Monday, April 23, 2007

Racism and the Republican Party

Let me make one thing clear up front. I have never met a single Republican party member or sympathizer who was not in some way or in some form what I would call a racist. I don't believe Anne Coulter, George Shitforbrains, or the majority of the Republican leadership are racists. That's right... I really don't think Coulter or ShitforBrains hate black people or gays. I might even concede that I think Shitforbrains has a soft spot for Mexicans.

The GOP and their Corporate Media partners use racism to unite their base. If we've learned nothing else in the past 6 years, the darkest years in the history of the country that couldn't think up a name for itself, certainly we should see now that 30 some odd percent of the population is always going to be united in their hatred for pretty much anyone else. That is the secret - the only secret - to Karl Rove's success. It has been the key trademark-lynchpin-rosetta stone of his entire ouevre.

The corporate media know very well that if democracy were to take root in the United States we would legislate Time-Warner Communications into a heap of rubble. A real Democratic congress would legislate Fox/Newscorp until it's panty waist commentators were paying taxes on their grandchildren's taxes. Not because we need to discourage free-speech, but because powerful people, people with access to power need to pay more taxes as a counterweight to the influence they so richly don't deserve.

Today's TPMMuckRaker piece on the justice department race war reads like something in Palestine.

So, I think one can argue that Imus is not a racist and maybe it will bear some thought. Everyone who listens to Imus is a racist though. Everyone who buys an Anne Coulter book and reads it, is a racist. They are right. We have been very successful at branding them and their hategoup, the GOP as a racist, criminal enterprise. Like General Electric, probably the most criminally indicted organization in US history, and its public relations department - NBC News, the GOP is a 19th century holdover of the kind of "Shit-For-Brains racism 'I speak for God because I have a direct relationship with God'" that got them thrown out of Europe in the first place. North America needs to make it clear that their Hate-God is not welcome here either.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

one for ArtPowerLines

rather unbelievably, the washington post (???) printed this letter, (h/t to Sirota):

In his April 2 op-ed [”Free Trade: Pause or Fast-Forward?”], Sebastian Mallaby expressed the worry that trouble will follow “if the legitimacy of WTO panels is undermined.”

What legitimacy?

U.S. citizens have not voted to abdicate their sovereignty. Americans were not asked if they wanted local, state and federal laws to be preempted or repealed by unaccountable World Trade Organization tribunals representing the interests of global corporations. The WTO and trade pacts that Mr. Mallaby promotes under the guise of “free trade” have failed precisely because they lack legitimacy and undermine our constitutional right to self-governance.

International trade under democratically enacted laws broadened our choices and helped build wealth for centuries before the “free trade” hucksters came along. As 13 years of the North American Free Trade Agreement have proved to U.S. and Latin American citizens, treaties that subordinate democracy to the desires of corporate elites have undermined not only democracy but decades of reliable economic improvement for average citizens.


Bozeman, Mont.

The writer is the director of

Truly wild. Maybe someone was sick that day at the post ?

Monday, April 16, 2007

more on racism

still thinking but from Kevin Drum, this exceptional essay.

We live in a country where one major party has spent most of the past forty-odd years depending on ever crueler appeals to racism to help it out in elections, even at the same time as society has largely taken it on faith that racism is a settled matter. Reagan and Bush may have had to do what they had to do to get the Snopes family to go to the polling place, but so what? When someone shows himself to be a "real" racist, he's stripped of his epaulets and driven from the fort. Unfortunately, in public life, you have to practically be filmed burning a cross in front of a black church and waving to the camera to be tagged as a "real" racist. If you protested the Vietnam War, you're going to be explaining and even apologizing for it to your dying day, but there are plenty of people who voted against civil rights legislation in the 1960s--an act that you might think would pretty clearly and unambiguously stamp you as maybe not being, as Don Imus says, "a good person"-- who have been allowed to go on to long, respectable political careers. People like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond were held by the Beltway not to be racists because, well, because they just couldn't be--they were duly elected politicians, so the thought was too morbid to be seriously considered.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

couple of good responses

crier wireThere are a couple of good responses that cropped up on Crook's and Liars in the past few days. Both of them relate to the reply to Brian Shapiro's post below that I am composing and that now I am starting to hear about in my email.

All that said, and while I have the same instinctual reaction against some of what Brian has written, I am glad that he felt this was a place where he could get his thoughts aired and I really don't feel that I need to maintain a strict oversight over things like ideas. That's the way it was supposed to workremember? If I thought Brian was a right-wing hate peddler I wouldn't engage him at all. I don't think his essay below shows a particular leaning toward the kind of ideological blindness and race hatred that characterizes the right wing.

gwenn ifill

Put your extended comments here. The ones I like I will re-post as posts. Try to impress me with your argument. Watch these couple of videos (click on the images, or go to Crooks and Liars home for the originals and transcripts) and then have at it.

