into Soylent Green.

Matalin used to be one of the more sane Right-wing pundits. It would seem that she too has crossed over from a type of conservatism that was typified by a stay the course, middle of the road, traditionalism, over to a reckless radicalism that seeks to undo the social compact and consensus politics of the post World War Two era and the Great Society.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the Ayn Rand wing of the Republican Party are now plainly stating what many have long suspected about American society in the neoliberal age. Citizenship is tiered. It has always been.

We are all equal; however, some of us are more equal--and valuable--than others. The former are to be damned. Conservatives, the Tea Party people especially, who are in the 47 percent are surplus people too.

They simply have not realized it yet.

Open Thread: Deconstructing the Potpourri of Awfulness that is Romney's "47 Percent of Americans Are Lazy Moochers" Speech

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Here is the full video of Mitt Romney's speech to his private donors recorded in May at the home of a sex party hosting, "values voter" booster Marc Leder. The transcript is available here.

There is so much to be said about Romney's speech. I do not know where to begin.

If it were not serious, I would think Romney's open admissions about his joy at outsourcing jobs, putting people out of work, and that Americans, i.e. black and brown folks are lazy moochers whose votes Obama have purchased with welfare and other "entitlements," was an updated version of Andy Kaufman's genius skits about professional wrestling and the thin line between "reality" and "fiction." 

Rather, this is who Mitt Romney really is; this video is also a stark representation of how the plutocrats who support the Tea Party GOP actually think about the rest of us, those surplus people in the 53 percent that ought to simply be gotten rid of. Yes, gotten rid of and destroyed. My suggestion here is not an error in either nuance or emphasis.

We have not done an open thread here on WARN in some time. Romney's potpourri of rich people's entitlement-laced hypocrisy and Ayn Rand awfulness seems as good a reason to chat it up as any other. 

Some thoughts to start us off.

How do you feel about Romney's suggestion that Latinos are an existential threat to the United States, and if they become a solid part of the Democrat base like "the blacks," the nation's future is imperiled?

Did you know that Mitt Romney is a self-made man? Daddy's bucks never helped him. Apparently, those lazy, greedy people just want to rob and steal from hardworking children of millionaires and billionaires like Romney and his friends that pulled off their own Horatio Alger miracle. They are the real victims in the Age of Obama and the Great Recession. In fact, class envy of their enterprising nature and talent, is how Obama, and those who are not John Galt, are destroying America. 

Romney is reiterating the standard line that in America white folks are victimized by people of color. In the world of the Tea Party GOP and its politics of white victimology, white people are a besieged and oppressed class whose life chances would be made better if they could only access "reverse discrimination" programs such as "affirmative action," or get ahold of the mythic "race card."

Moreover, Romney is reinforcing the bizarre belief that in the Age of Obama racism against white people is a bigger problem than that against people of color--despite all of the available evidence to the contrary. Is there anything more absurd than a group of rich white people like Mitt Romney bemoaning their relative "disadvantage?" If so, do share.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Conservatives Grasping at Straws and in Denial: Romney's "47 Percent of the American People are Lazy Bums" is a Great Political Opportunity in Disguise

Mitt Romney is the gift that keeps on giving (or is that taking?). His most recent misstep involves his being recorded at a fundraiser in May joking about outsourcing American jobs to China, and where he called half of the American people free-loading bums who are dependent on Barack Obama. Apparently, the latter is receiving support from these same surplus urchins and government tit suckers only because Obama is giving them free money.

I am working on something more substantive on Romney's "47 percent pay no taxes" lie--and the ugly politics driving his behavior--as we speak. In the meantime, I wanted to share this piece from the Right-wing website NetRight Daily.

Conservatives are falling all over themselves to spin Romney's gaffe into a positive. They are hoping his spurious claims about the "lazy" "unproductive" Americans, the majority of which live in Red State America and vote Republican, can be a national conversation starter about how President Obama has "destroyed" the American Dream and created a class of "dependent" people.

The Right media is trying to turn a political feces sandwich into caviar. It will not work. However, given the sophisticated propaganda operation that is the Right-wing echo chamber, anything remains possible. To point, we have witnessed stranger things in American life than the Tea Party neo-John Birchers who cry about the "immigrants" and the "minorities" all the while clinging to their social security checks and clamoring for "limited government." American politics is a theater for the absurd: as such, Romney's dream merchants may be able to convince the low information Tea Party people, and Right-leaning Independents, that he is in the race for the little guy. Who knows how it will all play out?

