Authentically Black

[Amazon Link]

I picked up this 2003 book by John McWhorter a few years back, and (like way too many of the books I buy) it took awhile for it to make it to the top of my to-be-read list. But most of the topics McWhorter addresses are still fresh.

That's good because it made an interesting read; but also not so good, because the topics revolve around race relations in America. And the controversies then are approximately the same ones today. Progress? Not much.

Perspective: In 2003, Barack Obama was a relatively obscure Illinois State Senator (and unmentioned in this book).

McWhorter is a linguistics professor at Columbia. Politically, he self-identifies as a cranky liberal Democrat, and (indeed) is liberal enough to write for The New Republic on (most recently) the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. In 2000, he wrote Losing the Race, subtitled "Self-Sabotage in Black America". It was controversial, as McWhorter dissented from the standard racial victimology. Some of this book is largely a response to critics of that previous work. So at a number of points, I felt like I was coming in on the middle of an argument. No matter.

McWhorter is an independent thinker, refusing to be pigeonholed. His views are thoughtful and worth reading even if you don't wind up agreeing. As indicated, he maintains that the portrayal of African-Americans mostly as victims of white racism is the wrong thing to emphasize; it ignores history and breeds despair. He has no patience with the "reparations" movement (which was a bigger thing in 2003 than it is today). He views race hustlers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson with contempt; on the other hand, he musters a good argument for respecting W.E.B. DuBois and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. He recommends that big cities get rid of "racial profiling" (but I think even at the time the book was written, "profiling" complaints mainly those who came under the "terrorism" profile rather than the "driving while black" profile.)

He has some good suggestions for Black History Month. He argues that if you're going to teach an African language to Americans, it shouldn't be Swahili; it should be Mende, a language which a lot of Africans brought to America as slaves actually spoke, traces of which still survive today.

Bottom line: McWhorter is an independent thinker, well worth reading.

Last Modified 2012-09-24 4:25 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2012-04-22 Update

[phony baloney]

The phony gap between our two leading candidates continued to narrow this week, with the President beating Mitt by a 27.2-to-1 margin. (As opposed to last week, where the ratio was 27.5-to-1.)

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 32,900,000 -100,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 1,210,000 +10,000
"Gary Johnson" phony 273,000 +11,000

So what went down in Phonytown this week?

  • Charles Krauthammer's headline: "The Buffett rule is another phony Obama free lunch". (Note: a lot of folks have been misspelling this as the "Buffet Rule". Maybe this is a freudian-slip revealing their hopes that the free lunch will be a buffet.)

    Anyway, Dr. K makes a point we've mentioned before, but is worth repeating:

    OK. Let's do the math. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates this new tax would yield between $4 billion and $5 billion a year. If we collect the Buffett tax for the next 250 years -- a span longer than the life of this republic -- it would not cover the Obama deficit for 2011 alone.

    As an approach to our mountain of debt, the Buffett rule is a farce. And yet Obama repeated the ridiculous claim again last week. "It will help us close our deficit." Does he really think we're that stupid?

    [Amazon Link] Krauthammer may mean that last bit as a rhetorical question, but… yes, I'm pretty sure President Obama does think we're that stupid. (I sure seem to use Herman Cain's spot-on book image a lot here, but, here I go again.)

  • Maureen Dowd got her snark on in her New York Times op-ed column: "Phony Mommy Wars". She officially found a way to disapprove of Ann Romney's reaction to Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen's on-air remark that Mrs. Romney "never worked a day in her life."
    But at a fund-raiser at a private home in Palm Beach, Fla., on Sunday, the night before her 63rd birthday, Ann made it clear that she wasn't really aggrieved. She was feigning aggrievement to milk the moment.

    "It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment, and I loved it," a gleeful Ann told the backyard full of Florida fat cats, sounding "like a political tactician," as Garrett Haake, the NBC reporter on the scene, put it.

    It's important when you act the martyr not to overplay your hand. If you admit out loud to a bunch of people -- including Haake, who was on the sidewalk enterprisingly eavesdropping -- that you're just pretending to be offended, you risk looking phony, like your husband.

    Ms. Dowd finding phoniness in a political campaign. How insightful!

    Gosh, I'm pretty sure an "enterprisingly eavesdropping" reporter could have found some partisan glee in Democratic ranks over what Rush said about Sandra Fluke a few weeks back. You remember: that was back before the "war on women" wasn't phony.

    Impress me, Maureen, and open up your other eye.

  • Speaking of phony outrage, a Mr. Tommy Christopher examined banner at a Romney campaign event that stated: "OBAMA ISN'T WORKING". Gosh, Tommy wondered. What could that possibly mean? He rooted around in his subconcious and…
    The slogan is a multiple entendre, but one of those entendres, intentionally or not, is evocative of a nasty racial stereotype about black men.
    A belated add-on to Tommy's post revealed that this slogan has been part of the Romney campaign for nearly a year. From a campaign-site post dated July 24, 2011:

    Obama isn't working

    … is actually a nod toward this slogan from Margaret Thatcher's 1978 campaign:

    Labour isn't working

    Tommy, however, didn't back off his charge. Because, you see, the first thing he thinks of when he sees "isn't working" is "lazy black men."

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:57 PM EDT

Good for Foster's

1 of 2 Two delightful girls give thumbs up
- Runners at 1st Annual Rock 2 Rock 5 Mile Fun Run I dumped on my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, back on Wednesday for its uncritical coverage of a dinky protest in downtown Dover NH put on by a group called "CREDO", a left-wing organization run out of San Francisco. The protest was allegedly a non-partisan grassroots-activist gathering concerned with tax "fairness" to the middle class; in actuality, it was all about "taking down" our district's current Congressman, Frank Guinta.

Foster's redeemed itself somewhat with a Saturday editorial that revealed to its readers CREDO's not-particularly-grassy roots and partisan purpose. So good for them. Although it would have been nice had the original Foster's story had included at least some of this information.

Interesting paragraph:

Foster's asked some of the picketers to better explain the slogans on their signs. The response: We're just holding them.
Protesters unable to explain what their signs mean? Hm. I wonder if it was a rent-a-mob? (I note from a picture at the original article that at least three signs at the shindig had a telltale "SEIU"—Service Employees International Union—border.) Too late to find out now, I guess.

Last Modified 2012-04-26 3:49 PM EDT