Thursday, September 9, 2010

Flipping On Health Care

Dan Carlin is one of my favorite political commentators. Carlin started as a libertarian and espouses alot of very libertarian rhetoric regularly, though I've notice him back away from the label. It's becoming clear why. In his most recent podcast, he said to listeners pretty harshly and dramatically, "My daughter was recently denied coverage because she has hay fever, so in case any of you were wondering why I flip-flopped on some sort of government health care, that's why."

Christopher Hitchens years ago called American health care a mix of the worst of socialism and the worst of capitalism. Rationing, long lines and denials despite good standing are all occurrences, and without the socialist consolation that at least the hell you're going through won't cost you anything. No, in the United States, our bureaucratic nightmare is for profit.

Carlin's experience wasn't an anomaly, and Hitchens' diagnosis still stands over a decade later:

Cathy Wiser, a former PacifiCare policyholder from the San Fernando Valley, recalled her frustration with the company. Testifying at the outset of the administrative law hearing in December, she told how PacifiCare had rejected medical claims for her son, who had Crohn's disease, even after she repeatedly faxed over forms indicating that he was covered.

PacifiCare lost the documents in its computer system, she said, heightening her anxiety over her son's health.

"Nobody should have to go through this," Wiser said in an interview last week. "Insurance companies should not be allowed to victimize patients at their most vulnerable, when they need them the most."

Wiser's experience sounds an awful like the sort of mice maze that students and their parents have to go through in the American public school system. Conservatives and libertarians have been right in their advocacy of more individualized charter school approach, but simultaneously seek to defend a system in which all the same problems are being done by the "free market." For some reason, when people like Wiser and Carlin have to fear for the health of their children due to corporate paper shuffling, a state sanctioned version just doesn't seem as frightening.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Islamophobia: FL Koran Burning Pastor

After just having seen Mississippi Burning and and not far from one of many trips I have taken to the southern United States, I can't help but think that the pastor in this clip says the word "Mossem" alot like other slurs like "nigra." This is really ugly, hideous stuff and it doesn't have anything to do with genuine concern for gays or women in the Muslim world. It's a movement of people anxious about a changing world and looking for someone to hate.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Red Dwarf Class Warfare

In the documentaries that accompany the DVDs for the classic British comedy Red Dwarf, it's said that Chris Barrie, who plays Arnold Rimmer, and Craig Charles, who plays Dave Lister, really did not get along. At all. At play there was likely the class tension that is strong in British life. I always wondered why the anger at each other was so intense in the first season of the show and that background explains it quite well.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Barrie and Charles, their not getting along actually made the dynamic more believable and the show even richer, dooming them to eight more seasons and possibly more with each other. Funny that, isn't it?

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A New Theory of Evolution: Animals and People Work Best When You Leave Them Alone

Darwin has been amended:

Sorry intelligent-design fans, your theory is still wrong: Scientists at the University of Bristol have published a study arguing that Charles Darwin may have been wrong to argue that competition between species is the driving force in evolution. Ph.D. student Sarda Sahney and colleagues argue that the availability of “living space” is more important than competition. They argue that big evolutionary changes take place when animals move into spaces that are empty of other living animals—for example, when birds evolved the ability to fly. Darwin’s theory held something quite different—“that intense competition for resources in overcrowded habitats is the major driving force of evolution,” as the BBC puts it. A professor from Yale raises a good objection: "And in general, what is the impetus to occupy new portions of ecological space if not to avoid competition with the species in the space already occupied?"

This is actually pretty profound if I read it correctly. It validates what I've been saying for a long time and what George Orwell manifested in The Road to Wagan Pier:

I worked out an anarchistic theory that all government is evil, that the punishment always does more harm than the crime and that people can be trusted to behave decently if only you will let them alone.

It also validates a whole different form of libertarianism - one best on individual sovereignty and not the sick social engineering philosophy of "survival of the fittest."

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What It Means To Be An American

Must watch material.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson Go At It

Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens debate Christianity:

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hitchens speaks on cancer, suicide and God

This is fairly heavy, so fair warning to anyone who doesn't want to have death on their mind. It's pretty cool to see Anderson Cooper and him such a frank discussion on national television about such intense issues of the human state.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

The Crazy Train

This video shows a pretty good glimpse into how pathologically insane and dumb the Republican Party has become. "Obama wants to open the borders to Mexico and turn this into a Muslim country." Lord, are those two statements supposed to somehow support one another?

