The way I see it, there is one way that Obama can rescue his reputation with the Right. That's to pre-empt Iran's nuclear ambition with a surgical strike. It would be his signature moment in history.
There is very little else he can do of any decisive import in the next two years. He cannot fix unemployment. He cannot fix the deficit. He cannot reduce spending. He cannot repair his reputation after killing the Bush tax cuts. He won't have any Supreme Court decisions making him look better. He cannot fix immigration. He cannot end Afghanistant. He'll get no bump from ending Iraq. He won't save the planet. He can't fix Palestine. He can't stop China.
All he can do is help Israel by being the big bad US and stomping out Ahmadinejad's nuclear program, and by doing so slap Putin in the face. He would have red states mouthing off for a while. But.
I think Obama must know this. And what I think the crafty bastard will do is wait until some NGO validates the existence of a WMD and puts it on Facebook, sometime in October of 2012.
The Economist published a rather tepid estimation about the entire effort of Iraq. I have to admit that the President has done an admirable job of shutting down the war and shutting up everybody about it. From my perspective, the entire Iraq enterprise has basically faded into obscurity. I haven't thought about the entire enterprise in retrospect from a geopolitical standpoint for a number of reasons, mostly because I do not percieve a coherent theme in the Administration's actions which sustains active analysis. Obama is a canny balancing act among crushing themes of his own choosing, but he doesn't respond to the world I care about with anything more than a chummy populism.
What I have learned greatly about the past years of this sort of wartime America is that it passes beneath penetrating analysis on a set of minimally relevant, yet maximally memetic political themes. A stunningly obsessive amount of blather and ink has been wasted on the term 'WMD', something I noted that GWBush seemed to have invented and the entire political class digested as if they had been using it their entire lives. And so I have endured that polarizing debate more times than I care to remember.
There were endless tangents that occupied our attention as we occupied Iraq in the pre-sovereigty phase of Bremer's deBaathification disaster. It was during that period when I followed the paths of battles - First and Second Fallujah, and the fate of The Wanker, Moqtada al-Sadr. Like most supporters of the mission to liberate Iraq, I was acutely interested in the lack of battle reportage and the timidity of most reporters, embedded or otherwise. I was disappointed in the prejudice against the American military's abilities and conduct as exemplified by the outsized disgust over this or that looted antiquity and whose head got burned on that hot hood of a Hummer. And these mealy criticisms grew to a crescendo culminating most seriously in ultimately dismissed charges against Marines accused of a 'massacre' at Haditha.
I expected all American interest in this war to end rapidly as the number of troops killed surpassed the number of victims of the 9/11 attacks. But I didn't expect that so little of the nation's focus would be on matters tangential to the actual results of the most important fact of the war - that counter to the Baby Bin Ladin Theory which predicted conflicts breaking out all over the Middle East in response to the presence of American forces in the area, Iraq became the center of gravity for all of the region's Jihadis. In that regard, this was the war that Americans like me wanted, and our generals gave every Jihadi the opportunity of their suicidal desires. That we had to drain the swamp in Iraq amongst the deathly emnity of deBaathified Iraqis and civilians gave patriots and dissenters all of the moral ambiguity any war is bound to provide. Nothing exemplified the mess like the matter of Abu Grhaib.
The fundamental difference between Iraq and normal war seemed to be something most opponents I encountered didn't much bother to concern themselves with. What we never did in Iraq which we always do in 'Geneva Conventional War' is to treat every one of the enemy male population of fighting age a potential soldier. In that case, the American army would move through a town and capture or kill every one of them. That's how you capture a town and control territory. But in our pre-Surge ROE, we had a hybrid and failing apporach which proved an ineffective counter-insurgency. We rousted all those men from their beds, queried them on the spot and let them go, or cycled them through - based on our whims and reckoning - soon overcrowded prisons. The same ones Saddam used against his political enemies.
And so critics of the Bush Administration's war aims and conduct had a field day in the media accusing America of torture and breaking the Geneva Conventions. This all happened as a direct consequence of our troops NOT using artillery and continuing shock and awe. So we didn't kill, we mass arrested, taking sniper bullets and IEDs in the long, arduous and increasingly unpopular process. The spillover domestically with controversies surrounding AG Gonzales, warrentless wiretaps, GTMO and conspiracy theories and controversies around Dick Cheney, Valerie Plame, armor appropriations, John Murtha and a dozen other political fires smoldered for years as the entire nation politicized itself over the merest provocations, squabbling like brats while the Greatest Generation still lived.
For all that, you'd think that the following administration would make use of the successes and promise more than the previous. But that failed to be the case. No redeeming value has been articulated beyond the obvious. Saddam is dead and we're outta there. And so we are left to our own interpretations. There is obviously a great deal more I might say about the US in Iraq. I have long held that the great triumph of GW Bush, which I still hold to be the case, is that he managed to raise and keep high the respect most Americans have for its military. No longer were our primary military actions shrowded in secrecy and contemptible deniability. Bush said in front of the world, these are our enemies, this is what we intend to do, follow or get out of the way. That's the kind of leadership armies deserve and it is what they got. WMD might have been an abused and misfortunate term, but Axis of Evil remains potent and relevant to this day.
America showed success in both overwhelming global projection of shock and awe as well as success in COIN through the Sons of Iraq, and Petraeus has mastered that flexibility in extraordinary capability and style. We generated capabilities appropriate to the facts on the ground and executed, ultimately against tyranny and for democracy. But it was a failed revolution, and speaking for myself as a neocon, I have certainly come to understand that liberty's revolution can be sponsored best only after it is authored. Bush was not the author of Iraq's liberty - so his legacy as a liberator is dubious. But his leadership left no questions in American minds as to what lengths are required.
I may be chastened to know that liberty is not on the minds of many people on this planet as clearly and primarily as it is in mine and in those of my political cohort. That political statisticians at the Lancet could get people around the English speaking world exercised about 'excess death', and subversives like Assange at Wikileaks continue the counternarratives does not come as a surprise. I have found a new source of inspiration in the concept of revolution for liberty and armed struggle through my associations with new political allies to my left. There always remains that thing, encapsulated in our own American Revolution, worth fighting for. Today and soon those battles come to a close under our initiative and leadership on the ground in Iraq as the political promises and aims of the current President are fulfilled by closing that door. Our endgame is set and we leave the field of battle for freedom and come home to fiscal matters.
Iraq stands today with a sterling example of its future in un-partitioned Kurdistan, and the taste of freedom in its mouth behind its bloody face. I think this is the last war my generation will stand for the sake of anyone other than ourselves. It is the last gift that will stand without a much more imperial demand of self-interest. It is the last time we'll spend any money trying to clean up somebody else's mess. And in that regard marks the decline of America, an America that has managed to forget the purpose of its own freedom struggles. I am not convinced at all that this current political majority will gain strength and permanence. Those who understand the demands of liberty, including the two million who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are far too deeply immersed in that life and death understanding to suffer in silence under the political will of a majority inspired by notions of peace through speeches.
So after seven years I am sanguine about the details known by those who cared to find out, motivated and inspired by those elevating spirits that the quest for liberty always brings. Let those who care little mind their own business.
Epicurean Friday finds us with the following thoughts from Galen Strawson:
If, in any normal, non-depressed period of life, I ask myself whether I’d rather be alive than dead tomorrow morning, and completely put aside the fact that some people would be unhappy if I were dead, I find I have no preference either way. The fact that I’m trying to finish a book, or about to go on holiday, or happy, or in love, or looking forward to something, makes no difference. More specifically: when I put this question to myself and suppose that my death is going to be a matter of instant annihilation, completely unexperienced, completely unforeseen, it seems plain to me that I—the human being that I am now, GS—would lose nothing. My future life or experience doesn’t belong to me in such a way that it’s something that can be taken away from me. It can’t be thought of as possession in that way. To think that it’s something that can be taken away from me is like thinking that life could be deprived of life, or that something is taken away from an existing piece of string by the fact that it isn’t longer than it is. It’s just a mistake, like thinking that Paris is the capital of Argentina.
I’ll call this view No Ownership of the Future—NOF for short. Most will think it absurd, and I don’t expect to be able to change their minds. A few, though, will know immediately what I mean and think it obvious. It’s worth noting that it can take some effort to imagine one’s imminent death in a vivid way and at the same time imagine that it’s completely unforeseen, so that life is absolutely normal up to the moment of annihilation. (There is no fear, no suffering. Nothing bad is experienced.)
NOF isn’t a position taken up after reflection on Epicurus’ famously unsatisfying argument that death is not an evil. (This, briefly, has two parts:  You don’t mind that that you didn’t exist for an eternity before you were born, so you shouldn’t mind if you don’t exist for an eternity after you’re dead,  there’s no one there after death to experience harm, so no harm is done to anyone, so death is not a harm.) In the case of people like myself NOF is a natural, untutored, pre-philosophical given. It’s compatible with fear of death, which I feel, and it has nothing to do with Epicurus’ argument, which is meant to be a palliative or cure for fear of death. It isn’t meant to make anyone feel better about death, much as I would like to. It’s just a report of what I find I think—feel.
Interesting. If I had a bit more time this morning, I would like to contrast this point of view with that which was articulated some time ago regarding a society that is actually put in such a position by the fact that it had been rendered sterile. The most popular expression of this was the film Children of Men, which I hated by the way. But I do tend toward the argument that a childless future would be psychologically crushing to society despite this marvelous position of NOF. Obviously I make the distinction between my own continued existence and that of my offspring and the repercussions of some individual choices and that which is forced upon an individual or society. But NOF is a startling sort of prophylactic against certain religious promises and implied social and moral commitments. I see it in political discussions as well.
