Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Phoebe Cates, 50. Hey, Fast Times and Clueless fans -- and if you aren't, what's wrong with you? -- if you haven't see Amy Heckerling's Vamps yet, I highly recommend it. It's not, I'm afraid, as good as Clueless or as iconic as Fast Times, but it's excellent fun.

A little good stuff...

1. Matt Yglesias knows how to dress up a chart.

2. From the Monkey Cage: Corrine McConnaughy on Trayvon Martin.

3. And Ta-Nehisi Coates on Trayvon Martin.


  1. You know, the other day the Bitter Fig linked to this outstanding piece from Ta-Nehisi Coates about Bill Cosby and black empowerment, from four years ago. To today's conversation, Coates ends that excellent piece with this startling conclusion:

    "Cosby is fond of saying that sacrifices of the ’60s weren’t made so that rappers and young people could repeatedly use the word nigger. But that’s exactly why they were made. After all, chief among all individual rights awarded Americans is the right to be mediocre, crass, and juvenile..."

    In today's article, Coates acknowledges that Zimmerman is not provably guilty (per the law), but that Trayvon Martin has the right not to be harassed by Zimmerman. So while Martin (per the Cosby article) has every right to indulge in the "mediocre, crass and juvenile" elements of the culture to which he belongs, Martin can further expect not to be accosted by one such as Zimmerman for that, even I suppose reacting to such accosting by attempting to beat Zimmerman to death.

    The above view is nearly universally held by liberals, but there's something else interesting in that Cosby article from 2009: about halfway down, Coates noted "a Pew study (that) 71 percent of blacks feel that rap is a bad influence."

    If we assume that 20-25% of a tribe will endorse its trappings just because, then that Pew data is startling about the near-universal level of self-awareness in the black community. Does Coates, and the liberal intelligentsia, speak for the mass of black people when he argues that "freedom means freedom to suck"?

    Not for me to say, but that Pew data would suggest otherwise.

    Which, coming full circle full circle, may be what is so threatening about Rand Paul at Howard.

    1. Oh, I think there's all kinds of things--at least incomplete, if not outright wrong--about that, but I'm not the guy to make the arguments well. I'd suggest posting the core of the comment over at TNC's joint, let the Horde answer. The Khan is over in France for now, so moderating-hours might be a bit inconsistent.

      Meanwhile, TNC on Rand at Howard.


      "If you are a libertarian and dismayed by the largely critical reaction to Paul's speech, you should understand that much of it is because black liberals, like me, actually expect more of Rand Paul than we expected of Mitt Romney [at the NAACP]. Again, a lot of us have family whose politics are not very different from Rand Paul's. These are people who don't like foreign wars, who don't like our incarceration rates, and don't like our deficit.

      "These people are not me. But the fact that we end up voting for the same guy is a distortion of democracy. We deserve to fight it out. Having that fight doesn't require the GOP to fully embrace Obamacare. It requires the GOP to stop attempting to limit the number of people who are voting, and start competing for them. At this moment, the GOP has a choice. It can embrace the "Gifts" logic of Mitt Romney which holds that black people will never vote for a Republican, or it can make a pitch and compete.

      "Rand Paul -- skeptical of foreign war, skeptical of the drug war, skeptical of mass incarceration -- is the most credible Republican to make that pitch. We don't have any expectations for Steve King. Paul is different, and is being judged accordingly."

    2. BitterFig, thanks for responding to my comment, I somewhat addressed it below - that I agree with Ta-Nehisi that the Republicans haven't done anything to attract the libertarians in the black community. But they will. Come hell or high water...

      Also wanted to thank you again for linking to that Cosby piece. The fact that I expressed my disagreement with Coates' conclusion about the n-word may make it seem like I was being cute or clever in calling that column outstanding. I certainly didn't intend that. I really loved that column, even if I disagreed with Coates' conclusion in the paragraph I called out.

      In fact, that column is a great example of what makes Coates so wonderful as a blogger: he's a black guy, writing to a mostly white audience, about a topic that is terribly fraught with peril for all of us, and yet he does so in an honest manner that is sort of thrilling, never more so than when it is also maddening.

      It can sometimes feel like we are trapped in a dark cave, but Ta-Nehisi's writing can feel like a light leading the way out of such a cave.

    3. That's why I lead with "incomplete." What's so great about TNC is the extent to which he goes to lengths to present context. He'll throw up the Florida law statutes, the instructions to the jury, etc, for this case. Civil War primary sources for CHM. He'll have extensive background on Redlining in other articles. Some of what you wrote felt like it was missing some of the background (and some of that might just be how I read it, or how it's phrased, or whatever).

      Something from Jelani Cobb has been a lens through which I've been viewing a lot of the Martin/Zimmerman commentary:

      "The most damning element here is not that George Zimmerman was found not guilty: it’s the bitter knowledge that Trayvon Martin was found guilty. During his cross examination of Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, the defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked if she was avoiding the idea that her son had done something to cause his own death. During closing arguments, the defense informed the jury that Martin was armed because he weaponized a sidewalk and used it to bludgeon Zimmerman. During his post-verdict press conference, O’Mara said that, were his client black, he would never have been charged. At the defense’s table, and in the precincts far beyond it where donors have stepped forward to contribute funds to underwrite their efforts, there is a sense that Zimmerman was the victim.

