A Credit to his Race

There’s an interesting thread over at Alicublog about David Brooks’ comments about Barack Obama during the recap of his speech to the Democratic National Convention. Brooks is doing color commentary as a representative of the reactionary simpering moron bloc for PBS.

After Obama blew the windows out of the Fleet Center, the talking heads took over to sift through the rubble and spin it for the folks at home. In the course of his comments, Brooks managed to make two wholly inappopriate sports analogies about Obama, comparing him to Tiger Woods and saying Obama should be aware that “…this is not like sports where you leap to the front, it’s a long haul…”

There are some commenters that have taken Brooks to task for talking like Spiro Agnew in 1972, others thinking that, while he’s clearly a reactionary simpering moron, he’s not a racist. There were others that felt that Brooks is using shaded language to reinforce white sterotypes about black men and their role in society. Code talking the worst of the base of the opposition, as it were. I had to wade in. Here’s my comment:

I gotta interject here-
I don’t let Brooks off the hook for the sports references or the Tiger Woods comment, either, but for different reasons. Mostly, it’s just tasteless and clumsy. He may as well have said “He’s a fine boy, a credit to his race.”

If your antennae don’t go up when you hear a white man using terms like this to talk about a person of color, it’s because you’ve got a tin ear for racially biased condescension.

I don’t think that Brooks is “speaking in code to the base,” more that he is probably not blessed to have had real dialogue with people of color to point out these kind of linguistic pratfalls for him.

Black people, brown people, gay people and others who have historically been pushed back from the table in America have developed a sensitivity to the nuances of speech and action that might signal a person’s bias. You have to watch for these things in your boss, your mortgage officer, your child’s kindergarten teacher, that random Alabama cop- they affect one’s self-interests.

It’s not incumbent upon white people to parse their own speech to insure that they don’t give off these signals, but they ignore the issue at their own peril. People are listening and paying attention.

When David Brooks drolly offers these opinions in these terms, it says to someone like me “David Brooks thinks of Brack Obama as NOT WHITE and therefore OTHER and can only be evaluated within this criteria- Sports.” This may simply mean that Brooks just doesn’t have any black friends that have honestly told him “Look, David, it’s important to see Black Americans as Americans first, and it’s very Nixonian of you to prattle on about it otherwise.” It may mean something more. Anyone with their antennae up NOTICES, though.

My $.02.

Why I Worry

I don’t know if the Democratic National Convention was really supposed to do anything of any lasting impact, really. Kerry had the nomination sewn up, and the whole convention process has been engineered to avoid any sort of repeat of the 1968 inferno and the mushfest of 1972. Call it mature politics in the television age- by July of every election year, there are no more surprises. Dick Morris pulls the toes out of his mouth long enough to shout that Hillary is going to steal the nomination, William Safire wipes the bile off his chin and proffers the same prediction, while anyone that’s paying attention at all just rolls their eyes.

But this year’s convention has had some unexpected successes in addition to making Anna Marie Cox a TV star, though that would have been enough to make me feel like all was right with the world.

Let me reiterate something first: I hate Nixon Republicans. (Surprise.) Who exactly do I mean when I say that? Think Pat Buchanan, Don Rumsfeld, Jonah Goldberg, Richard Perle and to some extent Ann Coulter. (I say “to some extent” in her case, because I tend to think of her as more of Goebbels Republican, but we’ll steer clear of that discussion for now.)

Like I said, “Surprise.”

They worry me. These men with furrowed brows and rage in their hearts. They prowl the corridors of power in their dank smelling, mud-colored suits, bending national policy towards the politics of rage and exclusion. They don’t worry me so much for my own well-being- I have a job, health benefits, I may soon buy a house- they worry me because I think that they are bad for the country. I think that their rhetoric encourages the worst in people. Witness Pat Buchanan’s keynote speech at the Republican National Convention in 1992.

Selfishness, avarice, exclusiveness, unilateralism, the arbitrary use of force, a free pass for companies like Enron, prejudice, vindictiveness, bigotry, rage, rage, rage- I hate these qualities in anyone, but I really find them most ignoble in Americans. We owe ourselves and we owe the world more than our callow disregard. We are blessed to be one of the most prosperous nations on earth. How can we harbor such ill feelings towards those less fortunate? Why do we encourage such bad behavior in government?

When he talks about looking out across the sea of faces at the Democratic National Convention this week, as compared to past Republican National Conventions,Billmon nails it:

What was important to me was what I saw when the camera panned the delegates – black and white and every shade in between, male and female, gay and straight, young and old, union guys from Cleveland and lesbian couples from San Francisco, Irish pols from Boston and Hispanic pols from East L.A. Asian American businessmen from Seattle and African American teachers from Harlem.

…compared to the sea of sour-looking honkies and fundamentalist zealots that have filled the seats (if not the stage) of every GOP convention I’ve ever watched, there’s no question in my mind which side I’m on in this fight. It may not be my party, but those are my people, my America. I wish I could be there with them.

