The Next Great Novel
As I periodically check to see what people are reading on Cobb, I found a few hits for the post Hitchens And I this afternoon. It serves to remind me that the first great Western novel of the 21st century has yet to be written. I'm expecting that perhaps Martin Amis might do it. I haven't paid him any mind since Koba The Dread, but have a feeling that he may very well be onto the question of Western Civilization. Somebody must pick up where the Satanic Verses left off, and we've had quite enough non-fiction now haven't we?
The New Gig
The news, ladies in gentlemen is multifold. I'm going to be doing a great deal more writing in the upcoming months because I'm changing careers. No, I'm not going to be the one writing this great novel, but because I'm not going to be a data architect so much as a project manager and otherwise broker of personal skills and assurances, I'm going to focus less on technology, and more on alliances, engagement practices, customer assurance and of course, delivering to spec on budget and schedule. That means I'll be doing a great deal of writing about work rather than working which will give me occasions to speak about the relationships of power in the American workplace. It's actually something I know a bit about, having been a technical consultant immediately adjacent to management consultants going on 20 years now. Same company, new role, more leadership and the confidence of the managing director of the practice. My favorite quote from dinner the other evening: "If this works out, in 18 months you can write your own ticket". Lovely.
The New Pastimes
In fact, I'll be doing less gaming as my bass guitar skills increase. I'm working my way through the Lennon & McCartney songbook with my current favorite being 'Yesterday'. By the way, Boy and I will be cutting a video on that score soon. Check back November 1. I'm also doing a lot more reading. Now that I own two seasons of Futurama on DVD, I'll be watching a lot less television as well. I'm basically down to one show: 'House'. There is nothing so compelling as a smart man who enjoys the raw, unadorned essense of being right. This guy is John Galt.
God Is. Period.
Pops and I had a really titallating discussion about the nature of God last evening, as well as the entire question of 'therefore'. See, his angle is that as soon as you add a third word to the phrase "God is", you ruin everything. He seems to be occupying the space between Episcopalianism and Zen. So he doesn't want God anthropomorphised so much, nor even described. He likes the numinous implications of the very existence of God. What we're supposed to do in contemplation of that is unclear. More to come.
Oh Yeah Vacation
Blogging may come to an abrupt halt. Intellectual blogging that is. Starting today I am on vaction and will be travelling to Grand Exuma in the Bahamas to enjoy the hospitality of the Four Seasons resort over yonder. Plus the Spousal Unit and I will be doing the private island deally, which I hear is very cool. It's a good presumption that there's no broadband. Still, I'll be taking a bunch of pictures and that's all I have to say about that.
From the LAPD blog:
On Sunday, Sept. 24, three-year-old Kaitlyn Avila was shot and killed by suspected gang members in front of her Baldwin Village home.
The gunman, described as a black man in his early 20s, first opened fire on Cesar Avila, 24, the girl’s father. Today, Avila remains hospitalized in critical condition. The afternoon attack took place as Avila was helping his two daughters get out of their car. Kaitlyn’s five-year-old sister witnessed the shooting but was uninjured.
Chief Bratton, City and community leaders and several of the victim’s family members rallied Sept. 27 to condemn the violent act and seek community support in the apprehension of the assailants.
"This past Sunday a child was brutally murdered," said Chief Bratton. "By all accounts, this murder was in fact an execution. This senseless, unprovoked and cowardly act is a clear reminder that there are some among us whose only intention is to harm others."
The Jungle used to be a nice place, but that was 35 years ago when it was new. By the mid 70s it slid downhill and soon became the home of the Bloods. This blighted neighborhood has been a stain on this area of Southwest LA which has nice homes on all four sides. Something has got to change.
I just got an angry email from Pops who was fuming over the repair bill for the Superdome. The news is that it's going to cost 144 million to repair it. With that kind of money, you could build 1000 brand new suburban homes. But Pops doesn't have any info about how much money is being spent on the people, or how.
I've been pestering my aunt, who was displaced and has returned to New Orleans and is now doing volunteer work, to fill in the blanks. But I'm a writer and I assume too much that most other people are so inclined to represent. The problem is, of course, that everybody who thinks about it and has an opinion about it is going to say something. Whom do we remember? Spike Lee?
So if any of you folks know people who are blogging about New Orleans, do us a favor and let us know where those blogs are. I'm getting a little tired about hearing this stuff third hand.
By the way, this blog is still getting regular updates to the Katrina Jobs posts and comments are still open. I continue to hope that in that small way, that people are making connections that are useful to the restoration of the home of my many mothers.
"You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."
-- Leon Trotsky
One of the more difficult problems we face in these challenging times is that we in the political sphere are often so busy spinning that we're not often enough listening or explaining. Because of that, having listened in on an impassioned and convincing but I think wrongheaded tirade by Sen. Patrick Leahy yesterday I am convinced we simply haven't gotten certain details clear. When this happens in my profession, as it often does, I bring it down to simple, dumb questions.
We do hear a lot about this 'Imperial President' and the toughest questions I've heard from the press corps circle around the unmentionable, which is torture. It's rather astonishing though, how much a great deal of the opposition to the president I think stems from his crushed credibility with them. It doesn't allow them to trust anything he does, and they believe that he's ruining America. He's not. He's forcing us to think about a war nobody wants to think about, and war is the most all-consuming subject humans have. But because the opposition has been so strident, we have arrived at the rhetorical point of 'treason'. Democrats in the House have voted against American military tribunals in favor of international ones. This is the only explanation that makes sense to me, they believe the president to be so misled and having corrupted America and America's credibility abroad that they are ready to punt. I think this is ultimately a self-defeating conviction, but it exists nonetheless. Here's Leahy:
What has changed in the past five years that justifies not merely suspending, but abolishing the writ of habeas corpus for a broad category of people who have not been found guilty or even charged with any crime? What has changed in the last five years that our Government is so inept and our people so terrified that we must do what no bomb or attack could ever do by taking away the very freedoms that define America? Why would we allow the terrorists to win by doing to ourselves what they could never do and abandon the principles for which so many Americans today and through our history have fought and sacrificed? What has happened that the Senate is willing to turn America from a bastion of freedom into a caldron of suspicion ruled by a Government of unchecked power?
Under the Constitution, a suspension of the writ may only be justified during an invasion or a rebellion, when the public safety demands it. Six weeks after the deadliest attack on American soil in our history, the Congress that passed the PATRIOT Act rightly concluded that a suspension of the writ would not be justified. Yet now, six weeks before a mid-term election, the Bush-Cheney Administration and its supplicants here in Congress deem a complete abolition of the writ the highest priority – a priority so urgent that we are allowed no time to properly review, debate and amend a bill we first saw in its current form less that 72 hours ago. Notwithstanding the harm the Administration has done to national security with its mismanaged misadventure in Iraq, there is no new national security crisis. There is only a Republican political crisis. And that, as we all know, is why this un-American, unconstitutional legislation is before us today.
We have a profoundly important and dangerous choice to make today. The danger is not that we adopt a “pre-9/11 mentality.” We adopted a post-9/11 mentality in the PATRIOT Act when we declined to suspend the writ, and we can do so again today. The danger, as Senator Feingold has stated in a different context, is that we adopt a pre-1776 mentality: one that dismisses the Constitution on which our American freedoms are founded. Actually, it is worse than that. Habeas corpus was the most basic protection of freedom that Englishmen secured from their King in the Magna Carta. The mentality adopted by this bill, in abolishing habeas corpus for a broad swath of people, is a pre-1215 mentality.
Every one of us has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution. In order to uphold that oath, I believe we have a duty to vote for this amendment and against this irresponsible and flagrantly unconstitutional bill. That is what I shall do, and I urge all Senators on both sides of the aisle to join me.
What I haven't included is that Leahy believes that the law as written will apply to millions of people who live in America. Hewitt asserts that habeas has never applied to enemy combatants during a time of war.
Patterico asks the question, is there a situation in which torturous interrogation is ever justified? It's a question we used to ask in the blogosphere, in the abstract. But now that the President has actually put his answer in the form of a legislative agenda, the wails have arisen from all sides. The extreme distrust of the Executive Branch from the Democrats gives an answer which sounds like 'never'. What I really believe they mean is that 'we would never do it like this'.
You see if you give Leahy's implications the numbers that make sense, it changes the entire import of his dissent. And I think this is where the question ought to be framed. Because of everything the President has done in the murky area of secret prisons and violations of what was not law before Hamdan, it boils down to the 17 secret prisoners and the combatants at Gitmo whose number is somewhere around 500. And what is the ultimate fate of those half-thousand?
My simple question is this: based on these hypothetical facts, was the waterboarding session worth it?
While this is not being done for retribution, it may provide some perspective to note that, in the hypothetical, the plot stopped by obtaining the information is much like 9/11. And in the real 9/11, real people in the Twin Towers who were confronted with fires and smoke had the sensation they couldn’t breathe, but that’s because they actually couldn’t — and it lasted more than two minutes. Then they were crushed by the collapsed building, and taken away from their families, due to the actions of this man. If we don’t get the information, similar things would happen again, perhaps to hundreds or thousands of people.
So: is such a waterboarding session worth it?
I think those led by Leahy believe that George W. Bush has attempted to change the law in order to convert our government into a killing machine. That his administration has adequately demonstrated themselves to be the embodiment of.. well, evil. That their intent is wreckless and that the collateral damage is inevitable and irreconcilable, and for this lack of confidence they will limit the power available to the US by legal means and defer it to the world. Leahy invokes the cardinal principle of our criminal justice, that it is better to let 100 guilty men go free than it is to punish one innocent man. And in this legislation he fears a terrible inversion.
Defenders of the President, those of us who believe we are truly at war take the opposite tack. We believe that we now face combatants who have demonstrated motive, means and opportunity to make war upon the US by unconventional means. That every one of them who goes free is worse than a serial killer and that the rules of criminal justice should not apply to them. That by definition such combatants are few in number and that this does not cover many millions. We believe that America must arm itself with the necessary weapons, principles and policies to defeat this enemy and that the aims and intent of this president can be trusted.
Leahy makes the mistake of applying criminal justice standards to war, and his mistrust of everything this President stands for in this war serves to weaken America in that war.
Are they criminals or are they soldiers?
John Derbyshire makes some interesting observations about race in American society. His analysis has a rather nice syllogistic air to it but I'm afraid he's a bit short on some details. Specifically, he initiates a dialog with an audience that is not accustomed to talking about race, and he knows it. While he hits on many cogent points, he invents new terms and combats them without really addressing the reasons he much.
Derbyshire points out that Conservatives are both ignorant and cowardly when it comes to the subject of race. He's right. It is a daunting challenge but not a pressing one. It is analagous to the matter of being 40 pounds overweight. It's something you can live with, but it's unhealthy and you really have to work at changing. But overweight people get love too. The current atmosphere of anti-racism is the equivalent of drinking Diet Coke, or sometimes two Diet Cokes, just to be sure. In other words, we Conservatives are the elephant in the room.
The problem with race in America is not petty details of our inability to talk about race healthily, its that we don't understand, we meaning mutually understood between blacks and whites about the nature of what is, and how it came to be. This is because the political parties have their narratives about racial justice and the Democrats is larger only because the Democratic base is more black. Blackfolks have their own narrative about race in America and it doesnt often coincide with what the parites are saying nor with what they have done. Serious black anti-racists don't trust either party to have their best interests at heart. Still, conservatives and Republicans are percieved to have much more to prove.
When it comes to the GOP, there are high points to talk about, but broadly speaking most blackfolks are ignorant of the Dirksen story and largely overly impressed with the Southern Strategy. Republicans and conservatives will get nowhere with African American voters until they can disabuse themselves of an image which is agnostic about black progress. What conservatives need is a creation myth that resonates with blackfolks. The facts are not enough and it is the fault of the Conservative Movement for not bringing blackfolks along, deep in the dialog.
Conservatives don't talk about race because they are socially inept and not familiar with the ways black people discuss it amongst themselves. So they are incapable of distinguishing between the rhetoric and ideology of our so-called 'black leaders' and the actual aims of African Americans. It is for this reason that I am convinced that to even have this conversation, the GOP must be integrated. And no conversation about race solves any significant social problems unless it begins by generating enthusiasm with all parties involved. And no politics that fails to communicate in common terms across lines are going to enable successful coalitions. We know that political operatives spend a great deal of time crafting 'message', and anything that is 'off message' is cast aside. But there is no 'message' that points to advancement of racial dialog. And this is insufficient for the extended conversation that must take place for there to be a black/white consensus on race matters.