What happens when people disinvest in the future? It can't be good.
Just for grins, use the above chart to dissect Christopher Hayes' statement that our current and future deficits are caused by "three things: the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush tax cuts and the recession."
Two of those three things -- the wars and tax cuts -- were in effect from 2003 through 2007. Do you see alarming deficits or trends from 2003 through 2007 in the above chart? No. In fact, the trend through 2007 is shrinking deficits. What you see is a significant upward tick in 2008, and then an explosion in 2009. Now, what might have happened between 2007 and 2008, and then 2009? -- --- American Thinker: Iraq: The War That Broke Us -- Not
Once again Hitchens has swung a left hook which has landed neatly on the jaw of the surrender-monkeys. Tolerance. Hmm. Is that something only Americans are supposed to show? Is there a double or triple standard in the offing? It seems that way.
It's probably not fair for me to follow Hitchens on this argument. He's got a much higher standard for religious orthodoxy than I do, which is why he rejects it altogether. Very little of it stands to his reason. In one way, that's the best way to make sense of all religious claims, fortunately Imam Rauf is hoisted on his own petard. Without regard to whether religious tolerance is a two way street, Hitchens shows that whether you tolerate him or not, Rauf is a fundamentalist. Hitchens quotes Rauf's advice to Obama.
He should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution—to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faquih, that establishes the rule of law.
Coyly untranslated here (perhaps for "outreach" purposes), Vilayet-i-faquih is the special term promulgated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to describe the idea that all of Iranian society is under the permanent stewardship (sometimes rendered as guardianship) of the mullahs. Under this dispensation, "the will of the people" is a meaningless expression, because "the people" are the wards and children of the clergy. It is the justification for a clerical supreme leader, whose rule is impervious to elections and who can pick and choose the candidates and, if it comes to that, the results. It is extremely controversial within Shiite Islam. (Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq, for example, does not endorse it.) As for those numerous Iranians who are not Shiites, it reminds them yet again that they are not considered to be real citizens of the Islamic Republic.
I do not find myself reassured by the fact that Imam Rauf publicly endorses the most extreme and repressive version of Muslim theocracy. The letterhead of the statement, incidentally, describes him as the Cordoba Initiative's "Founder and Visionary." Why does that not delight me, either?
So where it counts as far as I'm concerned, Rauf is an Islamist. An Islamist with the unmigitgated gall to suggest Obama should be one as well. End of debate.
I find it difficult to believe that I haven't heard and specific bleats about how anybody who opposes stem cell research for any reason is one of the immoral idiots, but it doesn't show up in my local search. I guess I caught wind of that noise elsewhere. Good. Embryonic stem cell research never turned up anything good anyway, and the Anchoress has all those details, but since I'm feeling salty, how about some PJ O'Rourke?
The NYT will charge you four bucks to see the rest of the article with the following headline from October of 1960:
CINCINNATI, Oct. 6 -- Senator John F. Kennedy linked Vice President Nixon tonight with a "glaring failure" in foreign policy responsible for Fidel Castro's rise to power in Cuba.
But when the director of the Manhattan Institute (my favorite think tank) says that Kennedy ran to the right of Nixon on anti-communism, he's not just blowing smoke.
It has been a while since I've checked out videos from Hoover, and I think it's appropriate that I bring them back to Cobb. This is really the level of political, economic and historical intercourse that fits my style and interest. This particular video is important to me because it raises important issues about the directions that liberals took as the 60s went countercultural and took a reasonable liberalism into the tank that the Left is now in. My inherited black Nationalism was never countercultural or particularly revolutionary. It was a cultural nationalism that was easy to make sense of in those days - but where some went the direction of the Watts Poets, others went the direction of Stanley Crouch. The Old School of Cobb has been about recovering Jazz and the Crouch / Murray / Marsalis end of things. And I find it personally interesting that I courted my future wife to Clifford Brown, the jazz master who didn't dabble in drugs.
Of course many folks know that it was my abandonment of the self-centered nature of black progressive politics in recognition of the much greater moral battles against communist totalitarianism that moved me to Conservatism. And here Piereson is noting that Reagan took up where Kennedy left off.
It is logical that if you buy into the romantic notions of Camelot and that the domestic agenda is more morally weighty than foreign policy - that the Civil Rights Movement was more important than the Cold War - then you are likely to buy into the rhetoric that supports the kind of politics I find lightweight. You are likely to say that the Birchers were the real evil in the world and that Reagan's association with them destroys all his moral credibility implying that a race relations agenda is the most important agenda. Piereson makes a heavy-duty charge that the romanticism of Liberals killed it and took away its forward looking attitude, as well as its hard-nosed geopolitical positions against totalitarians. This explains a lot.
Once I wrote a poem that started something like this:
The problem I have is this
Food in a box
As an urban dweller - skill seller
I'm marketable. Size 10 in my sox.
I can find anyone, anywhere to sell and be sold to.
Now I'm pissed because I can't find all of my poems anywhere in the Vault. I will, [I have], but the point of that poem was that modernity reduces. For a long time, I had been an organic. An organic is a person who refuses to be leveraged by social convention, rather he seeks to define his own meaning and his own significance in society. It is sometimes a defiant stance, and for me, there was a bit of contempt for the middle class. I still sense the tension between the convenience of modernity and the independence of organic life.
Today however I am rather irked by some particular consequences of modernity. But I need to explain modernity a bit more. Modernity was the thing that broke the back of feudalism. Sorta. Modernity carved out the space for that which is our new middle class, the semi-independent herd of workers enabled by industrialization, ecumenical-ism and civil rights.
You don't need letters of recommendation. You are an interchangeable person. You can be educated, employed, and come to own property regardless of your tribe. In fact, your tribe is diminished to zero, and your standing in society is a function of your willingness and ability to conform to the shape of the modern man. In my evolving worldview you are still a peasant, but you are middle class and that means something important in the modern world.
But there's a significant problem with modernity. I don't have the shortcut to explain it by way of a reference in literature, but it is the anonymity and the lack of meaning that you are forced to accept as part of accepting your place in the meritocracy. It is at odds with our human desire to be recognized as special. It results in the sort of anomie which is the subject of many of our great works of literature - I always hear that the best is Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain, a book I have not read at all.
Complex societies collapse because, when some stress comes, those societies have become too inflexible to respond. In retrospect, this can seem mystifying. Why didn’t these societies just re-tool in less complex ways? The answer Tainter gives is the simplest one: When societies fail to respond to reduced circumstances through orderly downsizing, it isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t.
This is an essay that I have held since April trying to find the right way to conclude it. It is, by my reckoning, one of the most important themes I like to discuss at Cobb, which is the role of the common man in a global economy and putatively post-national society. One of the milestones ahead in this great transformation of identity and society will be the ubiquity of universal language translation devices and the implications for the world of film, narrative, literature, etc. Here in the US, where multiculturalism has good intentions but foul results, there may or may not emerge the sort of pluralism that will survive this milestone. And if the US stumbles significantly through war or economic dislocation, there is something that will be lost to the world for some time and the sorts of power struggles it will launch will be catastrophic for democracy.
Ever since Bill Whittle raised the question of the Grey, it has been clear to me personally the kinds of people I would associate with to ensure the survival of my family and friends. And I have had my mind on societal tumult and even collapse with the distinct notion that our contemporary rules of civility will not withstand it. But I am convinced that there is a significant and substantial set of Americans who will withstand such collapse and I seek to maintain proximity to them. The question always on my mind, therefore is whether or not our ruling elites are anchored with those Americans or not. And my answer tends to be 'generally not'.
The consequence of this floating flotilla of leadership flotsam is that there is a feedback loop of public support amongst them and a certain fraction of the public I call peasants, and that these poor peasants don't recognize how insecure they really are. They walk around thinking 'this is America' or 'this is not America' both with a sort of passive cynicism that will leave them in the lurch. They tend to be my political enemies, and I tend to mock them, but I do not know how to save them or alert them. I expect that they will even misread the failures and catastrophes that await them. And so I sadly mock them as they fail - like the pregnant woman who voted for Obama because she thought she'd get pre-natal care.
The American cities and our urbanity is in jeopardy because it has not generated anything approaching a sustained gentility and wisdom in its ruling class. And when nobility can only be found in rebellion, society is heading towards revolution.
My son Christopher is now a junior in high school and is at the point where he is notable enough on his own merit for me not to conceal his identity in the blog. Aside from that, I'm very proud of him as his father and find him to be somewhat exceptional. The other day I realized that he was doing something that he normally does, which is making music some way around the house.
Most of the time, he's singing. It might be Sinatra, it might be Jarreau, it might be something I don't know. But it's almost always loud. Other times, he's playing speedmetal on Guitar Hero III on the expert level at full blast. I generally like when he plays Cliffs of Dover, but that's about it. Mostly he plays his trumpet, doing scales or playing along with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in his room. Sometimes he gives the flute a twirl, but that's more rare these days. He tells me that he's starting to think trumpet and that compromises his flute. This particular morning, he emptied the case in the dining room and had an array of about 15 glasses with various levels of water in them. He managed to get Silent Night out of it, but nothing anyone would want to see on You Tube. Still, I got the new iPhone and it takes movies. So I was able to prompt him over to the upright.