Friday, April 13, 2007

In defense of Ann Coulter

sometime comment-poster Brian Shapiro is today's guest poster... (the lazy wikipedia links are mine). I asked Brian for a short intro or bio. Brian was kind of enough to provide the following:

Currently on leave from school for about 7 years, I was pursuing a philosophy major at UC Berkeley. Philosophy as an academic department isn't really a closed interest, I study history and art history; I know science and politics; I draw and I write. But to me these aren't pursuits, these are part of life. In fact, I wanted to be a writer before I ever wanted to write philosophy. But I found writing always brought me against the wall of politics. And then I found politics always brought me against the wall of philosophy. And philosophy and art and every other academic discipline sees itself on shaky grounds, which always returns to a political debate which happened in the 19th century between bourgeois and radical elements. I think most people look at philosophy today in a wrong way, and at the same time look at art in a wrong way. Philosophy is as an art, and art is a philosophy. How they become defined themselves is a matter of politics. Politics in America today centers on a contest between liberals and conservatives, but the question is who really are the bourgeois class, the liberals or conservatives? This dialogue itself needs to be attacked, this dialogue itself is the status-quo. Politically, I've been involved in third party politics, primarily the Reform Party, which has nominated both Ross Perot and Ralph Nader. What happens when you challenge categories of liberals and conservatives, is you end up challenging categories of the West and the East, of art and philosophy, and everything else that becomes so umbilically connected to these political debates.

the essay i wrote is addressing old news and written for a certain audience, so here's a kind of preface

The thing which offended me the most about the recent Imus scandal is how fake it is. Nobody is really offended, they're just pretending to be offended. Everyone knows what happened. Everyone knows Imus wasn't being malicious, and everyone knows the reaction is political.

Everyone comes on TV and talks about how offended they were and justifies their offense, and even people who think Imus is being crucified preface every statement of theirs with saying "he said an awful despicable thing." But nobody can actually say for sure that he said an awful despicable thing. Time Magazine has an article inspired by this scandal on the topic of "who owns words?". They can't figure out whether he has the right to use the word or not, so they hired a columnist to write their opinion on it, and the opinion is forced and the writer struggles through it.The issue isn't whether there's still a stigma in using slurs, as much as it is that the confusion at all in the first place on whether the slurs are stigmatized or not, takes away their definite meaning, and everything becomes political. The Imus scandal isn't a real event but a media event, a textbook example of what Baudrillard called hyperreality.

The Imus scandal has built up from many other media events, and a over time a script was written. You can expect that after maybe two weeks coverage of this, some talk show will have the topic "is the media covering this too much?" but will justify the coverage by saying its become an important issue, which they, of course, made important.

When the scandal with Ann Coulter was news, I had my own response, and someone who themselves hated Coulter suggested that I try to get it published, so I sent it to the New York Times, even knowing they would have some problems publishing it. Basically, I think Coulter is in a similar role to what H.L. Mencken was in a century ago, and her politics is just like shock art,
shock politics, people who get puffed up and shocked by her and take her seriously are the butt of her joke.

The thing about the recent pseudo-scandals with Coulter and Imus is that even though I don't like them or listen to them or encourage others to, or think they have good commentary, is that I think there's something wrong with how the intellectual reaction has been to them. The reaction should not be to buy into the media event, but attack it.

In defense of Ann Coulter

The punch line to Ann Coulter's humor is peoples' reaction to her.

If you actually go into Ann Coulter's actual political beliefs and her defenses for them, they're rather shallow, and often her jokes are also shallow. USA Today was right when they refused to publish one of her commentaries on the grounds that it was poor writing and incomprehensible; sometimes her jokes are so particularly tailored to her way of thinking, which itself is abstruse, that they aren't even understandable to anyone who doesn't know her.

But when Coulter touches a raw nerve of people whose political beliefs are completely spurious, the result can be comical. I didn't even get Ann Coulter's importance until I saw a news story of how when she spoke at a university, there was a mass of people outside holding signs and protesting her as a "bigot". I found myself laughing, because I realized that was the punch line to her joke. If anyone seriously believes she's a bigot, it reflects more on them than on her. The fact that these college students didn't know better--and are supposed to--and took her seriously, shows that they really have a shallow level of thinking.