Bill Wilson makes some suggestions that I do hope Romney follows--as they will only make matters worse for his campaign. Wilson's piece is a better than average representation of the waste that is produced by the Right-wing myth making machine. As such, there is a good amount going on both in his unstated assumptions and priors, as well as misreads of empirical reality that demand comment (which I will leave up to all of you).

From "Romney's Opportunity": 
At the May fundraiser, Romney had suggested that Republicans’ “message of low taxes doesn’t connect” with those who pay no income tax, and that his job was “not to worry about those people” politically. Because, he said, “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
This is actually a pretty astute political analysis of likely voter trends based on income.

But there’s more to it than that. On a more basic level, Romney is telling the truth about the state of dependency in the U.S., and is calling attention to the perverse incentives politically that are created when government assistance becomes a way of life for millions of Americans.

At the same time, Romney was wrong to imply that those same people do not or would not want to escape that web of dependency, that those who are unemployed or poor are so by choice. Therefore, that those stuck on welfare choose to stay there.
Wilson continues:
Sensing the missed opportunity to connect with those presently struggling in this economy, Romney clarified at his press conference that his “campaign is about helping people take more responsibility and becoming employed again” and that he wants “to help all Americans have a bright and prosperous future”.

He added, “Particularly for those who don’t have work, this whole campaign is focused on getting people jobs again”. This is exactly what he needs to be saying.

After all, which is more helpful to most Americans: a real job and the chance for social mobility, or a meager government check that will not save their homes?

Here, Romney is taking the opportunity to pivot his message to how he plans to help all Americans, even ones who are not planning to vote for him, all the while sticking to the original premise of his message that Barack Obama’s campaign is a direct albeit misguided appeal to government dependents...
This video may, in the end, be a blessing in disguise for Romney. But only if he quickly takes advantage of the opportunity it has created for him to explain why government dependency is destroying America. 
Winning over voters by insulting them is always a great strategy for any Presidential candidate. It is especially so when a good portion of the voters Romney has called lazy, dependent, bums are senior citizens, veterans, people in the military, and others who are part of the Tea Party GOP coalition.

Please Mr. Romney, I am begging you, do follow through on Bill Wilson's advice and make his wise words your talking points of the day, week, and month. The American people need to be reminded of what Mitt Romney actually thinks about them as often as possible in order to make an informed decision on election day in November.

Junot Diaz Really, Really Loves His Latinas: Is There Anyone Writing With Equal Affection and Desire For Black Women?

Oh, hello. I’d like to introduce you to someone. Reader, this is Nilda. Oh man, Nilda is something. She’s Dominican, and has super-long hair, like those Pentecostal girls, and a chest you wouldn’t believe—I’m talking world-class. She’s nice, right? Or, like, have you met Alma? She has a long tender horse neck and a big Dominican ass that seems to exist in a fourth dimension beyond jeans. And oh shit don’t even get me started on Magda, with the big mouth and big hips and dark curly hair you could lose a hand in.

These are just a few of the fine, fine women who date Yunior, the hero of Junot Díaz’s excellent new collection of stories, This Is How You Lose Her
Some more Junot Diaz, our founding "ghetto nerd," for you. With the release of his newest book, Diaz really is getting some much well-deserved shine.

Dude loves his Latinas. As a fellow traveler, I love all women. As such, I am a great advocate for race-mixing as my trips to space mountain involve vigorous--and often (whenever possible)--explorations across the color line. I love black women; as Big Pun said, I regulate every shade; but I also have a particular fondness for women from the Iberian peninsula.

If I am a tourist in such appreciation and lustful moments of hedonistic consumption(s) of the human ambrosia that is the female form, Diaz is the master.   