I am always most impressed when Chris demonstrates his musicality on the piano. He never had any lessons, but I can hear what he's thinking as he plays. I've always wanted to be a concert pianist, but I could never get my hands to perform the music in my head, but my son has accomplished that. And what is inside his head is lovely and I find it to be a great achievement in this noisy world. It's not that he's a gifted pianist; I can tell that he'll become proficient over time. It's that he has that beauty inside him. Listen and you'll see why I am fortunate.This was the first few minutes of a set that went on for 15 minutes. I've been wanting to edit it down to for a while. Enjoy.
What's so important about reservations? Why don't you just haul your asses out of there and work in America like everybody else?
Several weeks ago when for some idiot reason we were all talking about immigration, I spontaneously composed a speech as if I were the President. As part of my multipoint program to fix immigration in a period of 3 years (basically by making Enterprise Zones of four Western states) I focused on the unnecessary complexity of the standing of persons in America.
There have to be at least 20 different classes of officially recognized persons in this big old country. Non-resident alien, student on visa, tourist, naturalized citizen, sponsored worker, blah blah blah. I have issues with the phlegmatic process between wanting to be a full citizen and actually being effectively a second-class citizen. There are too many nooks and crannies. But the one oddment nobody often speaks of is the status and standing of Natives in their reservations and casinos etc.
It was the concept of freedom struggle that made me consider the idea. The tribes and bands and nations lost their wars of independence. They were outnumbered, outgunned, outdone. And so they had to retreat. And whatever the Reservations are, I think of them as little more than little Letsothos in our South Africa. Island nations surrounded by bigger, richer, more powerful nations. Why would anybody stay? Is it a matter of citizenship? Is it a matter of pride? Is it a matter of rights? What exactly did the Natives lose? Their religion, their culture, their god, their land, their people? And if it was all of that, what consolation is there in the Reservation?
Obviously the Natives, despite some sophistication I've heard tell about in their diplomacy and federation of tribes and families, were not beneficiaries of the Industrial Revolution. Living tribally works in certain badlands, and that's all that can be expected. After all, what are hillbillies? You can't farm in the mountains. With no goods or services to compete in the big economy, you've got nothing. War is hell, but losing a war is worse hell, especially when you've got no moola and no economic base worth jack. Germany? They had something. Japan? They had something. Vietnam? They had to build something. Angola? Where are they now?
It seems to me that there is no promise, no treaty, no arrangement made with Natives in this country that's worth the paper its written on. Those who are confined, by choice or default, to the Reservation system are living in the ultimate welfare state with ridiculously poor health, education, housing, transportation and anything else you might measure civilization by. It makes no sense for any person living in America to be part of that subordinate second-class standard. The history may confound, but the result is plain. These are the losers of wars gone back to backwards 'nations' hacking out a separate and unequal existence in the Land of the Free.
So once again to those suffering agony because maybe you can't build a 10 story glass building in Lower Manhattan including "a 500-seat auditorium, theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, childcare services, art exhibitions, bookstore, culinary school, and a food court serving halal dishes", and find that possibility a stain on America, you're just playing footsie with Fox. Like Batman, you never kill the Joker, and why is that? Because you've got nowhere else to go.
Natives have everywhere to go but they don't. What's keeping them where they are?
The original title was Obligatory Bitchslapping on Roger Ebert's Slavish Defense of That Mosque. I'm going to put all of his comments in italics, and then give my opinion. Then I thought of the connection between Italians and italics. So what do you call the way Arabs write? It's them damnable Saudis again behind Cordoba House (or maybe it's renamed, so That Mosque)
1. America missed a golden opportunity to showcase its Constitutional freedoms. The instinctive response of Americans should have been the same as President Obama's: Muslims have every right to build there. Where one religion can build a church, so can all religions.
Yeah right. Every day, 24/7 no Constitutional freedom is ever denied. Nobody has to sue. Lemme see, have the tenants of That Mosque had to sue? Have they been denied their day in court? Or maybe it's just when certain types of Americans that you hate raise objections to a (bad) idea in the court of political opinion, suddenly America is all shite. And what is so golden about this opportunity? Did you ever ask why is this particular mosque and so-called celebration of religious diversity not supported by important clerics of other faiths? Maybe because true ecumenicals smell a rat.
2. The First Amendment comes down to this: "I disapprove of what you
say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." It does not
come down to: "The First Amendment gives me the right to shout the
N-word 11 times on the radio to an inoffensive black woman, and when you
attack me for saying it, you are in violation of my First Amendment rights."
Sharia does not have a First Amendment. So how do you not see Islamists as anti-American. You're obviously smart enough to recognize that content of speech matters, and incendiary content is not given free run because of the First Amendment. Just because you have a First Amendment right you can't go shooting off your mouth immorally, any more than the right to bear arms allows you to shoot off your guns immorally. So what has Rauf have to say that's so important?
3. The choice of location for the mosque shows flawed judgment on the part of its imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf. He undoubtedly knows that now, and I expect the mosque to be relocated. The imam would be prudent to chose another location, because the far right wing has seized on the issue as an occasion for fanning hatred against Muslims.
Everything understated and true until the word 'because', because you are essentially accusing the 'far right wing' of terrorism - that their putative hatred has frightened FAR (Feisal Abdul Rauf) away.
4. One buried motive for the attacks on Park51 is exploitation of the insane belief of 20% of Americans that President Obama is a Muslim. Zealots like Glenn Beck, with his almost daily insinuations about the Muslim grandfather Obama never knew and the father he met only once, are encouraging this mistaken belief.
This is almost too stupid to respond to. When you can assign 'buried motives' to the 'insane beliefs' of 20% of Americans, you can justify any argument. Glenn Beck again? Glenn Beck mocks Obama as a comedian should. I mock Obama. We mock Obama. Wouldn't you like to mock Obama too?
5. The Bill of Rights has a parallel with pregnancy. You can't be a little pregnant, and you can't be a little free. Nor can you serve yourself from it cafeteria style.
This means nothing, except that you've already run out of credible arguments on the subject at hand. I believe the term is non-sequitur.
6. Somewhere on the Right is an anonymous genius at creating memes. Sarah Palin floats a suspicious number of them: Death Panels, Ground Zero Mosque, 9/11 Mosque, Terror Babies. Her tweets are mine fields of coded words; for her, "patriot" is defined as, "those who agree with me." When she says "Americans," it is not inclusive. These two must have been carefully composed in advance to be tweeted within 60 seconds of each other:
By using the evocative word "shackles" she associates Dr. Laura's use
of the N-word with the suffering of slaves. By implying Dr. Laura was
silenced by "Constitutional obstructionists," she employs the
methodology of the Big Lie, defined in Mein Kampf as an untruth
so colossal that "no one would believe that others could have the
impudence to distort the truth so infamously." She uses the trigger word
"reload" to evoke her support of Second Amendment activists while
attacking "activists" for evoking the First.
Uhhh. Okaaay... I guess we're in that strange zone where everything about the subject at hand gets blurry but the opposition to your real foes gets focused. This is a species of fallacious argument I am starting to recognize. Here's how I describe it.
There are a small minority of immoral idiots that are against A. I don't find A particularly offensive. I don't think A threatens me at all. Somehow, miraculously those immoral idiots are gaining influence on the public. I'm not going to investigate the real merits of A, because in truth I don't care one way or another. A is not the threat, those immoral idiots are the threat. I must therefore support A because if it fails, it will encourage the immoral idiots. A is always the lesser of two evils.
Now having described that and not having read further, let's see if Ebert uses that again.
7. Many Americans and a great many politicians have either never taken a civics class or disagree with what they should have learned there. The major opinion sources in America that seem to devote the most attention to the Bill of Rights are Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, all distorting it as an everyday practice. Bill O'Reilly, to his credit, doesn't indulge in this.
8. A meme is infecting our society that Muslims are terrorists and hate America; they are the enemy. It is a cliche to say, "the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful," but is true. When Muslim nations are bombed by America, can those nations be expected to applaud? In Iran after 9/11 there were candlelight marches in sympathy with the United States.
No you dipshit, the word is Islamofascists. The meme is that Americans on the Right are stupid and don't discriminate. That we don't look for differences between Sunni and Shia, that we don't talk about Hamas or Hezbollah, Sharia, Takfir, Dhimmitude or anything specific about the world of Islam. We'uns jus hate alla dem moooslims.
9. I find hope in the words of two American strippers interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. Cassandra, who works at New York Dolls, just around the corner from the proposed mosque, said she worried that calls to prayer might wake up the neighbors. The WSJ writes: "But when she was told that the organizers aren't planning loudspeakers, she said she didn't have a problem with the project: 'I don't know what the big deal is. It's freedom of religion, you know?'"
Chris works in the Pussycat Lounge, even closer to the site. When the airplanes struck the World Trade Center, Chris became a Red Cross volunteer working with survivors. The WSJ writes she "sat on a barstool in a tiny, shiny red dress and defended Park51. 'They're not building a mosque in the World Trade Center. It's all good. You have your synagogues and your churches. And you have a mosque.'" Chris lost eight of her friends on Sept. 11, 2001, firefighters from the Brooklyn firehouse she lived next to at the time, but "the people who did it are not going to the mosque."
Cassandra and Chris reflect American values more instinctively and correctly on this issue, let it be said, than Sarah Palin, Howard Dean, Newt Gingrich, Harry Reid and Rudy Giuliani, who should know better.
Pick your minority representative and side with them against the immoral idiots. And what exactly does the Arabic say? Greetings? Is that the point? So we can have colorful stamps?
10. I wonder how many Americans realize the mosque is not intended for Ground Zero. What will be constructed there includes a 55,000 square foot retail mall. This mall will be deep enough to connect with subway lines -- deep enough, that is, to theoretically be embedded in the ashes of some of the 9/11 victims.
