Showing posts with label angry white men. Show all posts
Showing posts with label angry white men. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wake up, Dorothy. You were never in Kansas

[Big ol' tip o' the fedora to Prometheus6 for snapping me out of "too busy to post" mode.]

Apparently you can make death threats against a Presidential candidate (translation: a black candidate, specifically Barack Obama) on the Internet and get away with it.

Man's call for Obama assassination is free speech, not crime, court rules
July 19, 2011 | 4:27 pm

A La Mesa man who posted racial epithets and a call to "shoot" Barack Obama on an Internet chat site was engaging in constitutionally protected free speech, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in overturning his criminal conviction...

...the statute doesn't criminalize "predictions or exhortations to others to injure or kill the president," said the majority opinion written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

"When our law punishes words, we must examine the surrounding circumstances to discern the significance of those words’ utterance, but must not distort or embellish their plain meaning so that the law may reach them," said the 2-1 ruling in which Chief Judge Alex Kozinski joined but Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw dissented.

Quick now, who's surprised? And who thinks this would be consistently applied to threats against a white candidate? And who thinks the (two) judges in the majority are sure in their own minds that race played no part in their decision?

Full decision here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

2 reasons I keep up with Lawrence Lessig

UPDATE (8/6/10) on Lessig's video:
On the morning of August 6, I (and a zillion others) got a tweet from Lawrence Lessig saying he has pulled his "Of/By/4" video due to a probable misquote of Lincoln in the video. Read more about it here:

When there's more I will post it separately. Meanwhile, let's all aspire to half as much integrity as Lessig showed. No whining, no excuses, just the correction. Now go enjoy some other Lessig videos.

-----update ends-----

I first stumbled upon Lawrence Lessig while investigating better ways for my students to do presentations besides "standard" PowerPoint slide drone-o-rama. Turns out that beyond the technology, his ideas on intellectual freedom mesh rather well with mine, and can inform my thinking & writing whether I believe it happens or not. He's on hiatus from the blogosphere but remains quite active on Twitter and elsewhere.

(1) I like the Lessig method of presentation and wish I had enough TA support to do more of it myself. He hasn't broken anyone's PowerPoint addiction, a pet peeve I tackle with my students in my academic life, but he's managed to work with and build around the core software, and he keeps his talks moving visually so you don't care that they're based in PowerPoint. You learn not to blink much.

(2) He makes sense. We need more "angry white men" who channel it this way. In the below TEDx talk titled "of/by/4" he quotes many people-- yes, his share of "dead white males" and a few live ones (including David Byrne, one of my creative faves who also knows how to liven up PowerPoint) but I admire his selective skills and the lack of women&minorities does not offend. He frames this talk with a pertinent quote from Thoreau:

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

Therefore, I dedicate this post to all the progressives who are running around in circles, independently making sense, yet rarely converging to actually bring "progress" writ large. So carve out 18 minutes, not necessarily all at once but it helps. Watch and learn. When done, check out his other presentations at

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A summer project of sorts: saving racist e-mail

Having spent a previous life in the U.S. military, I had to get pretty good at navigating institutional racism, and figuring out when people were being racist racist, being ignorant of history, or just occasionally pushing my buttons. (The last is actually a type of testing boundaries, of acceptance, of letting you into the club/treehouse; the first two are a type of rejection of you and your identity.)

I'm still in touch with some people I served with, all races, ethnicities, genders, creeds and orientations. I would go to the mat for a few of them to this day, and vice versa. Others, I wouldn't give a Heimlich to if they were choking on a salmonella-infested chicken nugget at the next table.

Anyway, there are a few who can't quite leave the military life behind, and their e-mail proves it. They rarely if ever update you on themselves or their families. They forward a lot of kick-ass photos of tanks, carrier landings, missile firings and such, as well as jokes that may have once evoked a chuckle in the geek's row during a middle-school assembly. All in good fun until they go political, then it gets strange.

There used to be a rule: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and especially Saturdays-- no, sorry, that's an old Woody Allen routine about a moose--

There used to be a rule: Pick on Democrats as weak on defense, suck up to Republicans because they'll always increase the defense budget, no questions asked, and don't acknowledge third parties at all unless fronted by verified ex-military guys like Ross Perot. Be courteous to a Democratic Commander-in-Chief because you honor the office, but that's as far as you have to go. They picked on Carter, even after living with Nixon. They picked on Clinton. So it's no surprise that since January 2009, ex-military folks whose bell-curved lives peaked when they were on active duty are picking on President Obama.

What has changed is that they can't help but bring non-political factors into the criticism. So the occasional e-mail about our current CINC is colored by thinly veiled remarks and asides, undue emphasis on the Hussein in Barack Hussein Obama, and questions about patriotism and citizenship that never would have arisen in previous Democratic administrations. (To be fair, there was a brief kerfuffle in the early '90s about a young Clinton visiting the Soviet Union as a student, but it was so darned minor as to be a non-issue.)