Fittingly, Slate has a piece dedicated to Junot Diaz's apparently incomparable wit and finely honed ability to describe the various varieties, subtleties, and types of Hispanic-Latina beauty. There Dan Kois writes:
Díaz’s commercial breakthrough, Oscar Wao, was also his breakthrough in lady-describing. Look no further than page 13, where a neighbor of seven-year-old Oscar is described thus: “Mari Colón, a thirty-something postal employee who wore red on her lips and walked like she had a bell for an ass.” Oh, my. Sit back for a moment and admire that sentence, the way you might otherwise sit back and admire the ass in question.
Five pages later, we meet the first girl who dumps Oscar, Maritza. Oscar never forgives himself for that one. “A ghetto Mary Jane, hair as black and lush as a thunderhead, probably the only Peruvian girl on the planet with pelo curlier than his sister’s ... body fine enough to make old men forget their infirmities, and from the sixth grade on dating men two, three times her age.” Like once-awkward Maritza, a newly confident Díaz is parading his talents in front of us, daring us to stare.
How wonderfully voyeuristic. It may just be prose on a virtual screen, but such imagery--and how it reminds me of a certain Puerto Rican sister from back in the day--makes a certain part of the anatomy lift like a lead pipe with wings aided by an anti-grav field.

As is true with such things, I do not know if it is just the thought of her that is so exciting these years later, or the memory of the fact that I enjoyed the attention of a queen--one who inspired dudes to have the "how the hell did he get her face?"--and had partaken of her many times and in many ways.

I am getting the vapors. Please let me compose myself for a moment.

The fantasy was a reality. It is rare that such dreams come true...and do not disappoint. But I digress.

Potentially onanistic, self-abuse inspiring tours of one's mental Rolodex of sexual and sensual experiences is fun, a healthy diversion.

But, I have a serious question.

Are there any mainstream authors as popular as Junot Diaz who are writing with such passion, desire, worshipful lust, and affection about black women?

Monday, September 17, 2012

We Ain't Got Nothing For You Here: Political Race and the Paradox of a Black President

Long live black politics! Black politics is dead! And what shall we do with the poor people?

When my friends and I planned Operation Ham Hock during our cultural nationalist conspiratorial minded phase in college, we were correct in that the election of a President who happens to be non-white would be the end of Black Politics and the triumph of color blind white racism. Our vision was not expansive enough. We failed to realize how a black president would cripple any efforts to discuss the realities of poverty, race, and class inequality in America. Damn our youthful ignorance.

Elijah Anderson, prescient and genius as he is, nails our blind spot and under-theorization in the New York Times piece "Is Poverty a Kind of Robbery?" where he observed:
Apparently, the Republicans have backed the Democrats, and President Obama in particular, into the proverbial racial corner. It is a supreme irony that Obama, the nation’s first African-American President, finds himself unable to advocate for truly disadvantaged blacks, or even to speak out forthrightly on racial issues. To do so is to risk alienating white conservative voters, who are more than ready to scream, “we told you so,” that Obama is for “the blacks.”
But it is not just the potential white voters, but the political pundits who quickly draw attention to such actions, slanting their stories to stir up racial resentment. Strikingly, blacks most often understand President Obama’s problems politically, and continue to vote for him, understanding the game full well, that Obama is doing the “best he can” in what is clearly a “deeply racist society.” It’s a conundrum.
Later in the same essay, Thomas Edsall connects the dots:
How different would the nation’s politics be if either party, or at least the Democrats, added the concept of economic exploitation to its repertoire?

Not only would doing so risk inflaming the issue of race, but it would put at risk existing sources of campaign finance on which both parties are dependent...This dependence on moneyed interests effectively precludes exploitation as a theme for either major party to develop. These sources of campaign cash would dry up if they became the target of policies or positions they found threatening.

Even as polarization poses more sharply defined choices to the voter, pressing issues remain off limits. Poverty and hunger have been dropped from the agenda. The range of policy and electoral choices remains confined to what fits comfortably into a world of muted ethical concern, a world in which moral relativism has permeated society not so much from the bottom up, as from the top down.
Left activists and others quite correctly point out how common class concerns are obfuscated and deflected by white racism and White identity politics. The race-making con game is centuries old in America: it goes back to at least Bacon's Rebellion in the 17th century when white planters deemed black folks to be a class of permanent slaves and chattel, and white indentured servants were granted their "forty acres and a mule" upon the end of their "term of service."