It's 500 feet away and tied symbolically to Ground Zero by the founder of the concept by design. You cannot bury that symbolism under your contempt for the people who oppose the idea.
I have been a foodie for a long time. It's not a major miracle, but a minor one that I'm not morbidly obese, even according to the fake BMI meme going around diet sites in America that's actually designed for Japanese school girls. There have to be about seven particularly fabulous meals that I think I'll always remember, each for their own reason.
Although I've had chicken feet, I still have to say that the most unusual thing I've ever eaten is Nukmom. I can't spell it and Google can't find it, so that's how odd it is. But I still remember the day that my colleguges, Tre and David took me to a Vietnamese restaurant to test my ability to handle real Asian food. I ate everything there and then they left the nukmom until the end. They told me that I should eat it and not know what it is, that way when they tell me later, I wouldn't puke. It wasn't delicious, and it reminded me of exactly the kind of nose-turning stuff I would expect it to be. What is it? Fermented salt fish. I never ate it again.
I still remember the first time I had lobster thermidor. I was 13 or so and had just been accepted to an exclusive prep school scoring something ridiculously high on the entrance exam. It cost fifty bucks way back in 1974 so it was a big deal. It was the most extravagantly delicious meal I had in my life and is probably why I will always associate great meals with success.
When I was still a working stiff trying to make the transition from Bartleby's life back into college, I got an internship of sorts with the Health Department. It was my first serious white-collar-ish job. I was 21. The office gang decided to eat Thai. I had never had Thai food.
One evening I had a meal that changed the way I think about steak. Steak to me had always meant New York Strip, medium rare. That night in Fort Worth I became a ribeye man.
By far the most fabulously luxurious meal I ever had was at at a restaurant in Santa Monica a few years ago. It was at the Viceroy hotel, a very shabbily overpriced dive. You know. The kind of hotel your dad gives you to allow you to lose a million or so on your own just to keep you away from the real money. The first year is a blast and you invite all your MTV pals and you chill in the lounge and try to get people to do absinthe again. Well, while this garden of rich fools was in full bloom, I dropped in with the Spousal Unit compliments of a friend of a friend who knew the chef. Nothing is to die for, but it was pretty damned outstanding.
The full scoop is here. Excepted:
Big Sur - Rocky Creek
The Sous Chef, Kelly came out with the next course which was a special from the kitchen, and it was an absolute marvel. Tasting this next dish has me thinking that there's something I am just learning that chefs can do, that I couldn't imagine. But here you have these monstrously meaty prawns atop a bed of frisee and they are grilled to perfection. But let me describe this sort of perfection. The edges of the prawns are crisp and in the insides squish with all the flavor plus what tastes like a splash of the ocean. What I am tasting is perfected ocean in the middle of a giant jumbo shrimp. Still, it took me a couple minutes to get to that because on the right of the very same plate is a tiny cup of butternut squash bisque with a square of brie floating on the surface. It was, by far, the greatest soup, chowder or bisque I have ever tasted, which is saying a whole lot considering the corn bisque at Bambara in Salt Lake and the lobster bisque at the Plaza Hotel in Boston. One spoonful transports you instantly into the warmth of a ski lodge fireplace. The texture on your tongue is just fabulous and you know within seconds that you are eating in a way that you imagine you would like to every day if you were incredibly rich. This is just not food you can get anywhere. It is completely other, and magnificent.
There's nothing on all the screens. And the best books depress me. That's because they are loaded with the truth of the world. And the truth of the world is horrible, complicated, disgusting and generally ignored. So my new hero is Bender Rodriguez.
In my world of problem solving there are four classes of work, puzzles, mysteries, rabbit holes and black holes. Puzzles are those problems where you have all the pieces and you know what the end result will look like. All you have to do to a puzzle is solve it. Puzzles are just a matter of time and effort. Mysteries are tougher. You don't know all of the pieces and you might have to build some of them to get the solution, so you know what things are supposed to be, but how to get from point A to point B is, well, a mystery. Mysteries unravel as time goes on and soon become puzzles, if you're crafty or lucky.
A rabbit hole is a problem whose solution begets more problems. When you begin to address it and solve one part, you create new parts. These new problems may be puzzles, they may be new mysteries. There may even be rabbit holes within rabbit holes. Often the wisest course of action when faced with a rabbit hole is to avoid it altogether. Alternatively, the wisest course is bravado, overkill and simplification. Don't even pretend that you can solve the problem with any finesse, just jump in and get busy.
The black hole might sound like an infinite rabbit hole from which there is no escape. But it's actually worse. It's a rabbit hole that you didn't know you were already in. In the argot of the intelligence business, it is the unknown unknown. Not only do you not understand the class of problem, you don't know if you have it, how long you've had it or what you've been doing all this time to make it better or worse. A black hole is where people in the Matrix live, who've never heard of the Matrix. One might equally call a black hole a black swan, but I'm trying to be original here and there is this subtle difference. Whereas a black swan is necessarily a future event upon which much or little might hang, a black hole is a present condition - one whose origins and ends are unknown. Leave it at that.
Threats to freedom are, to most Conservatives like me, mostly a puzzle. We can be fairly confident that we know what freedom is, what the absence of freedom is and how to get those things that make us unfree. That is because we in America are steeped in the history of freedom struggles. We recognize the puzzle pieces. But even without an educated guess or acquaintance with any such history, human beings have an innate sense of their own conditions of unfreedom. In that way, when we look at the question of 'threats to freedom' we do so with the presumption of interposing our will. After all, no American slave needed Frederick Douglass to know they were not free. Slaves had all the puzzle pieces right in front of them every day.
Sometimes, however, dealing with threats to freedom is a mystery, but that's generally because we don't have perfect understanding. Frederick Douglass was needed by the Abolitionists in order to flesh out their vague sentiments about the conditions of slavery. To the many in Douglass' day, the condition of slavery was a mystery. Douglass gave them the pieces to the puzzle. They could, informed, therefore take action - or at least fortify their lofty ideals. Likewise today sometimes there's a communications problem surrounding a mystery of freedom. And so as putative protectors of Liberty, we Conservatives cast about for some such testimonials, pampered as we are in a more or less stable situation of our own freedom. In that we are very much like the Abolitionists peeking at the Others. Are women free to have abortions? Are gays free to marry? The answers are yes and no, and so it's a mystery until we craft all the right tools to make such things clear. The right book perhaps. The goodly pamphlet. The stirring essay. The proper Google search. If we can gather the right communicators we can clear up the mystery. But not every Limbaugh is a Douglass. Not every communicator is great.
What about freedom for Iraqis? Well that turned out to be quite a rabbit hole. Solving one problem, like arresting potential insurgents off the streets, caused another problem, overcrowding of prisons like Abu Graibh. Solving one problem, the legal theory of 'enemy combatants' caused another problem, the political fallout of GTMO. In the larger world, the burdens assumed by certain nations and factions within those nations in the West, the pursuit of freedom for larger slices of humanity sometimes fails. While we can always claim some high moral ground by our intentions, it's even more difficult to change regimes, and communicate what we know to be true about freedom across barriers of religion, culture, geography and language.
The black hole class of threats to freedom can be predicted by theory, but cannot be observed directly. By definition they are an unknown unknown. They are an anomaly to everything we normally expect. They might already be a present danger but they are not clear. And so we have to speculate about where the threat might arise so that we may have the energy to get us out of the rabbit hole, and the tools to turn mysteries into puzzles.
Since we know what freedom is, and as participants in a constant dialog about liberty and its defense, we Americans have a leg up. However there is a fine line between the reasonable and unreasonable preparedness. In a world full of potential black holes it's impossible to tell which is which. What we then have to do is use another kind of thinking. The best way to describe it is containment, or as Mr. Spock (or was it Sherlock Holmes (Hmm a puzzle)) might say, when you have eliminated all of the false possibilities whatever remains, however unlikely, must be true.
So to handle the unknown unknowns, you handle the known ones first. Focus on the facts in the puzzle of freedom. Find great communicators to bridge the gaps to where freedom is a mystery. Be undaunted and give your best efforts for the sake of freedom, knowing full well that it will cause problems and unintended consequences. That is enough work.
When the black swans appear on the horizon, or the black hole reveals itself it will take us all by surprise, and so I would suggest that we focus on what we know. This is where I think there can be a particular advantage of being epistemologically modest, as proper conservatives are. We should not be so bold as to think we can take immediate or predictable advantage of crises and unprecedented events. After all, the conservative is happy making sense of what history has proven thus far - not in saying that there is an inevitable march of history but that in the untold trillions of possible universes, there is a good straight and narrow path.
So yes, there are certainly new threats to freedom. But there are also a lot of old recognizable threats as well and many of them are posing as something new and we believe it because we don't know our history. So let us not concern ourselves so much with new threats, but focus on the puzzles for which we have pieces, the mysteries for which we have clues, and the rabbit holes for which we have energy.
As an amateur philosopher, I like to answer basic questions first. The basic question regarding the disposition of the Cordoba House is this: Does America owe Muslims anything special? My answer is no.
America owes its citizens equal protection before the law, and that is what I believe they have. After all, the mosque is there now. It is not threatened. The religionists are free to practice without interference and the purposes and practices of free speech are defended today.
But here is what has happened in the introduction of the plan to make that mosque into Cordoba House. The entire longboat has been tied by a rhetorical harpoon into that great white whale that is 9/11. It's going to drag some people under.
