Excession is Iain Banks' clunkiest book so far. It is certainly enjoyable as it introduces us to Infinite Fun, but it just had too many distractions and too many characters, with far too many of them Minds whose personalities and loyalties simply didn't make quite enough sense through 400 pages. It might have helped if I had the full sized paperback, but I had the airport sized one and.. it just got tedious. It could not have felt like a page-turner otherwise.
On the whole however, Excession is a very good story, a weird ass love story, a fairly decent alien story and an excellent introduction to how machine intelligences might work. Impossible to do in a movie, this one. Something of an absolute necessity in understanding the Culture and how Minds work together or separate, with some still unrealized questions about how exactly it is the Minds regard humans - symbionts? pets? masters?
Well, actually I shouldn't say that, because one of the major motivations of a major character in the book, the Eccentric ship Sleeper Service is to make amends for a decision that lead to the catastrophic injury to a man and the psychological trauma of a woman whe were once lovers. As part of this weird ass love story between a man who enjoys the company of a race of cruel brutes who resemble in character the slobering tentacled aliens of The Simpsons and a woman who has decided to remain pregnant for 40 years keeping that man's child in a state of suspended animation.
As Culture stories go this one is about the ship Minds, what they say to each other and what they do when they encounter the unfathomable. It's somewhat all over the place, but still recommended.
It has only been about two months since I've had my wide screen HDTV and the novelty still hasn't worn off. Except for NASCAR. ,In the days and weeks that I had been anticipating getting my new set, I started watching NASCAR and thinking about how exciting it was going to be when I could watch it on the big screen. I found F1 instead, and suddenly all the stereotypes about NASCAR start to make sense.
Like everyone else in the sport, I am thrilled about the rise of Lewis Hamilton, the young Brit who has just won two races back to back. But the attraction to the technology is what got me on about NASCAR and F1 in the first place. But as you can see from the video, there is no comparison. F1 cars are so incredibly powerful and sophisticated, that you really cannot drive them. What I mean by you is literally you. Perhpas you've heard about the things you can never do in sports. You will never slam dunk the ball over any NBA player. You will never hit a major league fastball. But, you could sink a 30 foot putt, and you could drive 170 MPH around an oval. But you could never take an F1 car through a chicane at speed.
In the first place, F1 tires are made such that they only grip when hot, and they only get hot from taking turns at high speed. And as Richard Hammond learned, making that first turn is all but impossible for mere mortals - basically if you can't do 90 degree, 3G turn at 120mph the car will slip off the road. Secondly as you can see and hear in the video, these babies run at 19,000 RPM which more than triple the redline of most street cars. That's a lot of engine. The reaction time that you have to have as an F1 driver is extraordinary, not to mention the fearlessness.
I'm completely sold on F1. It's awesome.
WEB duBois wrote:
The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races. Now the training of men is a difficult and intricate task. Its technique is a matter for educational experts, but its object is for the vision of seers. If we make money the object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers but not necessarily men; if we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess artisans but not, in nature, men. Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools — intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it — this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life.
If this be true — and who can deny it — three tasks lay before me; first to show from the past that the Talented Tenth as they have risen among American Negroes have been worthy of leadership; secondly to show how these men may be educated and developed; and thirdly to show their relation to the Negro problem.
The most interesting question, and in many respects the crucial question, to be asked concerning college-bred Negroes, is: Do they earn a living? It has been intimated more than once that the higher training of Negroes has resulted in sending into the world of work, men who could find nothing to do suitable to their talents. Now and then there comes a rumor of a colored college man working at menial service, etc. Fortunately, returns as to occupations of college-bred Negroes, gathered by the Atlanta conference, are quite full — nearly sixty per cent. of the total number of graduates.
This enables us to reach fairly certain conclusions as to the occupations of all college-bred Negroes. Of 1,312 persons reported, there were: Teachers, 53.4% Clergymen, 16.8% Physicians, etc., 6.3% Students, 5.6% Lawyers, 4.7% In Govt. Service, 4.0% In Business, 3.6% Farmers and Artisans, 2.7% Editors, Secretaries and Clerks, 2.4% Miscellaneous, .5
Over half are teachers, a sixth are preachers, another sixth are students and professional men; over 6 per cent. are farmers, artisans and merchants, and 4 per cent. are in government service. In detail the occupations are as follows: Occupations of College-Bred Men. 701 Teachers: Presidents and Deans, 19 Teacher of Music, 7 Professors, Principals and Teachers, 675 221 Clergymen: Bishop, 1 Chaplains U. S. Army, 2 Missionaries, 9 Presiding Elders, 12 Preachers, 197 83 Physicians: Doctors of Medicine, 76 Druggists, 4 Dentists, 3 74 Students 62 Lawyers 53 in Civil Service: U. S. Minister Plenipotentiary, 1 U. S. Consul, 1 U. S. Deputy Collector, 1 U. S. Gauger, 1 U. S. Postmasters, 2 U. S. Clerks, 44 State Civil Service, 2 City Civil Service, 1 47 Business Men: Merchants, etc., 30 Managers, 13 Real Estate Dealers, 4 26 Farmers 22 Clerks and Secretaries: Secretary of National Societies, 7 Clerks, etc., 15 9 Artisans 9 Editors 5 Miscellaneous
These figures illustrate vividly the function of the college-bred Negro. He is, as he ought to be, the group leader, the man who sets the ideals of the community where he lives, directs its thoughts and heads its social movements. It need hardly be argued that the Negro people need social leadership more than most groups; that they have no traditions to fall back upon, no long established customs, no strong family ties, no well defined social classes. All these things must be slowly and painfully evolved. The preacher was, even before the war, the group leader of the Negroes, and the church their greatest social institution. Naturally this preacher was ignorant and often immoral, and the problem of replacing the older type by better educated men has been a difficult one. Both by direct work and by direct influence on other preachers, and on congregations, the college-bred preacher has an opportunity for reformatory work and moral inspiration, the value of which cannot be overestimated.
What are we to make of such things today?
Today I got a letter from Howard Witt. I'm one of the dozens, perhaps hundreds of bloggers he periodically sends information that's getting press in the Chicago Tribune and in the black blogosphere. Witt's exposure of many of these black bloggers merited some exclamation points in the first MSM coverage of the entire Jena tragedy. Some might go as far as to say that to many Americans black bloggers were born on that day in that context.
Continuing in that tradition of outrage, crime, punishment etc, there have been several dispatches from Witt over the months. Murder in Knoxville, Shaquanda Cotton, Dunbar Village, More on Jena 6 suspects, more on prison guards in Paris, TX and most recently a possible wrongful death in another obscure corner of America Winnifield. Louisiana.
Anybody who has read Cobb for any length of time should know that I've had a slippery grasp of blackness which has grown more lax with age and maturity. A few years ago, I boldly asked Who Owns Black?, with a resounding answer The Old School. It's something I still believe fervently, you just won't find me jumping up and down about it. I find evangelism of the sort tiring and generally a non-productive use of the blogging medium. And so I've ditched the Negro Problem as a burden of mine, ie I'm not responsible for telling you what the Old School is and how that establishes and maintains a proper blackness. Herding black is like herding cats. Nevertheless I remain plugged into the Kwaku Network, the informal yet pervasive blackified backchannel which communicates any and all things black on the Internet. Well, at least the political - can't say that I even know what the R in R. Kelly stands for if not reprobate.
So it is from a perspective of curiosity that I ask who is leading the story on this latest outrage. Is it Witt or is it 'his' blackosphere? You tell me.
Last night I watched a portion of 'Clear and Present Danger', the movie with Harrison Ford. What is so extraordinary about this film is how accurately it portrays the Pre-Bush American president, as someone who is so strangulated by Congressional oversight and the spectre of Vietnam that international outlaws can operate with impunity. This film encapsulates for me the sclerotic essence of the post-Vietnam era which didn't take a setback until the victory of Desert Storm. One of the great questions of the future, which is probably where Rumsfeld is living in limbo, is how kinetic a small engagement can be between the Systems Administrative forces and the big American War Machine. Suffice it to say that you and I remember when it was Ross Perot's 'job' and now it's Blackwater's. It being the role of American heroic force - the force that has always been required to rid us of criminal madmen.
The latest Batman movie understands the criminal madman very well, and the late Heath Ledger's Joker is the right madman for the times. Oddly enough the other day as I was writing about the perfect criminal, it presaged his role. He doesn't care about the money, he just wants to see the Earth burn.
Boy says this is the best action movie he's ever seen. Then again, he hasn't seen Casino Royale, Heist or Apocalypse Now. But there's some 14 year old in every American that responds righteously to the themes of The Dark Knight, a very, very fitting sequel to the prior episode. If there was any question, let it be settled now. Christian Bale is the best Batman ever, and he has become even more complex and compelling than ever. This was, even at 3 in the afternoon, a clapping movie. Speaking of which, please allow me two quick asides:
The best piece about The Dark Knight is Bruce Wayne's cell-phone sonar mapper, the disposable distributed panopticon. Imagine you had the ability to build Carnivore in your cloud. You use it like a one-time pad. Build in secret, deploy once, destroy after. Solves a lot of deniability problems. Brilliant that.
The second best piece was the Joker's fumbling with the remote control as he's blowing up the hospital, partially. Of course, for a guy who believes in chaos and not in plans and rules, he certainly can hide a whole lot of explosives under people's noses. That's alright. I went with it.
Excellent arcs in the characters here. For an action flick you get a whole lot more than the average drama. Almost no corn whatsoever, and of course it was all held together by Bale, Bale, Ledger, Eckhart, and Gary Oldman(!) completely out of character and heroicly long-suffering. Anyway, this is *the* summer movie I have to say.
Once more lightly on heroic themes which are not as cleanly presented as might be expected here, but it gives the film some crunchy nuance and complexity. The Joker represents chaos, but also in tune with the hero, he represents the willingness to break rules. Lesson: The people will pretend to break rules but won't really. They'll only betray one another but never largely. They are served by their common decency, brilliantly illustrated in the two ships scenario, but are prone to be unprincipled to a petty degree when they are discomfited as represented by the betrayals of police. And so the people punt to superheroes in desparate times, but equally to supervillians. What's the difference so long as some order is maintained?
