Saturday, October 08, 2011

How The Left, And America, Loses

A few weeks back, Tulane University political science professor Melissa Harris-Perry wrote a piece in The Nation, for whom she writes on a monthly basis, that became the focus of much controversy on the Left.
The 2008 general election was another referendum on old-fashioned electoral racism—this time among Democratic voters. The long primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Obama had the important effect of registering hundreds of thousands of Democrats. By October 2008, it was clear that Obama could lose the general election only if a substantial portion of registered Democrats in key states failed to turn out or chose to cross party lines. For Democrats to abandon their nominee after eight years of Bush could be interpreted only as an act of electoral racism.


The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.


In 1996 President Clinton was re-elected with a coalition more robust and a general election result more favorable than his first win. His vote share among women increased from 46 to 53 percent, among blacks from 83 to 84 percent, among independents from 38 to 42 percent, and among whites from 39 to 43 percent.

President Obama has experienced a swift and steep decline in support among white Americans—from 61 percent in 2009 to 33 percent now. I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation.(italics added)
The piece makes a number of claims of fact that Harris-Perry does not support with any evidence. Furthermore, the claim in the last, highlighted, sentence, is among the most absurd things I have read in quite a while. Finally, Harris-Perry does not marshal a single piece of evidence, say, a bunch of white liberal bloggers who are writing off Pres. Obama next year, and reading in to their reasons any kind of double standard. Instead, a refusal to vote again for Pres. Obama is, for her, prima facie evidence of "a more subtle form of racism," which, to be honest is a clunky way of phrasing what she really means. That white folks on the Left who are criticizing the President are doing so because they are racists.

I feel no need to respond to silliness like this. Others have, including Gene Lyons in Salon.
See, certain academics are prone to an odd fundamentalism of the subject of race. Because President Obama is black, under the stern gaze of professor Harris-Perry, nothing else about him matters. Not killing Osama bin Laden, not 9 percent unemployment, only blackness.

Furthermore, unless you’re black, you can’t possibly understand. Yada, yada, yada. This unfortunate obsession increasingly resembles a photo negative of KKK racial thought. It’s useful for intimidating tenure committees staffed by Ph.D.s trained to find racist symbols in the passing clouds. Otherwise, Harris-Perry’s becoming a left-wing Michele Bachmann, an attractive woman seeking fame and fortune by saying silly things on cable TV.
Race is difficult to talk about under the best of circumstances. We aren't living in the best of circumstances, and the insistence that white liberals own up to their racism because Obama hasn't been salvific becomes yet another hurdle over which people need to leap.

If they so choose.

Now, criticism of Harris-Perry has, at times, been ugly. That's kind of the way things go on the Internet, and in the country at large. A few, like Bob Somerby, have managed to keep their focus pretty clearly on the dubiousness of her factual claims, the dearth of evidence to support them, and the sheer audacity involved in writing that oft-mentioned, and highlighted here, sentence. She has responded, and has not exactly covered herself in glory.

Along comes this article, which quotes a Harris-Perry piece from April in which she argued that the pauperization of the mostly white middle class is introducing them to the long-standing disparities in access to power under which African-Americans have lived throughout most of our history. She has a big, important point here, but it isn't anything original.

The argument that there is something we can call "racist capitalism", as distinct from "capitalism", is ludicrous. Obviously capitalism is racist to the core. It is also patriarchal. It reinforces heterosexism. Any and all forms of narrow normative power structures that limit access and economic justice and equality are supported by capitalism. To argue that only now, with the re-enactment of Gilded Age economic policies are whites suddenly aware of their own marginalization in the face of immense power is factually inaccurate and historically ignorant. Forty years ago the links between racial and economic justice were clear enough.

When the public space in which we all need to talk about economic justice, racial justice and equality, becomes muddied by nonsense, we all lose. When legitimate criticism of Pres. Obama and his record gets lumped in with birthers and bigots, we all lose. When academics cannot even muster evidence for their arguments, then insist that they don't have to because any criticism of black academics is the same as dismissive racist attacks, we all lose.

30 Day Photo Challenge, Day 23

On the mend from a serious, sudden bout of illness, I ventured out today to snap a picture of a sun flare. I think it turned out quite nice.

After despairing that I would get such a picture, this is a blaze of glory.

It's nice to know someone felt the way I did about this one. For Summer, the sun adds a bit of romance to an already romantic shot.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

When "Assassination" Isn't

There's been a whole lot of buzz about the murder of Anwar al-Awlaki by folks who are outraged that an American citizen was killed by his own government. There's been a whole lot of talk about "due process" and "extra-judicial murder" and, now, secret panels.

I'm certainly no fan of Star Chamber tactics.

On the other hand, Anwar al-Awlaki had, for all intents and purposes, declared war on his home country. He encouraged others to attack Americans at home and abroad. He was, for lack of a better term, engaged in rebellion.

Seems to me a good case can be made that taking him out was well within the purview of Executive Powers dealing with rebellion.

Look, I'm no fan of the whole "War on Terror" crap that stay-at-home war bloggers want others to fight. On the other hand, there are people out there who are actively engaged in planning to do our country and our fellow Americans serious physical harm. We may not like that protecting the United States involves messy stuff like killing people, but this isn't about people's feelings. We may not like that some of those who are targets of our national defense are fellow Americans. There are Constitutional protections regarding having one's life taken outside the due process of law.