A more thoroughly integrated GOP must be a reflection of the political will of the people, it cannot reach out to blacks merely for the sake of solving racial issues. Blackfolks are political animals, but we don't have a nose ring labled 'racial issues' through which we can be led around. This sets up a paradox. Blacks will not migrate to the Republican Party because of its policy on race, but Republican weakness on racial issues of the past and present remains the greatest disincentive keeping blacks away. This is why you will consistently find black Republicans who appear to be indifferent about the lack of a GOP 'racial agenda'.
Let's be clear about something here. Talking about racial issues in a way that generates consensus and enthusiasm is an important matter, but it is not the same thing as 'raising the race'. Talking about something and doing something are two different things. Republicans certainly want black progress, but they only expect to facilitate it the same way they facilitate middle class folks. Furthermore . Republican conversations never get off the ground with blackfolks because there is an unstated desire that Republicans use their power to do something for African America, according to the way the black narrative runs. As part of that narrative, the Republicans have to first admit that they are all closet racists who secretly hate blacks and shelter overt racists, all because of the Southern Strategy.
This status quo works because the Republican party has the blessing of naive consistency. It preaches no special considerations by race and delivers none. Instead, the only people who talk about race 24/7 are unelected white liberal activists and unelected black political activists who are working out of a static view of the goverenment solution to our social problems. Conservatives rightly criticise the very basis of this thinking, but by doing so are hitting their greatest stumbling block in addressing the concerns of black voters, which is a presumption of making progress on the racial front.
So the problem is black progress. Who's responsible?
The kneejerk Right answer is that blackfolks are responsible for their own progress, that there is nothing that the government can do for them. This is sheer hypocrisy. Why have politics? Why have government if it doesn't benefit its constituents? In countering the welfare-state mentality, which they should, some conservatives wrongly assume they have eliminated the entire basis of their appeal to the majority of African Americans. That is because they pay too much attention to think-tank wars and not enough to the people themselves. But this is not delusion in a vacuum. Every black voice that states opposition to the Republican party on the basis of it not supporting Affirmative Action and entitlement programs fuels this fire.
The Affirmative Action debate as the locus of black/Republican relations is an exercise in futility. Anyone who engages in that is doomed. Consider the following, while keeing in mind Malcolm X's position. He saw right through it. Whites and Asians don't talk about race because it is generally accepted, while untrue, that Asians are superior to whites on average. So while Asians seem to be more integrated into white society, I argue that is a consequence of the size of the statistical sample. A common sense way to look at this is to imagine that any social program, or Affirmative Action has a certain amount of force. And to exercise that force on the object to be lifted. We all know that in the main, Affirmative Action has had a strikingly positive effect on the careers of white women. On aggregate, white families have benefitted as much as black families. So it has done some excellent and exceptional things, but it is not what has raised the race, and anyone who believes its impact can be anything more than marginal hasn't learned what Malcolm X knew 40 years ago.
White Conservatives won't say so because they don't generally understand the black racial narrative, nor the message of Malcolm X, but in fact they are in perfect harmony in their basic beliefs. It will not be politics or government largess that will raise the depressed stature of the Black Man, it will be a revolution of values based on religious discipline. Whitefolks are not fundamentally a part of that equation of refining the qualities of the Black Man towards the ends of self-sufficiency. It continues to stun me that this parallel isn't widely understood, but it does go to underscore how weak Conservatives are on matters of understanding the black narrative on race and how they bumble around searching for the right message. Hello. It's not coming from the Heritage Foundation. Here is Malcolm:
The platform that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, our religious leader, stands on is the platfrom of complete freedom, justice and equality for the 20 million black people or so-called Negroes here in America. And he teaches us that because of the seriousness of the condition that our people now find themselves in that it is absolutely impossible to solve our problems with means other than religion. And he teaches us that the religion of Islam is the only religion that will instill within our people the incentive to stand on our own feet. And instead of trying to force ourselves upon whites or force ourselves into the white society or blame the white man for our predicament and constantly beg him for what he has, he says that the only way that we can solve our problem is to unite together among ourselves, among our own kind, clean ourselves up, rid ourselves of the evils that we've become addicted to here in this society and try and solve our problem ourselves.
Props to the Struggle
Black culture retains a dialog and conversation about the progress of the race which is assumed to be the part-time avocation of anyone involved in successful life. The presumptions against blacks, whether stated or unstated present various stumbling blocks to success, and successful blacks are always presumed to 'work twiece as hard'. Whether or not that is actually the case, all those who perservere against the racial problems of America are expected to understand this conversation and communicate something about that back to the black community at large. We must testify. Whether it is a rap song about bling, a gospel song about deliverance, or Colin Powell being booed when he speaks positively about Affirmative Action at the GOP National Convention, there is communication that must go down about The Struggle. What is never, under any circumstances acceptable to this ethos is that we suck up to The Man at the expense of black pride. This is the very definition of Tomming.
The unfortunate presumption has always been with regard to the upward mobility on the Right, an individual must be a part-time or full-time Tom. What irks blackfolks is not the upward mobility, but that someone cannot stand up to their full hight as a black man or woman. When we percieve that that fundamental element of their humanity is being suppressed in any way, we dismiss that person as a sellout. And who wouldn't?
The recent endorsement of Republican candidate for Senate Micheal S. Steele, who is currently Lt. Governor of Maryland by hiphop mogul Russell Simmons and CEO Cathy Hughes of Radio One is immensely significant in this regard because it communicates within that dialog of Struggle that Steele is one who has a common bond with those popularly acknowledged by blackfolks not to be sellouts in their ascent.
African Americans today are suffering the ill effects of diaspora. Since the passage of the Civil Rights Movement and the ascention of black social capital, African America has disbursed through the country. In 1950, only 14% of blackfolks graduated from highschool. Today it is not uncommon for there to be married black families with two college graduates who grew up in different parts of the nation and live in a third. This is a tremendous increase in social mobility. And yet it comes at the expense of the traditional black ghettos where we were all once forced to live. The end of the Civil Rights and subsequent Black Power movements dispersed black leadership who have been absorbed into mainstream professional and managerial classes. The principle of 'each one teach one' is challenged. The role of racial testimony has gone cyber. Gone are the corner men and the 'mayors' of black neighborhoods. Here in Southern California, many traditional black neighborhoods aren't even majority black any longer. So the quality of the narrative of black struggle is undergoing great change - it is borne today by more media at more levels with less signal and more noise. So it is increasingly difficult to steer African American opinion either by traditional media or by blacks themselves.
Therefore conservatives face a very daunting challenge in addressing the narrative of black progress in ways that resonate with blacks from the old ways of their communication reconciled with their new media sophistication. But it is insufficient for them to stand on the sidelines and not engage in the subject of black progress, especially given the massive investments the Conservative Movement has made and continues to make against the tradition of liberally angled journalism in all media. What an embarrassment it is for John Derbyshire, a Brit, to be the one who initiates this debate.
I could go into examples of the Conservative default. They are numerous, but I would like to highlight two which I find rather notable. The first is the career of neoconservative David Horowitz who constantly and consistently demonizes his association with the Black Panthers and the second is the attack on Kwanzaa sustained on an annual basis by Ann Coulter. There are certainly perfectly logical and sound reasons to offer critiques of the Panthers and of the personal history of Ron Karenga, founder of Kwanzaa. But like the dismissal of Affirmative Action these very narrow ways of dealing with issues of interest and importance to the narrative of black progress is insulting and reinforces the stereotypes against conservatives and Republicans. I get mad about it and I'm already an activist for the Right.
Waiting for black accretion towards the Right, which I believe is inevitable as blacks advance through society, is lazy and unacceptable. The Old School values which are clear and present in black politics and society are close to conservative values in more ways than just Bible thumping black evangelicals. Conservatives need to move forward. It will take work, persistence and patience, but most of all it will take initiative. The direction to go is in the direction of success, and that is what the conversation needs to be about. That is what will generate enthusiasm. Conversations about dysfunction and pathology and the analysis of such.. well that's the province of the Left agenda, and it is a non-starter. At least it is over here at Cobb. I challenge Conservatives to talk about upward mobility in synch with the enormous desire within African Americans to fulfill their potential in that regard. America is unified in its antipathy to racism so both blacks and the Right should stop pretending that racism is what's keeping them apart. It is not. It is a demonstrated inability to appreciate each others narratives about black success and what it means. When they both start talking about it with each other instead of past each other, eyes will begin to open.
Whatever. He's unembarrassable and doesn't really care what you think. He just wants to make his point and we're just going to have to listen to him as long as there are microphones and electricity. I'm not to impressed one way or another and I haven't bothered to find the three errors of fact he seems to have found with the docudrama. Listening to him make excuses for the past is a waste of my time, but I understand that he must do something to rejigger his legacy.
Metcalfe's Law Is Wrong
Yes it's true. I lost the details of my proof but it had something to do with Dunbar's Number.
US International Cred
I skimmed the report and then lost it. But the authors made sense. Still, I have a fundamental problem with this notion that perception is everything. Perception needs to be 20% and nothing more, if that. It is an objectively good that the world has been rid of Saddam Hussein, Libya as a WMD threat and the AQ Khan Network. If we are percieved to be the bad guys for unilaterally sticking our neck out, it's a price I'm willing to bear. That said, we are at the political limits of boots work so it's time to put on the diplomatic soft shoes. So dance Condi, dance.
I just got a copy of Dead Rising. Now I know how much I don't particularly dig zombie games. This one has a decent premise, and it reminds me very much of one of those zombies at the mall movies. The execution is fairly decent for a third person romp & stomp, with control that feels roughly like GTA. But it just doesn't quite cut it for me. I'm sending it back. This is the second ever photographer-hero game I've ever played. The first one was on Nintendo with those Pikachu characters, remember them? You get points for taking cool pictures of the action in the game. With zombie violence, it's a bit voyeuristic, and considering the clumsiness I felt with these controls, I lost interest is trying to score big with it. The hero runs like he has bad knees and the gun has no reticle. It's rather cool that you can pickup objects like steel bookshelves and cash registers to beat upside the heads of your pursuers, but it gets tired. I got two miserable achievements and it's back into the orange envelope. Nice try guys.
I only caught a few minutes at the tail end of the Laura Ingraham show yesterday morning on the radio. What a coincidence to find that she was interviewing Meg Meeker, the author of the book I just purchased Monday night, Strong Fathers Strong Daughters.
As soon as I turned on the radio someone was completing a sentence about men having to reorient themselves towards their masculine side. That's what pricked up my ears. So I started ranting in my own mind in support of that notion, especially given the categorically unmanly antics of today's crop of television fathers. It seems like every time I eyeball a contemporary sitcom, some woman is doing something masculine that the man can't handle. Last time it was shooting a gun, a cutesy inversion. The guy (I shudder to call him man) pratfalls on his butt by the recoil of a .45 while the woman quips, Oops forgot to tell you about the recoil.
This turn reminds me that a fairly serious thread in my days as a performance poet in early 90s LA was parallel to the Men's Movement. I was and am still a very large fan of Robert Bly's book "Iron John", and I can recall with some mixed fondness Robin Williams' performance in 'The Fisher King'. It was a man thing, but it was also a bourgie white man thing, there being certain aspects of 'getting in touch with your feminine side' that never appealed to any black men I ever knew. But I don't mean to draw a color line because I would add that it's also a First World white color upscale bourgie thing. As you know I'm a big fan of Dirty Jobs, and I would submit that there's a good portion of Marlboro Men still carrying the red-blooded flag.
I'm looking forward to carrying on about real men and how they should protect their daughters as well as jumping on the case of dainty men who have been feminized by .. well Feminists. I think this is going to lead to some very interesting conservatism, as I start bloviating about the Wuss Factor. It will eventually land back in the zone of Holy Matrimony, so you know what to expect. This book is going to be a big deal.
Following the meme started by Dell Gines...
Blackfolks in America are deeply part of the American culture and our influence is pervasive. Our flavor is America's flavor and we are inseparable from that cultural hegemony the world over. We are integrated to the highest levels of society and there are very few parts of this country none of us have been. We are growing in educational achievement, financial stability and particpation in the managerial, professional and entrepreneurial classes. The best of our culture is intact and its preservation continues.
African Americans are a very large and diverse group which means there are millions who remain disconnected to the mainstream of America. 40% are still lodged in pockets of rural and urban poverty and despair. We have been unable to advance at a consistent pace across our internal demography and therfore continue retain ghetto deprivations two generations after Civil Rights. The plight of the black underclass is as dire today as it was before WW2. The worst of our culture is intact and appears permanent in America.
Relative to other minority groups, African Americans' degree of assimilation into the white collar workforce can yeild a distinct advantage in certain sectors of the global economy. Aggregation of black wealth can create a permanent trust. Dynasties in various entertainment and sports professions can fund a diversification of black business interests.
Conflicts between poor blacks and immigrants can devolve into classic ethnic strife driving divisive politics to reopen old racial wounds. Failures in the public sector combined with hypersegregation can drage otherwise promising poor blacks into the permanent underclass.