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Scenes from a Protest

Nearly two weeks ago, there was a protest of pro-Mehserle demonstrators that didn't end up bloody, fortunately, but was pretty tense and emotional. I got alot of pictures of it that will probably never end up in publication. I'm going to post these in bursts so stay tuned.

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Desperation in Oakland?

Taken in the scenery aided Jack London Square area of Oakland:

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Anne Rice Quits Christianity

In a posting on her Facebook page, she said: "I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."

Christianity is not really the problem for Miss Rice. Christianity, along with other faiths, tend towards a cemented view of the world that is more of a form of longing for cultural perpetuity than anything else. Expressions of oppressive religiosity are more reflective of that sort of societal expression than of the actual validity of a belief in God.

Take, for example, the hijab and the nijab in Islam. The Koran mandates that women dress "modestly" - a suggestion that means a forbiddance of running ramparts in a bathing suit but not a mandate to cover one's self so only the eyes can be seen. A friend of mine, Larry Bernard, who knows quite a bit about Islam, credits this with the receding of Islamic society since its golden age. "A people in decline need to be controlled," he said. It is no wonder then that it was when the American south was at its economic nadir that its race relations were the most extreme, or that, in the midst of extreme recession, we are seeing political activity that would never have normally made itself known.

Anne Rice doesn't really have a problem with God, she has a problem with what God is used for. I am not a believer, but if she is able to formulate what God is for herself, she may find she doesn't have to leave her faith at all.

If not, secular humanism and free-thinking is booming in response to the religious fundamentalism that has usurped much of the world. Rice has quite a community of non-believers if she cares to join.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Complete History Of The Soviet Union, Arranged To The Melody Of Tetris

This is brilliant.

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Hatewatch: Burn a Koran Day

With all the comparison of President Obama to Hitler by Tea Partiers, it appears that the Gestapo analogies are largely misplaced here. It really is amazing how badly religious sects treat one another:
On July 22, Hatewatch reported the announcement of a provocative spectacle
planned for Sept. 11 by Dove World Outreach Center, a twisted little ministry
based in Gainesville, Fla. Just about everything you need to know about the
event is contained in its title, “Burn a Koran Day”; everything else, including
the back story to Dove World, can be found here.

At the time of our original post, the event’s Facebook page had several
hundred fans. Now, nearly two weeks later, the page has more than 3,000 and is
growing. Many of these — largely drawn from the United States and Poland — have
added more than 2,000 images of graphic violence (committed both by and against
Muslims) as well as crudely designed anti-Arab and anti-Muslim Photoshop jobs
(including multiple versions of posters urging the nuking of Mecca).

What's really quite amazing is that this wasn't occurring during the Bush years. I mentioned on this blog before what Dan Carlin told me about bad economic times providing "the opportunity for things to flourish that would otherwise not have a chance to arise." That is definitely what is occurring here. We're in an America where political candidates are running on keeping their states ethnically pure and churches are organizing book burnings.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In Afghanistan and US, Schools in Crisis

On one end of the world, in Afghanistan, women are faced with the closing of schools due to an increasingly destabilizing and regressing situation:

MAHMUD-I-RAQI, Afghanistan — Women's precarious rights in Afghanistan have begun seeping away. Girls' schools are closing; working women are threatened; advocates are attacked; and terrified families are increasingly confining their daughters to home.

For women, instability, as much as the Taliban, is the enemy. Women are casualties of the fighting, not only in the conservative and embattled Pashtun south and east but also in districts in the north and center of the country where other armed groups have sprung up.

On the other side of the world, in California, students at the California State University and University of California systems are faced with furloughs leading to the week-long absence or firing of professors, shortening of classes and a virtual rationing of education as the state is strained with the spreading of limited resources. California's deficit is $19 billion, while the California State University faces a $584 million budget deficit.

With $59 billion being spent in an emergency bill on Afghanistan, it's not hard to imagine that money going to closing the budget hole in California. The regression of Afghan women is not something we want to be ambivalent towards. I have Muslim female friends who have managed to come to the United States and grab the opportunity of education, but this is certainly a gift that a minority attain. Both American and Afghan students are equal citizens of the world with equal dreams, yet the advancement of both almost seems at odds with one another. I obviously don't have the solution to this conundrum. Does anyone? Do you?