In all, white skin carries privileges that are both material and psychic. Poor and working class whites know this very well--even as historians, sociologists, and others would like to pretend that poor whites have been "bamboozled" or "hoodwinked" into voting against their own self-interest--as opposed to making a choice to get in bed with Whiteness...and the perceived and real advantages that come with it.

Racial attitudes are closely tied to opinions about policy issues that are ostensibly "race neutral." This is especially true for conservatives where white racial animus over-determines their views on a number of issues ranging from national defense, to support for the social safety net, and personal privacy. Because black folks are cast as "anti-citizens," views about poverty are intrinsically tied to attitudes and stereotypes about people of color, where the white racial frame deems them as being non-productive, lazy, and a drain on white society.

The potential embodied by "political race," i.e. that shared class concerns can be used to overcome the divides of the color line in pursuit of the Common Good, is alluring. However, in a political moment that combines a black president, fiscal austerity, and rising white nativism, realpolitik may have killed the idea of political race as a viable strategy and made it the first/last resort of hopeful dreamers:  
This skewing of the odds in favor of the rich comes at a time when the Democratic Party is already inhibited by accusations that it likes to foment “class warfare” and to play “the race card.” The result has been a relentless shift of the political center from left to right. The two most recent Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have pursued agendas well within this limited terrain. There is little reason to believe that Obama, if he wins in November, will feel empowered to push out much further into territory the Democrats have virtually abandoned.
Are common class concerns the way forward? Or will diminishing resources, and a contracting State, mean that working class (and poor) whites will reup and double down on Whiteness in order to maintain their position in the class hierarchy against an imagined threat from black and brown folks?

We dream of political race. But Whiteness wins again, does it not?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Smirking Mitt Walking Away from a Lynching


Mitt Romney's entitled, privileged, and self-righteous smirk when caught in a lie about President Obama and Libya has spawned an Internet meme. On this website, Romney has been depicted walking away from the Hindenburg, civil rights protesters, burning homes, and homeless people. The image, what it represents about his humanity and calculating coldness, both stands in for Romney, while also telling us something about the values and ideas we are reading onto him by virtue of his actions.

Mitt Romney is a sociopathic racist. His Southern Strategy 2.0 is proof of this fact. Romney's repeated lie that Barack Obama, "apologized" for the killing of Ambassador Stevens in Libya, and for the attacks on the consulate, are evidence of a profound lack of human empathy. He will do anything to win the presidency; Romney will double down on his post-truth campaign--even if it means misrepresenting reality while four Americans have recently been killed--even when the facts are still forthcoming.

The Tea Party GOP is a de facto party for "white people's rights." As such, Romney's campaign is dependent upon stirring up white racial resentment in order to defeat the country's first black president. All of his "real America," Birther-like appeals are direct signals that black and brown people are somehow outside of the American political tradition. By definition, a black man cannot and should not lead a "White" republic. Romney's lies about Obama as a thief and "welfare king" who steals from good white people in order to give money to "lazy" and "parasitic" blacks is a direct function of that big lie.

As I have pointed out many times, the Tea Party GOP are direct descendants of the "polite" racists in the John Birch Society (in fact, one of the elder members of the Koch family, the group that funds and supports the Tea Party brigands, was a founding member of the aforementioned organization). They would not kill a black person directly. Instead, these polite racists would watch the lynching, buy the postcards of the destroyed and defiled body, and cheer a spectacular act of violence that reinforced the color line and fueled whiteness as a sense of community, belonging, and exclusion of the Other.

Romney would have been there too, looming in the shadows.

Romney, and other white businessmen like him, both profited from, as well as encouraged Jim and Jane Crow because it was the "rational" thing to do. Romney's type would create racial animosity in the workplace or on the factory floor if it suited the economic logic of divide and conquer where black, brown, and white folks were put against one another in the interests of Capital and greed. Mitt Romney (much unlike his father) is also the very same type of man who would use what was then called "blockbusting" in order to scare white homeowners with a rumor that blacks would soon be moving into the neighborhood--and that any white person who wants to salvage the wealth and equity held in their property had best sell soon.

Romney's smirk, and his cold indifference, are a perfect embodiment of the cowardly and callous racial logic that many white Americans exhibited during the dark days of Jim and Jane Crow. In the Age of Obama, Romney, the Tea Party GOP, and the other assorted members of the rogues gallery that is the New Right, are playing to the worst part of the American (white) collective consciousness. One of "those people" is in "their" White House. Most would not actively do him any harm, but they would certainly not look the other way as Barack Obama is symbolically and (politically) immolated.