Several years ago, while the pit was still smoking, some activists decided for all the best reasons that there should be a statue built in honor of the firefighters and first responders who gave their lives to save others at the site. It became a horrific political battle over what sort of faces should be on those statues. Black? White? Female? The actual people?
But given that America has something to prove to Muslims, what exactly is that? If we were to suggest that we don't think that they are all terrorists, why should our gratitude to them be expressed through proximity to a terrorist act? Giving hearty permission to build a 10 story mosque near Ground Zero is like giving Jews permission to own land at Buchenwald, or giving a gift to black Americans of the KKK headquarters building. What's ironic about the whole mess is that this has become the object of desire. But what purpose does it really serve outside of the symbolism?
A second and more important and specific question is, what is the expanded purpose of Cordoba House? Is it to prove that Americans tolerate Islam? Is it to be a beachhead of a new type of Islam? What real difference does the existence or non-existence of this particular building make?
I expect anyone party to this discussion to make the important distinction between Muslims and Islamists. Further, the distinction between generic Islamists and Islamists of a certain pedigree. I think that it is reasonable for the American public to assess the values of those people who have associated themselves with this project from the standpoint of what is cosigned. For example. One wouldn't expect those who are expressly pro-gay marriage to support the religious symbolism of Islamist supporters of Cordoba House. I am not in any position to qualify what sort of people are behind Cordoba. My introduction to the subject was a heavily biased opinion. But tying the significance of its location to the importance of its approval necessitates that no Islamist elements be associated. No Muslim Brotherhood, no Hamas, no Hezbollah, no anti-Americans.I don't think that it's difficult to be a Muslim and an American. I do think it's difficult to be an Islamist and an American. Is Cordoba House Islamist?
The symbol of Pelosium is PU.
Pelosium's mass actually increases over time, as morons randomly interact with various elements in the atmosphere and become assistant deputy neutrons within the Pelosium molecule, leading to the formation of isodopes.
This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientist to believe that Pelosium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as Critical Morass.When catalyzed with money, Pelosium activates CNNadnausium, an element that radiates orders of magnitude more energy, albeit as incoherent noise, since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons as Pelosium.
I hear that the President made a large speech the other day in support of Cordoba House. He is truly a man on a mission to change America. The problem is that Americans disagree with him. 72% at last count oppose the idea of putting a new mosque at that close proximity to Ground Zero with a dedication scheduled for 9/11.
There is other interesting news that the Port Authority of NY & NJ has denied a permit and refused to meet with the Greek Orthodox Church that was destroyed by the collapse of one of the buildings at Ground Zero. That adds insult to injury around this matter, and it was not mentioned by the president, whose intent to 'reach out' to the Muslim world makes no political sense whatsoever. It should be a job for the First Lady - that is if the Obama's had any advanced sense of decorum.
I don't listen to the President, because I find his pragmatism to be wholly directed by expedience, and quite inferior to the level of rhetoric spewed by his predecessor, Bill Clinton. But this is an outrage that insults all of our intelligence and only goes to show his deafness. As it stands, his abstracts about the Muslim world are dashed upon the rocks of his failing policy with Iran's nuclear program, and I have little confidence that he will have any luck whatsoever the next time Israel has to show force. One must ask how it has happened that a President with troops on the ground in the Middle East can stand by a broken diplomacy when Hezbollah, the great enemy of the state of Israel have tripled the number of rockets the had since the last hot skirmish.
If you haven't read Jeffrey Goldberg's article in The Atlantic, I urge you to. It is a singular element of facts that should have been anticipated by anyone serious about the conditions of the Middle East and it boggles the mind to consider Obama's position.
Of course over here at Cobb, I've had an eye on Crazy A for quite some time. We had an interesting discussion of his invitation to Columbia. There, and elsewhere I've said that Crazy A is a first class holocaust denying sociopath. He is transparently hostile to the very existence of the state of Israel, and funding Hezbollah to subvert Lebanon. He has turned Iran into a state sponsor of false flag terror. We've all known this for a long time. Certainly before Obama promised him the most delicate diplomacy America is capable of.
In a speech in June, Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, explained Middle East history this way: “Sixty years ago, by means of an artificial and false pretext, and by fabricating information and inventing stories, they gathered the filthiest, most criminal people, who only appear to be human, from all corners of the world. They organized and armed them, and provided them with media and military backing. Thus, they occupied the Palestinian lands, and displaced the Palestinian people.” The “invented story” is, of course, the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad’s efforts to deny the historical truth of the Holocaust have the endorsement of high officialdom: the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said in 2005, “The words of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the Holocaust and on Israel are not personal opinion, nor isolated statements, but they express the view of the government.”
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Obama gets a great deal of support from people who like to throw around terms like 'zionist' in a pejorative fashion. It also doesn't take many neurons rubbing together to know that Clinton is hardly the hawk that Rice was, although they are a lot closer than Bush is to Obama. It's simple. Obama's people want Iran to like us, just the way they like to invite Crazy A to Columbia so he can talk shit. It makes them feel magnanimous. Everybody on the Palestinian loving Left is thinking of ways they can jawbone America out of honoring any treaties we have with Israel, and we have two lethal conflicts to show those intentions clearly. They show it as a badge of honor to respect the 'dignity' of Hamas and Hezbollah, and spit on the Israelis. It stinks I say, it just smells to high heaven. I don't expect such moral midgets to give a rat's about inclusion of Iran into the nuclear club - I'm sure they are HOPING for an Iranian Mandela. There's the evidence of things unseen for you."
I cannot find this morning an 'Obama Gonna What' on Iran, or on his foreign policy in general. Maybe I was trying in the past few years to exercise some restraint. But he's just pathetic right now.
I've been thinking about my absolute favorite songs of the 80s and have decided to come up with a list of my top picks. These encapsulate my four years of college and that experience that was, for me, everything cool about everything that happened between 82 and 86 when I was in the thick of it all. The New Wave that is.
I should say that around 87 I discovered Sonny Rollins, Moliere, beach volleyball and cycling. I was through with break dancing. So while the 80s may have continued after 86, they were essentially over for me. I could probably talk a lot about each of the songs I'm going to list here, but it's probably better to leave that alone and for the comments. There's something about music that speaks for itself.
Well it turns out that I had something to assist my memory. Thanks Bing. My method is as follows. I took 600 songs - the Billboard 100 of each year from 82 t0 87 and scored all those that I considered to be worth noting. That turned out to be about 175. And then I gave each song two scores. The first score is the 80s Score, which is the answer to the following question. How emblematic of the 80 New Wave do you consider this song? And then I gave it a second score which is the answer to this question. How much did you really like it? And that's reflective of all the years between, meaning how much would you now be proud of saying you liked it back then. Since I was only originally gunning for about 50, there's a lot that I left out. Like Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love got left out, and somehow I scored a Wham song that I don't even remember. But it was a lot of fun just going through the exercise.
What are your favorite songs from the 80s?
Now in the last chapters of Hitchens' memoir I find his reflections on things and thoughts Jewish vis a vis his own existential questions. It has brought to mind an odd trip that I took as a teen with my father to the LA Convention Center.
It was the first time that I was introduced to the hagiographic depictions of Jews and the State of Israel. And so I learned something about the heroism of Golda Meir and David ben Gurion. They seemed, at the time, to be admirable enough and being able to speak highly of them did never get me anything but pleasant responses, but they never made much of an impression upon me. In fact there is only one stark memory that remains of the trip and the entire day boils down to that distinctive fact.
There was in my father's comment a sad sort of pride, and I must have recognized that odd sort of jealousy often expressed by black nationalists at the stereotypical Jew. The thing that occasioned this moment was a large scale model of a very modernistic housing project. It was stark white in that way that architectural models are, and it was of apartment buildings which lined and topped a terraced hill. The model itself impressed me in the same way the large train set did at the Museum of Science and Industry at Exposition Park. Wow. It must have taken somebody a long time to build this. He must have looked at me as if I understood nothing. The point is not the model, but that they got it built for their people. Well yes of course, I said, that must go without saying. It takes money to build buildings. But his frustration with my lack of understanding that they were Jews and like blacks people hated and feared them, and yet they have triumphed was the belittling lesson he passed on. I was not totally innocent, but we were long past 1968 and so I figured such things were inevitably yet to come.
It is rather ironic that the thing that has brought Israel more problems than anything is their record of building such new housing in disputed territories. So perhaps there is something about new housing construction for the poor or the emergent that strikes a deep chord in their ambitions.
I had some occasion to dig through my archives. I forgot about a company that I used to do deals with. Well, several now that I think about it. They disappeared and I can't remember where they went.
The first is Sagent.
I was one of the guys who was around at the very beginning of Informatica. My strategy, even though I saw the beauty of their product, was to stick with the database vendor, Arbor. To my way of thinking, the tail could never wag the dog. The purpose of ETL was to serve databases, period. But in the years of ERP integration, that niche got pretty huge while Arbor stayed relatively small. But there was a lot of competition in those early days and Sagent was a big player.
I can't remember if I have put together a list of banking consolidations recently, but I think that I did. To get political for a moment, it never fails to amaze me how often people forget how many companies fail. I cannot tell if I'm just more aware or if the pace is quickening, but Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns weren't the only investment firms that bit the dust. Paine Webber. Dean Witter. All swallowed or dead. Money always changes hands.