(warning: blogging while drunk)
I'll have you know that I think that it is entirely possible and probably likely that we will build agents to care about us in ways we cannot convince others to care. Until such time as that occurs we will have to make embarrassingly vulnerable comments such as the following.
I will be in Cincinnati / Detroit / Washington DC / Baltimore over the next three weeks. Please forgive me in advance for not knowing that you, my dear associate / reader / friend / former intimate are in the vicinity and possibly available for chat / meals / carousing but I tend to be forgetful. Still I would like to exchange emails / words / bodily fluids with you while we are in reasonable physical proximity because this is what we normal humans are supposed to do. On the presumption that you find this mutually agreeable, have your calendar / s.o. / legal staff talk to my calendar / s.o. / legal staff and let's make this thing happen. Otherwise fuckoff for ignoring me you fraud.
If you didn't know, now you know.
This overview is for informational purposes and is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell or exchange any bodily fluids and may not be relied upon in connection with the such exchange of personal property. Bodily fluid exchanges are subject to rigid terms and conditions and subject to regulatory approval.
At this point, I have less reason to be certain of my own opinion considering the fact that I only skim the political currents these days. It changes my willingness to be wonky but not the principle - so I pay attention to the news with a thicker layer of skepticism and sometimes even cynicism. That cynic eye happens to be acerbic, and that's why my comics are funny, when they are.
All that said, I am feeling particularly sorry for John McCain these days. He's has been reduced to a very small man. He seems, just short. At the moment I feel my enthusiasm for what he stands for very much in the same way I felt for John Anderson in my first presidential campaign. Here is the man who knows what he's talking about, with all the charisma of your eye doctor. McCain's best commercial to date actually uses Obama's popularity.
In the debate on CNBC the commentators have been reduced to ask cloying questions of the young men from McCain's campaign who eviscerate Obama's messengers. Hey! That's what I'm talking about, are you considering being his Veep? No. They are just people armed with good answers and quick wit. There is nothing at all quick about John McCain.
Obama is now the undisputed king of all media and has taken his entourage global. From the midst of his sentiments, anything at all may emerge, but whatever it is, it will look good, sound good and feel good. There is absolutely nothing and nobody the GOP has that even comes close. Not Bobby Jindal, not Romney. We are immersed in yet another era of irrational exuberance. Pray for a correction and a soft landing.
From my favorite economist, Tyler Cohen:
Which disciplines are the most and least politically correct?
Here are the data, based on one study; I am surprised that psychology is "tops," with a 58.7% rate of political correctness. The other "winners" are not hard to predict, though "art" comes in at a surprisingly low 14.6%. Economics is rated at 4.7%, noting that beneath us lie Marketing, Accounting, Computer Science, Biology, and now into the zero percent category, Finance, Management Information, and Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. OK, wise guys, give the best single sentence (you are allowed one comma) account of these numbers that you can.
I've been thinking about the perfect crime, but only for a hot moment.
Two stories are inspiring such thoughts. The first is of some guys who made the mistake of monetizing their hack of electronic subway passes. They figured a way to cut a paper passcard with some moola in it such that each piece had the same value. They added a nickel of value to it and got a fresh card from the machine, which in turn could be cut into sections and the trick repeated. The crime was perfect until they got busted selling the 'legit' cards on the street at a discount.
The second story is of a network guy who set up some kind of system lockout on the network he was responsible for in order to make some demand or other. He shortly thereafter turned over the password and protocol which got the system back on foot. This one is especially interesting because his accusers charge him with putting in some special programs that will leave the system in perfect tact until it accidentally crashes, and then the administrative mode to fix the crash is somehow permanently disabled. Meaning the system is fine but the next time it crashes will be the last time because he would have rendered it impossible to fix or debug.
If this guy actually did that, it's a very brilliant self-serving application which amplifies his importance as a fixit man. The righteous thing to do should have been to quit without announcing any demands and hope the system didn't crash for several weeks or months.
Anyway, I've noticed that implicit in the desire to do a crime is often the desire to profit from that crime. It's rather the sore spot isn't it? Sabotage without a goal resulting in the desired inefficiency without any additional connectable motive has got to be part of the formula for a perfect crime. A profiteer has to seem to gain from sheer luck. N'est-ce pas?
It turns out that nickel has recently tripled in price over the past year or so. Who the hell pays attention to the price of nickel? Well, somebody. Moreover, how many refiners of nickel are there in the country? Are there maybe eight smelters in the whole US? Remember how the Bass brothers tried to corner the silver market in the 80s? Well why not by speculative amounts of the nickel market and find some way to have a couple smelters knocked offline in a totally 'coincidental' manner? Or since cobalt rises and falls with nickel, why not target the nickel plants with your terrorism and work the cobalt angle instead?
I've alluded to it a while back in the middle of the gay marriage debate over three years ago. Let me give you a little well-disciplined background:
When I think of 'gay', I only think of 'homosexual' for a brief moment. Gay is to homosexual as black is to African. You can be born African, but you have to act black. Gay is a cultural and political expression of homosexuality born of an intellectual and political movement. A man who gets raped in prison is not gay. Let's not draw too fine a line on it other to say that you cannot be born gay, you learn to be gay. This is not to say that you cannot be born homosexual any more than saying you cannot be born a pole vaulter. How do you know until you try to express your desire? There will be natural talents and proclivities. The question is, what to do with them? That is a social question with which all of us, het and homo, are involved.
In other words, everyone has a right to say what is or is not a proper expression of sexuality. Simply because you are born differently does not give you an excuse not to heed the will of society. Ah, but there's the rub. Part of what Gay Pride is, just as with Black Pride, is telling society to take a hike.
So let us, for the sake of clarity, confuse things again by adding another term. Let us call all of the homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, transvestites and others who seek to politicize their sexuality as a thumb in the eye of society, queer. The question becomes, how many 'gays' as the object of liberal activism are actually queer?
I think more 'gays' are queer than liberal activists want to admit, and queers are not interested in marriage. The point of this title is that NPR hosts and other politically correct folks are thinking gay as in high school English teacher gay. They are not thinking male exotic dancer gay or prison guard gay. My nickel says that they are thinking timid quiet repressed people or odd creatives who need more than just a way to visit their friends in the hospital, but mainstream acceptance. They are not thinking about guys who look like Hulk Hogan or Tiny Lister or men who do actually very much hate and fear women.
It seems to me that multicultural ethics has a contradiction and/or blind spot. It claims Feminist values and it claims to be queer-friendly. How can this be for that section of the Venn diagram that describes man hating lesbians and women hating gays?
Booker Rising has spent a good deal of ink over the past week or so highlighting the conflicted position of many black Republicans. I should say more properly, Black Republicans are conflicted. I was once a Black Republican but now I am not.
A Black Republican is one who is in a power game for black people. It might also be said that they are in a power game with black people. It depends upon your level of skepticism. The basic Black Republican premise is that the Republican party is good for the race, and if not, at least gives a power alternative. It's an attractive argument, one I've made early on. But the bottom line is that a Black Republican is Black first and last. As such, they could be called opportunists, or pragmatists.
We've also had discussions over the provenance of conservative blacks vs black conservatives. I an my fellow black political pundits tend to agree that most of the on-air personalities and pundits tend to be 'black conservatives' whereas conservative blacks are generally ignored.
To clear things up about me, I am a conservative black who votes Republican. I am ideologically oriented and the Republican party is the only party that is consistently aligned with my set of values (more or less). I am ideologically opposed to the Leftism of the Democrats, and any number of other tenets they claim.
But the point of my comic today is that many people presume from a pseudo-historical perspective that none of the above distinctions matter. That the future will always consider an Obama victory in racial terms, and as a positive thing for the race. That may be true enough, but it is not completely true. Or perhaps I should say that those who tend to see things racially rather than ideologically tend to believe others must as well.
A similar kind of whitewash goes on with the Evangelicals and the Secular Humanists. They tend to regard the Republican party as an agent or enemy of their beliefs. Neither is true, but it is true enough to maintain the fiction.
This state of affairs has put me off of politics, as I perceive too much of an identity component in the way Americans are playing the game. It might have been bearable if Obama hadn't mastered the game and invited more dupes to his way of doing things. But this is how folks want to do it. Just like the self-important gesticulations of Greenies, it doesn't change the planet, it just changes the attitude of people riding it. We do have the consolation however, that a real appreciation of the planet exists as well as for the economy and geopolitical matters of war and peace in great Americans and that the populist tsunami won't wash away the infrastructure supporting those great Americans.
At any rate, I continue to mock those whose worlds are rocked by the person of Obama. On days like these, I rather wish that Edwards had run a better campaign.
UPDATE: Some tangent of this discussion has veered to the purported universality of identity politics and my part in it. I offer several prior posts that refute that position:
I think this is what we used to call unmitigated gall. It's been a long time since I've had to think of an MSM editor in such terms. The last time was for Eason Jordan.
It should be noted, aside from the underhandedness of the rejection, that John McCain evidently cannot order a hotdog in this town. He appears to have been completed demolished by this prig Shipley. It only goes to show how truly pathetic is the McCain train which just lost Phil Gramm.
Right about now I am hedging all bets.
Not too long ago I considered a concept called the Last ID, which would be a universal identification and authentication system initiated by the US State Department. As many people have noted, there are purportedly millions of people around the globe who perceive their stake in American government seriously enough to wish they could vote in American elections. I suspect that some of this is a result of the paranoia endemic in the viral vectors of Bush Derangement Syndrome, but certainly it does make some sense independent of that propaganda. So I promoted the idea:
Three movies come to mind when I think about how difficult it is to find ones family in war, Blood Diamond, Schindler's List and Hotel Rwanda. Forget about American civil liberties for a moment and think about what an enormous service to the world it would be if we went made a huge locator database for every human on the planet. I'm willing to suggest that a proper system wold be of tremendous benefit to humanity if it were done with the LLP concept in mind. That is to say you could absolutely and positively identify people but that through LLP, the people themselves would be in control of the associations known to the system of authentication.