In a role befitting a man of his temperament and nature, Mitt Romney would, and is, simply handing the white racial reactionaries on the Right a lighter and some kindling, while he turns, then walking off with a smirk on his face.

It ain't personal. It is only business.

The "Movie" Innocence of Muslims is Just Really Bad Porn



What a let down.

Politics and popular culture can intersect in horrible and tragic ways. Birth of a Nation was a technical marvel and achievement. It also glorified the rise of the KKK, legitimated lynching culture, and produced stereotypes about black Americans' citizenship that resonate to the present with the Tea Party GOP and black conservatives. Innocence of Muslims is a horrible "film" whose aesthetics and sensibilities borrow from a recent trend where blockbuster Hollywood films and TV series (some very good as with Not the Cosbys XXX; and others quite horrible, see Pirates XXX) are remade as adult titles.

This should be no surprise as we have recently learned that the creator of Innocence of Muslims used to work in the adult film industry as a director. Alan Roberts is also a renaissance man: he did time for selling meth.

In all, a failed auteur made a bad movie, one that most people on either side of the debate and violent protests have not seen. The rumor of a thing, and what we imagine it to be, are often far greater (or worst) than what it really is. Innocence of Muslims is a Rorschach test, a political MacGuffin, for aggrieved people and culture warriors to write and impose their own scripts upon.

If they in fact exist, I would like to belief that God, Yahweh, Muhammad, Jesus Christ Soul Brother Number One, Crom, the Blessed Exchequer, or whatever other deities or supernatural beings one prays to (or not) is looking down on this whole mess and laughing with disgust. Great beings with infinite wisdom and power would take little offense at some badly made, crypto agitprop, quasi anti-Muslim porn.

Light is a disinfectant. People need to see a thing before they can honestly condemn it...and most have not even watched Innocence of Muslims. Yet, they want to scream, howl, protest, apologize, maim, and kill. So sad. And yes, utterly predictable.






Friday, September 14, 2012

We Are All Messed Up By This Race Thing: A Little Coonskin to Go With a Side of Junot Diaz



We are having a fun conversation here. It started out as my goofing on the buckdancing black conservatives over at Project 21 and has since taken a detour into Afrocentrism, the Black Atlantic, historical memory, transhumanism, and the interracial sex and dating habits of Star Trek fans.

In all, there are enough themes present there for a pretty solid work of speculative literature. The text may not end up being coherent; it would be pretty interesting nonetheless.

Ghetto nerds tend to roll that way I guess, with their minds overflowing, improvising, and pulling in inspiration from wherever it may come. To point, I had intended to share this great interview with Junot Diaz following my visit to Chicon 7.

[For those seeking a "no-prize," his book The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao is the inspiration for my "ghetto nerds" moniker/badge of honor.]

Speaking to the Boston Review, Diaz signals to many of the themes which animate WARN, as well as my own creative work. White supremacy is everywhere. We all breathe it, internalize it, reproduce it, and give it life--despite how the insincere and dishonest rhetoric of "colorblindess" in the post Civil Right era suggests otherwise. By implication, artists have to struggle with how to write realistically and honestly about racism/sexism/homophobia and other systems of strucutural oppression without legitimating those power relationships.

Junot Diaz comments on this challenge with beautiful wit and clarity. He suggests that race has made us all insane. Is our chief ghetto nerd right?
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Paula: This reminds me of a point you made in the question and answer session following your lecture yesterday. You said that people of color fuel white supremacy as much as white people do; that it is something we are all implicated in. You went on to suggest that only by first recognizing the social and material realities we live in—by naming and examining the effects of white supremacy—can we hope to transform our practices.

Junot: How can you change something if you won’t even acknowledge its existence, or if you downplay its significance? White supremacy is the great silence of our world, and in it is embedded much of what ails us as a planet. The silence around white supremacy is like the silence around Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, or the Voldemort name which must never be uttered in the Harry Potter novels. And yet here’s the rub: if a critique of white supremacy doesn’t first flow through you, doesn’t first implicate you, then you have missed the mark; you have, in fact, almost guaranteed its survival and reproduction. There’s that old saying: the devil’s greatest trick is that he convinced people that he doesn’t exist. Well, white supremacy’s greatest trick is that it has convinced people that, if it exists at all, it exists always in other people, never in us.