      "O’Mara’s statement echoed a criticism that began circulating long before Martin and Zimmerman encountered each other. Thousands of black boys die at the hands of other African Americans each year, but the black community, it holds, is concerned only when those deaths are caused by whites. It’s an appealing argument, and widespread, but it’s simplistic and obtuse. It’s a belief most easily held when you’ve not witnessed peace rallies and makeshift memorials, when you’ve turned a blind eye to grassroots organizations like the Interrupters in Chicago, who are working valiantly to stem the tide of violence in that city. It is the thinking of people who’ve never wondered why African Americans disproportionately support strict gun-control legislation. The added quotient of outrage in cases like this one stems not from the belief that a white murderer is somehow worse than a black one but from the knowledge that race determines whether fear, history, and public sentiment offer that killer a usable alibi."


      Maybe I'm misreading you, but it just feels like, why do folks need to be afraid of Rand Paul coming in and telling them something. They know the score, and if anyone doesn't it's usually folks on Rand's side of the aisle. At very least, Paul ought to have been better prepared for the context of Howard.

      My apologies if this is straw.

  2. "attempting to beat Zimmerman to death"

    Didn't realize you were at the scene when Zimmerman killed Martin. You should have testified.

    I searched and searched for poll numbers to determine how whites feel about punk rock, and couldn't find any. I guess what can be said is: hip-hop isn't trying to be a good influence, and most of the time it's trying to play at being the worst influence. That's part of the art, just like with most popular "white" music.

    Rand Paul wasn't threatening, he was an absolute disgrace. Going to one of the bastions of African-American knowledge, history and intellectual culture to try and preach his "racist uncle" fake history? Shameful.

  3. Well, in order for a material percentage of whites to argue that punk rock is a "bad" influence, we'd first need to find a (somewhat larger) percentage that sees it as any sort of influence at all. Doubtful.

    If the bigger argument, though, is that rap indulges the worst instincts of black culture on purpose, and that a kid like Trayvon Martin has the right to indulge those influences, and further that a halfwit like George Zimmerman should not be expected to respond in exactly the way the culture is designed for a guy of his ilk to respond -

    - and that's the consensus liberal view -

    the opportunity for gains among blacks for conservatives must be immense.

    1. Consensus human view:

      People of all ages should be able to walk home from the store without being accosted by vigilantes.

      People who engage in contact with a stranger while carrying a loaded, concealed gun should have a special responsibility to diffuse a violent situation, because killing people is bad.

      Allowing J. Random citizens to wander the streets with a loaded, concealed weapon and imagine themselves to be a crime-fighting officer of the law is a really stupid idea. Police represent authority in our society.

      Zimmerman the Child Killer represents poor judgement.

    2. You're right... you would have a hard time measuring opinion on the good/bad influence of punk music among whites. It is not a question that whites are asked.

      These days, African-American culture is at all times subject to white scrutiny and diagnosis. Why is the rate of violence among African-American communities higher than among white communities? White people are allowed to speculate at will: it must be the music! It must be something inherent in the culture! It must be the dependency on the government!

      At no time is the issue of poverty brought up. Rand Paul never has to examine the societal forces that diminish the economic earning potential of a black family. Even when he's in a room full of people at Howard University with significantly more background knowledge and professional expertise. It would make you laugh if it didn't make you cry.

      Because white society isn't actually interested in economics, and white culture does not want to know that society can be manipulated in the interest or detriment of different communities. When white culture bothers to notice black culture, it is only to compare itself favorably.

      With those habits in place, it's no surprise that we can't imagine Martin as anything other than a thug and a ticking time bomb. It goes without argument among certain political groups that Martin would have killed Zimmerman, if Zimmerman hadn't "defended" himself. So then it's a question, once again, of "what's wrong" with black people.

      The answer white culture gives is the same answer it's always given: what's wrong with black people is that they're not white.

    3. Anonymous, fwiw I completely agree with your assessment of white intolerance for the issues with which black culture struggles. Its certainly not as if the GOP does poorly today with blacks because of some accidental quirk; its a status richly earned.

      But not at all inevitable, it seems to me. Get rid of the intolerant old white folks who dominate the GOP today, and very interesting things might occur.

      Maybe its just an issue of which side of the elephant you're looking at, but the tendency of white culture to see problems in black culture is not helped by blacks trafficking in those equities. If you've had the misfortune to read more than two posts from me back here, you've been subjected to the argument that Talent (like ethnicity, and culture, and gender, and any other stereotype identifier) is Overrated. Which I think makes me credibly (in addition to a broken record) someone not seeking to shake down black people - or anyone else, for that matter.

