Friday, April 27, 2007

Is It Because I'm Black? Well, no, it isn't...

I hate to even somewhat disagree with John McWhorter---whom I regard as a giant---re the Magic Negro Theory.

As a gentleman of the right, I must first perform my obligatory tap-dance about "Magic Negro" in reference to Barack Obama. It was originated by a gentleman of the left, so that's the PC cover.

But we must use "Magic Negro" because it's so damned apt. No other riff can do the proposition justice, that white folks will make Sen. Obama our next president because it would serve as a refutation of America's egregious racist past. (And present.)

There's some currency to that: I admit to favorable affirmative action sentiments because black folk have undeniably gotten a crappy deal from America to date, but it's not even about making reparation as much as a hope that we can somehow, as a nation, pull together.

A black US president would be a good thing, domestically and internationally.

But the main reason I oppose affirmative action as a formal policy, whether in government, government contracts, or law or medical schools is that it diminishes genuine black achievement. I worked as a headhunter in the medical field briefly, and let me tell you, people are wary of black surgeons. Black man x might be the greatest surgeon in human history, but as long as affirmative action exists, you can't know by what means he came to hold that scalpel. Somebody still gets through medical school but graduates at the bottom of his class. Nobody wants to play those odds, and don't think black folk haven't figured out the same thing themselves.

So with the tap-dance completed, I think that attributing any significant level of Barack Obama's success so far to his blackness denigrates him. If the GOP is the stupid party (and it is), the Democrats are the foolish party, which fact places Sen. Obama head and shoulders above the rest of the Demo wannabes, each of whom have had their moments of foolishness. He's as handsome as Jack Kennedy, not quite as winningly glib (but it's early yet), has the political philosophy of Jack's dissipated brother Edward, and hasn't made a fool of himself.

A JFK with Ted's politics? Who's also not a self-proved fool? Are you kidding me? That brings ecstasy to this new Democrat core, the victorious-at-last McGovernites.

So, I disagree with the "Negro" part completely. But "Magic" is magic, and Democratically speaking, Obama's got it.

Screw affirmative action, then---mebbe he gets a marginal credit, but that cannot swing a candidate from the minus column into the plus. They'd vote for Barack Obama as surgeon-in-chief even if he had the obstacle of both parents happening to be Caucasian to overcome.

Which makes Barack Obama all the more alarming. He's not the black candidate, or the affirmative action candidate, he's the leftist candidate. He talks JFK, but he walks EMK. Danger, Will Robinson...

Broder, Reid, and the Democratization of Discourse

David Broder has written that Harry Reid should abdicate the Senate Majority Leader's position.

I think this event deserves a discussion of the media context.

Let me start simply this way. David Broder is the "unchallenged dean" of the Washington commentariat. No op-ed columnist has enjoyed the respect and prestige David Broder has. (I don't need to go further to tell you that Broder is nobody's conservative.)

This is the man who has called for the resignation of one Harry Reid.

Once upon a time, this Broder pronouncement might well have created a tidal wave. Harry Reid might have been halfway out the door by the afternoon of the Broder column's publication. In short, Harry Reid might have been given the full Trent Lott treatment on a matter much more richly deserving it.

The case is easy to make and Broder made it. Reid conducts himself in an aggressively boorish manner. In an apparently desperate bid to be invited to the next Yearly Kos meeting, he recently yelped that "The war is lost," despite the fact that we have poured a rather large amount of blood and treasure into Iraq, the fact that the United States is never outgunned, but only loses its nerve, and the fact that there are several million Iraqis hoping we don't pull a cute Vietnam-style see ya later (and quite a few terrorists who hope we do). Reid badly undermined us with both enemies and allies.

Broder said all this (just a little more nicely than me, but not much) and Pejman and I have to share the news. It did not generate its own massive press explosion. I'm not sure Broder's announcement will mean more than Mark Levin's a few days ago. To a person who remembers life before the blogosphere, that's a little surprising.

(Personally, I pray the Democrats fall to common sense and send Reid to the back benches. David Broder is not the enemy of the Democrat party. He probably lifted a toast on that unhappy November night last year. They should heed his advice.)

But guys like David Broder don't carry the influence they once did. I can think of no position in the established media that has been more thoroughly damaged by the internet than the once small ranks of op-ed columnists. Not so long ago, there were just a handful of political column writers who could hope to influence national opinion. In the age of the internet, the ranks of well-educated opiners with something to say are legion and they are constantly cranking out content. The democratization of discourse is in effect.

Broder's column may just sink beneath the waves of the opinion ocean. It's too bad. Because this time (no, it's not the only time) the dean is right.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Homosexual Activist Resents “Hate”

If you want a large amount of whine with your cheese check out this LA Times opinion piece by a homosexual senior citizen. This man is convinced that straights hate gays, and he spends the entire piece lamenting that opinion. I was going to say fact, but that some heterosexuals “hate” homosexuals is a fact; that most heterosexuals hate homosexuals is narcissistic paranoia.