Paula: I wanted to ask you about something else you said in the lecture yesterday. You said you wanted to, and thought you could, “figure out a way to represent most honestly—represent in the language, and represent in the way people talk, and represent in the discourse—what [you], just one person, thought was a racial reality,” but without endorsing that reality. You indicated that you aim to realistically represent “our entire insane racial logic” but in a way that “the actual material does not endorse that reality” at the level of structure. This is certainly what I would argue your work succeeds in doing. But I would like to hear more about how you go about creating, at the level of structure, a disjuncture between the realistic representation of race and an endorsement of the racial logic on which the representation is based.

Junot: The things I say. [Laughs] OK, let me see if I can make sense of my own damn self. Let’s see if I can speak to the actual texts. Well, at its most simplistic in, say, Drown, we have a book where racist shit happens—but it’s not like at a thematic level the book is saying: Right on, racist shit! I was hoping that the book would expose my characters’ race craziness and that this craziness would strike readers, at the very minimum, as authentic. But exposing our racisms, etc., accurately has never seemed to be enough; the problem with faithful representations is that they run the risk of being mere titillation or sensationalism. In my books, I try to show how these oppressive paradigms work together with the social reality of the characters to undermine the very dreams the characters have for themselves.

So, Yunior thinks X and Y about people and that logic is, in part, what fucks him up. Now if the redounding is too blunt and obvious, then what you get is a moralistic parable and not literature. But, if it’s done well, then you get both the ugliness that comes out of showing how people really are around issues like race and gender, but also a hidden underlying counter-current that puts in front of you the very real, very personal, consequences of these orientations.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On the Clash of Civilizations, Neocons, and the Innocence of Muslims

For his part, Obama, from the very start of his presidency, had set out to douse the fires of the "clash of civilizations", then still raging courtesy of Messrs Bush and Bin Laden, among others. 
An editorial in the New York Times commenting on Obama's famous address to the Muslim world from Cairo University, lauded him for having "steered away from the poisonous post-9/11 clash of civilizations mythology that drove so much of President George W. Bush’s rhetoric and disastrous policy." 
To reignite "the clash" in some form serves to bolster the American Right as a whole, the American Christian Right (which is a mainstay of the Republican Party) in particular, while at the same time undermining Obama, who at best had acted to bring this clash to an end, and at worst is "a bloody Muslim" himself.
I came upon this piece via Balloon Juice and thought I would share it with you all. I have more questions than answers regarding the deadly mayhem that erupted in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere after the release of a video that was understood by many as disrespectful towards Islam and Muhammad. Hani Shukrallah does some great work here locating the recent violence in the region within a broader framework. The clash of civilizations narrative is deep and old; The Right will use it to undercut Obama; And while little discussed in the American corporate media, Islamicists and Neo-con culture warriors do have no small tendencies of character, ideology, and behavior in common.

I do not believe that any religion is due "respect" a priori: people earn respect by their deeds, faith and religion is a means (ostensibly) to that end and should be judged by that standard. If one wants to suggest that Christianity is due some respect, show me the deeds of Christians so that we can make a judgement. If some want to argue that Islam is worthy of respect, let us evaluate the acts and deeds of those called Muslim. If Judaism should be respected, we must examine the behavior of those called Jews. The calculus is deceptively simple.

Religious mythologies that some people take to be factual descriptions of reality are not granted immediate elevation in a society where church and state are separate, and where faith ought to be a personal and private matter. Moreover, that people of any religion would kill, riot, murder, rampage, and commit acts of wanton violence because their god was "offended"--how does anyone actually know the mind of god?--or a book, a bunch of paper with a binding was "defaced," is outside of my personality type and worldview. I am not religiously minded; I cannot understand such matters. As I often wonder, if your god is so great, and your faith so deep, how can such petty acts even move you?

However, this does not mean that Nations are as free as I am, a private citizen, to ignore how religion and faith are important to certain publics and countries around the world. Here, the violence in the Middle East surrounding this most recent "offense" against Islam is a symptom of other social dysfunctions.