And with that control of associations in mind, Fernandez of Belmont reports the following:
A paper in an Australian policy journal has proposed letting citizens choose their degree of relationship to the State in proportion to the degree to which they intend to be dependent on its assistance or guidance. Recalling Ronald Reagan’s famus dictum that ‘The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” ’ the authors propose that people be free to choose either to declare their dependence on the state — in which case they may be told what to do — or opt to be relatively independent so that in most cases, the government would simply get out of their lives. The need is urgent, because if something isn’t done, an increasingly intrusive government will simply consume all available free energy.
As Fernandez astutely recognizes, as soon as we opt out of citizenship, well everything breaks. I mean what if you're a welfare guy who doesn't want to spend a dime on "Reagan's Army" aren't you dependent on the army anyway? And what if you're a rich guy who doesn't want to spend a dime on "Carter's Welfare", aren't you dependent on those millions as well? If the state can't compel, it cannot rule, it cannot protect. There are only very limited ways that second-class citizenship can work, and practically speaking we already have it through the tangle of loopholes that are our lack of enforcements.
This is a consideration with regard to the applicability of
voluntary association in a national identification system - if you
allow opt out, people will probably hedge their way out of as many
obligations as possible. In which case you are going to have the kind
of situation in which banks might find themselves - lending out money
they don't actually possess based upon their assumptions about how much
people would withdraw at any time. What is the liquidity of obligation?
Once upon a time I didn't know I could write.
For a long time, I accepted the notion that I was nothing more than a math, music, science, logic geek. It's a convenient kind of half-brained approach to a certain kind of sub-genius that in suburban circles had a self-sustaining credibility. Was I good in math? Yes. Did I like Star Trek? Yes. Bach preludes and fugues? Computers? Mensa Puzzles? All that and Catholic too. Hell, I even enjoyed Roger's Version. So now you get the stereotype.
Naturally, I overcompensated. Having gotten my scientific training out of the way, I started reading Moliere and Yukio Mishima, jogging on the beach and subscribing to the Threepenny Review. And I eventually got myself an English major for a girlfriend, and followed all things academic. But like many things in life, all was not it was cracked up to be. I finally convinced myself that I wasn't really that far off from the totality of reality and became satisfied that while I could probably play the role of a true Renaissance Man it was just another conceit, as was, astonishingly the intellectual prowess of academia itself.
It doesn't take much to recognize in the sciences that extraordinarily brilliant engineers who aren't actually complete social misfits don't hang around campuses to teach thermodynamics to undergrads - they work for NASA and build spaceships. But somehow I didn't see that in the Liberal Arts. I thought that the purest, most brilliant actually did stick around college towns and faculty rooms. What was I thinking? All of this came to me in a flash when I attended a conference at MIT with 75% of my academic heroes in attendance. I stood up and told them about the internet as a revolutionary way to get their knowledge out to the people, and they told me I was smoking crack. That was 1992.
I have come to a more refined understanding for the premises and purposes of academia and no longer suffer delusions about their supposed monopoly on intelligence, solutions or all the other goodness and light that their catalogs promise high school graduates, donors and the rest of us. They work their parcel.
But there is a special space, or so it seems, for the public intellectual. That special individual who can bridge the gaps between the specialists and the laymen holds our imagination. Whether they be in the military, like Hackworth or in medicine like Oliver Sacks or in the sciences like Carl Sagan, we Americans have a soft spot for the guy who can come on TV or write a best seller and make us all a bit more hip to what the truly edumacated know. After all, just like a leg is a leg, and a healthy body can be led up Mt Everest by the right Sherpa, a brain is a brain and can contain God's own truth. All we need is a patient medium.
Except that academics write to be paid.
Writing to be paid is something I find rather strange. I understand how it works in the software industry - because if I don't tell the computer what to do, it ain't gonna do jack. I'm a translator, and translators are always valuable. But everybody deserves to know the truth don't they? I mean, what if Jesus charged for the Sermon on the Mount? What if Issac Newton decided to patent his system of Physics and charge you to look up formulae, like Lexis-Nexis? I often tell the story of this party in Ft Greene at which I met a dreadlocked brother who held the floor and got the high fives by explaining how he had triumphed over the rich white man by flunking his dumbass, spoiled kids. They who had spent their entire upbringing comporting themselves to be in his class had no idea that a black man could control their lives. He was more intelligent than they were, he had more power than they did. He never let them forget it. He had climbed the academic tower of power, and had earned the right to toss a few lightning bolts. The way of the industry.
Me, I was and am an amateur. Or to put it more crudely, I like the sound of my own voice. And if it helps just one other person, then it's all worth it. Considering the five years I've been blogging, I could have been a pretty decent pianist by now. And yet, having discovered that I can actually write well, after all those years, I can't shake the compulsion. These paragraphs give me great pleasure. Still.
And yet in pursuit of the glory of the mantle of a great public intellectual some academics deign it their destiny to come down from the tower and speak truth to power or some such psuedo-noble calling. And at this point, in the voice of the man behind the curtain formerly known as the Great and Powerful Oz, with no more brains than you have my good man, they pump up the volume behind the love of their own voices.
Except that some of us ain't hearin' it.
All of this wending and winding comes to this point which marks the huffy and ungraceful exit of one Melissa Harris-Lacewell from The Root. One half of the tag team 'Down from the Tower', MHL threw around several highminded opinions in the common vernacular on a variety of issues. Unfortunately, MHL has taken the sort of zero-tolerance policy towards her fellow writers that sounds almost virtuous until you recognize the sort of postmodern word-battles going on. Specifically, she has accused my boy Jimi Izrael of being essentially an unrelenting misogynist. Which, is I suppose, the penultimate insult. Actually, to be more correct about it she called his work unrelentingly misogynist, which is even worse. That is, if you care to take such an unsubstantiated charge seriously from somebody who can't bother to quote one full sentence of his, much less a paragraph.
It started interestingly enough about family court and child support. I happened to jump into that discussion too. It ended up getting personal. Jimi had the nerve to suggest that men shouldn't be thrown in jail for falling behind on child support payments if women aren't subject to similar criminalization. As you might expect from a Feminist who finds Hillary Clinton too soft on such matters, Jimi was in for a shitstorm. But if you know Izrael's work like I do then you've been down this road before. The man writes with big black boots and has no compunction about stomping bugs, or what bugs him. There is nothing better that describes him than his current tagline, hard but fair. A writer of such creative nuance is worthless if he's not insightful, but on sexual politics among other things, the man has an eagle's eye and a lion's courage. That's the kind of writer that makes for an excellent public intellectual if you ask me.
Instead of jousting toe to toe, the academic retreats in a huff finding no overwhelming support or outrage from her editors at The Root, who obviously have a better eye for talent than concern for what dainty folks consider a 'hostile environment'. I think MHL has thrown up her hands and said 'No Mas' after only one round. Ahh but such is to be expected from Lefty academics who lecture undergraduates into intellectual cowardice with their post-modern faux egalitarian drivel. Any world where 'hoodrat lolitas' cannot exist, where lesbians cannot be poked fun at, and where adults can't handle the vile epithet of 'Missy', yeah well that's a world I wouldn't pay admission for. Parents of Temple University students, consider yourself warned.
Out here in our dirty world where writers who write for the love of turning a phrase (whew "hoodrat lolita", that's a classic) those who write to be paid and lord it over defenseless undergraduates are outmatched. So I'm afraid MHL will have to scurry back up her tower and find comfort up where the coffee is not quite so hot, black and strong. And if she, or others of her dainty persuasion, deign to slog it out in the blogosphere in battles of wits... well, bring a gun, bring a knife, bring a fisted glove or simply some high-falutin' metaphors. But don't punk out so easily.
I suspect, as does The Undercover Black Man, that she doth protest for a living, and couldn't sing solo out in the open without a chorus of sycophants. I further suspect, as my conservative spidey senses are telling me, that she's going to try some sucker punching. No doubt Izrael will become part of her tale of woe and oppression. Sheesh. I guess this is what peer review does to people who can't consider tough, fair black male writers their peers.
I think that I just did what scares Bill Gates to death. I did it almost without thinking.
I was browsing news about the new XBox 360 services from a feed about E3, and clicked a link on the XBox website. This launched Windows Media Player and started streaming video to my laptop. Except it bogged down halfway through because there's some proprietary codec that Microsoft used. So I clicked to download the new software and approved for my machine to use it, being satisfied that it was actually from Microsoft. Three minutes later the damned thing still wouldn't play.
So I watched the exact same video on YouTube. It started two seconds after I clicked play.
As far as I'm concerned, the XBox franchise is just about the only new thing Microsoft has done right and well since Server 2003 and XP Pro.
Great roundtable discussion last night on Kevin Ross' BlogTalkRadio show. I think you've probably never heard anything like it.
A broad range of topics covered from a variety of perspectives. Some of us like Obama, some of us don't. Some of us like McCain, some of us don't.
The primary focus was on the role of black media in covering serious politics and news. What's to be done about that? What was very interesting about the whole of the discussion was the extent to which we have opinions about the content of free speech and how various people get outraged upon hearing a different perspective. This is really central to the problem of the New Yorker magazine cover, vs the content of the article; whether citizens should make political statements using the imagery of the 9/11 attacks, whether or not TV is a viable medium for thoughtful people, and the overall media presence of blacks who are conservative and/or Republican. Everybody seems to need their own spin.
I can already hear it. Believe me, the sentiment is already here. That's neither good news nor bad news, and in fact it shouldn't be news. There is a myth out there called the Obama Effect which is tantamount to Derrick Bell's Afrolantica Rising scenario. I wrote about it last year:
Many blackfolks know the fable of Afrolantica. It was written by Derrick Bell, and tells of the mystical city of Atlantis rising from the sea. It turns out that all the inhabitants of this legendary greatest civilization on earth ere black, and that when African Americans visited, all the burdens of their hearts were rolled away. In fact, the effect of this nirvana were so profound that the very knowledge that they could go there at any time gave African Americans the inner peace they had desired for generations. This was a very powerful story because it illustrates how true hope can be more important than real gain. It's lesson certainly wasn't lost on me.
A lot of shiny happy Republicans have decided that now is the time to celebrate the fact that Barack Obama has a winning style and can talk seriously about basic family values. They are sanguine about the possibilities that Obama can be once and for all the absolute positive role model for everyone. As Eddie Murphy once said, Can a black man can have a suitcase? Yes. This is what I call the Obama Effect, the idea that the success of Barack Obama marks an era of positivity for blackfolks, ie translates into posistive gain by racial affiliation.