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Review: Christopher Hitchens - Hitch 22

By Michael O. Powell

Just as he has released his memoirs, “Hitch 22” tells the story of a truly remarkable man of letters, Christopher Hitchens. On June 30, he revealed through a blog at the magazine Vanity Fair’s Web site that he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

The cause of his cancer is not hard to pinpoint—Hitchens was known for his boozing and smoking. He is seen lighting up on the cover of his slim classic “Letters to a Young Contrarian,” and during the myriad debates he gave during the 2000s, he was known to pull out a flask and imbide some liquid inspiration on himself. In an on air debate with Ronald Reagan’s son Ron in 2006, he inebriated self with disheveled hair, an unkempt beard and an air of fatigue were present. Despite his hangover, Hitch still managed to savage the younger Reagan in debate.

Esophageal cancer has a survival rate of 5%, which usually applies to those that last for more than five years. The air of finality that such a stark notice of death gave Hitchens’ memoirs all the more powerful.

Death is not a topic that is avoided in “Hitch 22.” The first chapter, “Yvonne,” goes in full throttle: exploring the suicide of his beloved mother by pact with a creepy, metaphysical guru that Hitchens barely knew.

As he refers to his mother as his “dear Yvonne” and ruminates about what could have been going through her mind when she decided to end it all. His mother actually attempted to call him five times before ending it, a discovery found by the investigation into her death that has haunted Hitchens for years.

“Fragments from an Education” is a chapter that explores several elements of Hitchens’ childhood that seemed to shape him to be the international intellectual superstar. The regular saga of boyhood bullying and sadistic Pink Floyd-esque teachers is met with a surprising but refreshing adventure into homosexual experimentation and ruminations on the sexual heat of one’s pubescent years.

Given his support (with reservation) of the war on terrorism, there is a guarantee that many conservatives will be reading this book. For the truly socially libertine, this knowledge should provide a perverse sort of joy, knowing that somewhere a Mike Huckabee supporter is reading lines such as “Richard Llewellyn handled this transition with very slightly too much quasi-poetic euphemism, his crucial error being (to my fevered imagining) the idea that the inflamed heat of young manhood could be assuaged only by the relative ‘coolness’ of a feminine interior.”

The sexual shock and awe continues unabated in the chapter “Cambridge,” with the best bit actually arriving in the form of a footnote. Hitchens makes few bones about his low opinion of Christian evangelicals of the Anglo-American variety (though we can assume he is not a fan of evangelicals of any other variety), as he articulates, “whenever I hear some bigmouth in Washington or the Christian heartland banging on about the evils of sodomy or whatever, I mentally enter his name in my notebook and contentedly set my watch. Sooner rather than later, he will be discovered down on his weary and well-worn old knees in some dreary motel or latrine, with an expired Visa card, having tried to pay well over the odds to be peed upon by some Apache transvestite.”

Reflecting much more Roald Dahl than Noam Chomsky, in Hitch 22 the author explores an artistic form of writing that he has previously hinted at but had not engaged in fully.

Hitch 22 is liberating in this context, as it allows the writer to engage in prose that is perfectly appropriate when talking about early homosexual love affairs, but would be strange and intimidating when speaking of Bush administration nuclear policy toward India.

Having taught at UC Berkeley and being a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for the last few years, Bay Area residents should find much to relate to in Hitchens’ memoir. In 2007, when the scandals of sexual abuse and gang beatings shut down Oakland’s Your Black Muslim Bakery, Hitchens wrote feverishly on the issue, bringing a secular approach that was far more sensible than the rabid tactics of the likes of conservative commentator Michelle Malkin. Hitchens has written admirably of Palo Alto’s Japanese community festivals and the legacy of internment in the Western United States. There are anecdotes about leftist Jessica Mitford and the Oakland branch of McCarthy-era Communists and charitable events held by the Black Panthers throughout the book, as well as exhortations on Haight-Ashbury, “Berserkely” and the flower-power era.

Whatever your politics, be it bleeding heart or reactionary, there’s certain to be something here that will wake you up from a philosophical slumber. If, as so many now ruminate, Hitch’s days on this earth are numbered, we can be satisfied that he gave us one final tome of personal exploration before he bids us ado.

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Case In Point: The Dumbing Down of America

Just imagine an America where we would be able to have intellectual debates like this.

Instead, our mainstream media perpetuates anti-intellectualism. Fox News and cable news generally is a major offender.

Late in that video, Sean Hannity actually seems to use "pseudo-intellectually superior" (someone needs to assist the Chinned One in his sentence formulation) as "the smartest person in the room" as an insult. This is the sort of fluff that feeds into Americans' heads day after day. Is it any wonder Sarah Palin is then so prominent?