Wax appeals to a parable in which a pedestrian is run over by a truck and must learn to walk again. The truck driver pays the pedestrian’s medical bills, but the only way the pedestrian will walk again is through his own efforts. The pedestrian may insist that the driver do more, that justice has not occurred until the driver has himself made the pedestrian learn to walk again. But the sad fact is that justice, under this analysis, is impossible. The legal theory about remedies, Wax points out, grapples with this inconvenience—and the history of the descendants of African slaves, no matter how horrific, cannot upend its implacable logic. As she puts it, “That blacks did not, in an important sense, cause their current predicament does not preclude charging them with alleviating it if nothing else will work.”This is from John McWhorter's recent review of Amy Wax' latest book. Race, Wrongs & Remedies.
I suppose that there are a couple dozen thousand people who need to read this whole book. I understand that implacable logic from experience.
Wax writes directly:
The government cannot make people watch less television, talk to their children, or read more books. It cannot ordain domestic order, harmony, tranquility, stability, or other conditions conducive to academic success and the development of sound character. Nor can it determine how families structure their interactions and routines or how family resources—including time and money—are expended. Large-scale programs are especially ineffective in changing attitudes and values toward learning, work, and marriage.
This is controversial only in a land of fools.
There's really one thing to say. It's political. So it comes as no surprise that various political operatives have dug up some dirt on Maxine Waters' holdings in OneUnited Bank vis a vis her calling of a meeting with Paulson to get some TARP. From what I can see, OneUnited asked for 50 million and got 12.
Now the singular fact missing from all this reporting is this. OneUnited Bank is the largest black owned bank in the US. It was formed several years ago as a merger between some of the more broadly known black banks. It includes assets acquired over the years from Family Savings, Broadway Federal and Founders. When I grew up in LA, Family Savings is where I opened my first account - it was the tallest building in the neighborhood.
So Waters is likely to talk about how many dozen minority owned banks she was representing, but the bottom line is that OneUnited is the only one worth talking about, as meager as its assets may be, relatively speaking to TARP bailees. There's no doubt that Waters would be connected, but OneUnited has either always been private or was recently taken private.
What's relatively interesting about all this is how Waters, who is inevitably mobbed up with most of the blackified blacks of Los Angeles is going to draw all the heat. You see, I would bet a million bucks that Magic Johnson had a million bucks in OneUnited at least once in its history. OneUnited has a storied history. But this isn't about black LA, it's about Maxine - a crusty old pol with a stranglehold on her district.
The saga of OneUnited ought to be a singular and hot issue among black political partisans. But to talk about OneUnited is to raise questions about black capitalism's failure and the relative isolation of the black upper middle class and upper class from the actual fortunes of those they often claim to support. And it also raises questions about why anybody has bothered to coin the term 'silver rights' rather than just talk straight economics.
Maxine may or may not be an enabler in all that, but she cannot be far from its center, because she has parlayed it into ten Congressional terms, back to back to back. A ten-peat. That's political currency.How long will it last?
It has been a while since I reported on my own socioeconomics as part an parcel of the anthropology cache in the make that Cobb has been for the last 7 years. But as I have just finished Hitchens' memoir and am about halfway through the biography of Warburg, I'm in the mood for the personal.
On the surface everything is smooth, but beneath are rumblings of a disturbing nature. Right now is review season, meaning that for the first time in a couple years on the job, we're actually going through with the ratings and rankings and all that. I have a strange relationship with my boss and with my company owing to the fact that I'm only one of a few people who lives on the West Coast and I don't get much business here. I feel I ought to be generating business, but I'm always booked solid delivering service. It's all about the age old dilemma - nothing local. Nothing local. I don't know where the people are that should be friends and business associates at my level, I travel far and wide from point to point and establish friendships and relationships that last six to twenty weeks, and then I'm off. I've had six at bats in two years - six recyclings of the same kind of work with different kinds of people, two of which have been miserable, two of which have been good but abortive, two of which have been short, but sweet. It's OK to be average at my stage in life, but I'm not accustomed to it. My attitude is one of soldiering on, like a movie star with a mediocre run of movies, people start questioning whether your ego is worth the trouble. What have you done for me lately? That's all you ever get at this level of society. Nobody pities the affluent.
I'm an formalistic entrepreneur in a too small company. I ought to be a new markets guy in a big firm with lots of money, patience and vision. I ought to have troops. Instead, I have work. Just work. And so I just work, and work is boring sometimes. But, I do have work.
I'm playing the market these days, with just a little bit of money so that I feel the small joys and sorrows of the market as it bumps and jitters along. I understand how I could make a bunch more, with options and whatnot. But I don't want to try just yet. On a daily basis, losing or gaining 20 bucks feels about right. If I increased my playing investment by ten, it would make me sick to think I don't have that much control. I'm beneath the noise of brokerage fees - it doesn't make sense for me to play when the only thing I can do to influence my ability to make money would cost me 10% of my profit. So I would have to play the options game. I'm almost tempted, but I'd rather not.
Warburg has the asceticism I wish I had again. But I lose my focus in a house full of other beings on whose personalities my influence is not constant and daily. The great irony of being a father of the sort I have become is that your love exceeds your desire to discipline when your children are generally successful. You just want them to be happy, knowing their souls are good. All you can do is destroy that by inches with the knowledge that old men have of death and corruption. I introduce them to R rated films. I tell them how false men and women can be. I try to get them to read Martin Amis and understand the pathos of Tupac. A teaspoon of bitters helps the sweet life go down.
My son, now M16 wants to join the Air Force. I listen to him singing every day he is home. I watch him spontaneously compose on the piano. I endure his manic speed metal gaming at full blast. Will he fight and die? If it comes to that. And it always comes to that in one way or another - we always sacrifice our children to the world. We spin them out like lucky pinballs and hope they score, but we cannot shake the playfield and change the physics unless we are that overbearing, and then what are they but pinball progeny? I have already dreamed and imagined the worst among all of my loved ones. I'm already prepared for the suffering and I live every day in a world of 'As If'. But at every opportunity my lambs come home loyal and loving. So I will let them fly afield. There are about 5600 aircraft in the Air Force, 2500 of which are fighter jets. There are 350000 personnel. They are all elite, as are all those I've known from that service. They are perfectly admirable men and women, of the sort my son already is but has yet to prove to the world on the world's terms. And I wonder and fear if this world's terms will require the sort of change Air Forces provide. I have begun Martin Amis' latest book with foreboding. A Pregnant Widow indeed. He wants to travel and speaks of going to college in England. We both are Anglophiles and have been checking out old Blackadder and new James May. It's so funny to hear his male sense of humor, but then I knew that was coming when he started reciting verses from the Book of Armaments from memory.
When I say that I am proud of my oldest daughter, she asks why. Force of habit. Unconditional love. I love her for who she is, not what she does. I love what she does because of who she is. She is most like my wife embodying the care and concern, practicality and moral fiber of the kind of woman who cannot be ignored, who often sacrifices in silence and doesn't understand why this world has no respect for that. But again she comes back. I told her that some things come easy for people - people who think the world will be placed at their feet because they are quick thinkers. I tell her not to be fooled; to be thorough and consistent even if it takes all day. She knows how to ask questions, she knows how to listen. And still she speaks in a quiet voice. I think, if I may be so bold to say, that I'm starting to understand the feminine ideal by watching my daughter. I'm starting to understand the yang of her being. For me, it's not about me and it's not about being but doing. And when I look at the beauty and loving qualities of my daughter I suddenly see that it *is* all about her and the very fact that she exists. She doesn't have to do anything, but remain the wonderful person that she is. Why? Because I would, as any proper man would, do anything and everything for her.
The gremmie has been born. It's no surprise that the youngster has taken to surfing. She stood up on her first longboard over the last weekend. She continues to be a boundless kind of energy and intellect. But she's not a reader and that puzzles me. So I asked her and she said she's too lazy. I said well, poetry is for lazy readers and she immediately agreed. She dug up her old Shel Silverstein and recited her favorites. So now I have a new task - to find her more poetry. In the meantime I got her a new computer, new for us but not new from the store. I let her be an administrator now, so she's got her new gigabytes and is at this moment creating new creatures in Spore. Finally putting some of those creatures into a format she can share online.
I spend more time thinking about my nieces and nephews these days. There are things I can share with them that they may be more interested in than my own three. But that's all just boring stuff right now.
The upper middle class. Where is it going to go over the next decade? I've seen several signs that there is plenty of hunger and ambition and talent waiting to take over. So I don't worry about my America. I worry about the whole of America but I do wonder which segment will get the airplay as we lumber along.
Yesterday I purchased two flat screen monitors for $65. The lady I bought it from was moving from Torrance to Gardena. Downscaling as far as I could tell. She had three and were offering them for 40 each. I made a deal. I like making a deal but when I was a kid I never learned much about it. The experience was oddly gratifying, and I made a lesson out of it to my son. I emptied my wallet, and my son emptied his as well for the lady - there was $65 in cash between us. I remember daydreaming as a teenager as I looked through the classified ads - The Recycler thinking that if I had $1000 cash, I could buy and sell stuff from people. It is an experience that I haven't participated in quite enough - the satisfaction of buying and selling and dealing person to person and shaking hands. My business is much more complicated and impersonal, but this is something I expect to be doing more of.
I worry about the 'new normal' but I'll get through it like I got through the 70s. I look forward to doing mroe business off the grid, catching up my personal with the corporate aspects of my life. This organic angle is coming back around. I see it on this side of my conservatism and I'm teaching my family. We will save money and will have some swap meet integrity.
Johnson & Johnson. Exxon Mobil. Microsoft. ADP.
These are the only four American companies with a AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor's. This handbasket is getting hotter every quarter.