There are two problems with this which should be readily apparent. #1 It's just role modeling and tokenism. #2. You don't know Barry and Barry don't know you.
#1 The problem with this and all black role modeling. Only people with racial hangups need black role models. And only people who want to affect people with racial hangups want to be black role models. It is one of the great temptations of my class of folks, those formerly known as the Talented Tenth.
See if you were Talented Tenth, then you already know about a litany of black role models, because you study prior role models with a bit of envy and a bit of spite. If you buy into what I call the role monkey circus, then you already know that somehow you have to overcome the same demons you intend to chase out of your followers. So you might start during Black History Month with Carter G. Woodson and get enough inspiration from him for you to be a beacon to others. And basically you need enough self-esteem to assume the task, that plus the initiative taken on Woodson, and an opportunity to play show and tell. Bam, instant role model. Do it enough times for enough media and you become a 'black leader'. Do it in a calculatedly brilliant way in front of all America in the political arena and you might even become Barack Obama. But the underlying premise never changes, you're a show off in front of people who don't have the courage and demon-shields to do for self.
In life, success has many faces and is hard to define, failure is easy to define. It whatever successful people have power to 'empower' and decide you ain't got it. Rights are the gift of the strong, and sometimes the strong aren't generous.
#2. Barry don't know you, and you don't know jack. Generally speaking, when I see military personnel they don't salute me and I don't salute back. I keep trying to tell people that I was one of Colin Powell's biggest fans, but alas it does me no good. After all these years Powell doesn't return my phone calls either. I have given up. I think anybody who hasn't contributed cash money to Barry cannot reasonably expect any phone calls back. And considering the weight of people he has completely dismissed, namely Rezko, I have no doubts whatsoever that Obama has got Pooky's back. In fact, I don't think Obama has got anybody's back.
But this argument extends to just about every other 'black leader' in the universe, including those in the annals of black history - especially those who are dead. To use an old Malcolm X quote, If you're not sitting at the table, then you're not a diner. Which is to say if you are not sitting at the table of black patronage, then you are not a diner. And considering the fleabitten dollars that black media have gotten from the Obama Campaign HQ, subscribers to black media (if you're that) are sitting at a very small Romper Room sized crumbsnatcher table.
As an aside, considering the ruckus made by Uncle Smiley and various Fox boycotters, one ought to consider exactly how much Obamafication has been provided by black owned and operated media. A congent assessment will recognize that the answer is very, very, very little. As went the network of black newspapers, so goes BET and the NAACP. But at least its leadership understands the fact that Obama's election will not change most American hearts and minds about you, whomever you are.
So in conclusion, anybody who thinks that a President Obama is going to clean up the streets of the USA should look at the streets of Chicago and ask what Senator Obama has done for the state of Illinois. Far as I've heard nothing has changed. So all who hold out hope for the Obama Effect, may as well go back to enjoying Derrick Bell's fiction.
Nothing else will change.
The uproar over the New Yorker cover shows once and for all, the insecurity, superficiality and immaturity of millions of Americans, the Obama campaign and both supporters and detractors of Barack Obama. For me, it is a significant turning point.
Even though I haven't read the article behind the cover, I watched quite enough television last night, a rarity for me, to have heard an editor at the New Yorker describe the context of the caricature. It is a classic sort of argument, which is to accept a faulty premise and exaggerate it so much that it becomes ridiculous. The cartoon and the content satirize those people who actually believe that such characterizations of the Obamas tend towards the truth. Essentially, the intent of the New Yorker article is to be a satirical defense against hyperbole and stereotyping of the Obamas. That the caricature has caused so much alarm in the Obama base demonstrates how thin skinned they are.
There is little irony for me in the knowledge that The Obamafied, be they career politicos or electrified youth who have invested so much emotional energy into the surface of their candidate, now focus so vapidly on a magazine cover instead of the article itself. It is exactly the behavior I now expect. It is further becoming clear that the coalition in support of Obama is becoming disjointed and conflicted over Obama's latent common sense over FISA, gun control and the death penalty. There can be no clearer demonstration that identity politics and outright psychological projection is a substantial component of Obama support than fundamental agreements on the nature of what is, and what should be done. In the midst of real crises in America, Obama himself is unable to get his audience to be serious. His stuttering bag of insults and non-sequiturs directed at McCain over Phil Gramm sounds like of warm-up act at a comedy club.
In a world of broadcast media where Jim Cramer's volume moves millions and where the likes of Chris Matthews are considered to have gravitas, this is a story from heaven. In the greatest nation on earth where serious intelligent people operate the heavy machinery of civilization, this story is a station wagon full of children with a drunk driver behind the wheel. I'm not sure which is worse, the drunk driver who crashes or the one who survives to abscond with more trust. Whichever the case may be, Obama's shallow following allows him all the opportunities of a fascist. I don't think he is any more or less corruptible than the average Senator, but the nature of this following provides the sort of power that personality alone cannot and will not check. For that, he needs a rationality and policy that will be consistent when a man cannot be. For his campaign to denounce that which defends him logically but offends his illogical supporters demonstrates that he will lie when the truth is sophisticated. It is the first mark of a man who doesn't respect the capacities of the citizenry, the license of the free press and the world as it is.
This phenomenon must be stopped.
"I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them. Which perhaps indicates a second, more intimate theme to this book namely, how I, or anybody in public office, can avoid the pitfalls of fame, the hunger to please, the fear of loss, and thereby retain that kernel of truth, that singular voice within each of us that reminds us of our deepest commitments."
Not the kind of person you want running the world's most powerful nation.
It finally dawned on me.
I can't help but notice that Right bloggers are defending the legacy of Tony Snow and Left bloggers are trying to call him another loser flack. I'm also noticing how some have blamed Fox for the legs on Jackson's ridiculous gaffe. One has repeated the litany of Righties up to Ailes at the top. I've always noticed that dozens of folks who don't bother to lookup Hayek still can't figure out what a semi-intelligent writer such as myself does following the marching orders of Bill O'Rielly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. The fact is that I don't, but that doesn't stop the guilt by association.
What I've figured out, appropos a phrase that sticks with me, is that the Left associates dissent from its panglossian policy experimentation as stupidity. The reference is here from William Weston, emphasis mine:
The least educated people have the most diverse group of political discussion mates, whereas people with graduate degrees are the least likely to talk politics with people who disagree with them. I can testify to how easy it is for conversation among academics, the most educated group of people, to turn into a one-position echo chamber. Liberalism is taken to be an IQ test, and the rare conservative is encouraged to be quiet or go elsewhere. For political disagreement I go to the coffee house, which in our town draws a broader range of people than the faculty club contains.
This is the land I grew up in, and of course with a family background of academics, it made sense. To do for those who previously couldn't is a sign of progress, and we should be all about progress. If you're not, you're stupid. Which naturally includes thier constituency - those who don't know how to do for themselves and need the work of society to help them out - society led by ... academics, the only people smart enough to show the way.
Of course all intellectuals aren't liberal or progressive. And that's what makes the Left agonize. They believe that the progress inherent in their views must be the way that the lumpen masses see things. The Left is elitist, but they assume that their efforts on behalf of the masses will always be supported by the masses. And so in a democracy, they should always win. That's why they hate Fox News, because it destroys their monopoly. It gives people who aren't rich reasons to think like people who are. (And it's always the rich industrialists who is the intelligencia the academics are most envious of - after all that's where they get their money).
This explains a host of questions that black conservatives get, and any Republican who doesn't appear to be a wealthy miser. "How could you possibly betray your own best interests" is the root question. They simply don't understand intellectual diversity - that people's own best interests is not always down with a policy program or an agenda of 'progress'.
Moreover, on that IQ test thing - they really can't stand that Right Radio connects with average people, and that politics isn't always an intellectual pissing match. That's why the Left tends to gravitate to big hunking world-historical ideas just beyond the reach of the ordinary Joe. Global Warming / Climate Change is just a perfect sort of thing they love to suggest is beyond the ken of the best minds on the Right. Nothing pleases the left more than 'scientific consensus'. Whether it be the Iraq Study Group, or the IPCC or the War Crimes Tribunal. That's why they call it scientific socialism. It's supposed to be good for you.
I'm just cracking up about the story that Jesse Helms is reputed to have swore that he was going to make Carol Mosley-Braun cry by singing 'Dixie'. Deeply offensive. Sure, deeply offensive - like stealing somebody's Nikes.
Stuff like this makes me laugh because it shows how defanged the politics of outrage have become. I crack jokes about the Coalition of the Damned and all sorts of radicals, but this is, after all, the USA, where our poor people are fat. So this is just another symptom of bourgie squabbling because basically nobody dies. Or to be more specific, if Jesse Helms represented a clear and present danger to the health, welfare and safety of millions of African Americans, you'd think one of them might have the temerity to take a potshot at him. Revolutionary rhetoric without revolutionary action is basically to be taken as seriously as action movies, which is to say, lowbrow entertainment. Which is why laughter is appropriate, especially since there are no plot twists worth speaking about. Except that the bad guy gets to die on the Fourth of July.
"Once upon a time, I marched with Doctor King!"
As much as I've laughed at such credibility cookies uttered by my older white liberal friends in the past, they do have the benefit of having faced death. And I seriously told one that he did the right thing at the right time last year. And I suppose I will continue to stare down lefties and radicals until such time as they are bold enough to resort to amateur terrorism and hit the streets with anything more potent than picket signs with bad grammar. Show me the torches and pitchforks and I will, like the Omega Man, rise from my chess games and wine glasses to see what the ruckus is all about. I suppose the ACLU at least knows how to fight properly in our un-chivalric republic where all the boys seemed to be named Sue.
I say all this in consideration of some attribution in retrospective of the Reagan Revolution to Jesse Helms. You see, since I vote Republican, I get email to which the ordinary Joe is not privy. Apparently some are given to believe that if Helms hadn't delivered NC to the Republicans, Reagan would have lost to Ford. Which isn't such a bad outcome depending upon how much you are willing to believe that the Soviet Union would not have collapsed under moderate Republican leadership. We might, sans Helms, be celebrating the Ford Revolution. But Helms, as fierce a butt-headed anti-communist as is sentiently possible, had his way and the rest is history. So Helms may be remembered for that.. .yeah right.