Everything Coulter says she says half-jokingly. She has a serious point to everything she says, but would not seriously commit to the exact thing she suggests when she says them. For example, at one point she made some comment about how we should invade the Middle East and convert everyone there to Christianity. When asked about it she admitted "of course we shouldn't, of course we can't", but the serious point is that we should look seriously at whether there's anything fundamentally wrong with the Muslim religion, or fundamentally right with the Christian religion, and not brand everyone a bigot for suggesting there may be.

It's the same thing with her comments about John Edwards being a "faggot". This time, she was making fun of the fact, first, that anyone who speaks off-color like that is expected to go into rehab, because of the Victorian mentality where everyone enters a state of shock when they hear a word like "nigger". People who get shocked hearing "nigger" are like Victorians who got shocked when a woman revealed her legs. Both are not completely 'proper etiquette', but both are common in everyday life and not necessarily harmful. It's a similar case for "faggot". Except it's also a comment on how slurs like "gay" and "fag" that have no reference to homosexuality at all cause people to puff up in offense, call them a bigot, and say they're responsible for the death of some gay person who got dragged behind a car. The reason homosexuals were referred to as "gay" in the first place, was because the word "gay" started taking on a negative connotation before it had anything to do with them.

But part of the funny thing, is that the college students who protested her would think she was a bigot by the fact alone that she doesn't agree to gay marriage. They didn't need her to say things like "faggot" or make other half-serious remarks like that. Anyone who disagrees with their political cause is a bigot. But this, coupled with the fact that they can't really tell most of her comments aren't completely serious, is what drives and exposes their shallow thinking. The political activism involved is completely knee-jerk driven and defensive.

The more activist oriented college students pride themselves on being to be able to recognize and respect complex opinions and rhetoric. This is for instance their defense for supporting avant-garde or subversive literature or art. In a similar way, though, what Anne Coulter is doing is an avant-garde form of politics. Shock politics. Not much less than a cruder, more relevant, TV version of H.L. Mencken. If Marxist professors and activists can understand agit-prop, which was a constructed and controlled form of politics, they should be able to understand what Coulter is doing. But in a way that may not even matter, since, because they view Coulter as an opponent, they take her as a threat to be countered. Among people who realize what's happening, the defense is always, anyone who opposes any liberal politics--whether they're modest or militant--unconsciously or consciously reflects some sort of politics of bigotry, and will result in gay people being dragged from the back of cars. Or, on a different political issue, when anyone questions any settled facts on the Holocaust it will lead to a revival of the Third Reich, or some sort of 'softer, gentler' Third Reich, which is supposed to be the same thing. It's a kind of intellectual hysteria. A kind of hysteria they should recognize leads to the problems they're trying to avoid on the other side.

Even so most of her critics don't understand it this way, they don't understand the satire. They take her completely seriously, and don't understand that their reactions to her become the butt of her joke. The reason Coulter ends up so funny to some people is because she's both completely outrageous and harmless at the same time.

But college activists who don't understand her as a satirist but are so eager to defend subversive art, fit into the cliché that conservatives believe in that academia is controlled by political bias and indoctrination. Why do they understand to defend subversive art in that way? Because their professors taught them how to do it. Why don't they understand how Coulter can be defended? Because their professors didn't teach them how. When anyone involved in liberal politics claims that academia is dominated by liberal views because liberals are smarter, the right thing to ask them is "did your professor teach you that?"

Unfortunately, there is always politics involved in academia, and there always has been. There was politics involved in academia in the late 19th century, which revolutionary thinkers pegged as being controlled by 'bourgeois interests'. Those bourgeois interests in academia--referred to as "third rate professors" by some--are what H.L. Mencken took the great pleasure of shocking. The political interests in academia are no longer what we recognize as conservative, but liberal; which is a kind of conservativism all unto itself. Left-wing activists are certainly no less self-righteous than puritanical activists in 19th century America. That's the audience that Ann Coulter takes great pleasure in shocking. And unfortunately, in this environment, students interested in activism become political pawns. This is the main target of academic critics like John Horowitz, who propose all sorts of ham-handed and distastefully byzantine methods to try to readjust this. What Horowitz is right about is--looking at responses to him from established professors who discuss how they can best mould their students--is that academia, and education in general, should be treated as a service as much as an intellectual environment, and not intend to talk down to the students' beliefs.

That all said, Coulter doesn't add anything serious to the real meat of the political debate, and I don't know that she helps progress it at all. Her actual views, on grounds of argument really are shallow, but they do represent a contingent of people who really have legitimate perspectives to consider, some of which can argue for them much more intelligently. Postmodern schools of thought are supposed to respect this, but don't do much to, because they can't respect everything at once. When I watch Ann Coulter, I don't find her interesting or entertaining or compelling, because she doesn't really offer anything but insults. It's easy to dismiss that as gutter politics. But what she does do, from reactions, is expose how spurious people's political beliefs are. If anything, that helps reshape and broaden the dialogue. Just like the original goal of avant-garde art.