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Anti-Semitism: Once Bad, Now OK?

The following story is one that illustrates how Anti-Semitism is becoming increasingly acceptable in political discourse:

Mike Grimm, a G.O.P challenger to Democrat Mike McMahon's Congressional seat, took in over $200,000 in his last filing.

But in an effort to show that Grimm lacks support among voters in the district, which covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, the McMahon campaign compiled a list of Jewish donors to Grimm and provided it to The Politicker.

The file, labeled "Grimm Jewish Money Q2," for the second quarter fundraising period, shows a list of over 80 names, a half-dozen of which in fact do hail from Staten Island, and a handful of others that list Brooklyn as home.

"Where is Grimm's money coming from," said Jennifer Nelson, McMahon's campaign spokeman. "There is a lot of Jewish money, a lot of money from people in Florida and Manhattan, retirees."

Sure, Israel is not an innocent actor in MidEast affairs but by tapping into this, politicians, academicians and others are tapping into something much deeper than Israeli-Palestinian relations. The ideology of Mel Gibson and its lookalikes doesn't deserve to have a new bed of support in the United States.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Joy and Normalcy in Iraq

Who says there isn't uplifting news? In this video, Al Jazeera English provides a much needed glimpse into the profession of those who are bringing joy, entertainment and a fondness for the simpler beasts into the lives of Iraqi citizens.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Nijab: To Ban or Not to Ban

Dodd at Outside the Beltway has explored the tense issue of France's ban on the nijab, the Islamic face veil:

It’s certainly true, as he says, that many “Muslim women wear the burqa because they are forced to.” And there’s certainly a rational basis for prohibiting them in secured places — that’s no different from not allowing someone to wear sunglasses in one’s driver license picture. But a total ban on wearing them anywhere in public is misguided at best.

I am really of two minds on this issue. I'm weary of bans as Dodd is, but from pretty good exposure to the culture (which is a little too personal to go into right now) I cannot see how a mandate forcing women to show their face is going to marginalize them any further. The nijab does more for marginalization of women than anything any legislature could come up with.

As Muslim populations continue to grow throughout the Western world, this also will not be the last wave of legislation. Either in Europe, Canada or even stateside there will be at some point at least the proposal of legislation as regards female circumcision. Unlike male circumcision, this practice, more cultural than religious, has the purpose of inhibiting the enjoyment of sex for women. Ayaan Hirsi Ali explored this possibility in a recent article for The Daily Beast.

Frankly, the hardline Islamic culture is so overbearing and oppositional to female individuality that, for the mental health of women born into it, there is going to have to be some sort of action so that they can live free, productive lives of their own choosing. Freedom of religion only goes so far when you start to consider fathers and brothers who think they have a religious mandate to completely dominate the lives of their daughters and sisters.

Dodd is very right, however, that the hijab has had considerable cultural evolution. For many women, it has become an accessory that often accentuates their beauty.

If Europeans are going to legislate this issue, they need to be really careful and make sure that they do not overkill. For every teenage girl who will be able to go to middle school and feel like a normal girl as a result of the ban on the nijab, there may be a hardened young male Muslim who has now become certain that there is a Western war on Islam.

This is a really fine line that legislators are walking. It would be worth contemplating if it isn't the nijab that should be banned, but instead compulsive observance of religion by family or other social actors. Even free of facial coverings and living in the supposedly free and enlightened West, many Muslim women are chained to their culture and unable to determine their own lives. The compulsion of practices that go against one's wishes is ultimately what many of us have a problem with, and it's the basis for bans on polygamy in the United States.

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Mel Gibson's Hardline Catholicism Not Far Away From Hardline Islam

In the wake of revealed tapes of Mel Gibson berating his wife, Irshad Manji elaborates on the moral equivalence that many feminists met Mel Gibson's behavior with:

Nearly as revolting, though, is how my some of my feminist friends have been using this story. They’ve effectively told me, “See? Muslim women aren’t the only ones who face heinous male behavior. It’s a global phenomenon.”

Violence against women is, indeed, a global phenomenon. But — and this what many of my fellow feminists don’t own up to — Mel’s aggression is almost universally condemned. The same can’t be said of the “honor crimes” so often experienced by Arab and South Asian women.