Sometimes, it becomes necessary to take the heat for violating the due process clause if, in so doing, lives can be saved.

I know it's heretical for a self-professed lefty to say it, but, like the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki made the world a little bit safer for Americans.

30 Day Photo Challenge, Day 22

I can't remember where I read it. Maybe Carl Sagan's The Dragon's of Eden. That which most clearly set human beings apart from other animals, in an evolutionary sense, was not our cranial capacity; elephants, dolphins and whales, even raccoons, are smarter than proto-humans.

It was the humble evolutionary device of the opposable thumb.

With the squaring of our pelvic bones that started to give proto-humans the possibility of an upright posture, and forelimbs freed from the need to assist in locomotion, our evolutionary ancestors could venture out from the trees. They could expand their capacity for tool-making inherited from other primates. As evolution rewarded the survival of more and better tool-makers, more upright, hand-using critters, our cranial capacity, brain-mass to body-mass ratio, and other things we only think make us uniquely human increased.

It all started with the ability, occurring a couple million years ago in small animals that looked an awful lot like chimpanzees, to touch four of the digits on a forelimb with the tip of the other that was both long enough and flexible enough to reach them.

Simply put - hands make humans.

Lisa muses with poesy and humor on the way hands express love. Randall exposes what happens when poets worry too much over a couple verses.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

30 Day Photo Challenge, Day 21

Some people identify themselves with their job. Others with relationships. In thinking of a way to do a "faceless self-portrait", I wondered what was the best way to take picture of myself without taking a picture of myself. Then, I looked to my left and this is what I saw.

Then, I turned and glanced at the bottom of the computer screen.

For better and worse, it is books and music that tell the world who I am. This big picture - just one set of shelves in our house; the number of songs in my iTunes account - can be overwhelming at times. Even to me. So, here's a sample.

Other than my wife and children, if you want to know who I am, see a picture of me, it lies here.

Lisa is southern, so she cleans when the stress is high. Randall would scare a young Jamie Lee Curtis, I suppose.

O! For A Thousand Tongues To Sing

A couple decades ago, the weirdest thing happened. Someone recorded a small group of monks doing what they do several times a day - chanting in prayer and praise. The recording became huge, and soon, monks were appearing everywhere, even in techno recordings.

There is no doubt there is aesthetic value to the cloistered chant.

But, Latin isn't the only language God knows. There's Greek.


Even Arabic.

Ours is a God of many peoples, many languages, and we who call ourselves Christians, no matter where we are, add our languages and dialects in prayer and thanksgiving in whatever tongue we use to create not Babel, but a glorious chorus in many languages and from many traditions.

All music participates in this grand chorus.

Bar Hopping With Mr. Picky - Jordan Rudess
Your Own Special Way (Live) - Genesis
Vanishing - A Perfect Circle
The Moon Touches Your Shoulder - Porcupine Tree
A Place In The World - Pat Metheny Group
You Can Never Hold Back Spring - Tom Waits
Bertha - Grateful Dead
Southside of the Sky - Yes
La Le Lo - Acid Mother's Temple
Waiting For The Answer - Dead Soul Tribe

We should let our spirits ride, shouldn't we . . .

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

30 Day Photo Challenge, Day 20

I'll admit it. I had to look up "bokeh". I thought it was a typo of "broken", and had something else planned.

In the end, what I got, while perhaps not "bokeh", nonetheless fits the bill for what I read. Part of the image is still. Another part is blurred. Some other participants have the subject clear, with the rest blurred. I went for a blurred subject. If this is wrong, well, mea culpa.

If there is anything my daughter Miriam enjoys more than the simple freedom of childhood in all its forms, I don't know what that might be. She is a person who embraces all the excitement and joy of each day, and expresses it - sometimes loudly! - with verve, gusto, and always always always a smile. Moriah is my thoughtful one, the more sober, serious older child. Miriam, though, takes it all in both hands, laughing and transparent in what seems to be her apparent conviction that her smile and charm will cover a multitude of sins. She may well be right.

An exemplar of this attitude is the endless hours she spends on our trampoline.

The child defies gravity, and common sense, by doing flips. More power to her, I say.

I hope when she's my age, and scenes like this make her bladder weak and her back hurt just from watching, she remembers when she was so fearless, so sure that life was all hers.

Monday, October 03, 2011

30 Day Photo Challenge, Day 19

So I skipped a day. Sue me.

Back in the dim, dark days when Lyndon Johnson was President, gas was around 30 cents a gallon, and The Beatles were still, technically, together, there was a little boy who had the brightest ginger hair one can imagine. He wore it long, as was the style at the time. It was wavy, and his mother, recalling her youngest brother's curly hair, would spend time each day curling long strands around her finger, giving him long ringlets. Some days, the little boy's father would take pictures of him.

This would be not just any day, but Christmas Day, 1968.

This was just a day. I still don't like having my shirt tucked in.

Orange makes Lisa think of everything from candy corn to an old muscle car. It may well be the color of her life. Randall sticks to the essentials - death and the Cleveland Browns, which do go together well, I might add.

Virtual Tin Cup

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