This guy is that paragon of what it means to be an “activist.” Such people are myopic in the extreme. Either you are absolutely for what they believe, or you are the enemy (he even uses just that word). He is especially exercised that most Americans and most politicians are not willing to redefine the definition of marriage. This is the epitome of hate according to our whining activist.

He is also convinced that homosexuals are being beaten and killed every day. Maybe in counties where Islam reigns supreme, but certainly not in America; America may as well be Saudi Arabia in drag according to our whining activist. I’ll give you a little taste of his whine.

What do we do to you that is so awful? Why do you feel compelled to come after us with such frightful energy? Does this somehow make you feel safer and legitimate? What possible harm comes to you if we marry, or are taxed just like you, or are protected from assault by laws that say it is morally wrong to assault people out of hatred? The reasons always offered are religious ones, but certainly they are not based on the love all religions proclaim.

And even if your objections to gays are religious, why do you have to legislate them so hatefully? Make no mistake: Forbidding gay people to love or marry is based on hate, pure and simple.

You may say you don't hate us, but the people you vote for do, so what's the difference? Our own country's democratic process declares us to be unequal. Which means, in a democracy, that our enemy is you. You treat us like crumbs. You hate us. And sadly, we let you.
I find it very interesting that people who are not religious tell us what religion must be. For this man religion is reduced to love, which means no judgment, no moral distinctions. Love is acceptance “pure and simple.” And we must accept what he thinks is morally acceptable or we are filled with hate. As with most anti-religious bigots they caricature religion (and there can be no doubt this man is most disgusted with Christianity) and then deem it unacceptable.

For the record, Christians do not hate anyone (or they are commanded not to—we are told to even love our enemies, for goodness sake!), let alone homosexuals. We believe in a moral code handed down to us in the Scripture, the Old and the New Testaments. We all fall short, as the text says, of the glory of God. When you understand what the mercy and grace of God means, and you understand the depth of your own sin, you realize you have no right to judge another human being. As the old saying goes, there but for the grace of God go I.

Yet we are also not commanded to be phony. We must call what God says is evil what it is. We must affirm what is wrong as well is what is right, regardless of the cultural winds that howl around us. We live in one of the most live and let live societies in the history of the world. Too bad this isn’t enough for our activist whiner, because as it looks for the foreseeable future this is the best he’s going to get.

Hillary, Call Your Office

Shocking message from Hollywood:

In Wednesday's episode of Boston Legal, William Shatner's character was given the following line.

"If Hillary becomes President, I'm gonna puke. Now Obama... him I could live with."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Finals Time

So I'm sitting here giving a final to a class of about 25 (and blogging to avoid grading a paper from another class). It's funny, I never gave much thought to constructing exams until I started teaching - it's actually quite an art. You have to balance relatively easy questions with hard ones, try to cover the class's most important material and make it intellectually challenging. Plus, you have to make it long enough so that people are actually challenged, but not so long that you kill your students. And, of course, you have to make it so that you can actually grade it rather quickly.

Finals Time

It's finals time, which means getting to spend hours grading exams and papers and despairing over the fact that at least some of my students have clearly not learned a doggone thing this whole semester. Well, maybe they learned a little. The whole thing makes me want to just chuck it all and grade like the Law Professors do.

Old Gay Lady

It is considered very postmodern to do a movie about a movie. Yet it is considered almost plagiaristic to do an article about an article. Where is the justice? I, for one, see this as a form of prejudice against what I like to call homojournalism.

To fight this discrimination, let us examine an important article in last Thursday’s New York Times. A remarkable piece that straddled the social, the cultural, the political and the economic. It covered a topic that will no doubt engage social scientists for generations to come. Namely, do gay people have affinities for different motor vehicles than other citizens?

The author, fearlessly taking on this live-wire issue, informs us that some gays believe gays have preferences in cars which reflect their sexual proclivities. In support of this view they cite the existence of websites such as Gaywheels dedicated to automotive transportation for gays. Other gays contend this is a) baloney and b) “homophobia plain and simple”. (The notion of plainness and simplicity entering this conversation in any context itself provides amusement aplenty.)

The first set would like to see more car ads in gay magazines, presumably fine-tuned to the unique tastes of their readers. The second group would find it offensive if particular cars were deemed to draw gays’ gaze.

Had the date of publication been April 1, we could have issued a collective chuckle at the April Fools Day gag. Instead it comes on the eve of tax day on April 17, a time when no one is kidding anymore. Which means they’re serious. Oy!