Something incredible is about to happen, and I'm a little bit anxious. The President has ordered Negroponte to declassify the National Intelligence Estimate. This will be, by all means, the ultimate scorecard of what has transpired in the past year. As I mentioned before regarding the leak, it's impossible to quantify how much is good and how much is bad:
But there is no question that this declassification signals a new level of transparency. I am not believing for a moment that there is no political machination in this. It's so patently obvious that the Right is suspect of the NYT motivations in securing the leak of this document to make the assertion that Iraq is making the world worse. Any good news in the NIE is not going to be presented without spin, but given the antipathy of the Left with Bush, there's no way the conversation would get past the same old catfight when the 'Truth' is classified. So declassification paves the way for Bush to show the good news.
But it also undermines his arguments that leaks help the enemy. I believe that the NIE is a different sort of document than the operations of the SWIFT program, for example, but it still does give some high level understanding of where we are in the GWOT. I have to say that's a general plus, and it has been my gut since 9/11 that the general citizenry would be best served with some tactical information about how to handle terrorism. I'm recalling the document passed around the net about what to fear and what not to fear about anthrax.
In November of 2001, all of us found 'anthrax' somewhere, and we tested the ability of our phone systems and police departments to respond to our concerns. They couldn't of course. Our new diligence overwhelmed authorities, and it always will. In these situations, there are winning and losing leaders. The winning leaders, like Rudy Giuliani are the ones who respond by the reassurance of directing our concern into actions we can take. The losing leaders like John Ashcroft are the ones who respond by promising to lead a regime of change so we don't have to do anything. In other words those who promise to take care of us fail. Those who show us how to take care of ourselves win.
So what the President can do is guide a new level of Saturated Awareness. Since the millions of us have decided, at one level or another, to second guess an Executive Branch suffering a crisis of credibility with at least half of the nation, it's time he turned on the firehose and let us really deal.
George Allen, for the rest of his life, will be peddling uphill. At the end of that mountain, is not the White House, the roadmap has been moved under his wheels. From here on out it doesn't matter how fast he peddles, he will be going around in racial circles. Too bad.
Two former acquaintances of Senator George Allen said Monday that he used racist slurs in the 1970’s and 1980’s, a development that compounded accusations of racial insensitivity that have dogged his re-election campaign in Virginia. Mr. Allen denied that he had ever used such words.
One of the two old acquaintances, Christopher Taylor, now an anthropology professor at the Birmingham campus of the University of Alabama, said he heard Mr. Allen use an epithet to describe African-Americans in the early 1980’s.
Mr. Taylor, who is white and was then a graduate student at the University of Virginia, said the term had come up in a conversation about the turtles in a pond near Mr. Allen’s property. Mr. Allen, Mr. Taylor said, told him that “around here” the only people who “eat ’em” were African-Americans, whom he described with the notorious epithet for blacks.
Separately, Dr. Ken Shelton, who was a football teammate of the senator at the University of Virginia and who is also white, said that while in college in the early 1970’s Mr. Allen often used the same racially charged term. Mr. Shelton, whose account was first reported Sunday night in the online newsmagazine Salon, said Mr. Allen had told him that he had moved to Virginia “because the blacks know their place.”
George Allen is now going to be eating crow for a while. It will be a sad little drama to watch him dance on the griddle and try to find some black friends to back him up. Then he'll say.. well those were different times and Richard Pryor used to say it. Then he and his campaign will go through the, what are they five?, stages of mourning. Today he's in denial.
Even though I am tempted to interrogate the messenger, this one stinks like a real stinker, not just a funny smell as with the 'macaca' thing. When somebody brings up such a memory, it's noticable for how it must have been a real shock when it happened.
I don't believe that George Allen has more than three or four racist bones in his body. Nor have I been convinced that he does much work with those bones either in destructive bigotry or supporting his weight. But he's addressing a nation with higher, if disengenuous, political standards than that, and so has recieved the kiss of death. Chalk one more up to the social capital of African Americans, and watch your step, because somewhere deep in your long forgotten past, you were a racist. I know I was.
Oh, and by the way, I like Mitt Romney and John McCain better anyway.
The Right does have a variety of monikers for the enemy of the day, but most of us are sticking to the President's term: Islamo-Fascists. I stick to the CT folks terms 'Jihadis' which also seems to stick with theologians. The difficulty at this point is distinguishing Salafist Jihadis (& Wahabis) from the Al Qaeda side and Khomeinist Jihadis from the Iranian/Hezbollah side - that's because the Khomeinists are Shia, and the rebels in Iraq are Sunni. We've been mistaking (by we I mean Bush and his supporters) 'terrorists' with the Iraqi insurgency, and although there have been real acts of perfidy and shooting from mosques, the Iraqi insurgency are not really the primary terrorists targetted by the GWOT as we understand it.
Understand that Iran is fine with destabilizing Iraq to the extent that it can exert Shia influence on the new Shia majority, but then again the hatchet is not completely buried. They were at war; a war that killed one million.
At any rate, I have purchased The Looming Tower and have begun this, the most reputable book about Al Qaeda yet written in English. And so I am following in the first few pages, the story of Sayyid Qutb, also to be known as the 40 Year Old Virgin, as he grows to despise America, one dame at a time in Greeley, Colorado.
So to the end of disambiguation, I'm also starting a reference page.
For the first time, I think ever, I actually lost sleep thinking about the debate here at Cobb. The thing that got under my skin was the following note and my own internal debate about what to do.
Cobb if it weren't for us cluttering up your blog, you wouldn't have lively discussions. But maybe we should take some time off from commenting on your blog.
That's not comprehensive but in the right direction. If it weren't for the clutter, other people would be contributing to lively discussions. And if the only kind of comment posted produces clutter, then the time out should be permanent. There are other blogs in the universe and they have trackback.
The point is this: I've already recieved emails from people who are intimidated by the 'nunchaku fight' going on here, and I've been reticent about admitting that what's going on here is eroding the usefulness of the blog as a public forum. I've already seen two examples of curt dismissals of opposing viewpoints of other folks who have come here as well as a rather purposeful character assassination. What have I done about it? Nothing. People do what people do, right?
Currently my attitude is laisez-faire, but I am uneasy with the status quo. I am hopeful that this level of chicken scratch will abate on it's own with this prodding. What's clear is this cannot continue. One way or another it won't. So here's to civility and restraint.
There is one magic bullet that those opposed to the Bush presidency have, but I wonder if they are polishing it. I've long been in cranky opposition to those who repeatedly mutter 'Bush Lied' about WMDs and who give the lack of them to be material to their opposition to Bush regarding Iraq. The whole 'false premises' argument doesn't wash.
You see Cedarford says, what I was hoping somebody intelligent on the Dem side might say if they weren't suffering advanced BDS. But before I reiterate some of his many points, let's get to his best point (that I too had been thinking) and the 'last question', posed as follows.
People who contend that Bush's pre-emptive war is a massive failure, even as they harp on WMDs utterly fail to address the fact that the strategic goal of an Iraq that threatens with WMD has been unequivocably achieved. Saddam Hussein cannot and will not ever threaten anyone with WMD. Mission Accomplished. So those opposed to Bush may absolutely hate that he has accomplished it by military means, now taking the military out of the equation, how will America put Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in exactly the same nullified threat position?
Like lesser men before him, Bill Bennett for recent example, Benedict has been misinterpreted by people with agendas looking for devils. Some of it deliberate, some of it sloppy. Such matters are inevitable, and I am returning this week to the themes of 'jumping meta' as in metaphysics. For the record, the blogosphere (which is fast outgrowing its name - we used to be a small community of a couple million) has come correct on the matter of papal original intent thanks to Stuart Buck. But what does it take to fool the entire blogosphere? And how fast is the emergent quality of truth we deal with on a daily basis?
I go in this direction prompted by a review of some of my old material, namely 'Sunglasses in the Auranet'. Furthermore I am still buzzing about the nature of Truth and our ability to percieve it, ascertain its provenance, and reconcile ourselves to it. In fact, I wonder at this very moment, hmm no I don't. I was going to wonder if Truth is actually Good and that only those who posit God are philosophically capable of merging the two. But I think it's human nature to ascribe good to that which sustains them, and even the most atheist cosmologist would have to concede that the laws of a godless universe are indeed good, because these laws sustain consciousness. Aside from that diversion, the warning is to beware of perfect simulacra and not to wed identity to information.
As I was driving along the coast this morning after having dropped off Boy to his Quartermaster duties at the local Scout troop, I noticed how lovely and calm was the Pacific Ocean off our shores. I had earily related to him how quaint our town would be had soldiers from the Pacific in WW2 not brought back stories of Polynesian splendor. If Hollywood hadn't supported romantic notions associated with watching sunsets from sandy beaches, real estate around here would be ordinary. And so it occured to me along the lines of metaphysics that fishermen see the sea in a completely different way. The jogger's appreciation, the admiration given by the couple sitting on the bench holding hands has nothing to do with experience with the ocean itself, but only the idea that this view is beautiful.
As well, related to the emergent quality of truth and fact finding with the internet as a communications tool, we must face some implications of the long tail theory. In this case, I am talking about the truth of moderate, rational Islam, which is apparently not self-evident enough for those lining up to prove once and for all that Islam has 'violent tendencies'. As I wrote yesterday at Protien Wisdom:
But I don’t think this line of inquiry is looking for moderate Islam, so much as it is looking for political actors who will side with the Coalition of the Willing. The fact that they are muslim is just a convenient proxy. Because, let’s face it, we’re not going to learn Islam anymore than the Mullahs are going to learn baseball.
All we really need to know is who the extremists are who are ready to act violently against America, Western interests and who would subvert state sovereignty. But let’s not pretend to care about Islam more than we do.
I happen to believe that somewhere out there, there is a muslim cleric who has responded precisely to Benedict’s theological challenge. And I cannot imagine that such a thing would be so very difficult. But I think it serves us well to be reminded that Benedict was also addressing ‘radical secularists’ who falsely believe they own a monopoly on Rationalism.
I’m not so convinced that Benedict is engaging in world-historical brinksmanship, nor does it behoove us to draw a line in the sand over Islam as soon as possible. That is because I believe that the kinds of acts of terror and perfidy we face on a global scale with these Jihadis is not a viral ideological plague. Syria did not empty out into the Iraqi desert, nor did Iran even send any numbers of troops across the border, though I’m sure there were spies and agents. Israel didn’t have to raise a finger. What indeed is the size of the al Sadr’s Madhi Army? Small.
Countering the real threat of Jihadi terror simply does not require a referendum on Islam. I can’t tell you who killed whom in Srebernica from a theological standpoint, nor can I recite anything from Hutu history. But we’ll know they’re Jihadis by their acts, by their acts, yes we’ll know..
Bottom line we don't have to be exhaustive in our knowledge to know enough. But by the same token we shouldn't pretend to know more than we actually do when our convictions are solid. I'm sure there are a class of logical fallacies associated with this. I was attracted to logical fallacies when I was a sixth grader and I remain fascinated by deception and the analysis of emergent corroboration. Which means if I get wealthy, I'll become the Kung Fu Santa Claus, if merely rich then a priest or philosophy professor, and if only upscale the same part-time essayist I am. Note to self, cobble together more paragraphs for book number one.
Federal regulators notified Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center late Friday that it had failed what was billed as a "make or break" inspection and would lose annual funding of about $200 million — more than half the hospital's budget — at the end of the year.
The move is likely to force Los Angeles County to close the long-troubled public hospital, give it to someone else to run or turn it into a clinic, as officials have repeatedly acknowledged.
As I continue to differentiate between Liberals and Leftists, I find this one place to easily draw a line. That is on the matter of Citgo. Charles Rangel showed some testicular fortitude in his send-off to Venezuelan Arch Mage Hugo Chavez, and that's a cue. So do it, you liberals. Boycott Citgo now or forever hold your peace.
How many times have we suffered through your liberal diatribes about the evils of multinational oil corporations? Well here's one whose head comes into your country and calls your president a devil. What are you going to do about it? Just in case you haven't heard, here's Rangel:
‘You do not come into my country, my congressional district, and you do not condemn my president. If there is any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans, whether they voted for him or not. I just want to make it abundantly clear to Hugo Chavez or any other president, but do not come to the United States and think because we have problems with our president that any foreigner can come to our country and not think that Americans do not feel offended when you offend our Chief of State’…
So the difference between Liberalism and Leftism has to do, from my perspective, to one's allegiance to national values vs international values. International Socialism, for example. It seems to me that a Leftist owes some fidelity to the international poor and disabused and those who mouth off in their defense and are generally willing to throw America under the bus of that globalism. Simple.
And if you forget what kinds of things Hugo Chavez has to say about our President. Let this be a reminder.