Helms will be remembered by a somewhat distant majority, as a intransigent racist. He might well be considered evil personified. But not evil enough to execute. So, I says, BFD.
Apple has seriously flubbed their launch of MobileMe and iPhone. Their stuff is dead slow and their updates are bricking iPhones and iTouches. I'm sure they're going to tell everyone that they've been hacked - a day0 hack on this day has got to be a treasure for any black hat. But I suspect that the same thing that didn't work when Jobs was announcing a month ago crapped out today.
Remember we were hearing that the new iPhones have been out almost a year already? My spidey senses were telling me something wasn't quite done if they didn't release the same day they announced. But hey, it's a reasonable way to get a month of buzz right? Who could fault anyone with a 200 buck superphone? Sure, wait a month. Surely they knew what kind of activation nightmare was to come. Surely they were overprepared. Yeah right. It looks like a total disaster of a launch. Check out this comment from the Macworld forums:
This has been a horrible week for Apple, and it has only gotten worse with the 3G activation disasters and 2.0 upgrade bricking fiasco.
Attention Macworld: start doing some journalism!! The current articles on your website read like Apple PR and do not reflect reality!! This is quite possibly the worst rollout in Apple's history. To have 36+ hours of downtime for a service that was already overpriced and poor is simply disastrous and is not going to win new customers. It is simply not reliable; why should users pay $99/year for webmail that is subject to this kind of downtime when gmail is free and solid.
To add insult to injury, the 2.0 bricking epidemic is just outrageous. To not build in any way for users to restore their old OS is just unconscionable. These are phones, not iPods Apple! People rely on their phones and their webmail to communicate, and you've broken both for millions of people within a 48 hour period. To the apologists who say "oh, just give them time, there's bound to be problems on the first day" - I say no, that's not right. Apple should do load testing and anticipate the kind of demand they're going to see (it should be obvious). If they can't prepare adequately, then they shouldn't do this kind of rollout. It's extremely unprofessional.
This is disgraceful, and a serious tarnish on Apple's reputation. "It just works," my ass!!
Wake up Macworld - get on the ball and start reporting this!!! The MobileMe crisis is nearly 2 days old now!
Me.com is slashdotted. So here's the meme, which is caveman talk for Me. Me slow. Me stupid. Me having hard time scaling. Me not all me cracked up to be.
I didn't write much patriotic stuff for this year's Fourth. In fact, I was so whipped from traveling, I didn't even play my traditional Sousa on iTunes all morning. But that evening, my daughters did spontaneously start singing patriotic songs after the fireworks show.
Just cruising around on the web this evening took me to Lawrence Welk. I always knew he had problems spickin de English, but I was never curious why. It turns out that he was quite the unintegrated farmboy and spoke only German until the age of 21. In fact, Welk came from the poorer side of bohunkdom. In his successful days, he must have represented bling for any number of folks with similar backgrounds.
Now I'm one of those people who actually does like all kinds of music. I may gravitate towards a few thousand songs given my druthers, but I know these singers have more pure vocal skill than the Pussycat Dolls. Which brings up an interesting question of talent vs style, as well as one of taste. But I'm going straight for the jugular which is basically cultural revulsion. You know and I know that watching these folks is pretty painful and for a younger version of me, basically unbearable.
When I was growing up I would have looked at these people on television and thought to myself, if that's what America is, I don't want to go there. There didn't seem to be, when I was a bohunk from the 'hood, any indication to me that these people would be considered anything but 'normal' by 'America'. They certainly suffered a deficit of soul, which no self-respecting popular entertainer this side of the opera would dare expose. Even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is more gutsy than these doofs. And yet, doofus is about the most true knuckleball you can toss at these folks without being unnecessarily foul. They're innocent and singing of innocence - or at least genuinely trying to be nothing more than that. Sure there's a polish and shine going on, but these are the simple dreams of simple people being humble with all their might. You want to hear a crazy parallel? Listen to the sweet voice of the woman singing 'Special' on De La Soul's AOI Bionix.
I paste this video tangential to the sociolinguistic discussion. Who integrates which way? Which is America? That which survives, I think.
Coercion, Intimidation, Beatings & Displacement. This has been the official plan and action of Mugabe's ruling party, which doesn't care about the international community. Zimbabwe has been a failed state for a long time. The latest news is more tragedy. Nobody's going to do anything about it. A very sad day for Southern Africa.
The American Medical Association was white. The National Medical Association was black. You couldn't get into the first, you had to get into the second, and of course this resulted in inequalities which were often insufferable. Today, the AMA has roundly apologized and has what we have come to recognize as a standard raft of anti-discrimination policies. People have been asking the difference between civil rights and social power. Nobody has a right to be a member of a professional association. Obviously if you are a doctor, you're already privileged in society. But if you are a doctor without the backup of the AMA, you are less effective than you could be. The AMA apology is a reflection of social power of blacks and the NMA to demand it.
Iran's Fakery and the MSM
Continuing on the trajectory of beating up ordinary reporters and their editors masquerading as truly necessary, today's fisking of various doctored AP photos is handled by Spook86.
Jesse Jackson is mainstream; a corner of the mainstream. Let's try not to forget that he does speak in the moderated tones of black outrage. When it comes to black outrage, Jesse and Al have got all dimensions covered - at least all the dimensions that amount to anything in American politics. So his speaking on CNN sotto voce to another black commentator is the sort of inside baseball that enquiring minds want to know. In today's controversial case, he explained that Obama is talking down to black people, and so Jackson promised to cut his nuts off.
You can hardly blame Jackson because he is one of a host of folks concerned that Obama, in order to win, must of necessity alienate blackfolks enough so that whitefolks will feel comfortable enough to vote for him. It's the sort of zero-sum racial politics Jackson has always been involved in and the sort lots of Americans consider to be the norm. Anybody who assumes that African Americans are consumed with the politics of black outrage need only pay attention to Jackson and Sharpton.
Obama must be a bit stymied by this. I'm sure he'll finesse it, after all this is mere rhetorical sparring and not even in public, and of course Obama will win. Chalk one more up for what I've been saying for 5 years - the politics of social power triumphing over the politics of civil rights.
A bias against the inability to code switch is the most reasonable way to summarize that which might appear controversial in the latest Freakonomic investigation.
Fascinating new research by my University of Chicago colleague, Jeffrey Grogger, compares the wages of people who “sound black” when they talk to those who do not.
His main finding: blacks who “sound black” earn salaries that are 10 percent lower than blacks who do not “sound black,” even after controlling for measures of intelligence, experience in the work force, and other factors that influence how much people earn. (For what it is worth, whites who “sound black” earn 6 percent lower than other whites.)
How does Grogger know who “sounds black?” As part of a large longitudinal study called the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, follow-up validation interviews were conducted over the phone and recorded.
For all the headline grabbing, a moment's consideration makes this conclusion fairly obvious - aside from the dopey assumption that salaries are meritocratic across the board. People who master various dialects are considered smarter than those who can't. It's one of the reasons we admire comedians who can do impersonations, and wits who drop the occasional French bon mot.
Think about it, you and I both know people who try to be intellectual showoffs by ordering American food in Spanish to the Mexican food workers. Nothing new about that.
The key word here is yellowcake.
The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program - a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium - reached a Canadian port Saturday to complete a secret U.S. operation that included a two-week airlift from Baghdad and a ship voyage crossing two oceans.
The removal of 550 metric tons of "yellowcake" - the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment - was a significant step toward closing the books on Saddam's nuclear legacy. It also brought relief to U.S. and Iraqi authorities who had worried the cache would reach insurgents or smugglers crossing to Iran to aid its nuclear ambitions.
What's now left is the final and complicated push to clean up the remaining radioactive debris at the former Tuwaitha nuclear complex about 12 miles south of Baghdad - using teams that include Iraqi experts recently trained in the Chernobyl fallout zone in Ukraine.
This is the stuff that Plame's husband, Wilson said there was none of. Or to be more precise he said there was no more of it being bought. Which may or may not be true and this stockpile doesn't prove him wrong. Wilson's problem was that he said so without having any proof and then blamed the Bush administration for trying to destroy him. Etc.
Is 500 tons of yellowcake a weapon of mass destruction? No. Is it material for a dirty bomb. Nope. It's an industrial sized ingredient for a big nuclear program. How many nukes could you make with 500 tons? Over 100. So is having 500 tons of yellowcake evidence of a nuclear program? Yes. Is it evidence of an active nuclear program? That's a question for inspectors.
What's perfectly clear here is that until the completion of this transaction, Iraq hadn't been disarmed. The world is now safer.
I actually haven't read an official obituary, but I can gather that the man has died from the number of comments in the RSS feeder. I'm going to say something that you probably won't hear anyone else say which is that American racists need democratic representation too. So when it came to Helms and Thurmond, I basically saw them as the official representatives of American white supremacists.
You will note that there is nobody immediately coming to follow in their segregationist footsteps, but at least he lived long enough to see Obama get the Democratic nomination as official as that may be.
As a Republican, people who know no Republicans tend to think that I must be trying to follow his lead. The closest they come to being correct is the fact that I once considered living in NC. Other than that, I only think of the man when forced to by such accusations. At any rate I'm sure somebody somewhere benefited from the works of his life which is ever tainted by his racist ideas. Too bad.
Here is the correct piece of news from the LA Times. The link in that blockquote of Patterico's did not contain the proper information bolstering the arguments I have made on behalf of the police, citizens and businessmen who have to deal with the crime of the dumping zone called Skid Row.
This was a compromise that hasn't resolved the problem. It remains. Here is another article that illustrates varying approaches to solutions. Joseph Mailander proposed New Yurt City. I like the idea and furthermore I would extend it as a kind of microlending solution. In other words, I would grant a sort of partnership / ownership of a yurt. Let's say that the city owns 51 percent of each yurt and that the city or county also subsidizes a grant for the person 'buying' in. As they get on their feet and have a job, they move out of the yurt and sell it to the next occupant.