It's worth adding that Mel Gibson is not far away in his mental outlook from Muslim fundamentalists. Gibson's anti-Semitic rants after being arrested by a cop, his pathological anti-Semitism that has crossed from confronting Jewish news anchors to his filmmaking (in the form of The Passion of the Christ, wherein Jews appear quite villainous and manipulative of helpless Roman officials) and his apparent belief that "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" all could be emanating from the mouth of a radical Islamic cleric of either of the Ahmadinejad or Bin Laden variety (being united in anti-Semitism as they are). In his most maddened state of beardedness, he even looks the part.

Ahmadinejad's father would have been at home at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust-denying conference with his absurd hate-filled claims:

"It's all -- maybe not all fiction -- but most of it is," he said, adding that the gas chambers and crematoria at camps like Auschwitz would not have been capable of exterminating so many people.

"Do you know what it takes to get rid of a dead body? To cremate it?" he said. "It takes a litre of petrol and 20 minutes. Now, six million of them? They (the Germans) did not have the gas to do it. That's why they lost the war."

At the core of both Gibsons is, as I said at The Liberty Papers, a traditionalist Catholicism that carries with it prejudices that are thousands of years old. This characteristic makes Gibson an ideological cousin of fundamentalist Islam.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rachel Maddow Explores the Roots of Breitbart's Smear Tactics

This is a pretty good deconstruction of the race volatility that Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart have been turning the volume up on.

As I write at United Liberty, the Obama administration deserves its share of blame for running from this issue as fast as it can. If presidents are good for anything in this country, it's being able to talk directly to the American people and shape the dynamic. If Obama doesn't take advantage of that one power he is allowed, it's going to be taken instead by the likes of Breitbart.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

More on Ryan J. Murdough

After the NY Daily News article, I became a little curious about this apparent wave of white supremacist Republicans. I started with Ryan Joseph Murdough.

The very presence of this gargoyle, who is running for state senate in New Hampshire as a Republican, is enough to keep anyone with a sense of morality from sleeping at night. He is a moderator at the lovely website "White News Now" and has authored posts such as "Are Jews a Race?...What They Themselves Say!" with quotes from the esteemed scholar David Duke (the same one who convened in Tehran for a Holocaust-denying conference).

The headline in a feature article on him at the Concord Monitor is "Candidate: Keep state's complexion white," with the unsurprising and tragically hilarious adder: "Murdough isn't racist either."

Yes, of course he isn't.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

More Writing On The Wall

In an interview I did with Dan Carlin a good while back, he said, "I think that anytime you get unsettled times (from war, or economic trouble or any combination of stressful societal factors) you provide the opportunity for things to flourish that would otherwise not have a chance to arise. These things could be good or they could be bad."

A New Hampshire man is hoping racist hatred will help get him elected to state office.

Ryan J. Murdough, a 30-year-old who says he works with children with special needs at a youth center, is running for a seat on the State House in New Hampshire's 8th District.

And he's doing it as a Republican.

The self-professed "racist" is also supported by the American Third Position, a hate-spewing organization designed to "represent the political interests of White Americans, because no one else will."

"For far too long white Americans have been told that diversity is something beneficial to their existence," Murdough wrote in a letter to the Concord Monitor.

"New Hampshire residents must seek to preserve their racial identity if we want future generations to have to possibility to live in such a great state," he wrote.

Remember back when the Right criticized the Left for pursuing identity politics and division? I liked those days. Well, now it looks like that has been abandoned for the other ugly extreme.

Honestly, if the above candidate's rhetoric does not scare the shit out of you, perhaps you've lost your pulse.

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Non-Existent Racism Gets Mark Williams Expelled From Tea Party


I'm a little bit confused. I was told by conservative readers that there was no racism in the Tea Parties or in conservatism writ large. I made it all up because I was "hateful" and "consumed by race."

Someone will have to explain this to me, because frankly the actions of the National Tea Party Federation don't compute:

(CNN) -- The National Tea Party Federation, an organization that represents the Tea Party political movement around the country, has expelled conservative commentator Mark Williams and his Tea Party Express because of an inflammatory blog post he wrote, federation spokesman David Webb said Sunday.
"We, in the last 24 hours, have expelled Tea Party Express and Mark Williams from the National Tea Party Federation because of the letter that he wrote," Webb said of the blog post by Williams that satirized a fictional letter from what he called "Colored People" to President Abraham Lincoln.