"If the poor and uneducated knew how to work the system, they'd be neither poor nor uneducated."
-- John & Ken
The problem with homelessness is almost exactly like the problem with joblessness. There are people who simply cannot find a place in our society, and do not have the skills to survive in a way that makes us adequately comfortable with our urban sophistication. So like with joblessness, we need to find a way to recover the recoverable, so that they do not slip inevitably into the abyss with no hope for a second chance. We also need to make clear distinctions between the deserving and undeserving and direct them in the proper directions.
The short , sweet and inadequate answer to the problem of urban homelessness is rural survival for the non-indigent and rural institutionalization for the indigent. To leave homeless people in the city is to set them up to be victims of criminal predators. Urban homelessness is a blight on our civilization. I must confess that on the rural angle of things half of me is saying 'out of sight out of mind', but the important fact is that it's cheaper to live in the boonies and lower skillsets are required. It makes no sense to me to put homeless people up on expensive property in a highly competitive environment, unless they are ready for it. The readiness sniff test, it seems to me, would be whether or not they are likely to do well in a halfway house of some sort.
But before we go dropping people into boxes, remember the reason why we must. The state has an interest, ie the People have an interest in keeping homelessness down. And by definition, these are people who can't or won't handle their business. Mind you, this is below the welfare line, so we may as well call them unemployable for the most part. It also seems to me that a substantial number of these folks are on the margins of institutionalization, meaning mental homes, halfway houses, VA hospitals or jails. So depending on how you look at it, some fraction of the homeless should be under some kind of assisted living. But there have got to be limits to how much assistance the state should give, just as there are limits in the amount of unemployment checks people out of work should get. Nobody who can compete has a right to not compete.
So let's do this four ways. A magic quadrant should suffice. Two axes, recoverability, and sociability. On the axis of recoverability, there are the Mobile and the Immobile. On the axis of sociability there are the Beat Down and the Low Down. I don't know how the demographics play out in this, obviously I'm being somewhat arbitrary in the way I split things up. But again, I think it's important to insure that those who will be on the dole are there out of necessity. This gets back to questions of the Underclass and who is socially indigent vs who is truly indigent. I don't want the socially indigent clotting up my welfare system. For the purposes of discussion, I'd say the answer is about half. Which is to say my SWAG is that half of the people who live in the street are truly indigent. There are a great number of questions to address in this. But my presumption is that the person that we want to take care of is the man who cannot work, not the man who will not work.
There's got to be a special place in the plan for indigent women and children, the mentally retarded and the crippled. There have got to be exceptions for people who have other pensions and other family. I don't buy the notion that everybody deserves a nuclear family and that ought to be the model. If you can't make it on your own, then you don't deserve privacy.
So that's where I'm coming from on homelessness. Keep them away from people who will do them dirt, classify them according to some index of recoverability and sociability. By Mobile and Immobile, I mean are they ill / lame or otherwise physically or mentally incapacitated. By Beat Down vs Low Down I mean are they the victims of some tragic event or are they simply massive underachievers?
It has only been a short period since we've lost Steve Irwin. Now it looks like we might lose Richard Hammond:
Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond has only a '50-50' chance of surviving his horrific high-speed crash, co-host Jeremy Clarkson HAS admitted.
With Hammond's family and friends staging a vigil at his hospital bedside, Clarkson acknowledged his pal might not pull through after suffering severe head injuries while attempting to break the land speed record of more than 300mph.
Top Gear has always been a great show and a favorite of mine I only discovered last year. I must admit to being a speed freak, and there was always something incredibly basic and pure about the hosts' admiration for great automobiles. Google Video has some episodes. And here is the long-awaited Bugatti Veyron ep.
We hope he pulls through.
This afternoon I heard something on the radio that piqued my attention. Somebody in the endless parade of those wanting to make Islam seem worse than it is mentioned that within the West Bank and Gaza, there have never been any reports of Christian bombers. That makes me say hmmm. Can this be true?
While we're at it, I think I heard that there are two wings of Fatah and it is the squabbling between them that got Hamas elected, but that Hamas' credibility is going into the dumps with Palestinians. This is what I expected. Perhaps the situation with Shalit has accellerated the trend downward.
RRRRIppped from the headlines. AP sez:
Wal-Mart says it will begin selling nearly 300 generic drugs for four dollars a prescription covering up to a 30-day supply, first in Florida. The program will begin tomorrow in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. Plans call for expansion to the entire state of Florida early next year. Wal-Mart says it intends to expand further afterward.
The announcement is being made at news conference in Florida this morning.
In a statement, CEO Lee Scott says the world's largest retailer intends to "take the program to as many states as possible next year".
On average, generic drugs tend to cost between ten and 30 dollars for a month-long supply.
Did the government do this? Huh? Bow down to WalMart, ye arrogant haters, for WalMart doth provide ye the lowest of prices, despite thine scoffing haterations.
If only for one day, wouldn't it be grand to have had Christopher Hitchens on the Council of Foreign Relations? With all the cliched comparisons to Hitler being lobbed at Crazy A, he of all Westerners might have some original verbal smackdowns to deliver. As it stands, Iran's enfant terrible is having the field day of a diplomat's bratty daughter, and no one dares point an unpolite finger. All they can do is not show up. Are we precisely that lame?
It seems to me that all of this embarrassed and huffy avoidance of the man is just the kind of snot-nosed puffery that emboldens him. It seems to me that the proper thing for the Bush Administration to have done was to send some sort of arrogant envoy to deliver a message. His daughter, or perhaps Ari Fleisher. 'Daddy says you can't sit at the grownups table him until you clean up your room'. But along with this message, a nice dressing down would have done nicely. I'm thinking someone of the tenor of Robert Bork. Of course I've come to expect a lack of imagination and panache from W. He simply doesn't have enough Kinky Friedman in him.. does Texas rather poorly in that regard.
Still, it would have been nice..
It is my attraction to order and truth that bring me generally to re-evaluate Catholicism as well as some love for our southern cousins in the Americas. But it was a very specific argument I read somewhere, perhaps in the coming of Benedict, that posited a nexus between Conservatism and Rationalism and suggested that the coming century will be more conservative because of that. The postmodernists have nothing on their side. Even by their own relativistic definitions Truth = Volume. We're already tired of their yelping, and they'll grow winded and hoarse over time.
Be all that as it may, I wish I could find that particular document, and I'll continue to search for it as I begin investigating this angle of theology in earnest. In the meantime, a thoughtful reader has pointed me to John Paul II, and in quick fashion I found an interesting parallel. It's difficult for me to say what the precise differences might be between our current and prior Pope, but I can't imagine them too far apart on such matters as the Rationalism of the Catholic Church. And to my notes I add the following observation from Michael Peters, a gent from New Zealand:
7. Pope John Paul II suggests that postmodernism appears on the horizon at this point in history as a form of nihilism, resulting from the crisis of rationalism, for which Catholic theology provides the precisely correct philosophical antidote: self-certainty and absolute values based upon faith in the truth of personal existence sought in relation to God. He writes:
As a result of the crisis of rationalism, what has appeared finally is nihilism. As a philosophy of nothingness, it has a certain attraction for people of our time. Its adherents claim that the search is an end in itself, without any hope or possibility of ever attaining the goal of truth. In the nihilistic interpretation, life is no more than an occasion for sensations and experiences in which the ephemeral has pride of place. Nihilism is at the root of the widespread mentality which claims that a definite commitment should no longer be made, because everything is fleeting and provisional (71).
Modern philosophy, he says, has abandoned the investigation of being to concentrate on knowing. This move accentuates the limited capacity to know rather than the use of knowledge to reach the truth, leading to forms of agnosticism, relativism and pluralism. The Pope argues, "A legitimate pluralism of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based upon the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of the most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in the truth" (10). Against the ‘postmodern’ nihilistic view, Pope John Paul II pits a set of absolute values based upon the radical question of truth about personal existence, about being, and about God. He reaffirms the truth of faith and the faith in truth as a foundation for personal and communal life, suggesting that a core of philosophical insight in the history of thought has revealed certain principles as a "spiritual heritage of humanity" – an implicit philosophy – which all schools should use as a reference-point. He includes the principles of non-contradiction, finality and causality, certain fundamental moral norms (unspecified) "which are shared by all," as well as the concept of the person as a free and intelligent subject, with the capacity to know God, truth, and goodness. This is what he calls "right reason":
Once reason successfully intuits and formulates the first universal principles of being and correctly draws from them conclusions which are coherent both logically and ethically, then it may be called right reason or, as the ancients called it, orthos logos, recta ratio (8).
8. My difficulty with the Pope’s argument is that he does not sufficiently distinguish among the different kinds of modern philosophy or, indeed, between postmodernism and poststructuralism.2 In particular, he falsely attributes nihilism to ‘postmodern’ philosophy when, at least in the case of Friedrich Nietzsche, it is nihilism that must be overcome. For Nietzsche, nihilism is a consequence of the fact that, as his madman announces, "God is dead." In other words, God and all transcendental truths are no longer believable. God has died because humans have become too weak to sustain their belief in him. God has died out of pity for human weakness. It is the imperative of Nietzsche’s figure of the philosopher-artist, in face of nihilism – of suicide, pessimism, cultural dissolution and fragmentation – to create new values. It is also the case that those who follow in Nietzsche’s footsteps – including Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Maurice Blanchot, Michel Foucault – are fundamentally concerned with the history and meaning of being (as the history of Western metaphysics) and with the question of value. These contemporary philosophers, as Pope John Paul II suggests, investigate "the philosophy of being," but they pursue their lines of inquiry in such ways that cast doubt upon the very concept of the (humanist) "free person" to which Pope John Paul II appeals. I shall elaborate these kinds of difficulties with the Pope’s interpretation in the final section of the paper.
Vamping lightly on a meme from Wretchard, Riddick matters.
I always thought that Chronicles of Riddick was a better movie than the critics gave it credit for. And loyal Cobb fans know I'm a big fan of action flicks. I've never really thought about it before, but perhaps my attraction to these films is, in spite of critical derision, an example of my advanced moral capacities. What if it turns out that one can reliably spot a Leftist by his repulsion to righteous violence? I'm going to keep that in mind, especially around those films by my favorite action stars, Willis, Diesel, Statham and Washington.
Wretchard suggests that Liberals advance the Necroism of infinite moral recourse and seek the purging flames of the moral positivism of the now. It's really totalitarianism any way you slice it, and I'd be more likely to assign this ideology to Jihadists, but it fits. How many liberal sentiments have been qualified by "It's 1997 and we should know better"? Just about every one they uttered in 1997.
Interestingly enough, I was just invited to one of the top groups in MySpace, which I promptly ignored, but then found one called 'People of Color who Luv People of Color'. Basically, I'm not taking any POC stuff seriously until the NAACP can show me leadership that 'looks like America', read never. But what was interesting about that site was its cutesy South Park-like revisionist historical cartoon about the murderous paranoia of white people. It will make intelligent people laugh and puke at the same time; bring a hanky.
As I dig deeper (yes, reversing myself) on the current controversy over the words of Pope Benedict, I am finding the same lack of historical perspective (and disciplined research) abetting what those obsessing over guilt associated with something they really want no part of. I would hope other people see the ridiculous irony of people 'concerned' over America's goodwill in the world who all but abdicate any constructive criticism of our geopolitics in our conflict with Jihadis. They are ready to say Bush is an idiot who must apologize, and likewise demand apologies from the Pope. Everybody owes everybody an apology it seems. Doesn't anyone know what they mean and mean what they say? I think Benedict meant what he said and I'm disappointed in those who would seek to exploit the implications of their false interpretations of his words.
It has been some time now that I have been interested in the possibilities provided by a more disciplined and enlightened Christianity than that which occurs in the powerpoints of contemporary ministers. But that doesn't change my enjoyment of more casual metaphors like action flicks and their various dipictions of gallantry and heroism. I find it quite amusing that the Chronicles of Riddick illustrates this particular failing.
BTW, the mentor of Batman in Batman Begins, was also of this stripe.
OK now I'm going to revert. The reason is because in about 90 seconds, on the Hugh Hewitt Show, Father Richard John Neuhaus has not only clarified the entire context of Benedict's Regenberg Lecture, but demolished a fallacy I thought Christians in America have obsessed over for years.
The kernel of this axiom asserted by the Pope is this:
To act against reason is to act against the nature of God.
And Neuhaus continues..