      The GOP certainly hasn't been worth a shit on solutions to the challenges you identify in your last post. But getting back to the Bitter Fig's last comment above about the libertarian strains in black society, and the inability of the GOP to attract them:

      - well, those old white dudes have to die sooner or later, no? Especially if Obamacare is as bad to Medicare as Michelle Bachmann fears. That was a joke, or something?

      Long-winded - you're right about the stereotypes and failures of the GOP, especially recently. But black people, like all people, know they have a lot to offer. The GOP can tap into that. In our lifetimes, hopefully.

    4. I've come across more than a few people, of all ethnicities, religions and income levels, who gleefully exercise their right to suck. I've never arrogated to myself the right to kill them for it. I don't carry a gun, so I have to just take it, and tell myself that it takes all kinds to make a world. I hope that others will view any sucky behavior that I might engage in (and Lord knows I have, and probably will again) in an equally generous light.

      I also think it's a little strange that a kid gets killed walking through a neighborhood he has a right to be in, and we start talking about rap music. Trayvon Martin may have accosted a man who was trailing him suspiciously (and may not have), but he seems a little less culpable than say, Tim McVeigh, Jared Loughner, James Holmes or Adam Lanza, to name but a few white people who committed mass murder without instigating suspicion of "white culture" and that crazy music we listen to.

    5. TNC will delete overt racist screeds and bad-faith arguments. If you think those are good arguments, that says more about you than it does about TNC.

      Also, it seems like this Martin=Homophobe Bigot thing has shown up all of a sudden, like someone passed out a memo. It's particularly perplexing, since it seems to be a complete flip on the right wing perspective on LGBT rights...

    6. The first mention of the homophobe thing came from Sailer in March of 2012. So when Jeantel claimed that Martin thought Zimmerman might be a gay rapist, there were no surprises amongst the alt-right. As usual, reading Sailer makes for fewer surprises because his thinking is so expansive. Cons are always interested in how dems maintain their absurdly contradictory coalition, so enjoy pointing to obvious schisms.

      Like most progs, TNHC doesn't like any talk of why it is that Asians or Jews are better off than gentile whites. Cause that's racist!!! For him, the only interesting and acceptable race talk is whites harm blacks/whites harm browns. There is no way to change his very narrow mind (or even make relevant points) because he's decided that any comments that could harm his carefully crafted worldview are unmentionable.

      But I don't blame him. It's primarily unschooled (or is that "over-schooled") white liberals who act so scared of the slightest contradictions.

    7. Thanks for the laugh, pal.

      So what's with the inserted "h"? Once, I figure typo. Twice?

    8. @backyard,
      Ted Nugent = cogent = LOL

      I thought it was strange how so many people had to dig up as much dirt as possible on this dead, unarmed, non-burglar teenager. Well, you've got an extra long and capacious shovel. Why do you need all that to try to absolve Zimmerman? If it's anything other than political tribalism, you've disguised it well.

    9. @CSH, On the question of how Republicans can attract African-American voters, I think the answer is fairly straight-forward. If Republicans advance a policy agenda that African-American community leaders can support, then those community leaders will consider endorsing Republican candidates. Certainly it hurts the GOP "brand" that GOPers make racist/insensitive statements. But the main reason, from my perspective, that African-Americans vote Democrat is because Democrats address the issues that African-Americans tend to care about.
      From what I see, as a white guy living and working in a multi-ethnic community, the reason GOPers do so poorly among the communities here is that they don't address anything that these folks care about. When you are from an immigrant community, or you are from an African-American community, or a Latino community, you are more likely to have some level of personal ties to people living in economic disparity. Maybe you have experienced economic disparity, maybe your niece is in a bad situation, maybe your neighbor's kid is. If this city is your home, you probably know what it is to be poor and you know all the terrible symptoms of poverty. Even if you're white (like me), and even if you live in the wealthier parts of town, you still have enough exposure to other people that you know that what GOPers say about poverty and about how to react policy-wise to poverty is not realistic.
      I would go as far as to suggest that, if you know people living in poverty, you almost definitely support raising the minimum wage. You almost definitely support government spending (or any kind of spending, from any entity) to help give these communities a fighting chance. You almost definitely support stronger regulations to fight the banks and grocery stores and loan sharks (among others) who prey on people living in poverty.
      If the GOP starts talking about issues and policy solutions that African-Americans care about, then African-Americans might start giving the GOP votes. Simple as that, I think.
      And I would love that outcome. Because then the two parties would be competing for my vote, and for the votes of a wider array of people. And that, I think, would likely lead to more serious policy-making.

  4. Yeah, yeah, I figured I'd get plenty of comments given those links, but: nothing about Phoebe Cates, Fast Times, Amy Heckerling, or Vamps? Oh well.

    1. Phoebe Cates is still gorgeous. Fast Times is a classic. If Vamps is comparable to Fast Times and Clueless (probably old enough for classic status) I'll have to give it a shot.

    2. Well, as I said, not as iconic as Fast Times or as good as Clueless, but still excellent fun.

      There's a great Sesame Street bit with Cates and hubby.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?