We should keep in mind that this is exactly how Brazil has creatively dealt with favelas, or that seems to be the message among some of the blue sky and semi-radical testimony of Robert Neuwirth. It makes sense to me that some sort of financial incentive be given to users of the yurts and that it is made to benefit the city that these turn over - that people don't squat in yurts permanently, but that some provision be made that they are accommodating to people who might take 3-6 months to be restored to normalcy.
Today I sat with Kevin Ross and Christopher Bracey on News and Notes and had what I consider one of the most civilized, if not the first, good discussion about black conservatives on the radio. Farai and her producers did a great job in putting together the show under slightly adverse conditions. Ross is a Morehouse man who looks the part and we met in the hall outside of the studio. The segment we shared was the second. The first was the blogger's roundtable segment in which we covered the following.
A. Iraq and Oil
B. Barack & Flipflopping
C. Indigents in Hospitals.
It remains astounding to me how many people still pretend that there can only be one reason for a war. From now on, I'm going to bring a copy of the congressional joint resolution whenever I sense that I will be debating Iraq. They never get past that. I was hoping that some revelation of the facts about exactly how much (not much) oil is forthcoming that they would leaven their bile. No such luck. Starting 2013 the world can expect 1.5 million more barrels per day coming out of the six new fields. That will be split up how many ways? Who knows? But what's clear or should be clear to my opponents in this debate is that this amount, even if the US got 100% of it, would constitute less than 5% of our daily needs. I tried to inject mathematical logic into the discussion but that was very difficult to do. So I simply emphasized that for the first time the Iraqi people themselves get the money.
On Barack, I'm particularly interested to see how furious those whose audacious dreams he shattered will be. As I said the other day, Obama is now simply talking sense rather than crazy talk. There's only so much crazy talk he can spew, and now he has to placate people living in the world of reality, as opposed to such hard Afrocentrics characterized by Wright's version of liberation theology, ass-backwards generals like Wesley Clark and other associated donuts now being splattered under the Obama bus.
As for the poor woman who died at King's County, I really wanted to emphasize how it is that liberal sentiment has caused this situation. Whenever you have laws that assert an indigent person's right to sleep in public places, you deaden the public's ability to be outraged at the very idea. So you see somebody sprawled asleep (or comatose, who checks their pulse) on a subway or a sidewalk or a park bench, and you say that he has a right to be there, then you don't roust them or say 'somethings wrong here'. That's just exactly the kind of mentality that allows people to lay comatose on public hospital waiting room floors - somebody has defended their 'right' to.
In the second segment, I joined Ross and Bracey, whom I still owe an apology for not reviewing his book here, to talk about black conservatism itself and how we are dealing with the current campaign's cards.
I dig McCain for several important reasons. Broadly speaking, you either have governors or Congresscritters running for President. When you have governors, you check out their state's budget and how well he ran the joint. Did education improve, did he balance the budget. No such luck with these two. With Critters, you focus on what their legislative history is like. Obama has none. Clinton's was all about moderation in Iraq and health care. A known quantity. McCain is practically legendary for resisting strong-arm party line politics. He actually forged bipartisan coalitions and passed significant legislation. He completely resisted earmarks, he killed the Borking practice of filibustering to stall judicial appointments via the Gang of 14, and he changed campaign finance law. This is a man who knows how to get things done in Congress, and he has said that he wants 'question time' following the British model in which the President answers hardball questions from Congress publicly broadcast. What's not to love? The choice for me is obvious.
Additionally, with regard to black political empowerment, McCain is old school, not evangelical Christian Right. This is the kind of candidate that would support men like Jack Kemp. All Cobb readers should know that's my kind of Republican.
I made the point, which I think we should all keep in mind, that the Republicans are not going to magically find some voodoo to appeal to black voters. When it comes to the ethnic vote, it is what it is, and policy be damned. The only way to get the ethnic black vote is to run ethnic black candidates. Call it the role-model vote, call it whatever. That's our job as black Republicans to energize that black base, and all it takes is the single right candidate. I think Michael Steele still has that capacity, but for me personally - well I don't vote for personalities. So I'm in an odd position of second guessing the black ethnic vote - I'm not part of it. But as soon as that hump is gotten over, it becomes no big deal and people will realize that the Southern Strategy will be as rhetorically dead as it is dead as policy. In other words, black voters need a black voice to say 'it's cool'.
Ross sees in Obama a stepping stone up which happens to have a left foot on it. Existentially, I think that is a big nothing, but again it is because I wouldn't pander to an ethnic vote. Still, Ross is probably right to triangulate Obama into the house that Powell built. Word is that Powell will support Obama, but I've lately had issues with old Colin. Quite frankly, I would have rather that it be Harold Ford, if I had my druthers, and I think that if Ford were in Obama's place that would be more of my nightmare come true. But knowing what Obama is, and has been makes me a great deal more comfortable voting for McCain who is standout in his own right. Obama could have been a blue dog, but instead has been flirting with Weather Underground types. No freaking way.
Anyway, the hookup with Ross could be profitable for The Raven Group.
I am presented with a dilemma of sorts. Part of this is due to my reorientation towards the natural world and considerations of science fiction. I have long understood the libertarian leanings of my technical colleagues (the ones who tend to drive GTIs and wear chronographs) as well as those more liberal leanings of my more technical, even scientific colleagues (the ones who tend to ride recumbent bicycles and follow NASA events). In my early years, I was more influenced by the latter than the former. In fact I do have an autograph from the late Dr. Paul McCready; I had him write it on a sheet of quadrille that I had folded into a paper airplane.
The world is feudal. That is because it is a world of scarcity. I say that Earth's scarcity is fundamentally intellectual. Most of us know how to survive, but not well. In seeing that we might possibly live well in the leveraged modern world, we apply ourselves in various ways to gain access to the privileges accorded those who know how, whether or not we know how. The industrial revolution and the information revolution have left our cultures with this problem of leverage - most of us haven't learned enough to be self-determined. The easily gotten commodities of our world society aren't quite natural to us yet. Our cultural world needs constant re-application and relearning. It keeps changing, and so people have to pay money and tribute in order to gain access to the lessons of modernity. Thus we are feudal.
Many years ago when I considered myself to be a poet I wrote something to the effect that we were all monkeys, hands and feet-hands poking and prodding the infostream whose jets have twisted our fingers all backwards. Almost every time I listen to NPR I get that queer feeling of 'why would anybody want to know this?'. We have an information surfeit that we try to bank on. What's green? Solve the Geo Quiz. Recognize the strange intellect of Sarah Vowell or David Sedaris. A quixotic journey rewarded by a voicemail message recording by Carl Kasell. These are surely class signifiers of a feudal sort and speak of a poverty of knowledge and command over the natural world. Ahh but if you're Randy Newman working for Steve Jobs you don't necessarily need to be so much well-informed as properly informed. The value of your information is relative, the quality of your knowledge is random. And so we have scarcity, for surely not just anyone can play piano and rant.
At our human best, we reflect on human difficulties and conspire ways to alleviate suffering, for surely we suffer from chasing information whose value we cannot ourselves determine. In a world where it's possible to be Simon Cowell, surely the definition of frustration is trying to figure out which pop song and what interpretation of that already invented thing is worth anyone's time at all. There is, after all, a world of already existing knowledge that suit our humanity perfectly well. Those who hew closely to some list are generally called conservatives. One could call this species of virtual utopian problems one of finding one's way through the dreck of relativism to those absolute precious values which endure as long as the human form itself. Yet there remains plenty that proper science can reveal. There is a great deal of progress which can yet be made in solving age-old and newly discovered problems, including those arising unexpectedly like deadly pollen from the flowers of our prior success. Were only the cutting edge easily accessible.
But if necessity is the mother of invention, surely there must be a big mouthed sister in the family. What, after all, is the point of creating something to benefit mankind if mankind can't get to it? We must presume that at some point, despite all feudal roadblocks, dissonance and other bottlenecks in the distribution of useful natural knowledge, our culture will eventually get it. And so, in consonance with the concept that 'the future is already here' awaiting GPL or some such open source distribution we must accept some inevitability of progress. And in this lies the heart of my dilemma.
What is utopia? Is it achievable? Without being exhaustively complete, let us presume that there is some optimum path towards that fraction of utopia which is achievable within the space of a human lifetime. Let us further presume that most people's paths are suboptimal, and some of course, like minions of the Church of David Sedaris, all wrapped in the corduroy of the faithful, are on a bizarre tangent. Of course we must also presume that another group are 180 degrees opposed and seek to sabotage the advance of the human condition, Al Qaeda springs to mind.
The problem of the virtual utopia is then, a dilemma of choosing whether or not to believe if human progress is inevitable. The proper life, is it to be pursued with the assumption that we enable the achievable utopia? Or should we relent and live in the relative utopia of today?
If it is possible to alleviate suffering through the establishment of a better society, is it more noble to accept those betterments achieved by prior sacrifice or to make additional sacrifices in the attempt to make what's already good better still? At what point does it all become hubris? Should we make plastic surgery affordable for everyone, so that everyone can look beautiful, or is the very idea a conceit? Should we make university education affordable for everyone, so that everyone can be informed and smart, or is that chasing rainbows? Should we strive to improve air quality so that nobody will have their life cut short by lung disorders or are we playing God here? One man's trash is another man's treasure, on man's floor another man's ceiling. And it's all here, all now, merely unevenly distributed. We have a scarcity problem. Some people are already living in utopia.
I pose this as a problem of 'utopia' rather than as a problem of class because I am thinking of the possibilities of a post-scarcity world. Americans, for example, have no scarcity of calories. Pollan spells it out. As the nature of work and learning is undergoing massive change, we cannot necessarily depend on our current understanding of class. There are conspiracies afoot to make many things post-scarce. Surely the upper classes will see them first, but as they pass through society, they lose their class significance. As they become commodified, they lose their marginal significance. Like ATM cards. 30 years ago, almost nobody could get cash out of the bank on Saturday. Electronic funds transfer is a commodity today. So is Viagra, something men have killed every beast, plant and fungus possible to find.
Somewhere, somebody is thinking that we might control another variable in human existence, and so we prepare in our conduct to salute a new regime. A non-smoking future perhaps. Is that right?