That religion and particularly Christianity presents itself on the basis of reasonable truth claims that are to be engaged and to be presented as persuasively as possible in a reasonable manner. His lecture at the Regensberg University was directed chiefly against ideological secularists on the one hand who want to radically divide faith and reason and directed against Christian thinkers who want to assert a kind of pure Biblical Christianity against the great achievement which is the synthesis of Greek philosphy and revealed truth. So those were the primary audiences. Along the way, and this is what got all the news attention, he asked the question whether or not there is not a fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam on precisely this point. Whether Islam's understaning of God who is a god who is disengaged from what we mean by reason. A god who is radically sovereign, radically transcendent and whose will is exactly what he declares his will to be no matter how arbitrary or capricious. That Allah could even command that you worship idols and you would be obliged to worship idols.
So he is asking a question whether there is a difference and is it an insurmountable difference...between the Christian understanding, that as the first verse of the prologue to the Gospel of John says: en arche en logos in the Greek. In the beginning was the logos, in the beginning was the word, and logos means also reason, and therefore there could be no place in religion, in authentic religion, Christian, Islamic or other for the use of violence.
That was the question he was posing. And of course unfortunately, the response, the reaction of much of the Islamic world simply confirmed the worst of the possible answers to that question. Namely, you say we're violent and we'll kill you for saying we're violent. This I think means that this statement in Regensberg, will in retrospect be looked back upon as a benchmark in which certainly in the most important statement by a world figure since 9/11 with regard to what may be the biggest single question facing Western civilization in the next century. And it turns out finally to be a theological and philosophical question about the nature of God.
Just wow. I came out of college as one of those ideological secularists (thanks to Ayn Rand), which I remained until I came to understand religion as a fundamental civilizing pedagogy thanks to Ishmael Reed. At that point I claimed polytheism in order to embrace the multiple sources of moral agency across human history. I did so not realizing that the theology of Christianity had resolved this (or even addressed it). Nevertheless, later in reading Cornel West's "American Evasion of Philosophy", I came to recognize the nexus of what he calls 'Emersonian Theocidy' and agreed that some very fundamental ideas about God and America were self-reinfocing, and thus began a new level of patriotism. But Neuhaus cites the opening of the Gospel of John, one of the only passages of the Bible that I've ever really made an attempt to memorize. And yet in all that memorization, I failed to understand the implications. I have to say this is truly a remarkable day for me in faith because for so many years I have been engaged in debate about faith vs reason.
This is fabulous and timely. I wonder what it is I need to do to be able to get to this kind of theology on a regular basis. I'm completely jazzed. For me it goes back to what I've been asserting, and by doing so thinking I have been angling away from Christianity as preached here. Here's the best way I put it before:
The priesthood has a very difficult task, which is to reconcile their interpretations of the divine with their understanding of human needs. How do you dumb down the Infinite and put human beings into the middle of it such that their core moral values are lined up with what any priest or Church says is God's Will? Very difficult indeed, especially when human knowledge ebbs and flows.
If you take it as a given that God is indeed Infinite, then you have embodied in the mind of God, all the laws of the Universe - the very order of everything, whether or not we humans are able to understand it. God is purpose. God is the purpose of the universe. God is the source of human capacity to understand the Universe, such as we can, such as it is. So loving God is a difficult proposition. Unless you anthropomorphize God, you cannot 'love' God in anyway like you would love a human being.
Of all the jobs the priesthood has, invoking God's name to call the people to worship seems like the easiest. What is entailed in worship... ah there's the rub. If one worships God by serving his purposes, there are certainly different abilities of humans to do so which other humans (and presumeably God) is aware. If God's purpose, as described by The New Covenant of Jesus, is transparent to humanity, then it is very unlikely that you could fool humans and decieve God at the same time. In other words, since we are commanded to love our neighbor, we could not love them falsely. Our neighbors would be able to correctly percieve our love with the same facility as God would judge our love of them. This is a very key thing. If love was embodied in the gift of a red rose, then it is important that God gave us all equal facilities to see that the rose was indeed red. Otherwise how could we spread the Gospel? My entire point here is that I am asserting that human beings must have the same facility for interpretation of love and good and evil as God would have. We couldn't arrive at different conclusions; this is utterly fundamental and the meaning of the Tree of Knowledge which kicks off Genesis. We do know.
Neuhaus also says the enemy is Jihadism, and he recommend some books. This is absolutely amazing stuff. The synthesis of Greek philosophy and revealed truth is a fundamental element of modern Christianity. I should know this, but I've never heard it said that way. The implications are enormous, but most importantly and most directly Neuhaus is dead on with regard to what Benedict has put out there. Where muslim clerics stand on this is going to be telling for a long time to come. This, plus a better understanding to the two streams of Jihadism, the Salafist and the Khomenist will go a long way in determining the proper shape of this ideological conflict.
But do you think it will stop Lefties from blaming everything on Bush? Hmmm.
Let me clear my throat.
Everybody who jumped on Israel's case. I want you to scratch your necks now that the cessation of hostilities is real, and there have been no major breaches of the 'peace'. While you're scratching, you should keep in mind that the soldiers whose kidnapping started all this mess are still not returned. Don't make me Google up your words so you can eat them. Just know that defending Hezbollah against Israel is walking a moral tightwire that getting slacker and wobblier by the day.
Yoni says the Red Cross hasn't seen him.
A lot of noise is going around about Islam being a religion with 'violent tendencies'. I listened to Medved today at lunch dance around the wording. Here's what I'm saying at Cobb. Nothing.
I am satisfied that for the most part, the distinction between 'Islamic Fascism' and 'Jihadism' (my preferred term), is small. Right now that is the distance between those in the sights of Bush's GWOT and what counterterrorism experts are saying. At some point they may diverge, but that depends entirely on the public's ability and willingness to focus. There's no guarantee of that, especially if we get a Democrat in the Whitehouse.
But few things could become more crazy than if America starts defending everything that the Pope says because we sure as hell don't follow his advice on a regular basis. Lefties squeal about Bush being a fundamentalist (which he is not) but the implications of that amount to a hill of beans compared to those of a Papist American government. Besides, we haven't done enough work in our own hemisphere to merit that, not that we shouldn't. Step one, annex Mexico, then work on Central and South America. We'll have 5 million Christian soldiers in 5 years. OK you know I'm kidding.
Seriously. I'm working on understanding the various fiqhs. Stop talking about all of Islam, you idiots. Hell, most of you couldn't name 10 Christian sects.
I march, you march, he/she/it marches. We march. Y'all been marching. All them over there been done marched.
It astonishes me to hear some people talk about where they marched 30 years ago. Well actually it doesn't. History is history and it must be told truthfully. The question at hand is whether or not marching means something today. The answer is yes, but only for y'all.
The question came up face to face yesterday with a pastor with whom I was engaged in debate. And I basically went out to my litmus test for Christian Fundamenalism which goes a little something like this. If you had a choice between the Constitution and the Bible, which would you choose? If you choose the Bible, I don't want to hear your politics because ultimately you choose Church over State. Now I know this perplexes people because I represent an Old School which reveres both God and Country. But when it comes to the law, there is no debate for me. Secular rules. I don't have any problem with people saying that America is a Christian country, nor do I have anything that disputes the fact that Christian values undergird the Constitution. But they do not supercede the Constitution. If the Constitution says no and the Bible says yes, you need to obey the law. Furthermore if the Bible says no and the Constitution says yes, you need to pipe down and keep your agitation to a low rumble.
When you talk about the history of the Black Church in moving this country forward there are only so many props to give. See, a lot of people, (and now I'm talking about white liberals in general) like to take a great deal of credit for the freedom of the African slaves in America. And sure they played a part, but that's the part of common decency given the opportunity for moral change. But sometimes folks go too far and they make it sound like the Africans didn't even realize they were enslaved and wouldn't have done anything on their own without Abolitionist assistance. That's a load of crap, but it's a convenient load lots of people carry around when they want credit. I think that's the same load of crap a lot of black Churches are carrying around when they invoke their role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Now it's true that they marched. And they also formed the Southern Christian Leadership Council. But any old fool can march and legislation requires a lot more verbiage and intellectual work than what you can fit on a picket sign. The thrust of my argument is this. Civil Rights for African Americans is done, and so is the marching. There is no braintrust, no organization and no agenda to be pursued for the specific benefit of blackfolks that the black Church is capable of managing. Those days are gone. And even if those days were here, marching isn't going to make it happen.
The Broken Negro Church Monopoly
By the mid 1960s, the Negro Church was the primary source of political activism before the dawning of the black power movement. As anyone who has understood the study of racism in American Christianity (especially those informed by Rev. Fred Price) knows, there was direct complicity in racist suppression of the power of black churches by most of the major protestant hierarchs. In other words, when it came to black liberation, too many Negro preachers were bought off. Some even believed in and preached the Curse of Ham as a biblical reason blacks should not press for advancement in American society. The Nation of Islam could not have been formed if this were not self-evident to the common man.
But specifically those who would be leaders into a new political and cultural reality for African Americans, the leaders of the Black Power, Black Arts & Black Consciousness movements where denied access to the Negro Church and also demonized from the pulpit.
Today we still have a legacy of overreaching black ministers doing dirty work that is counter to the well-being of their 'constituents', one need look no further than Al Sharpton, former FBI informant.
The founders of Kwanzaa, as well as a great number of black intellectuals who have formed the institutions of Afro-American studies on our nation's campuses, understood that there needed to be multiple and diverse institutional sources of empowerment for and by African America. And they have succeeded.
I'm sure there are plenty of black Christians who believe that no institution outside of the black Church should have primary influence of the culture, politics and social conventions of African Americans. It's too late for that, and African America has voted with its feet. That Old Time Religion ain't good enough. While some have made foolish use of this liberty, and others have done absolutely nothing, on the whole African America is better off having a diversity of institutions upon which they can depend.
There is nothing so sad and sorry as a Baptist trying to out-Christian a Catholic, and nothing speaks to the indignation over Kwanzaa so much as the argument against Karenga. I could spend a month of Sundays categorizing defrocked priests and jackleg ministries. How many congregants would like to hear that God doesn't hear your prayers if they come from a church whose minister has broken the law?
But let us consider what parts of Black History these fundamentalists would have us discard. The Black Arts Movement. What part did the Negro Church play in it?
African American success is very much like other immigrant groups' success although you don't hear it said very often. We start in ethnic enclaves, and forbidden from mainstreaming we overbuild and over-depend on those enclaves. Doubting the permanence of cross-over, many remain tied to their provincial ways. Sometimes it takes generations but eventually and inevitably the old ways give way to new ways. There was a time not long ago whenI read Ebony Magazine's 100 Most Influetial Blacks, and men and women who led fraternities like the Elks and the Prince Hall Masons were top dogs. Could we have ever imagined that blacks would run Sears, American Express and Time?
We are accepted and involved in a broader variety of institutions in America. Not all of us are moving at the same speed but the trend is forward. Consequently the old Church will become more a center of pure spiritual doings and much less in political and other doings. This is an opportunity for the Black Church to re-focus and re-energize its primary purpose. I hope it does so. But what we know about people in power is that they want most to hold on to that power. So we know that ministers will be sorely tempted to be more than spiritual guides. Every church has a commitment to its community, and communities vary. But on the whole we will see less political production from churches and more mainstreaming by black communities.
If you ask me what today's black church ought to be doing more than anything, the answer is simple. Build schools. There is nothing so abominally embarrassing as a mega-interdenominational (maximal market share, minimal discipline) with thousands of members and a worship-dome. Because just up the street is a modest Catholic church with a school that's superior to public school. On that note, I find the greatest fault. We've been here hundreds of years, how many of our schools are self-funded? Now tell me what you're marching for?
I've been hinting around it so now I can say it. I just filmed a segment of a new series that may be picked up by the TV One network. So the deal went down as planned.
This was my first time on a TV set in a very long time, or basically ever as an adult. As the deepest and most loyal Cobb readers know, I was up for the cast of Julia (yes that Julia with Dihanne Carroll) when I was kid. The last time I was on TV, I was about 10 years old. It was the Louis Lomax Show. Anyway, I showed up right about on time and there were wires and cables all over the place. The production crew had taken over a lovely house in the Valley high in the hills. As the sun set we had a gorgeous view of the Valley and we sank into the plush blue chairs to tape.
The producer and I hit it off almost immediately. It turns out that she attended St. Bernards and basically grew up in the old black classy Los Angeles. She is one of the People of the Dons. Of course she was bright and poised. We gabbed on for a bit about how things have changed in black LA as production assitants and crews ran around busily. Everything was smooth and very professional and suddenly I've gotten an inside view of the Business.
The assistants were very courteous and made absolutely sure that I had absolutely everything I needed. Twice. Ernest handed out backgrounders, Taylor handled the legal paperwork, Val did my makeup, a couple of other earnest young folks handled everything else. There was dinner too. It was delicious BBQ but I made sure not to eat too many beans.