You know, this is all beginning to seem like more than a few random incidents. Bringing the 1964 Civil Rights Act up for revision, racist screeds in Ron Paul's newsletters, racist screeds by Tea Party leaders - why, someone might actually begin to think that there's some racists out and about! I thought we were in a "post-racial society. Oh well. As the old saying goes - Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

For those still in denial about the Tea Party movement and who don't shoulder along with them inherited white resentment - don't say you weren't warned when you realize that you have been joined up with modern day American ethno-nationalism. The writing is on the wall.

As for the New Black Panthers - I had never even heard of a new outreach of this group until Fox brought them up. I can tell you about the Nation of Islam - the traditionally brought forth black nationalist group. The Nation of Islam, along with affiliates, are recognized as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Wherever it roams in America's urban communities, it tends to be immersed in organized crime (with a vile track record reaching from the murder of Malcolm X to the rapes and gang tortures at Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland).

The raising of the New Black Panthers spectre shows a strong weakness in the Tea Party movement that seems to illustrate they know there are very strong signs of racism in their midst and that a distraction is needed. The connection between the NAACP and the New Black Panthers seems laughable for those with any knowledge of civil rights history - the NAACP being a national traditionally centrist group that had even had Barry Goldwater as a member and the Black Panthers traditionally being militant, communitarian and extreme. I can only assume critics think there's a link between the two groups because of shared characteristics, of which you, the reader, are assumed to be smart enough to think of.

Scholarly conservatives, with more knowledge of the actual case against the New Black Panthers, have diminished the importance of the New Black Panthers story:

Abigail Thernstrom, a commission member and a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, called it "small potatoes" and said conservatives should pursue more important issues against the Obama administration. The case, she pointed out, invokes a narrow and rarely used provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which has been used successfully to prosecute only three times since its passage.

"If you want to criticize [Attorney General] Eric Holder, there are lots of grounds on which to criticize him," she said. "Why waste your breath on this one?"

There's alot of problems within America's minority communities. Many are as homegrown as they are put there by the larger society. Given that, one would have to be in denial to think that Andrew Breitbart, Glenn Beck or Fox News are their champions.

Aside from being champions, the "New Right" led by the like of Beck and Breitbart seem to actually be trying to embrace a form of minority victimhood, a factor of the old radical Left that has been justifiably criticized in the past. In his book Wingnuts, John Avalon rightfully called this new phenomenon "white minority politics." With Beck's cries about "white culture" (whatever that is), claims that the Justice Department has failed "to protect the civil rights of white voters" and embrace of protest groups, it really seems like this new Right is taking the low road toward victimhood politics.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

On Race, The Tea Parties And Rand Paul, This Is What Must Be Said

Reader mickst3r wrote a comment to Tom Knighton's piece "NAACP claims tea parties are racist:"

An organization for the “advancement of Colored People” is racist by definition. When the law recognizes color, it is impossible to have an equal society.

Michael, by recognizing a difference between depicting Obama as a chimp and Bush as a chimp means, you perpetuate the very racist ideology you claim to condemn.

It seems that you believe that when a group is forcefully separated by a larger group, you expect them to denounce that identity completely. The only way to be fully consistent in this criticism, which isn't without merit on its face, is to live a life in which you yourself have been free of all racial generalizations. Can you say that you have done that?

You are effectively advocating the eradication of history, at least as it is related to this particular case. To be fully consistent, do you seek to eradicate history and its meaning and lessons from other issues as well? Do you believe the world started yesterday?

From personal experience, those that most frequently tout to be "color-blind" and not recognize race are the most prone to such mischaracterization based on pigment. That itself could be a mischaracterization, but for the sake of avoiding hypocrisy and being able to be taken seriously one would have to not be dismissing obvious racism while actively touting colorblindness.

It's also worth adding that the depiction of Bush, Obama or Prince Charles is protected speech but is not by any means valid speech. Such cartoon characterizations are the act of those who cannot argue in the form of literary demonstration.

There is overt racism within the tea party. Here are some quick examples.

Even if the majority of tea partiers are not racist, by not addressing the issue and calling those who bring it up racists themselves, they are at best tolerating this very serious problem. Any cause that does so invalidates itself morally and shows itself to find such moral rejectionists a vital demographic that they are apparently frightened to lose.

It goes beyond simple signs. Whether or not you agree with what Rand Paul said about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, anyone who actually cares about racial harmony in the United States - a vital segment of our country becoming prosperous, free and something to be proud of - has to wonder about his bringing it up for revision forty plus years later while the first black president is in office.