I haven't read any of Spinoza. He has been a vague blot in my periphery until a moment ago when Hitchens caused him to move into a closer orbit by dint of his mentioning that he was excommunicated from the Jewish faith. According to Wiki, there may have been some collusion in the Roman Catholic Church to hasten that eventuality. Either way, his works were prohibited by the One True Church.
In trying to understand where theology might go, and central to the epistemological modesty of my conservatism, I have long maintained two arguments that now suddenly appear to me to be in conflict. They are the one matter which is that man's nature is fixed although his orientation to the world and his understanding of himself in the world may vary greatly. The second is that the Church, and Christianity is unique in that it updates itself to make adjustments it must in its imperfections and understanding of the world.
If it is therefore the case that Christianity gets better and mankind stays the same, then it brings into question whether or not any version of Christianity serves man's eternal soul. For if the soul is eternal and fixed, in the image of the Creator, then any Church with claims on that soul must have the method, and that method too would be fixed. (Perhaps that's what the Methodists are on about.)
It might be argued that the Church possesses a superset of the method of it's aim with any human soul and its improvements are mere enticements to a changing population. There is thus that question of what it is the essential and minimum function of the Church. That would be what we should attend, with the understanding that the rest is all just evangelism.
Nothing speaks the truth like the experience of war. Its lethality and pathos grinds the meaning out of the trivial. Soldiers who return home suffer few illusions. For all the policy debates, and especially talking points blathered out by the Administration about our relationships with the Muslim world - very little will stand up to the truth known by American soldiers who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are more than a million of them. Their opinions will not be bought.
I am getting what I always expected of literature. But this week it lies heavy on my mind. I am in three books now, one biography and two fictions. Warburg goes slowly and sporadically, but I am halfway done with LeCarre. It is my first LeCarre and it is surprisingly eloquent and dark. Koestler is my nighttime companion and I woke this morning to check on Rubashov, his prisoner.
All three share the echoes of WW2, of war and revolution, of alienation and the burdens that fall to people in recognition of treachery and incalculable loss. Humanity seems to become something altogether unrecognizably ridiculous in the luxury of peace. But at least during peacetime we can ignore their inversions and folly. But here are sentences with the subtext of death and torture. It is so dark.
Even in my gaming I have been running from ax weilding shadows, fighting with a flashlight and imagination. My machine failed and now Alan Wake's inception lies in yet another, deeper dreamtime.
Literature serves to provide a language of culture. I embrace the works of authors which stand on their evocative merits as they provide a theme for understanding human action in society. The great writer has in his craft the power to move men through inspiration in ways the social scientist cannot. I think of the socialist's grasping ambition as he plies his most elementary trade, the rousing speech in front of mobs, to bypass the critical consideration of a sophisticated mind and appeal to the power hungry sentiment of revolution and its snitty, anal-retentive kid brother, reform. They go for the guns. They go for the grants. They hijack the institutions leaving the mind in the body of the handcuffed population. The social scientist's time is always now. The artist of literature is always timeless. Man comes around to wisdom by his own initiative, but the books of categorization require enforcement.
That's what I see in the big seven dollar words. And I have spun a few theories around here, but only for explication. I no longer have the humor of my old comic strips. I don't know why.
Ivan Kramskoi was a painter from the Realist and Humanist school. I'm struck by his portraiture, especially of Tolstoy but something else caught my mind here - not particularly my eye. It was the irony of some twisted humor that I heard for the first time this weekend.
I was talking to an old friend who made an extraordinarily funny riff off the idea that God, in order to get back love from humanity after generations of smiting and literally drowning the planet, offered to kill his son. The stark irony of the the way it was presented among a crowd of black Catholics, was devastatingly funny. "Dad, really do I have to?" "It'll make you famous! Here, just take this pill."
This is not a garden of Gethsemane, it is the pitiless desert of God's calculation, and the hour is growing late.There are several peoples of the world I love by reputation and the briefest of introductions. I always found something to admire about the Chinese but I could never love them. I find them rather unlovable. It's complicated why, but primarily because I perceive that they don't love themselves - not at least with any romance in their suffering. The Russians, I love ineffably. Yet I find them about an inch more trustworthy than Nigerians, and while I'm casting aspersions let me not forget the Indians. Whom I neither admire nor greatly respect, but like very much. I've only met a few noble Indians and I remember them well. But I've met too many others and have started to treat them like they treat each other, with a ruthless disdain for anyone marginally inferior. The Russians have suffered. The Russians have soul. The Russians are subversively crafty soulmates to the Negro, drunken sophisticated sellouts all. The Brazilians? Don't know enough. I've only known one. Why do they not come here? Good question.
But here is the Russian painter with a Christian subject, done up in the time before the czars fell. And there is that suffering, that anguish over a fate beyond control - a fate with only the briefest hint of a real choice, one that is dubiously ennobling and likely to turn out painfully. The Christlike Russian. The Russian Christ. There in that heavy brow is the weight of God's autonomy.
And where is his dram?
I dropped this off at what looks like some weird portal to the Freakonomics blog:
I would like Taleb to talk about where common sense stays right and where it goes wrong. I believe that what he's studying vis a vis falsifyable claims & Karl Popper are good rules for ordinary everyday life. If he can create a tool that ordinary people can use to check when their logic runs off the rails, that would be very useful.
How would I say things in a conversation that don't make me or the people I'm talking to subject to foolish claims? What is a style of questions and answers that allow us to keep from jumping to false conclusions? How can I brainstorm ideas and then start to implement one of them without overselling it?
I spent about three hours this weekend with two of my best friends ever in life. All I can say is that I'm fortunate and sad.
I am sad because I know that the circumstances of our lives and times have separated us. The same forces that put us together took us apart. The unfairness of our society that puts us in our places, takes us away from our families, hometowns, neighborhoods and puts us on paths towards fortune or destitution. If the black men from the black neighborhoods in black California could have stayed put, and never had to go anywhere else to get everything they needed; Lord what we would have done. Instead, we spent time breaking through barriers, kicking down doors, busting up ceilings, falling through floors. I know it could have been worse. It could have been war. And when I think that it might have been war that put us in a trench fighting for our lives, bonded in terror, I feel fortunate. But it was only unfairness and happenstance. We three managed to have our ambitions move us from our point A toward our points B. And this weekend we looped back for a moment to talk about our point A.
Steve and I never made plans together. Darius and I might have been sub officers. I couldn't stand the structure but D could. Steve would handle it less than me. Maybe that's where I fit in between two men that don't know each other but know me. Steve through six years of Catholic schooling. Darius through four of engineering school. As far as I know, the three of us have never accepted the limits placed on us by society. We wrestled and we rebelled, and we found a place somehow. We made enough stink in our own way to let people know we were going to try on our own terms. It was a natural talent for all of us, and getting away with it, we developed it into a skill.
There's a romantic notion in the black America I grew up in, that men such as us might have out talents harnessed and the unbelievable energy would raise a people and revolutionize the world. That fact is true. But we fell into our own ways instead of somebody else's harness. Yeah none of us is immune from the necessity of work, but we chose our harness. And still I think of us as unleashed.
Darius has rigor. I forget about how much he can control, how much he would control if he could. He was a man always in the moment. The kind of man who walks in the room and everybody stiffens and mutters, oh shit, here he comes. Same thing with Steve. Darius is going to tell you that your shoelace is untied and that you forgot to do what you said you were going to do, and dammit he's right. But Steve is going to run up and embrace you and remind you of that time when the two of you almost got busted doing that thing in that place. Men who do everything fearlessly remind us of our shortcomings. Men like that who know us well, must be loved, hated, feared, admired. They don't get much more sophisticated emotions than that. With them, it's always more primal. With them you always end up measuring yourself. And don't you hate that they make you do that? Yes you do. And you love it too.
I caught up to some of their narratives. We narrate our lives. We have a story for others about ourselves, edited yet revealing. As we hit age 50 it gets more interesting and complicated and tends to be about the past. But neither Steve nor Darius asked questions about the past. That's not how they are. They have very little to regret and so they're not trying to explain their way out of anything. It's still more like, who can handle what I know, who can handle what I've done? They don't talk about limits. It's hard to know men such as these because they are always in motion. So all you can do is remember the common checkpoints in the narrative of history when you two were making it together.
I've always known a few great people. Great, bold, brilliant, and but for one unlucky bounce they would be running shit, and yet some still are on their way. I know who they are right now. And this weekend each one of them returned my calls. Ted, Jimi, Darius, David, Charles. And Steve was where I expected him to be at our annual picnic. I got caught in his gravity and couldn't escape until the joint emptied out.
We only have a few years left to make promises to each other. It's a shame that none of us became gods on earth among men. What took place in a good and luxurious backyard with the view for miles around was grand, but not imperial. I plotted to take out the palm trees that obscured one degree of scenery, but that wouldn't have made View Park into Mt. Olympus. None of us hit the homerun that would have gotten us all the ring of power. We were only on the same team for a short time, and could never manage to be traded into the All Stars. It's OK, but it's really not OK.
It has ruled me, my memory. My long term perception. My relentless questions about why we are stuck here without all the resources. How did I get to be me? Going into other people's houses and outbuilding their own creations with their own erector sets. I could never afford my own. Playing the right records in the right order, of music I didn't record, and making people dance. Spitting out paragraphs and concepts out of books I didn't write, aggregating the philosophy in a rented spot on the internet for people I will never see face to face. It all makes sense to me, and I know it sounds strange. But I've also done it to build a better world than the one we've been plodding through. I'm a big brother. I'm an explorer. I say wait here, and then I hike into the deep wood to find the bear. I come back with scars and say follow me. I never fought the bear for myself. But I also never got everybody through the woods. I'm mad that we had to blaze a new trail. I'm mad that we didn't have a bulldozer, or know where the road was. But I also don't pretend to be some bear hunter. I've been living on the other side of the woods in my mind for my entire life. I just did what I had to do. We all just did what we had to do. I know my friends did what had to be done and did it well, but whenever I see them - I think I see them as they would be under ideal circumstances. I wish I could be throwing that party where I knocked down that last wall. But that's how you think of your friends.