Just like me, I over-prepared. I printed out my 'Don't Church' notes and took down names of the dozen people I was introduced to, and even with that I now know why a proper actor has to say "and too many people to name here, but I'm thankful to all of you as well". There's a lot of people involved and I couldn't possible name them all. Uhm let's see, there was the guy who mic'd me up. The guy who got me cold drinks. The wardrobe lady who called.. And the funny thing about it was that I never even felt like sucking up to the bigshots. I mean I may eventually, as that may be my ticket to get the Cobbian message out there, but I just marvelled at how they all coordinated and worked this thing.
The host of the show, David, looks like he could be the brother or cousin of Roger G. Smith aka 'Hollywatts'. He was especially gracious and at ease and made me feel very comfortable. Ernest kept everything snapping and right on schedule. So anyway, we get to taping time and I have met the other brothers in the show. But not really scoped out their positions on the topic 'Why He Won't Go to Church'. I got one of the brother's takes on paper, but not the other two. So there were some interesting spontaneous combustions which actually I think will make for a very interesting show.
The minister, Chuck, got a lot of deference through most of the show. I don't think anybody wanted to put him on too hot a spot. He did a good job of representing a voice of reason. 'Zo' Williams played the backwards hat skeptic. He was suspiciously coy but did some fairly good bogarding on the set. He was something of a wildcard and kept us off balance. That was a good thing. Trey, the youngest of us all, was the ingenue. He represented the most faithful and dedicated to God and his particular faith. Me? I was the one using the $50 words, patiently. I think I made some pretty good points, especially when it came to the political end and the separation of Church & State. Also in pointing out the differences between the Protestant and Catholic faiths. I wanted to take that further, but nobody wanted to touch Islam with a ten foot pole. I tried to drill home one theme which was the extent to which the black church has broken faith with the black community as the source of the problem we were talking about. Maybe it got through.
On the whole it was a very satisfying experience and I managed to keep my nerve. But I'm also understanding a lot more about what makes for good television and how that differs from making good blogging. In otherwords, I'm definitely recognizing the value of a soundbite. What's interesting is that the way I practiced for this debate was all wrong. I was monologuing in talk radio format which is something you can do when you have that kind of time, but the dynamic between four guests and a host is very different. What really works is the devastating quip that knocks everybody back.
I definitely expect this one to be a very good show and as soon as I get word on airdates I'll put it out here. I learned a lot about the format. Part of me wants to give a lot of the inside dirt like I remember Jimi doing, but this a well-run affair, and there's not much dirt to tell other than the fact that the clashes weren't just drama for TV. They did a good job of mixing up the personalities and it could have kept going on and on. Still we covered a lot of ground and everything that had to be said was said, really.
By the way, I thought everybody knew about Conjugal Sheets. But maybe I'm busted for confusing the fictional dystopia of The Handmaid's Tale with an urban myth about Orthodox Jews. But homeboy started it when he told everybody that he's been abstinent for six years and that sex is moral only for procreation in marriage. I was thinking about women in burkas too..
One more thing. I won the dominoe game.
Google is sponsoring the UNCF. Tell a friend.
As part of Google's ongoing commitment to advancing computing and technology, we're pleased to tell you that the United Negro College Fund and Google have partnered to create the UNCF/Google Scholarship Program. We hope this program will encourage students to excel in their studies, inspire them to become role models and leaders, and help remove the financial barriers for African-American students wishing to pursue an engineering degree.
On the strength of candidates' academic background and demonstrated leadership, we'll be awarding $5,000 scholarships. Students must be enrolled in their junior year of undergraduate study at a UNCF Member College or University or at a participating Historically Black College or University (HBCU), and pursuing a Computer Science or Computer Engineering major.
Tell your friends, or apply yourself -- the deadline for applications is Friday, October 6.
It turns out that my topic has been switched. Instead of talking about black male myths, I'll be talking about something akin to a black male fact, which I can only come at from a personal angle. This fact? Black men ain't at church on Sunday, at least not with the frequency and regularity of black women.
I can only speculate as to why, but I'll give you several semi-serious reasons and excuses that black men like me have difficulties with being in church every Sunday.
The Personal Reasons
These are the reasons I think I share with a lot of brothers, some of them admittedly trifling, but I'm telling you honestly what goes through a mind that's in bed on a Sunday morning.
You Can't Preach
My number one reason for avoiding church is the low quality of the oration of some of the preachers out there. How many times have I heard ministers drone on and on about Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus and how we must make our own transformations and leave our prior lives behind? How many times have I heard ministers talk about their own temptations and how they were worthless sinners and skirt chasers and how all us men are dogs like they used to be? How many times have I had to sit through the junior minister stumbling or the guest pastor from out of town.
It's My Money
Yeah that's right, and guess what? God doesn't need my money. The Church needs my money. They've always needed my money and they've always tried to convince me that God wants me to give it to them. I've been praying to Jesus since I was 8 years old and never once has He told me, "can you help a brotha out?" I understand that I owe something to my less fortunate brothers, but I'll be damned (I guess so) before I give it to a minister who drives a better car than me. I don't mind supporting ministries, but I've got my priorities.
It's My Day Off
A brother works hard all week long. Now if I could go to Church at 10am and be done at 11am, I'd be fine. But you know and I know some ministers act like we have nothing else to do all day Sunday. OK I understand that you slaved over a hot desk working on that sermon all week and you just can't wait to rock our worlds with your message, but uhm... some of us are just checking in.
Church is Just Church
And I've got options. Now I could envision one day, perhaps after I have paid my debt to society and get out of jail and don't have a job or any friends or anyone who trusts me, I will be in church all the time. I'll come on Sunday, and I'll hang around and eat all the cookies, and I'll stare lovingly at the homely single women in their 40s, and I'll be back for Bible Study. And I'll come on the day we read to the shut-ins, and I'll volunteer to drive the church bus. I'll always help put away the chairs in the parish hall and I'll straighten out all the fliers on the bulletin board. But until then I actually do have a busy life to enjoy that centers around my family and community, not church. I got places to go and things to do.
The Sectarian Reasons
I've got some sectarian reasons too. See I grew up going to Catholic School and was confirmed Episcopalian. So although I have also gone deep into the black protestant tradition, me and evangelicals have issues. These have become a great deal more important to me than I ever thought they'd be, and it's somewhat surprising to me that I feel them with some passionate depth. The first two are very important, the others.. well I'm just being partisan and persnickety.
Spontaneaity vs Tradition
One of the deepest spiritual moments in my life came to me as I visited the cathedral in Milan, Il Duomo. I was just in time for morning chapel service which was being held behind the main altar. Being a kid of Vatican II, I could only vaguely understand the words of the traditional Latin mass. But structurally I knew everything that was going on. And I felt immediately and intimately connected to a tradition hundreds of years old in a massive church halfway around the world.
We all know that Jesus said that when two or three are gathered together in prayer that He would be in our midst. So anywhere and everywhere can be 'church', including a park bench or the little storefront. But what makes church extraordinary is the service, the Mass, the Rite. I want ritual and reverence. I want my religion to be old time, unchanging and static against the unpredictability of this world. When I walk in the door I want to know exactly what to expect. I want to know all the songs, all the words, all the movements. I want a calendar that says this is the second Sunday of Advent, this is the Bible verse and lesson for this week.
I can get this in the Black Church, and AME does it well, but straight black Anglican does it best. And I am pleased to see conservative Africans in the Anglican Church making their presense known and felt, but I'm getting off on a tangent. Most black churches, however tend to be much more spontaneous.
There are people who really do get spiritual sustenance from hearing the music or the preaching. I don't know how they do it. I am renewed without fail, without fail I say, by recieving the sacrament of His precious body and blood. Without the Eucharist, church is just a bunch of people. I'm sorry.
I have been to some extraordinary services in which the minister has such a loving and empathetic presence that you just want him to touch you. It's something you can tell within the first few paragraphs of their sermons. And when they wind up, you cannot wait to get up front and get a taste of God's power flowing through him. I particularly remember one like this at St. Paul's AME in Cambridge, MA and the woman who ministers at Church of the Advent in LA on Adams Blvd. But some ministers simply cannot swing it. They just never hit the right note and it sounds like begging. That's embarassing.
Revving up the Spirit
Have you ever sat in Church and it's hot and nobody is really catching the spirit and the minister just won't quit? I mean this is just like a hiphop concert and the dude on stage is telling me to make some noise. No brother, I came here for you to deliver your words unto me. Not for me to stroke your ego by making some noise. Sorry but I'm not jumping up and down for you.
Need I say more?
The Single Man's Reasons
Church is society too. When I was single my reasons for going to church, and not going to church were different than they are now. I think you'll find some of these resonating with you. But let's make it explicit. I'm talking about going to black churches in search of black women. There are reasons to go, and there are reasons to stay away.
The Soul Patrol
You all know what happens the first time you go to church with your new girl. You're a visitor. Stand up. Oh you're a nice looking young man, we hope to see you again. Then they process you. You get the forms and the schedule and scrutiny. Everybody is after your soul. Is this going to be your new church home? You know we can use a stand-up brother like yourself. You don't drink alcohol do you?
Then if you come back a second time, you all must be serious. People start hinting at marriage and telling you about her old boyfriend. Plus you know that your girl is subjecting you to all this to pull you in. It's part of the grand scheme. Basically, you can't 'just' go to church. Because if your girl and your church aren't both a match, it's downhill.
Talent / No Talent
Now I'm going to admit it and you might as well admit it too. If you don't have a girl, church can be a pretty good place to find one. Especially if there's a wedding or it's Easter or some special occasion. In the Cobb MBA Program (master of babe acquisition), Rule 23 states:
If you have to go to church on a babe hunt, don't go on an ordinary Sunday. All you'll find on an ordinary Sunday are Church Girls. They have no life and they will suck you into their emptiness. Go on Easter, go at Christmas, go to weddings. That's when the Church Girls can convince their more interesting girlfriends that *you* are going to be there. Don't disappoint them.
It only takes a minute to fall in love. But it takes less than that to know when there is no talent. I mean we pretend that there are possibilities but some churches just... well I think you know how blunt is the brunt of my implication.
I Was Out Really Late Last Night
So the 8:00 service is out of the question. So I lay down and stare at the cieling as it spins. Hmm. Maybe 10:30 service. And then you start trying to remember which church has an 11:00 service. Then maybe you can come in late.. then.. nevermind, the game is on. Sunday is the day God gave man to lie around in his underwear before he has to go back to work. Thanks God. Are we cool?
The Rebel Period
All of us go through a rebel period. If we don't, then we are only half the men we might otherwise be. The rebel period is generally characterized by a severe haircut and/or attitude which is entirely inappropriate for church. For some of us, that attitude is called Atheism and the rebel period lasts all of our lives. We know it and we don't pretend otherwise. We're bad men and we jaust ain't going to church. Period.
I Wasn't Out Really Late Last Night
Meaning I scored. And I'm not about to push this lovely young lady out of my bed. So don't even ask me what I'm doing this morning, OK?
Preciently, Slate Magazine said of torture immediately in the wake of Abu Ghraib:
The very word "torture" encompasses too many possibilities. Is scaring a prisoner with a dog really torture in the first place or just a modified fraternity prank? Is hooding a terrorist all that bad? Without a larger context, it's impossible to know how to frame these issues. Which explains why the American public finds itself either "for" or "against" torturing alleged terrorists, without having developed nuanced ideas of what such positions mean. We are debating in black and white instead of recognizing shades of gray. And much of the official thinking has taken place behind closed doors, preventing public understanding of where the relevant government actors have drawn the lines and why.
Slate's Taxonomy does a very good job in demonstrating the legal ambiguity which is inherent in dealing with international law and American military procedures. Although I have not secured (and apparently nobody can) any details about exactly which procedures are up for debate, this article in the WaPo does a good job of explaining what is in play.
What most impresses me about Bush's position is that he demands to have legal clarity to instruct professionals at CIA and elsewhere to conduct the kinds of interrogations they must. These professionals have every right to demand that.
..A memo sent by CIA Director Michael V. Hayden to the agency's employees Thursday approvingly quoted Bush's endorsement of the CIA interrogations for "defending the homeland, attacking [al-Qaeda] . . . and saving thousands of American and allied lives." Hayden said in the memo that the clarifying language of the administration's bill would give him confidence that what he "asked an Agency officer to do under the program is lawful."
The rival Senate bill on interrogations -- approved by the Armed Services Committee on Thursday and sharply criticized by Bush yesterday -- is silent on how the CIA should comply with the Geneva Conventions. Its intent, according to several government officials, is not only to avoid sending a signal to other nations that Washington is reinterpreting its treaty obligations, but to leave in place a historic understanding of international law, which would render unlawful many of the extreme interrogation techniques the CIA has been using.
Bush and other senior officials have not discussed what those methods include, but the president described them as an "alternative set of procedures," emphasizing that they differ from those used elsewhere in the government.