While in Washington D.C., I had lunch with Caleb Brown, the host of the podcast at the Cato Institute and who happened to be from Kentucky. I asked him about Rand Paul and he said, in his own words: "There is alot of racism in Kentucky, and he's running by promising not to work with Obama." Like the other crap that I heard, this made me want to leave Washington D.C. I asked him about it later and he told me, "You just have to visit Lexington, Kentucky. Racism is still alive in America."

While criticizing his primary opponent Trey Grayson for taking money from companies that benefitted from the bailouts, Rand Paul received and accepted donations from the skinhead group Stormfront. Sure, Paul can't help who donates to him but he can help what he accepts.

We apparently live in an Orwellian world where depicting black men as chimps and using the n-word is no longer racist, but the people who call out such things are racists themselves, so I pretty much am expecting to receive comments that Stormfront isn't a racist organization. Oh, and that I am a racist and hateful for thinking that skinheads are racist. It's probably also racist to think that those who accept money from skinhead groups are acting with dubious morality as well.

What if the Tea Party was Black?

If you love freedom, stop being in denial. You're seeing ethno-nationalism resurgent in America. Step away from it and get as far away as you can.

Big ups to Jasiri X for this one.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Facebook Account Closed, New Projects

This blog has linked for a long time to my account on Facebook.

Given that, I found myself having to delete my account. A rising scent of racial hostility has led me to cut off ties with conservatism and the resulting war spilled over onto my blog as ideologues tried to stuff their lack of nuance down my throat. As personal friends ended up getting involved, I felt really uncomfortable with the whole situation.

For those who accuse me of "being lost" or "being obsessed with race," I will simply say that race was farthest from my mind until it was put there by others. I will admit freely that I have made generalizations and silly jokes (When I worked at a summer camp, I accidentally burned cookies that I was making for the campers and complained that we couldn't give them out because they were "all black." A black co-worker said to me jokingly, "Michael, what do you mean they're all black? Why you gotta bring race into this?" I often remember the trading of generalizations that I made with a friend from the Asian American Journalists Association while I attended a dinner of theirs in 2005. When I told a friend there that my other friends hadn't shown up, he said, "I know what you're thinking. I'm stuck here in Asian Town by myself!" I laughed during both instances.). I have often criticized in conversation and in publication the intolerant, monocultural aspects of Arab, Chinese and Japanese society, and received racist accusations aimed at myself from those who did not understand I was making a much needed sociological critique. I never, ever and never will engage in the sort of nonsense that is propelling the likes of Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin or Rand Paul to power and the sort of demonization of groups that is occurring by people who know nothing about those groups or the people in them.

I would also like to bring up the examples of Christopher Hitchens and Charles Johnson. Despite building up ties with the Right during the Bush years, when the administration, despite very serious failures, faults and mistakes, was taking on Islamic fascism and trying to reach an agreeable consensus on illegal immigration against a left-wing opposition just as fierce as the right-wing one that faces serious men today, Hitchens has spent considerable time demolishing Sarah Palin and ethno-nationalism while Charles Johnson has dedicated Little Green Footballs to exposing the rising tide of hate on the American Right. I'm more than happy to join them and the likes of others who have found moral justice more important than career advancement. If you look on history, these sort of contrarians - Rosa Parks, George Orwell, Leon Trotsky, Oskar Schindler, Malcolm X, the 442nd Infantry Regiment which fought against fascism while the American government held their family in internment camps - who stand up and against former friends for the sake of moral principle are the ones that history remembers. Organization hacks who stick along to get along are the ones who history forgets.

I suggest those with similar doubts look in the mirror and decide what they find more important. India, China, Brazil and many other developing countries are rising up and becoming more and more competitive with the once dominant United States. The Creationist, reactionary tendencies and anti-intellectualism of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement will bring us to an America more closely resembling the feudalistic Middle East that we are in conflict with than a modern, prosperous economy in which success will be possible.

I may or may not start up a page on Facebook in the future. If I do, it will be open only to close personal friends and will not be open to anyone else.

I have new projects slated, including Voice of the Migrant - an online journal co-run by a Rothbardian anarchist friend about those coming to America in pursuit of greater opportunity and working hard as hell to do it. This blog, as always, will remain updated and remain a dutiful proponent of civil liberties, moral justice and sanity against an increasing illiberal, injust and insane world.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Hipster Snobbery 101: Pitchfork’s Eminem Review

Jayson Greene’s review of Eminem’s album Recovery for the online music magazine Pitchfork was one of the biggest displays of nose-in-the-air hipsterism I’ve ever had to endure. The ranking that Greene gave this classic album – 2.8 out of 10 – should be absurd to anyone who actually sits down and listens to the entire thing.