The last three years have cranked up the volume on the Nixon Republicans. My worry for the state of my country has been correspondingly ginned up to a full-blown anxiety. This week’s convention has served one huge purpose for me: I am less worried. I have always felt that the poor, the struggling, those sick with AIDS and anyone seeking equal rights and representation under the law, had less to fear from Osama Bin Ladin than they did from John Ashcroft and Tom DeLay. I hadn’t realized just how wound up I have been watching Liberty’s Undertakers builidng a pine box for the Bill of Rights.

Hearing Barack Obama speak the other night was, among many things, a HUGE RELIEF. I felt a massive sense of encouragement that there is finally someone talking some sense on behalf of progressive forces in my (OUR) country.

So, add that to the list of Very Good Things to come out of Boston this week.

OK, is THIS irony?

I read this quote:

“The danger has not passed. The threat remains. And in the time ahead, we need the same steadfast presidential leadership that we have had over the last 3 1/2 years.”

and I automatically assumed it was John Stewart making a funny.

But, no, it’s Cheney, making the mouth noise he’s supposed to be making in an election year. I guess it doesn’t say a whole lot when someone like ME reads a sentence like that and involuntarily snorts into his coffee cup. But did anyone else have a similar reaction? I mean, are they really thinking like that? Is that going to be the hook line in 2004? “Don’t change horsemen in mid-Apocalypse”?

wow. That’s all ya got?

Convention Coverage

So far, Tom Tomorrow has the funniest line from the blogger coverage of the Democratic National Convention:

I head over to the Fleet Center. Run into a daily editorial cartoonist I know who is headed to his paper’s terrorism training–all the mainstream columnists and cartoonists I know seem to have undergone some variation on this; many of them have been supplied with respirators and hoods. From what I can tell, the training essentially boils down to this: if there’s a terrorist attack, try to be somewhere else.

Also, read his fascinating account of the accidental confrontation between Michael Moore and Bill O’Reilly in the streets in front of the Fleet Center. (shivs! fisticuffs! a crooked tie!) (OK, really, it’s not that fascinating, but it’s interesting.)


USA Today decided that Ann Coulter’s commentary of the Deomcratic National convention had “basic weaknesses in clarity and readability that we found unacceptable.”

After hearing this criticism, Ann (apparently startled that USA today had only just grokked this) responded that [this] “raises the intriguing question of why they hired me to write for them.”

We’re right there with you, Ann. Seriously. What the fuck were they thinking?

Hey y’all, here’s what it was like

this is what happens when a real writer goes to the Boundary Waters for vacation.

I guess the NY Times has discovered Ely. This will unfortunately mean that there will be scads of tourists when I want to go back.

Where human habitation is sparse, nature’s communiqu»s are revealed. The calls and responses. Water’s answering reflections of hemlock and birch. “Here we are,” the trees seem to sigh, but of course, it’s only the wind. A hawk’s cry. Its fledgling’s high-pitched rejoinder. We’re not used to silence as music, to nature’s murmurs and large-mannered motions. Which is precisely why we’ve come to the wilderness, to reacquaint ourselves with something we once knew and lost in urban forgetting.

or something like that. Tall trees, cold water, neat mooses. Yeah, we went to the same place.

I really should take up Unreal Tournament

Because parsing this article and trying to understand it through the lens of this book are just over my head this afternoon.

Anyone who feels a great desire to put Guy Deborg and the Situationists Internationale into 200 words or less, please chime in and drop some science on me.

One thing is for sure- anyone who starts off with this presupposition: “…once the running of the state involves a permanent and massive shortage of historical knowledge, that state can no longer be led strategically.Ì” is at least starting from firm ground. We have seen ample evidence of this lack of historical knowledge in our responses to 9/11.

Both the article referenced above and Msr. Deborg seem to warrant further consideration from me, though I am once again a tyro in the world of modern philosophy…

Building a Bridge to Serfdom

At least they have jobs at Wal-Mart.

Thousands of people in the coal mining country of southwestern Virginia waited up to eight hours through storms and muggy heat this weekend to get free medical attention from volunteers gathered at a county fairground.

At least 73 people slept in cars overnight, and a handful pitched tents around the fairground in anticipation of the long lines, said Tony Roberts, 49, a Wise County resident who organized 202 Lions Club volunteers. More than 800 volunteers ran the clinic, sponsored in part by the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps.

Although a few children came to the clinic, most patients were adults or senior citizens who cannot afford medical care from a local provider.

Volunteers who interviewed patients said many of them are former miners who took positions as part-time clerks at Wal-Mart and other local businesses after mine jobs disappeared.

Some volunteers who have participated in medical missions in developing nations compared the area’s health profile with what they have seen in the world’s poorest countries.