At a news conference yesterday, Bush alluded to these special methods when he said the new legislation was needed to provide "intelligence professionals with the tools they need." One well-informed source said the techniques include prolonged sleep deprivation and forced standing or other stress positions. Another source said they match the techniques used by the agency in the past, but with a notable exception: The CIA no longer seeks to use a notorious technique called "waterboarding," which is meant to simulate drowning.
Despite the fact that we are dealing with, this time around, a sort of perfidious enemy that beheads journalists, it does make sense that we not signal to the world that we are upping the ante of torture in the clash of armies. But I would still reserve the right to employ more severe procedures in the CIA, and monitor rendition between the Army and CIA. In the current context, there have been 17, I believe is the number, high value prisoners which were specifically under CIA custody in safehouses to whom this might apply. Now that they are transferred to Gitmo, I think it is reasonably safe to presume that their treatment will change. But I will say that I don't see this as gracious but expedient. The cover of the 'secret prisons' has been blown. So they've been flushed and new ones have to be built. Still, Bush implies these facilities where the head of the CIA has said the borderline techniques have been effective are now the houses of ill repute and none like them will be opened if the law is not clarified. Again, I think the way to understand this is that there's a separate standard for POWs and high value individuals, so the guidelines like FM-34-52 apply to regular Army, whereas the CIA in dealing with the few like Ramzi Yusef would have more severe tools at their disposal.
So what we have, apparently is a situation in which if we were to capture Zawahiri, we couldn't use anything special on him even though he knows where Osama Bin Laden is. This period of time before this bill is passed is what I would call The Hamdan Gap. Let's call the place where we would want to send him 'The Shed'. The people who run the Shed have to know in advance what they can do. So what is the absolute limit of tools for the highest value prisoners? The CIA has been working in a gray legal area under the presumptions of presidential war powers, but now it is clear that the president's mandate is politically challenged and the changing of the guard is just two years away. This needs to be settled.
What's curious is how it wasn't settled by The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. Oh nevermind. Even a non-lawyer like me can see that's talking about the DOD and not the CIA. So McCain's excuse doesn't quite wash.
While I'm on the subject, I should also state what I believe to be obvious about Abu Ghraib, having read Fiasco. I am convinced that the provocative nature of pictures circulated fanned the fire and that higher ups did not properly staff or maintain the facility. What happened there was a huge mistake and almost inevitable given the circumstances of an overcrowded prison run by the wrong people who in any case were not given the resources they needed. It is also clear to me that the way that Odierno in particular was sending questionably valuable prisoners from the battlefield that the prison did contribute to their radicalization.
Old soldiers don't fade away soon enough it seems. On this matter, I'm squarely with GWBush. This matter being a demand to the Congress to do some serious legislating on a matter of clarity with regard to America's position on the Geneva Convention. Let us go back to Monsters on a Leash so you know where I'm basically coming from.
First, let me point out the obvious which is that the defense of the nation requires no international sanction. While it is quite possible that the Geneva Conventions have hit upon a universal standard of behavior which has been and always will be broadly acceptable, the chances are more likely that it could use a review in light of the kinds of conflict with which we are engaged. It is just as likely that our Armed Forces may be completely unsuitable for this kind of conflict. Again, both were conceived with the kind of national defense required for a clash of modern nations. I am willing to stipulate both require update in terms of their dealing with the cellular nature of distributed guerilla terrorism.
The 'bar' is not 'lowered'. It is illusory. It is a bourgie convention designed to make citizens of liberal democracies sleep better with the idea that gallantry is the order of modern warfare.
With regard to the humanitarian treatment of prisoners of war, the Geneva Conventions are presumeably that thing which separates us from the savages. Or more appropriately, the Conventions separate the civilized warring nations from the rogue states. I think it is beyond question with regard to the perfidity of the jihadist irregulars that we are dealing with rogues. But we're all capable of savagery. In that regard, there is no difference between 'us' and 'them'. We all retain the essence of our humanity which allows us to kill at all. No one suggests that we not kill the enemy. The difference lies in what our systems are constructed to do and how they perform when called into duty. The difference lies in the quality of the cage in which our monsters reside during the off season. The difference lies in the willingness to look, to see, to judge and to act when monstrous subjects are at hand. These are not differences made real by the existence of a Geneva Convention, but differences made real by the structure and behavior of the US military and its civilian oversight.
So here is our chance to either punt to the Convention in the face of the unconventional adversary or make the the spaces on the bars of the cage of our monsters a bit more shiny and well defined. It will set a clearer timetable on when the door is sprung and who controls the leash and how tightly. This is not about how our neighbors behave in their own backyard, it's about how we control our own power. It seems to me an abhorrent abdication for Congress to do this job without anything but the utmost pride in the power we possess. But to do so is to speak the unspeakable, to admit that we are at war with people who don't care how we war against them, as long as it's not 'disproportionate', ie so long as we don't make them regret poking us. If we must be outlaws to attain victory it will be because this Congress will have pulled the law from under our feet.
And let us not mince words about it. This is the Congress' responsibility. It's already disgusting that they are passing the mic to Colin Powell. Retired means retired Colin, you're out of the game and you never scored the TD, we don't want your commentary any longer.
If Powell and Levin and McCain can name one modern conflict where our enemies gave POWs treatment in accordance with the GC, I’d be glad to post it right here on my blog. Don’t expect that kind of an update any time soon.
When the US Military sees it fit to pull Powell out of retirement, then we'll listen, but we know he and his boy are out making fat ducats in VC circles. Write another book or shutup.
If I could turn time's hands to days before the quaking of the ground
And rewind screaming engines, fires, clouds of concrete and that massive sound
We could not be wiser, nor could we imagine sleeping that our fate
Might rest between this fiqh or that Islamic dream of mighty Caliphate
Could we have known a thousand soldiers born to die a martyr's death
Would cross the globe advancing every opportunity to plot our death?
We made no time to mind what Sunnis thinks a Shi'ite might be all about
And for this lapse a nation's grasp of deadly enemies remains in doubt.
Of Hezbollah and Ikwan
Of Yemenis and Taliban
Zawahiri, Zarkawi, Ahmadinejad
Haditha, Mosul, Fallujah, Samarra & Baghdad
Sunni, Shi'ite, Alawite, Fatah & Hamas
Madhi Army, Baathists & Egyptian Madrassas
Tora Bora, Peshawar, Al Jazeera, Al Anbar
Dhimmitude & Burkas and I've gone only half as far
And half as deep as I must go before I sleep...
And in my homeland marching all about the common ground I see
A million doubting fingers pointing left and right as if there couldn't be
An enemy more intimate or willing to run through the beating heart
Of liberty's sweet promise just to jealously defend their party's part
Within this house divided may we tell
Recalling lives upon that day destroyed
The tragedy of why the towers fell
The blind sheik's eye, the gaping moral void
Remember how we vowed that we'd obey
The call of duty rising in us all
To honor them defending all the way
Our very finest freedoms from the fall
So to that end we brandished every sword
And used but few available to us
Charging ahead on Colin Powell's word
To hell with those who won't get on the bus
Our Eagle's fury venged with wrath but blurred by righteous mourning tears
So many dead fell hapless to our shock and awe and mounted muslim fears
That we might satiate a hunger to devour nations fueled by christian hate
And so joined in the foolish fatwa muslim madmen lining every state
They came to fight like lemmings wailing to Iraq after Afghanistan
From Syria and Iran hailing, brainwashed brigand boys their first jihad
Joined up to displaced Baathists and al Sadr how they ran
To meet their doom under the hand of Odierno run roughshod
Yet to this tale of desparation we add blue-thumbed voting hope anew
For in the truth of liberation there is mighty public work to do
Such work begat a Constitution. Iyad Allawi stood before the house
With sovereignty delivered now Maliki's bosom wears new freedoms blouse
Blind blind my brothers I must protect their ignorant souls from their perverse goals
Deaf deaf my sisters mumbling yadda into their decaf, immune from the draft
Dumb dumb my cousins sitting on their arms claiming enlightened pacifism
Weak weak my neighbors shriek a cowards yellow streak backbiting when I speak
All my relatives live in relativism
And nobody asks why until they die
I cannot finish
I cannot stop
There is no art in the frustrated hand
I can only press forward a new tack
Until perhaps they understand
There is no turning back
I'm madder than the president today at the idiocy of questions about his proposal facing Congress. It's simple. Interpret and clarify once and for all the US position on Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
You're lawmakers. Make the damned law clear.
But she never worries and won't live in fear
Because of the size of her giant right ear
No matter how stealthy they try to draw near
She knows who is coming and so can keep clear
Happy and strong all the time
Alert and aware she stays
Never a victim of a crime
She'll live thirty thousand days
Crank is the kind of surreal action flick a lot of people have been trying to make for a number of years. I think they finally got it right. This is not quite a masterpiece but it is going to be the standard bearer.
Because Jason Statham is a bona fide action star with an oversized dumb spot for the ladies, this picture worked on pretty much every level. After the completely over the top Transporter 2, Statham has a new enemy in this film, his own body. The premise is simple, he's been poisoned with a drug that slows his heart rate. In order to stay alive he has to literally become an adrenaline junkie. Anything that gives exitement, he must do merely to survive the day. The connivances that he invents to keep himself alive are thrilling and hilarious.
The soundtrack is excellently scored with some hardball rock & roll. The gangstas are gangsta and the exploding cars are kept to a minimum, but the sidewalk cafe does get thrashed very nicely thank you.
But what really makes this film is the digital style of shooting. Finally, we have a director who understands saturated color, black& white, first person shots and jump cuts who manages to put it all together in a brisk Michael Bey-like way, but not tiringly the same. It's a very good mix that keeps the edge but doesn't overdo it. With better than average action flick dialog, this is the best action flick of the year.
From the family network comes news of hubbub from the formerly peaceful campus of Brown University where my niece Theresa is piping up.
Theresa McGowan '08 was among those who led the group around the Main Green and Wriston Quadrangle. Outside Wayland Arch, McGowan addressed the crowd and referred to Street's allegations. "He was assaulted on this campus. … He was attacked from behind. … He cried for help," she said to the group of protestors and onlookers.
McGowan then touched on the issue of race as she addressed the marchers, who were mostly students of color.
"We don't want no racism on Brown's campus, we don't want no police stopping us because they think we can't go to Brown. … Brown is brown," McGowan said.
"This doesn't end today. This is ongoing until we get change," she said.
The marchers then returned to the Main Green, where McGowan again addressed the crowd, saying: "They claim they don't know what a Brown student looks like - lets show them what a Brown student looks like.
Sounds like chin music from the Coalition of the Damned, but then again, we don't know what we know until we know it. What is change? The Brown Daily Herald reports that so far the Chief of Police is working to cooperate.
But the [Brown U.] administration still has work to do as it begins to investigate students' specific claims. Making sure the larger Brown community has access to as much information as possible regarding the proceedings is the most effective way to prevent rash reactions from students who might otherwise perceive that their concerns aren't being heard. We are encouraged by [Brown President Ruth] Simmons' assurance that administrators will "work hard to get information out to the public" without compromising investigators' work or violating legal guidelines. We encourage Chief of Police Mark Porter - who has thus far handled the situation remarkably well, appearing at yesterday's BUCC meeting and addressing a crowd of protesters outside Department of Public Safety Headquarters earlier in the afternoon - to publicize details of the investigation as they materialize. A large portion of the student body is now invested in the ordeal, and their legitimate concerns about on-campus safety and police conduct won't go away with time.
No one can dispute that students must feel secure on campus. They must also perceive law enforcement officials - whether DPS officers or those from the Providence Police Department - as assets in creating a safe atmosphere on College Hill. If students come to fear and distrust these officials, they will almost certainly be less likely to collaborate with officers in preventing and solving crimes.
This represents a divide that is becoming a bit too familiar in our nation in which political hay is made to highlight the failures of those assigned to protect us. Some of that noise has to be made, otherwise how would we know? Watchdogs who don't bark are worse than useless. But there also has to be responsible reciprocity. This is a contract of trust between ourselves, and quite frankly, ourselves.
If there's anything that divides college campuses over realworld existentials, it's the difference between kids who grow up in the streets and those sheltered from them. The student whose allegations are under review was obviously one comfortable walking across campus at 3am in the morning. I also happen to be from the ranks of the streetwise and liked to shock my NYC yuppie colleagues about how I would hang out the video arcades of Times Square past midnight to engage in virtual fighting with 'dem yout'. On GP, people in hoodies don't frighten me. But I'm also from Los Angeles and have been detained by LAPD officers some 27 times in my own youth. Only three of those encounters resulted in actual citations, and the process starts, whether you like it or not, by handing over your ID. I don't know where young Mr. Street grew up, but everywhere I've lived, the law has been clear. When the PD demand your ID, you produce it. Here in Los Angeles, not having an ID immediately translates in a well-understood street knowledge shared by cops and youth alike into "I have a warrant" and/or "I'm a banger" and/or "I'll illegal" as in illegal alien. Providence, Rhode Island, who knows?