So this morning I was about to put one of my former colleagues on notice. Did he, a white veteran, forget I was black, or did he just think I was right of center? I wanted to tell him to cut the crap with his mass e-mails, or just not say anything to him and send everything from him to my spam folder. Then I realized that in an election year it would be nice to track what he was sending, to see if it really went over the top and pegged my race-ometer. So I'm not going to call him on it just yet. I'm going to track the mail over the summer and separate the merely patriotic and "support-the-troops" items from the treasonous, seditionist, anti-Presidential items. If it turns out there's a substantial amount of the latter, I may put my students on the case as part of their fall election-tracking. If there's a teachable moment in there I will call it making lemonade out of some quite racist lemons.

Everybody needs a hobby, right?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Nothing certain as dearth in Texas

[At the risk of skewing the Blogger/Google stats about my blog even more, this week's pact post will be again be more reactive than proactive and will contain certain right-of-center terms.]

From a bird's-eye view, there's a national pattern emerging that has been succinctly described as lost they damn minds to explain everything from why there are still black Republicans, to why there are any minority Tea Partiers, to why people will pay to hear Sarah "Half a term is better than none" Palin's word salad, to why certain state officials (Virginia, Arizona, Texas) have done things that are clearly racist to all but the most obtuse-- all while mainstream media pundits continue to "debate both sides of the issue."

I believe that Rand Paul of Kentucky has been sufficiently hoist on his own petard as he trampled on his own primary victory by first being just a little too honest about the 1964 Civil Rights Act in a May 19 Rachel Maddow interview:
... and then deciding he'd had enough and refusing to appear a few days later on Meet the Press. I can't add much to what's already been well said. I don't know what's in his heart (ignorance or racism) and I don't care, because his smarmy meanderings deny history and contribute to a racist result. From his own comments, he'd clearly allow a return to Jim Crow days-- and on that basis alone, he doesn't need to be a U.S. Senator.

So let's move on from Dan'l Boone country to Texas, where the State Board of Education has been even more direct in their denial of history than waffleberry Rand Paul. On May 21, they officially adopted new curriculum standards for history. This year's conservative rewrite follows last year's revised science standards, which generated a bit of controversy themselves and stopped just short of saying the universe began in the year 4400 B.C.

A decent summary of the Texas proceedings can be found at the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) Insider blog. For an alternative one-pager, try the TPMmuckraker summary. Bottom line: Newt Gingrich and Phyllis Schafly in, overt discussion of Christianity in, minorities (including President Obama) barely tolerated, left-of-center figures out.

I take the impending ignorance of Texas grads seriously because I have young family members in K-12 schools there. One is old enough to miss most of this controversy and will only have a couple of years under the new standards. The other is young enough to be impressionable and will be fully immersed when the new textbooks arrive. I find myself thinking I should send CARE packages of books and videos on black history. One of the kids isn't a reader but the videos might "take."

I also find myself thinking about boycotts. There's just been a push to boycott Arizona over their recent immigration laws. Haven't heard a peep about boycotting Texas, but...

One sector that won't boycott Texas anytime soon would be the textbook publishers. They have their own difficult calculus to deal with. Texas as the 800-pound gorilla may not be a sustainable model much longer, in this age of customizable textbooks, print-on-demand, and e-textbooks, but they're still in charge.

By contrast, the higher ed textbook model is essentially broken already-- the publishers are really pushing e-texts and even book rentals to keep the doors open. They have put their best (and, might I add, best-looking) sales reps on the job to sell their hardcover, high-cost wares to the profs. I don't think it's working, though it's an impressive last hurrah. This has to trickle down to K-12 soon and influence Texas, California and New York, which I believe are the next-largest gorillas. The latter two each have distinct K-12 standards and I hope they won't adopt Texas history just to please the publishers' desire for hardcover sales.

I've also been concerned about the general welfare of the upcoming generation of grads beyond my own family, and I can imagine a need for remedial U.S. history to join the remedial English and math that already plagues so many of our incoming college students.

Remediation is an add-on to my system's 4-year model, but it's destined to shrink, not grow. It's already been pushed to the community colleges at CUNY on the "other" coast. And California State (CSU) is picking up on that idea:

Despite calls to maintain the status quo, the trustees of the California State University system approved this week the "Early Start" program to address remediation rates that often top 60% at various campuses, and hover near 47% in English and 37% in math system-wide.

Starting in 2012, prospective freshmen who fail the CSU proficiency placement exams must take CSU-sponsored courses to address the deficiency before arriving at college. CSU anticipates this program will reduce the amount of remediation the campuses must offer and help their new students arrive ready for college-level work...
This is touted as "wholesome and gentle" at the above link, but low-income (including white and minority) students are really going to feel the squeeze. From the K-12 side they will be deemed ready to move on if they pass the high-school exit exam and graduate. The CSU English and math placement exams will, in the percentages described above, say they're not ready for college.