OK. I have invited all of you to follow me in a plan to destroy America. Why? Because America is a nation-state and we all believe that the era of the nation-state is doomed. So let's accelerate the process. I will assume that there are six of you and six of you will generate cells organized on the operating principles to follow.
The first and foremost thing to do is to get your own funding. There will be no centralized funding of this operation. I picked you because you are all successful international entrepreneurs with your own financial networks and your ability to get money is beyond question. After all, I met you at Davos. You are either independently wealthy or tapped in to those who are. I even know that Phillip W. (aka Agent 57) pretends to have a cocaine habit and mooches off of his family and they think he is an incompetent reckless playboy. But we know better.
Anyway, our targets are American senators and we will be about excuting them. Now I know Phillip that you fear the American criminal court system, but I'm going to show you how to beat it. You use proxies to setup criminal activities that fall short of murder and you use cutouts to disable conspiracy charges. Since we are all six cells and there are about 20 primary targets (since we all think alike and the Congressional Record is open to the public, our top 20 lists will no doubt coincide - I don't even have to list them out) overlap will be inevitable. Each cell should plan to eliminate 5 each. In this regard there is a substantial chance that your efforts in terms of setting up criminal activities will unintentionally overlap and reinforce each other. And yet since you don't know who the other IFs are (illegal facilitators), you will disable investigations sent after you even if you get busted.
Here's the thing I will be able to find out if you are charged with a crime or if any of your IFs are rolled up. That's because you will communicate one way with me when your plans are successful or failures. You will do so on an odd basis with no pattern (I will send you protocols for randomized scheduling of communications which will happen at least on weekly basis.. or something like that.) The randomization will be often enough such that the grain of operational communications will still be feasible, and the likelihood of late communications in critical periods would be low.
You see, we use the transparency of the American criminal courts against them. As the FBI gathers evidence (assuming they even catch onto your trail), they must present it to a judge and get arrest warrants etc. Their investigations cannot go on indefinitely. All we have to do is wait them out, they cannot keep your IFs in jail before a trial without charges indefinitely. They must have hearings which are public and they must have speedy trials. It will take me less time to spin up another cell than it will take the FBI and criminal courts to investigate, and try your IFs. Meanwhile, we can easily infiltrate defense attorney's files and get all we need to know about the IFs. That system works fine to stop one person from committing a murder or a bank robbery, but not against such an organization as ours. Essentially, the criminal court system is not a deterrent to us because we are a military organization. The American criminal justice system is biased against sending an innocent individual to jail. Our very modus operandi establishes reasonable doubt - and even when it doesn't and the guilty is set free, prosecuting attorneys don't try to reopen or retry old cases. Think OJ. The shadow killer always gets off. This is the trend, by the way, in America - to free innocents who were jailed wrongly after decades. Nobody ever goes after the cold cases. We have patience, we are military.
However, since we do not represent a state, we cannot be enjoined by state forces. The Pentagon is not equipped to go after us, only Special Forces, and that requires an act of Congress, more or less a declaration of war. So we use American citizens when possible so that the ACLU and others will protect them and us by extension, and we learn as we go along. It will require an equivalent amount of funding and an equivalent mastermind in the FBI to coordinate the counter effort, and Americans don't have the patience for that. Hell they don't even have the patience to fight overt military actions against their own military.
So we can operate with impunity, unless and until they can have essentially unlimited investigative powers that can take the time necessary to trace us - which means they have to essentially infiltrate our organization and have the years of time and funding that we have. This is our great risk, that our IFs might actually be American infiltrators. Right now, that risk is low.
If you haven't seen the new Will Smith movie Hancock, then you probably don't want to read this review, because as far as I'm concerned, this is the most surprising film of the year. It's a great surprise, especially for people who think they're too mature for Will Smith movies.
The surprise is that it's a love story, and a great deal more tender than anybody attracted by flying whales is ever likely to imagine. It's the kind of story that I think has all kinds of resonances in multiple dimensions. They're not blatantly blurted as one might think in such an entertainment, but the thoughtful moviegoer must be impressed wit.
Hancock asks the fundamental question, what do you do with extraordinary talent if you don't know your destiny? What if you were born to be a hero but make a hash of your heroics? What do you do with your life if you're not sure where you belong? You waste it of course. You wander stumblingly through society amidst the people you know deserve you, but you're not sure that they know it. Smith's abrasive alcoholic superhero is a walking existential crisis. He never hurts a soul, and only saves human lives, but gets on everybody's nerves and every insurers blacklist, a cursing human tornado. He works like a reverse neutron bomb who spares no property catastrophe and it's all over YouTube.
Why? Because he is alone, physically invulnerable, immortal even, and yet plagued by amnesia. He doesn't know who he is or why he is here, but then until the movie is halfway over, neither do we. And so, if it is possible for alcohol to send an otherwise superhuman into oblivion, that is where he spends his days, until..
He meets an idealist who wants to change the world by getting corporations to give products away for free. Smith saves his live in spectacularly reckless fashion, literally causing a train wreck in the process, the idealist takes him home for spaghetti and meatballs. There's something about his wife. She says she knows men like Hancock. He breaks things. There is a strange electricity going on and it's heating up things. We know this is part of the premise, Hancock is about to fall for this woman - another disaster waiting to happen. And then the surprise.
If I was what some pundits pejoratively think of the average American in a racial context, then I would think a bit more about what's about to happen when black Will Smith kisses blonde and blue Charlize Theron. It's surely not the kind of thing you see everyday in film, but of course it happens all the time. The question is, when it does happen in film or it's about to happen, what do we expect? OK. Black man kisses Becky, black man gets in trouble. Reasonable expectation, especially for this boozy brother who makes everybody uncomfortable with his advice about kicking bullies in the pisspump. By this time in the film, we can rest assured that Smith's Hancock has enough ball swagger to out-Mandingo Superman and George W. Bush put together. He has no compunction against smashing evil-doers. He is completely, totally red-eyed bull black man and Theron cannot resist a taste. They get real close in the kitchen while hubby is passed out upstairs. What do I expect? Well I sure the hell didn't expect that she would grab him by the wrist and throw him through the wall and 100 yards down the block. She tells him to get away and never come back and let her husband know or she will kill him. Huh? What?
Hancock is an anti-material film. Even in the hyperbolic chaos of the awesome superhero-type special effects, there is little satisfaction. Maybe that's because I was in a theater without the booming system, and yet (especially in the Spiderman-3 style knockoff construction site battle) there's something missing. The thing that is missing is purpose, and following Smith you never find it until Theron and he have it out. He comes back of course and they destroy half of Hollywood, including the building the idealist husband was pitching his old idea to newly found 'friends'. You see, the idealist has got some newfound fame now being the erudite handler of the beast-hero, who now with a newly remapped image has finally gotten some official goodguy status. But it's too late to save his marriage - he discovers, as we do, that Smith and Theron have a history. In fact an ancient history.
It is revealed that the two are essentially wonder-twins of a sort, sent from the Gods to guard over the earth, like Hercules and Athena. But there's a catch. Just like a dalmation couple in Howard Beach, they become extremely vulnerable when they are together. And so the scars on Smith's dark body are revealed to be testaments to the times when the enemies of goodness have used her as bait to get to him. That's a sweet twist for your garden variety summer blockbuster, and defies the terms of endearment and of revenge so typically the arcs of such predictable action flicks. Instead of one simpleminded set of baddies, we are faced with dirty-faced angels who have faced down the evil of the ages, with Jim Crow Florida being the latest and greatest challenge the duo faced, whose denoument left Smith's Hancock in the devolved state he finds himself in since the opening of the movie.
I don't need to tell you the allegorical richness of such an American hero, whose symbols of eagles and pyramids dig at archtypes deeply embedded in our own myths. John Hancock is elevated beyond his brooding and damaged past into heriosm for the benefit of all only when the ugliness of the past is finally revealed. Nothing short of that cures him. He is a hero nevertheless but has no reason to do anything more than the barest minimum, and his self-destruction is only metaphorical because his underlying invulnerability is always maintained. He is his own worst enemy and needs to be completed for anything to work. His completion is his self - his seeming opposite. It is a love which cannot be consummated for the benefit of the two, but only for the marriage of idealism, of pure altruism.
There's a lot of ways this story can spin off a number of analogies, but there it is. A new American hero, a purposeful masculine wedded to a wise and idealistic female half but complimentary halves which must be kept vital by distance. Omnipotent apart, vulnerable together. Each needing what the other brings.
Like I said, it's a surprising movie. It is a love story - an anti-material, altruistic selfless love story. One that must put faith in sacrifice and independent interdependence. A good story for this weekend.
The average American drinks 54 gallons of sodapop every year. So at a conservative estimate that's 100 million Americans therefore 5.4 billion gallons. So the question is, how much CO2 is in your average gallon of soda? There .. oh wait, I'm not the first person to have this brain fart.. Ecogeek beat me to it.
So his estimate, which is three times less conservative than I was going to speculate, is in the neighborhood of 400 kilotons of CO2 farts and belches, unless CO2 is somehow sequestered in the body of the person drinking, which I doubt. Good lord let us hope anyway, because the CO2 we get in soda is a by-product of other industrial processes. Coca-Cola will have us thinking about human sequestration.
Anyway, it turns out that even the generous number is a drop in the greenhouse gas bucket. We're talking US dumps 1.6 Billion Metric Tons of the stuff every year. So go ahead, drink, belch and fart with impunity. Your carbon burpprint is but a trifle.
I've been reminded that I have to learn about black people from CNN. Something from the Kwaku Network:
Please take a few minutes to watch the clip. Even if you are not interested, pleaseforward this to someone you think may be.You should watch and internalize what you see and hear; no matter HOW disturbingthe information revealed.Feel free to pass this email on or go here for more information:
And so I replied with the following.
I say not. Every year some mainstream media outlet takes it on themselves, meaning 10 reporters and a couple editors to decide what it is that Americans should think about black people. Every year everybody gets all excited about a dialog on race, and every year nothing good comes of it. All these TV shows and newspaper articles ever do is give people an excuse for not doing the hard work of actually getting to know and respect black people as individuals, because all they ever do is deliver some platitudes and statistics about somebody who is not you. Every black person that's ever been interviewed is portrayed as some little neat package of black pathos, or black dignity, or black struggle or black failure, or black success, or black exceptionalism. Whatever to all that. I'm me. If you want to know me, talk to me - not about some documentary supposedly representing me.