On Recovery, Eminem has managed to do something that few rap artists have even attempted let alone accomplished: an emotionally revealing tour de force. Kanye West showed a great deal of himself through his stand-alone electropop record 808s and Heartbreak, but Kanye abandoned rapping and went for singing through autotune to express his inner emo. Tupac made plenty of emotionally rough records in his career but listening to them comes with a sense of sad inevitability. Eminem’s Recovery, on the other hand, has a sense of its album title. As I listen, I feel like Eminem has pulled back from self-destruction and turned himself back to the phenom he once was. If he keeps on this path, he could do what Johnny Cash did with his American series of albums: Turn back a career crippling drug addiction and produce records for yourself and for your hardcore fans that will be remembered for their honesty, maturity and originality.

Despite his success, Eminem is significantly unappreciated. The bulk of his fans include white suburban kids whose parents left the city in a scurry of white flight. I’ve met a lot of them, as I’m sure readers have, and I can say confidently that they’ve inherited the racial phobias of their parents and will listen to Em’s records, Insane Clown Posse and Linkin Park, but aren’t about to download Nas, Kool G. Rap, Wu-Tang Clan or T.I. These suburban retrogrades likely gloss over a lot of the intricacies and the deep appreciation of urban culture that Eminem displays. The sophomoric rapper Benzino, who Eminem beefed with years ago, wasn’t all wrong in his diss song “Pull Ya Skirt Up” when he said that if Em were black, he’d “be Canibus” and “no one would care about your complicated rhyme style.” Eminem admitted it himself in his song “White America” when he said, “If I was black, I would have sold half.”

Meanwhile, the hip-hop community and the bourgeois hipster culture that dominates contemporary music criticism are doomed to be hostile to a new Eminem release. The initial buzz of his early career is over, so now the hip-hop community is able to look back at Eminem as an outgrowth of the young, angry white male of the early 2000s and a modern day Elvis Presley, who would never have achieved his stratosphere, despite obvious talent, of success if he had been an angry black male, and hipsters, who probably don’t even like hip-hop in the first place and should therefore be suspect when they espouse an opinion on it, like Greene are able to relegate him to an aging pop star who seeks a return to relevance. Both communities are staying with a premise they formed before they even listen to Recovery and are hostile to any new conclusion.

Greene proclaims that “the guy rapping on Recovery just sounds devoid of any noticeable joy, personality, or wit.” I don’t know what the “lack of personality” is supposed to mean, but Recovery is obviously meant to be a dark album. That is what makes it so strong. Recovery is one of the most genuine albums I’ve heard in a long time. For a genre in which toughness and masculinity is omnipresent, he engages in several tear-jerking songs dedicated to his lost best friend Deshaun Dupree “Proof” Holton. The result is amazing and it’s easy to proclaim “Seduction,” “No Love” and “You’re Never Over” some of the most overtly emotional hip-hop songs in recent memory. Tears came into my eyes when I heard these lyrics, in which Eminem raps about the ghost of Proof pushing him away from death during a 2007 drug overdose that put him in the hospital:

“Matter of fact it was just the other night, had another dream about you
You told me to get up, I got up and spread my wings and I flew
You gave me a reason to fight, I was on my way to see you
You told me nah Doodi you’re not layin’ on that table I knew
I was gonna make it, soon as you said think of Hailie, I knew
There wasn’t no way that I was gonna ever leave them babies, and Proof
Not many are lucky enough to have a guardian angel like you”

Greene also elaborates that Eminem is “in a world of his own” and “doesn’t work well with others.” This is probably true based on Em having spent several years as a recluse and having very few guest artists on his albums, but coming from a professional writer like Greene I find this very strange. Writers are eternally individualists. We don’t like groups and tend to be quiet, shy and bullied during our school days. If that is something that Greene sees as a negative in the art that he enjoys (be it music, literature, film), then I’d imagine, for the sake of consistency, that he has a fairly dismal and uncreative library of work that he does enjoy.

Pitchfork, in all its high-minded snobbery and uncreative criticism, stands in opposition to the independent creativity of the shy child and bears an attitude that bears more resemblance to the bullies and cliques that made me hate public school. I would recommend that Greene visit the doctor and get his head extracted from his ass before he writes another review.

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