The current solution for most students needing remediation is to admit them, and offer a combination of late summer and first semester remediation on campus. The "new and improved" solution is actually a very old one: Get any remediation done on your own before showing up. In principle, one can argue that 4-year colleges shouldn't do remediation. In reality, there's a gap and a need. Our community colleges are full now, so everyone needing remediation won't be able to get it, starting in 2012.

[NOTE: Several parts of this post were adapted from comments I posted on a thread at P6.]

Friday, March 5, 2010

Every now and then someone tries this one

Trent Franks (R-AZ, which may mean he deserves razzing) may or may not be a distant relation of former congressman Gary Franks (R-CT) who seems to have disappeared after being proudly black and against affirmative action during the 1990s. We'll need Skip Gates to check that out in his next PBS special.

What we know for sure about ol' Trent Franks (and what is it about people named Trent in Congress making racist remarks, anyway?) is this: He famously said a few months ago that President Obama is an "enemy of humanity." Oddly, that remark wasn't considered treasonous or worthy of FBI investigation (that we know of). But he is newly famous for injudiciously suggesting that black people were victims of a greater scourge than slavery.

That's been discussed at length elsewhere, and by some the remark is being dismissed as just a lame attempt at getting brownie points (ironically enough) from the pro-life crowd. I am concerned, though, that there is a never-ending nostalgia among, er, certain folks for the good old days when, uh, certain other folks knew their place, and they'll grasp at any straw (any straw...! You cannot be serious!) to keep the memory of those days alive. Every time you want to go all post-racial and do a national group hug, somebody serves up a gentle reminder as Franks did.

Of all the commentary, I like Keith Knight's editorial cartoon best (so far). He's in my faves section in the left menu, but here's his Trent Franks rejoinder. Sample above, full cartoon at the link.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why I hate the Confederacy, Part III: Literacy tests

Hat tip to JJP for spotting this Rachel Maddow segment on the Tea Party's fervor for good old-fashioned Southern-American values such as "literacy tests."

The first half of the segment has a tolerable if brief intro to the concept of literacy tests and why they were in place from Jim Crow up through the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It also shows Tom Tancredo (former Rep.-CO congressman) foaming at the mouth, or just slavering over fond memories of the old days when you didn't have to let minorities vote if you could selectively screen them out and keep white voters in.

Although elsewhere online this seems to be "Dump on Charles Ogletree Week," I am OK with his comments in the second half of the Maddow segment. Take 10% off the top for typical Maddow-interviewee banter and it's all right. He correctly states that Maddow's intro understated the real history. (She has to keep her show on the air, after all.)

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Shadow of the Torturer

You may be familiar with Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer. The book takes place in a world where torture is not forbidden, not even an exception, but is a fully integrated, normal part of the culture, politics, and society. The story and its sequels follow Severian, an apprentice in the torturers' guild. In the habit of good science fiction, it forces us to rethink our assumptions of good and evil, starting with the Spanish Inquisition and working forward from there.

You may also be familiar with 24, the TV show in which self-flagellating protagonist Jack Bauer must, a few episodes into each season, resort to torture (or the threat of torture) to retrieve information vital to keep the show from grinding to a halt before 24 hours is up. It's something like a video game (after all, he must go through this routine every level, er, season), only with more angst.

I foolishly thought the U.S.-as-torture-supporter question was closed well before this blog even started, but I forgot who I was dealing with. Thanks to the latest idiot terrorist attempt to blow up a plane, the usual attack dogs are back on the job-- crusty old out-of-power Republicans, fading neocons, blowsy over-rouged pundicrats who resemble the real-estate agents you duck around corners to avoid, and all their progeny. They seem determined to ensure that America's global reputation never gets any better, thereby perpetuating the threat and guaranteeing new crops of people who don't like us.

Here's an example:

The setup, the groundwork for resurrecting and justifying the Jack Bauer approach starts at 3:15 in this video from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. The actual references to torture as acceptable kick in at about 6:15.

[Tech note: You may need to resize/zoom in or out with your browser's View menu, as Blogger and MSNBC videos aren't perfectly interactive. Click here for direct link to video if needed.]

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Texas remains entertaining in its intolerance

Hat tip to rikyrah at

This is just too funny. Baby, meet bathwater! Whatever the intent, well, the law says what it says. I'm making popcorn for the ringside seat when this goes to court.

Texas' gay marriage ban may have banned all marriages
By Dave Montgomery
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

AUSTIN — Texans: Are you really married?

Maybe not.

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, says that a 22-word clause in a 2005 constitutional amendment designed to ban gay marriages erroneously endangers the legal status of all marriages in the state.