Darius has Dick Cheney's disease. He knows too much. He worries a lot. He can't say too much. I know he's done dark work but I have no idea how much. He explained, for the benefit of my son, what he does and I heard it for the first time. (It has something to do with spacecraft). I watched Destination Moon last night - remembering the kind of Americans we used to be, when a guy with slicked back hair from Brooklyn who worked radios was considered the everyday Joe. When Woody Woodpecker used to kick other cartoon asses. We care about an America that sometimes it seems other Americans can't even imagine. I'm not in dark work, so I can say what I please, and I care about that America too.
Steve is a free spirit. I don't even know a popular analogy, such men are so rare. It would be an insult to say Robin Williams, because Williams has grown into a self-important and solicitous dickhead. And I would say Michael Douglas but Douglas can't make anybody laugh. And I would say Paul Mooney, but Steve doesn't even pretend to be a bitter black man. I would like to call Steve a polymorphic peg, because that canny bastard fits into every hole. It's downright scary. But like most men who cheat death, he has ghosts. And he looked me in the eye and told me a ridiculous ghost story. So unlike most men with ghosts, he's actually dealing with his. Steve has advice for Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods ought to stop what he's doing and listen.
I am from a small town called Black. I went back home this weekend to visit some of the kings who grew up there too. They reminded me of how sad and yet how fortunate I am.
If human desire is unlimited, then only the physical limits of life itself restrain us from the desire for all.
How could we possibly know enough to want enough, and how could we learn enough to want what is good? We can only follow as far as we discover through pain and pleasure, advantage and disadvantage and that which we take as true based on some induction of faith or reason.
What we have is culture and learning. We can apply these to ourselves, our bodies and minds and senses being relatively fixed entities that navigate us through some fraction of the infinite paths through culture. What evolves through culture is the told experience of the many past wanderers - the lessons and narratives that stick. The plumber learns from the plumbers before him. The poet from prior poets. And each can build upon what culture brings and perhaps better their antecedents.
What a slow process. And how it must disperse more slowly through the world as languages grow as populations swell as distances increase between us and through cycles of literacy and ignorance. In the end of cultural evolution what will we know? I figure we will know our limits. And we will understand the best ways and means to achieve those things that give us pain or pleasure, advantage or disadvantage in advance of having experienced it for ourselves and learned through experience.
Cultures must evolve locally. For us to have a global culture will take centuries. For there would have to evolve a process by which the pauper can experience as does the prince.
One of the most influential music teachers in New Orleans history passed away yesterday. Like his father before him, Clyde Kerr, Jr. taught several generations of students both the mechanics of music and the spirit behind it. Social networking sites have been buzzing with tributes to the man since word of his death began circulating.
Kerr, Jr. was a trumpet player who had a beautiful tone. He released his first and only album, This is Now!, last year. As an instructor at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts his influence goes back at least thirty years when he taught Wynton and Branford Marsalis. In recent years, he counted Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Christian Scott among his hundreds of students.
Kerr, Jr. grew up in the Tremé neighborhood and his childhood home was like a music school. His father taught a who’s who of an earlier generation of musicians including the great maestro Wardell Quezergue and the saxophonist Alvin “Red” Tyler. Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time. (photo by Michael DeMocker)
Im listening to a song from Herbie Hancock from his hiphop phase. It's called "People Are Changing". There's no video for it. It's a bit of a corny song about love for your fellow man. As i was listening it occurred to me that I simply don't believe that people change their minds for the better about their fellow man absent a provocation and furthermore that such minds would not remain changed absent further evidence.
Pretending for a moment that I cared about race relations, and given our complete failure around here to synergize any reasonable definition of multiculturalism, I ask the following questions.Out there in society, is there 'love for your fellow man'? What is the basis for this love? Is it increasing or decreasing? Why?
(from the archives , October 2008)
There is a reason that blacks don't support gay marriage. You might think that it's because of homophobia but you'd only be half right, if that. What a lot of conservatives don't know about progressive blacks (or ex-progressives like myself) is that we appreciate black lesbians and gays because they are transgressive in the extreme. Or at least we like to think so.
Any black man in my generation who didn't love Bruce Lee or Malcolm X was a faggot. Wearing short pants for any reason except playing basketball or swimming (real black men wore cutoffs, not trunks) was for fags. Black macho was the rule until approximately the era of Michael Franks and Al Jarreau. Then we realized that women dug sensitive dudes and adjusted appropriately. And while all of us brothers wondered out loud what was up with Al and those pink sweaters, we were also coming into contact with some genuine homosexuals.
I understand that it is considered rude and a bunch of other things to talk about 'fags', but I'm just keeping it real because that's what our attitude was. And if you were a good looking black man, chances are you would encounter a forward brother telling you in no uncertain terms that he was a black homosexual who could turn your head around. The gauntlet was thrown, were you man enough to love a black man?
My experience with the brazen courage of such men was tinged with a certain admiration. I would say on any number of occasions that if I was a homo, then I would most definitely be the sort out there in everybody's face. But it wasn't until the early 90s that I came to a political appreciation for how deep that sentiment could be held in the minds of black progressives. It was then that I was introduced to the films and life of Marlon Riggs and to the poetry and life of Audre Lorde. Black fags had gone beyond gay towards queer, and the black queers of all different varieties tended to take black power to new heights. Lorde's book 'Sister Outsider' rather encapsulated it all - If you think being black is hard, try being black and lesbian and crippled. Lorde was superbad.
[M]any white feminists were angered by Lorde's brand of feminism. In her essay "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House" Lorde attacked the underlying racism of feminism, describing it as unrecognized dependence on the patriarchy. She argued that, by denying difference in the category of women, feminists merely passed on old systems of oppression and that, in so doing, they were preventing any real, lasting change. Her argument aligned white feminists with white male slave-masters, describing both as "agents of oppression"
Marlon Riggs had a similar message. If you think being a black man is hard, try being a black man who is already a primitive sex symbol where your sexuality is the reverse of what's expected and not only are you oppressed by white men, sometimes you really physically want to love them but not as a sex symbol. All of that was a lot to take, but what I understood was how the personal struggles of black queers fueled passionate rebellion in the spirit of black power. This very interesting and exciting transgressive passionate dynamic energizes Progressives and the politics of difference, and it augers potential for revolutionary change. The double and treble and quadruple minority status of black queers is political dynamite - a genuine extension of black cultural nationalism. If freedom could be created by politicizing black pride with music, dress, dance and speech in the 60, imagine how much more freedom could be created by legitimizing the queer life. So long as black gays and lesbians can be angry, radical political revolutionaries, they can be used in the mainstream of black protest politics. You'll still hear the 'masters tools' argument in angry black political circles. This is how black gays got respect.
But most homosexuals and certainly most black homosexuals are not trying to be political. They are trying to get through life with a minimum of hassle, like all of us. Gay sex isn't easy. Straight sex isn't easy. Sex is complicated and difficult and we all have hangups about it and we wrestle with those hangups all our lives. There's no single political direction sexual liberation points people and the attempt to politicize sex, especially given this dynamic is the province of the few, not the many.
So there is a gap between the reality of gay black life, and the political reality black progressives wished to portray through the politics of difference. I find a very great paradox between the personal lives of gay black men I knew in the every day business of living a closeted life and the hyper difference of the angry black queer man who would overtly politicize his sexuality. When stories about ordinary black men 'on the DL' came out, it was a disturbing story for many blackfolks because these young men were not so interested in standing out and using themselves as black power symbols. They just wanted to get their desires fulfilled without drawing too much undue attention. Instead of being a treble minority, some young black men adopted gangsta misogyny to cover for their indifference to sex with women. It made things easy. Whether it was a gangsta style or not, the bottom line was to be incognito, not vocal, not politicized.
I am of the opinion that it is the minority of black political activists who seek to exploit the politics of difference. It's one thing to be demanding of black liberation (and not all blackfolks are keen on such revolutionary matters such as Afrocentrism or issues like reparations), but it's another to place transgressive black queer energy into your politics, to be out there blazing with tongues untied. The majority would rather leave the matter with King like rhetoric about the content of one's character, than use the rhetoric of Audre Lorde. While it's true that many black people believe that white antagonism to black culture is and should be a matter of political concern, not many wish to create space for black freedom by putting our queers in white faces. Some do, most have got issues.
And so Gay Marriage doesn't appeal to blacks because black politics and culture has not evolved a place for it. Black queers have a place in revolutionary black politics, but ordinary gays do not. In a culture where the role of men and family is always found in shifting sands, the black gay man who wants something as simple, respectable and middle class as marriage with another man is on very shaky ground. Black women have a very difficult time accepting that the rare 'good black man' might be gay, or interested in white women, and this is a powerful force in black opinion. The exception is for the black queer who is used by black progressives in a radical chic fashion exactly in the same way that white liberals used angry ghetto blacks to further their agenda. Black gays themselves may be unwitting victims of a new blaxploitation in such a way that their actual modest goals of acceptance in marriage is all but ignored.
Is that homophobia? Undoubtedly that is part of the equation, but it is also the success of the political exploitation of a black queer revolution that makes gay marriage an oxymoron to black people.