Here's what I said two years ago, now I am almost past caring.
A Letter To The Washington Post
I realized, somewhat late, that the Washington Post is linking via Technorati to blogs commenting on its latest anthropological study on the rare and wiley 'Black Man'. And so I am writing in general response:
The most significant problem with being a black man in America is very relevant to this series. It is that no matter who you are as a black man, your image is not under your control. Any time some university study, or major media report, or controversial court case arises, everyone in America is ready, willing and able to change their (shallow) opinions of black men.
Rather than maintain some decent and stable communications with black men, or black people, Americans are always hoping for some willing proxy. And so we have a series of a few black men, and a few ideas about black men, always and forever substituting for real relationships with real black men.
It doesn't matter if the proxy is positive or negative. It doesn't matter if it's Mike Tyson or Tiger Woods, Cornel West or Tookie Williams, OJ Simpson or Colin Powell, Michael Jordan or Michael Jackson. There's a constant lottery going on about who is black and who is a black man, and what that 'thing' represents or is all about.
And so it is true in 2006 what was true when James Baldwin said it two generations ago:
All you are ever told in this country about being black is that it is a terrible, terrible thing to be. Now, in order to survive this, you have to really dig down into yourself and re-create yourself, really, according to no image which yet exists in America. You have to impose, in fact - this may sound very strange - you have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.
So I would suggest that everyone who has dropped by for a moment to update their black man image software try to get out to blogs and find out what it's like to read what a real black man is thinking and writing EVERY DAY. After all, we are the source. And no newspaper or university study is ever going to know as much about us as we know about ourselves.
All of your abstractions are worthless. We are what we are.
I am going to make some serious effort to bump up my traffic here, through more disciplined use of Technorati and better re-routing of all of the stuff that goes to the original Cobb site. I'll also do some advertising. Meanwhile, it is encouraging to see that Google is double listing many of my archives as I continue to get about 1500 page-views a day between both sites.
Aside from all that, this is a perennial rehash of the fundamental gripe of 'Mystery of the Black Blogger'. Who gets to represent?
michael david cobb bowen.
happy independence day y'all. be independent.
Now that I'm thinking of FISA and all that, I would like to introduce a new meme, which is called 'BDS Beatdown'. The very idea of Obama supporting the Bush FISA position which is sending meathead loudmouths like Keith Olbermann into conniptions is just making me giddy. Not for Obama's sake, of course, but to lord over the mindless paranoia that signified BDS all these many years and months. So I will hope something of a cascade occurs as I remind people (slowly), of all the gibberish they were spewing because of their irrational hatred of the Republican president.
Let's start first with this conversation.
OK so let's hear it. Who has GWBush been spying on all these years with his warrantless wiretaps? Which of his political enemies have been destroyed? What political dissent has he squashed? In other words, where's the beef?
Related in Cobb:
I always figured that Obama would roll towards the center, but I didn't think he'd roll so dramatically or easily. I'm not sure what to make of the efforts he seems to be making to make policy which is contrary to his rhetoric and stance, other than to suggest it's more political shenanigans that put his integrity into question. In other words, maybe I bought into the idea that Obama had integrity and it turns out that too was an illusion. The following two Changes follow on the heels of dissing Wesley Clark.
In the first place, I have had a very difficult time, when I was tracking it, putting any credibility into the majority of charges made against GW. I'm astounded to hear it still said that he was eavesdropping to punish political enemies, John C. Dvorak. Basically there was no illegality warranting a.. well, warrant, and the Congress made all the noise they possibly could over AG Gonzales but had NO LEGAL CASE. Basically all the fudging that Bush was doing in prosecution of terror suspects, not political enemies, could simply be overlooked if he had the benefit of the doubt in Congress. Obama must now, in his flip-flop be very nervily calculating that he would have such a benefit. After all, Bush won time after time when it really came down to it. So now that Obama has the nomination, he can use the cover for speaking the truth for once - FISA envelope pushing is actually about fighting the GWOT. All he has to do now is paper over the bullshit partisan lies of his past.
In the second place, well, who cares? Faith-based initiatives are empty promises coming or going. Any church that does something for the tax incentive isn't worth speaking of, much less campaigning on. This is fluff. Nice fluff that was nice for W and might turn out to be nice for Barry. The point is that little Barry is growing up right before our eyes. Now that he's gotten the Democratic nomination he seems ready put childish things aside, like the entirety of his campaign thus far.
What a punk.
John McCain doesn't have any drama. Obama is throwing people under the bus left and right. Now it's Wesley Clark that Obama is disowning. Is there anybody besides Gov. Richardson that Obama can stand up with and say, we agree on just about everything? At this point in his campaign, we should see Obama's ability to lead the party (sorta) in evidence, but I think to the contrary he is in a rather odd position.
The way I see it is that Obama's campaign has single-handedly crippled everything about the Clintonian triangulation if not dealt it a death blow. MoveOn, the organization started in Bill Clinton's defense has abandoned him. That may not be here or there for real insiders, but it's definitely real. I think Bill Clinton must be looking at Obama like OJ looked at Ron Goldman, driving his wife around in his new car. The Clintons don't run the party any longer, which wouldn't be such a bad idea if somebody else could. But I think the whole Democatic deck was in their hands and now they're playing 52 card pickup. Who are the heavyweights who have got Obama's back?
With regard to military service, Obama shouldn't even go there. That's just crazy. Kerry got his face smeared all over the pillow on that one. McCain has been on the Armed Services Committee and has 21 years in the service. As for the POW thing, well I look at it this way, and comparing it to Kerry's four months of active combat duty. Four months in Vietnam is plenty to make you broke, crippled and crazy. McCain survived all that plus prison. From a black political perspective you cannot ignore the fact that a lot of African Americans hold Mandela, King and X in high esteem because their time behind bars didn't break them, but made them stronger. McCain didn't come out of Vietnam broken, crippled or crazy, but strong. So he's faced down the demons - there is a massive and undeniable character issue plus on McCain's side. Period. Does that make him a better leader? No. Does it make him a better man? No doubt.
Beyond that, it seems to me that there's a simple binary at work here. Either you trust or you don't trust military commanding officers. That is something that must be calculated independent of the politics of war and peace. It has been my experience that independent of the politics of war and peace, middle aged, middle class black men tend to recognize and respect COs, or they ball them up into the whole military-industrial complex tar baby. The former group always includes ex-military and those I call working men, the latter falls into a category probably best summarized by The Police: "poets, priests and politicians", of which the black community has more than a fair share. From an empowerment perspective, I always make a point to say to my leftist and progressive friends, that military service for blackfolks means instant middle class, and is a damned sight better than living in Compton, where the cost of living is going up and the chance of living is going down. The math has been done, even in wartime, it's safer to be a soldier, airman, marine or sailor, than to live in the Fifth Ward of Houston. In the service, there's never any question who has got your back, on the streets of Killadelphia, the answer is not forthcoming.
I wouldn't bother to suggest that black politics needs more than an attitude adjustment on the military service question. All they need do is look to those members in their families with honorable discharges and ask them who handles their business. That's what the presidency is all about, handling business, hopefully without drama. Sounds like McCain to me.
Still, you need more than competence to run the office, you need to win a mandate from the people. It seems to me that fly Obama is more likely to win that popular mandate than boring McCain. I still think that Obama's overexposure and constant "That's not the (fill in the blank) I knew" is an inescapable negative. But I also don't see, absent another Katrina-level media storm, that he will ever get under the press radar long enough for people to come back to him fresh. I intend to come back to the both of them fresh, as soon as we can get some debates scheduled. But this back and forth is driven by media and pundits, not by the policy cred of the candidates.
If I had my druthers, I would (as McCain, or a real journalist), sit down Obama for two hours and go agency by agency. What is wrong with the Department of Agriculture and why would the Obama Administration change it (for America). How, exactly? Most specifically, I want to hear Obama say on record what he would do with the staffing levels of the TSA. I dunno, that's just something I'd want to hear him stick to - say a 20% reduction in force, and say that as President he doesn't see a domestic terror threat and he would actually fire people and save money. The way I think of Obama, I don't envision him saying 'You're fired!' to Federal employees. Rather, you're redeployed or 'we're changing priorities and reorganizing'. It's easy to dismiss the Rev Wrights of the world (not that he did with alacrity), but it's a horse of a different color to layoff a division. Where does Obama show strength in cost-cutting ability? Where's that executive experience?
Obviously, McCain as a commander has had life and death decisions to make over people under his command. Unless of course he was some sort of desk jockey REMF. But I expect that kind of reputation would have emerged by now. And so my prediction is that McCain is not swift-boatable, and when it comes to executive decision-making, the battle is his to win as soon as the service issue comes up. There are rhetorical ways of re-arranging the battlefield so as to avoid that kind of head to head comparison, and my money says Obama will attempt valiantly to do so. Man to man, I don't think he can win.
So here's my other advice to McCain. Get in Obama's face about responsibility for bad decisions that cost people jobs and lives. Ask him point blank, when did he make a life or death decision that was wrong? Leave GWBush out of this, I'm talking about you. Barack Hussein Obama. When did you decide to cut funding and cost 10,000 people their jobs? How did you own up to that? I don't think you can handle the pressure. Hell you can't even shut Bill Clinton up. Well, nobody can do that.
Last night I had a fairly interesting discussion with my Nigerian cabbie. Summary, we talked about the difference between blacks in LA and those in Atlanta and general differences between the cities. He didn't quite understand, I think, when I told him about the difference in classes and how blacks in Atlanta are a bit more class conscious than out here. It probably didn't square with the fact that he and I agree that LA is a lot less racist town.
The last thing we talked about was how old I was, and I told him that I had a very strong family. He asked if I looked more like my mother or my father. I told him that I actually look a lot more like my grandfather who died at the age of 87. He seemed to be very impressed that I had a good relationship with my grandfather while he was alive.
This evening I just happened to be cruising the Dangerpedia and discovered that the average life expectancy in Nigeria is 47. Aha.