But we're all going to know sooner or later because the process, by the looks of things, is going to be made expressly manifest. 200 college students is a significant force to provide the learning of a lesson, and hopefully this will be a lesson well learned.
I expect that Miss McGowan who is tall and proud and will not be silenced, will advocate well on behalf of her friend. But one wonders what choices are cruising through her head. After all, college is the place to make such choices and there are politics to choose. On the one hand nobody on the planet in their right mind gives a damn about the inconveniences suffered by Ivy League undergraduates enjoying the most privileged of privilges in the most privileged place on Earth. As we all should well know, in most places in the world and too many right here in the US, getting on the wrong side of the wrong cop can get you on the wrong end of a bullet. Be thankful your friends are wearing bandaids and not carrying your casket. On the other hand, there is no better way of beginning a lifetime of advocacy for the wretched of the Earth than under the crystalline prism of Ivy League campus politics. This stuff matters forever. Where ever you go in life, you'll always be living up to (or living down) ideals you set for yourself in college.
The attractions of advocacy for the downtrodden are obvious. To support the dignity of the weak is honorable, noble even. And there was a time in our society when any race but white was unalterably bound to weakness. Old symbols die hard, but we know better, and we are better. So what irks me is that the tall and strong and unquiet would seek to wear the colors of their skin as a symbol of that old weakness. I hope that's not what's going on here, at least not in my family. Not that I'm in control or would seek to be. Theresa McGowan will be the author of her own fate, no doubt.
So the question that falls to us now is whether Mr. Street and the officers involved conflicted over a matter of humiliation and pride, or weakness and strength. I think it is more of the former than the latter. I suppose we should say there is a small question of law and order involved, but that's really just a technicality here. Street's no criminal, and the cops weren't stopping any crime. But he has been humiliated and subdued, and now the shoe is on the other foot heading for some cop's ass. And don't tell me any town cop doesn't wish snot-nosed college kids would just behave. And in this case, you can best believe that the wrong finding can cost somebody their entire livelihood. That means one cop (or two) out of a job. Now who's downtrodden and weak? It's hardly likely that Street will be suspended or expelled from school, unless of course these are felony charges and they stick, and felons cannot attend Brown. Facts? Anyone?
So things hang in the balance for the parties directly invovled and activism on either side ratchets up the attention given. Depending on which way this thing goes, I may have to worry about my niece making a bad name for herself among the cop fraternities of Providence. Sounds like 1966.
If I had my way, I'd just call the whole thing off. Cop families wouldn't have to worry about whether dad has a job, student families wouldn't have to worry about whether son has an education. Everybody gets chewed out and humiliated and all parties recognize how much they need mutual respect. Humiliation this time, fortitude next time.
Oh, but then there's that little technicality about law and order. That means somebody has to pay. All because what.. everybody has something to prove at 3am in the morning. Me? I sleep well.
The Wave reports that the civil rights attorney and former police commissioner died last night when her car plummeted down a slope near her home in the Hollywood Hills. Lomax was 56. According to the story, Lomax was behind the wheel of her 2005 Jaguar when the car drove off her driveway, rolled down an embankment and landed upside down on Outpost Drive. Paramedics found her in full cardiac arrest. She was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai at 8:37 pm.
Lomax was on the police commission during the Tom Bradley administration at City Hall, served for a time as its president, and made an unsuccessful move in 1991 to oust LAPD Chief Daryl Gates that led to her resignation. Bradley tried to appoint her in 1992 to the DWP commission, but her confirmation was rejected by the City Council over the Gates issue. She later represented Willie Williams when he sought to regain his job as chief of the LAPD. In 2001 Mayor James Hahn appointed Lomax to the Information Technology Commission. She had also been vice-president and general counsel for the Los Angeles NAACP.
Lomax could be counted on as a voice of reason during all of the squabbles between LA's various black communities and City Hall since way before the riots. She was always in command of the facts and could be counted on to be blunt when plain talk was needed. I can never recall her mau-mauing for headlines. A responsible party, she often spoke out on Airtalk with Larry Mantle. She'll be missed.
The ABC docudrama does a pretty good job of describing the enemy and the frustrations of John ONeill of the FBI. But among all the tongue-wagging, I can only remember hearing the name of Richard Clarke once, another one of the annoying realities of the partisan-ridden blogosphere. Be that as it may, I think another wave of Americans are going to start reading his book. He comes across fairly well in part one.
The dramatization makes it clear that we had informants at the right places at the right times, but doesn't make it so very clear about the false positives which must have emboldened the foot-draggers. It's too late now, of course, but that is some perspective I think should have been included, at least one overblown mistake created by a bad lead.
I'm also looking back at several other post which are related:
Other than that, there's not much I have to criticize the show about. It appears completely reasonable to me. The treatment of Berger is evenhanded I think, though I really have to say that Clinton ordering cruise missiles looks more and more like a committee decision. The CIA looks pretty good in this.
I've gotta say though, just watching the whole dramatic sequence with the planes taking off on 9/11 gave me the creeps. I really don't want to watch that part.
I just happened to be surfing around and found a reparations post angling off something I said about Katrina relief. A couple things occur to me, both are insulting and provocative.
The first is this: If African Americans were required, in order to get reparations, to document their family tree back 150 years to manumission, what percentage do you believe could do it? I think maybe 20%, and they would mostly be middle class and rich anyway. Related to that, if all the reparation money went just to those 20% do you think they would take care of the other 80%. I think the answer is maybe 30% of them would try, but it depends on how much money we're talking.
Secondly is this aproppos Spike Lee and Katrina. I happen to know my aunt is constantly invovled with the politics of reconstruction, but I don't have any details. It is rather surprising to me now that I think of it that Lee didn't talk about anybody involved with that process on the community level. Some kid who walks through the devastation and says that there could still be bodies in those houses gets his piece on the air, but nobody like my aunt who is working to rebuild the city got any props.
I'm not cranky, but this is what I wonder today.
First the news… WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 /PRNewswire/ — The Federal Reserve today released figures showing once again that African-Americans and Latinos pay more for mortgages than white borrowers. Data collected from lenders for 2005 show that a majority of loans (52%) to African-Americans and more than one in three loans (40%) to Latinos were higher-cost. White [...]
For what it's worth, I have been listening to Right Radio for several months now and they are absolutely inundated with mortgage company commercials. In my entire life of listening to black radio I have not heard a fraction as many advertisements about financial services as I have on the AM. This is something that black radio statiions could do with ease to aid their listeners. Simple.
My educational upbringing, like my religious education, was something of a hodgepodge. I attended an all black public elementary school in the 60s that had a fairly exceptional record. Its principal, Mrs. Edna Cohen, was a leading light in the community whose portrait still hangs in the Wilfandel Club House in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles.
For my middle grades, I attended Holy Name of Jesus School, an all-black parochial school that spanned the first through eighth grades. Its principal, Sister Mary Leone Rock, lived up to her name, an irascible disciplinarian who brooked absolutely no dissent.
Finally, I attended an all boy's prep school run by Jesuits. Its principal Father Charles Gagan was a serious and probitive man, the kind that laughed at jokes over most of our heads. He fostered a sense of leadership and character building that was essential to the character of the school.
We all know the cliche that public school teachers send their own children to private school. My question today is what is the accepted superior form of education reserved for the most privileged in our society and how does it differ in form, content and style from the 'industrial' kind of routine most of us get in American public schools?
In my experience there are two primary differences that I noticed between the two Catholic Schools and other education. Clearly in my prep school, the teachers seemed to be much more the intellectual, even moreso than several of my college professors. Secondly, there was a higher set of expectations in prep school. It was made clear that doing well there was doing well, period. There wasn't a sense of relativism, rather there was a palpable sense that performance here translated into more than just attaboys. It was expressed in the way those teachers respected students.
At the parochial school, there was a harsh sense of control rigorously enforced by corporal punishment, dress codes and daily regimen. And the sense of control went beyond the borders of the school. We were told not to eat at a particular hotdog stand on our way home, for example. There was no question that the school put pressure on parents. It was very Catholic.
For a brief moment I attended a public middle school as well. There, I got the sense that there was no question but that the kids were in charge. All of the teachers were disrespected and considered stupid losers conscripted to be babysitters while we ran scams under their noses. The popular students were essentially invincible. It must be said that most of these kids had rich and upper middle class parents.
Finally, I was also a part of a gifted children's program in elementary school. It was lightly disciplined and run at the 6th Avenue School by Miss Bosquito. What was particularly unique about that program, aside from the subjects which were always interesting (oceanography & geometry) was that there was a point system. There was no grade, per se, but there were many different ways to score points, and you were encouraged to get points in competition with the other students.
I have met many blackfolks of Caribbean descent who attended English style schools in their Commonwealth states who consider American public education to be a joke.
I think that in our accomodation of multiple classes and a broad spectrum of cultural 'norms' we have reduced public education to the lowest common denominator. Here in California we are entangled with lawsuits involving our unwillingness to flunk people. This is the destructive end of an ass-backwards multiculturalism. This is not the multiculturalism of educated men and women who read the histories of other nations, but the shallow political correctness that perversely subjugates American standards to any ethnically attibutable proclivity. And so by respecting everything, we stand for nothing and thus disable any discipline or theme we might have as a central organizing principle for a principal to establish. Our public schools are failing directly as a consequence of Cobb's Rule #1: A little bit of everything adds up to a whole lot of nothing.
Our public university system on the other hand maintains reputable standards. In the two tiers, I will speak only breifly about the lower tier, Cal State which are primary undergraduate teaching colleges rather than research oriented universities. The deficiencies at the public secondary schools are being made up for by stretching four year programs into five year programs with a bonehead level for those students making up for deficits. The college retains a higher level of instructors than the public schools - it's the first place many students get a decent math teacher.
But even as I attended Cal State many years after graduation from my prep school, I recognized a culture marked by a complete lack of discipline and principle and instructors I considered inferior to those I already had.
Something has to change.
Here is what ABC ought to do with regard to complaints filed by Democrats about their objections to the miniseries 'Path to 9/11'. They ought to censor the offending parts. They should broadcast the film at its original length and black out the screen for those parts which are held in contempt by defenders of the Clinton Administration. America should sit in front of a black screen for the full 3 minutes objected to while reading a disclaimer.
THE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL HAS DETERMINED THAT CERTAIN EVENTS AS DEPICTED IN THIS BROADCAST SHOULD NOT BE VIEWED BY AMERICANS. ABC HAS BEEN FORCED TO COMPLY.
If it is not true that ABC has been forced to comply, then they should broadcast the version as they originally intented. In any case, the second thing ABC should do is go immediately to DVD with a director's cut. Simple. Devastating.
All signs from the news suggest that ABC is incapable of sticking to its guns and will submit to the political pressure. This is as grave a disappointment as I can imagine, and only further undermines the credibility of Hollywood and the mainstream media. It underscores the willingness of the Left to abdicate its 'defense' of free speech and honest debate, desparately scurrilous underdogs they have become. This is horrendously caustic of our democracy. Even though it's just a movie, I'm just completely aghast.
I have this conceit about my own BBQ Chicken, that it is the best on the planet. And of course the people in my family tend to agree. But now that I've got my new smoker, my game is a bit off. This summer, I only Q'd about 4 or 5 times, so I'm really a bit behind. Over the past week a couple of things hit me. Firstly, the History Channel did something called American Eats, where I actually learned a whole lot about BBQ, and secondly I met Dave, who has some serious smoking skills himself. Here's a video of Dave working his grill, which is the exact same kind as my new one.
Now I don't generally do huge racks of ribs like this. I've got a little bit to learn. I do chicken best, but I did do some pork ribs over the weekend which you can see in this lovely pile on the right. But those brats belong to Bruce who is from the Chicago School of BBQ. And we devoured those with a fat helping of saurkraut. Is it just me or do I just not remember eating sourkraut warm? I stood there and said that I always eat it cold, but somebody remind me what the Shofur carts in NYC do, because I got kraut more often than not. Anyway, I also have a taste for mayo on my dogs, which may sound like anathema to some, but you do have to try it.
The other best BBQ I've ever et, was courtesy of Papa Isbell. Isbell.org has been down for too long and I'm going to razz my buddy about that. But his dad does it Texas style, with a big old brisket and no sauce. He's a pure rub man, and man it makes you rub your tummy. My boy James, swears up and down that he now understands the great chemistry behind meat that falls off the bone. But I'm sorry, I like to wrestle with my ribs.
I'll be keeping you all up to date with any progress I make on the Q front, because it's going to be part of my legacy.