The obvious comment, after the incredulous groans, is that this premise is in any case irrelevant to car advertising or sales. If they are right that gay males like more feminine cars and gay females like more masculine cars, and we are always told that men and women are gay in equal proportions, then the same amount of masculine cars are sold whether they are being bought by female homosexuals or male heterosexuals – and vice versa. Your male-directed advertisements will attract the gay females and your female-directed advertisements will attract the gay males, why create new gay-directed ads?

In truth, this whole thing is steeped in the same baloney that is retailed in discussions about homosexual issues. They speak of male homosexuals as being one particular type; the same for females. But when you meet real-life homosexual couples you find that one plays the man and one plays the woman. Often the differences are more exaggerated than in heterosexual couples. Then all your gay car-choosing stats become skewed, because now you have masculine and feminine types in both groups.

Hollywood acknowledges this. They allow themselves to depict limp-wristed lisping types as homosexuals, although if a Jerry Falwell type points this out, they act shocked. But you will notice they never put two of these together as lovers. This is because that type of effeminate affectation is the signal of the homosexual who wants to play the feminine role in their imitation of marriage. This is widely acknowledged in cultural portrayals but can never be alluded to in journalism.

Why is that? Because it gives the lie to the contention that homosexuality is genetic. If gay partners are actually opposite personality types it becomes absurd to say they are the product of one particular gene. And to postulate two separate genes diverging from the heterosexual reproductive construct is the height of lunacy. Thus, male homosexuals have to be spoken of in pseudo-scientific articles as one (yes, homogeneous) monolithic group, in direct negation of the life experience of people living in the real world.

All of this presupposes a fact which is itself not in evidence, namely that men and women buy radically different cars to begin with. Certain predilections may exist, and here or there you might identify a car that is bought on a 60-40 ratio between the genders. Still, plenty of heterosexual men like sleek little cars and tons of heterosexual women, especially married women, prefer massive blocky cars and trucks for the security they provide. So all in all, the whole business is a crock.

Fifty years ago, the journalism was also baloney. It portrayed everyone as presumptive heterosexuals and gave no clue that Rock Hudson or Gertrude Stein were anything but single people longing for a nice wedding someday. At least that pretense created a vision of family life that promoted marriage and children. The new baloney, hailed originally as a beneficial openness, builds lies on top of presumptions on top of unsubstantiated claims and creates a grotesque caricature of reality.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Those Crazy Catholic Justices

Perhaps you've been following the contretemps over the Supreme Court's recent decision that upheld a *very popular* law banning the partial-birth abortion procedure. Any number of commentators have noted that the five justices in the majority are all Catholic (though my understanding is that Kennedy's Catholicism is not particularly energetic). Chief among those making the claim that the Justices' Catholicism had *something* to do with the decision (it's never very clear what - maybe some albino priest came and told them what to do...hmmm...I'm seeing a book...) was Geoffrey Stone's post over at the University of Chicago's Law Prof blog. The post is, to my mind, a bit of an embarrassment and this post over at Mirror of Justice points out why.

I have thought a lot about the place that religion might play in our public deliberations (and I mean two-chapters-in-a-dissertation-a-lot) and I have tried to resist the temptation to chalk up the differing views on the matter to mere partisan affiliation (i.e. you approve of the religious arguments that are conducive to your side). But it's awfully hard to do so, awfully hard.

Monday, April 23, 2007

We Are the Hokies, My Friend

Via my friend Winston Smith---the Virginia Tech murderer's award-winning poetess/professor contributed a eulogy. Comment deferred to the comments section---it must be read on its own terms, far above our poor power to add or detract. It should be discussed, but first it needs to be shared:

We are Virginia Tech

We are sad today
We will be sad for quite a while
We are not moving on
We are embracing our mourning

We are Virginia Tech

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly
We are brave enough to bend to cry
And we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again

We are Virginia Tech

We do not understand this tragedy
We know we did nothing to deserve it

But neither does a child in Africa
Dying of AIDS

Neither do the Invisible Children
Walking the night away to avoid being captured by a rogue army

Neither does the baby elephant watching his community
Be devastated for ivory
Neither does the Mexican child looking
For fresh water

Neither does the Iraqi teenager dodging bombs

Neither does the Appalachian infant killed
By a boulder
Because the land was destabilized

No one deserves a tragedy

We are Virginia Tech
The Hokie Nation embraces
Our own
And reaches out
With open heart and mind
To those who offer their hearts and hands

We are strong
And brave
And innocent
And unafraid

We are better than we think
And not yet quite what we want to be

We are alive to imagination
And open to possibility
We will continue
To invent the future

Through our blood and tears
Through all this sadness

We are the Hokies

We will prevail
We will prevail
We will prevail

We are
Virginia Tech

---Nikki Giovanni, delivered at the Convocation, April 17, 2007