The amendment, approved by the Legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by voters, declares that "marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman." But the troublemaking phrase, as Radnofsky sees it, is Subsection B, which declares:

"This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

There goes that "excluding Indians not taxed" clause again

Hat tip to Prometheus 6 for judicious quoting of the Constitution over at his place on the 2010 census issue.

October 28, 2009
California Would Lose Seats Under Census Change

A Republican senator’s [Vitter, R-LA --ProfGeo] proposal to count only United States citizens when reapportioning Congress would cost California five seats and New York and Illinois one each, according to an independent analysis of census data released Tuesday. Texas, which is projected to gain three seats after the 2010 census, would get only one.

I can't see Texas giving up two potential congressional seats (representation, $$) just to avoid the Constitutional mandate to count "the whole number of persons in each state." But the state has been known to cut off its nose to spite its face. Texas might, if properly cajoled by its jingoist inbred cousins in Louisiana, join in the attempt to leave non-citizens (oh, whoever could they mean? Our Canadian and British guest workers? Right...) out of the 2010 census. That's a lot of legal residents unsupported.

Even though the proposal to leave out certain whole persons is blatantly unconstitutional, they might get brownie points from the ultra-right for talking a good game-- just for bringing the matter up. That's sad in itself.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some of Us Are More Equal than Others, or Hold the Dionne

Yes, it has been quiet around here. Not so quiet in real-- er, physical-- life. I think the capper was last week's passing of one of our community elders who was also one of my former students. An IT colleague's heart attack the same week was a close second. So I shifted to mostly reactive mode, commenting & composting elsewhere, as my online cohort (see sidebar) provided the regenerative fodder I needed. Thanx & a tip o' th' battered fedora to P6, Sea Mist, soulbrother v.2. Thanks even to JJP, where there is far too much mess going on in the comments, but I learned a couple things scrolling through.

If it's all right with you, at this point I'm going to catch up bit by bit, item by item, on matters of human (in)equality in current events, until the task completely overwhelms me.


In that case let's just pick one. The fact that there are so many to choose from is telling.

One should always be wary of citing a columnist whose name sounds like a boutique brand of mustard, but E. J. Dionne's Washington Post column of October 12 cuts across several current issues and is worthwhile for that reason. Here's the disease in terms of the latest symptom, the Nobel Peace Prize award to President Obama:
His opponents are describing the award as premature. The deeper problem is that the Nobel will underscore the extent to which Obama is a cosmopolitan figure, much loved in European capitals because he is the change they have been looking for. [emphasis mine]
Yes, now the President is reviled for being much loved. I will go a step further and suggest that Obama is not just a cosmopolitan figure, but is truly cosmopolitan in the sense described by Kwame Anthony Appiah in Cosmopolitanism. As Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says in her review of Appiah's book, "Cosmopolitanism... provokes attacks from the left for whom it is dilettante and elitist. The right despises it because cosmopolitans make bad nationalists and patriots. All authoritarians detest the internationalist spirit."

That about wraps it up, as wrapped as it can be without bringing race directly into it. Had Dionne stayed with this theme... But no, he had to go there even as he denied the whiteness of "angry white men" (his quotes):
There is no doubt that some of the anger is fueled by racial feeling, which is not the same as saying that all opposition to Obama is explained by racism. Most Obama opponents are simply conservative Republicans who disagree with him. But there are too many racist signs at rallies and too many overtly racial pronouncements in the fever swamps of the right-wing media to deny that racism is part of the anti-Obama mix.
This is the current race-not-race meme as it has evolved across the media. No longer able to deny the racist displays, statements, jokes and diatribes that have been there since Obama announced his candidacy (thanks, YouTube) pundits seek to acknowledge and then immediately nullify them. "Most Obama opponents are simply conservative Republicans..." perhaps, but they're conservative Republicans who tolerate, support, laugh with as opposed to laughing at, and definitely fail to decry the bigots in their midst. When called on it, our angry white non-racist conservatives will briefly denounce the occasional bad apple or isolated instance, no pattern and certainly no systemic issues here, folks, and then they move on, as if that settles the matter.

Let me throw Dionne a bone. I commend him for citing the example of Australia's One Nation party. That does allow us to pick up a hint, a soupçon of a pattern across former British colonies such as ours.
Though [Australian deputy PM] Gillard diplomatically avoided direct comment on American politics, she said what's happening here reminded her of the rise of Pauline Hanson, a politician who caused a sensation in Australian politics in the 1990s by creating One Nation, a xenophobic and protectionist political party tinged with racism.
Hanson to Palin... there and back again. Hm. Go on, now.

[Editor's note: Hat tip to P6 whose earlier post on the reappearance of invisibility caused me to slow down and read and not merely skim the Dionne original. Also for the single-word linking trick.]