-- Brian Shapiro

6.2 - definitely felt that one

if you're in a rolley chair right now you can move yourself back and forth 8 to 10 inches, and pretend like it's just happening. I was seriously sitting here and my first thought was "booooyeeeeee, am I druh-onk." but i couldn't remember drinking anything. ha ha. Then i got scared and ran to the window, but nothing was happening, no car alarms.
I went to see if the neighbors were all outside, you know how folks love events like this. They must have all slept through it. Thank goodness.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

further ranting

Reporter calls candidate "prickly," then asks candidate to answer charges of prickliness. Now that's journalism! The campaign press will follow the same formula over and over again, just changing the word -- a candidate will be accused of being too liberal (Kerry), too cold (Hillary), too "lightweight" (Edwards), too "unserious" (Sharpton), etc., until he either cries uncle or drops out. Using this technique the press can basically bludgeon any candidate into whatever shape it likes. When a candidate fails to comply -- when, say, a Kerry fails to demonstrate that he's not too "patrician" for middle America -- he is summarily punished and usually ends up a loser.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

understanding the big peach

Josh Marshall, without supporting impeachment, puts the pieces together:

The Republican party is heavily invested in hyping and inventing claims of voter fraud which they then use to stymie legitimate voter registration drives and institute 'ballot integrity' efforts which have the actual goal of limiting voting by racial minorities and under-income voters. The truth can hurt but that's the unvarnished truth. And the backdrop to the US Attorney Purge was a concerted effort to enlist US Attorneys to put the power of the state criminal prosecution apparatus behind this partisan gambit.
The Republican party is a criminal organization. All of its remaining members know and support this course of action for the organization. The Democratic candidate that I, and this blog, will support is the candidate that will support burying that organization for good, in the dustbin, with long prison terms for everyone involved.

ugly woman cowboy

Sorry I really hate this mumbling bag of public relations wisdom.

Monday, April 09, 2007

racism and the whole freaking party

so i am thinking about politics and racism. Read this post at Eschaton, quoting Athenae.

It's an imposition, to not be a racist asshole. And it's hard on these guys, isn't it? It's so rough that they can no longer mock the women and the minorities and, I don't know, I guess you'd throw retard jokes in there, too, because they all seem to be about 12 years old. I don't know how any of them manage to feed and dress themselves with all that's been taken away from them.
Then take a look at what I thought was a brilliant summary by Hamsher about the Rudy thing. Now don't get me wrong. I don't really think Rudy can stand much more scrutiny, even if the whole rabid crowd gets behind him, they are only some 30%. But she's completely right that these people don't care about abortion as much as they want a good racist war. That's why they love them some W. What I think Hamsher left out were two crucial points:

1. Rudy is surround by criminals and no one cares about that (sound familiar?)

2. Even if the whatever rule says we can't refer to leaders without ovens as nazis, certainly by now we can conclude that there is something terribly wrong with people who feel so strongly for their precious leader when he has done nothing right and nothing for them except blow up, torture and murder brown people. The whole 1930s Germany thing seems less and less a mystery all the time. How I used to ponder and wonder about that dark time.

The poor dears really feel like they just gotta get somebody strong in there.

once i rode in an elevator with Al Sharpton

and i thought "that dude's got some screwed up hair." "Nappy" it is not. He did say hello to me. Nice enough guy, I thought. But what is with the retro mullet thing on this Imus idiot ? I mean, the guy proves everyday he has got nothing to say. He looks like some kind of racist hick scare-crow, or does he just look like one of those ambi-sexual kind of office women? And he is like a hero to those white-cap kids who live with their oh-so-devoted parents so they never have to think and high school goes on forever? Ugh no thanks.

Friday, April 06, 2007

talking to a naco about great art, part 2

So what makes it a one way conversation? It would seem to me that one of the key things that people learn on their long voyage to being "higher educated" is that most of the people asking questions are either stupid, un-educated, or of the wrong class to be asking questions. Which is really just a way of saying that those of us who are higher educated have merely learned that we will seem more highly educated if we keep our questions to ourselves, or we keep them to within the confines of a scientifically controlled, or corporate sponsored, environment where the answers an be quickly and effectively nullified. Of course, I'm still thinking of Gusky's post here as I write this.

The non-institutional artist, (i mean please, we meet ourselves all over the place), does not need to act in coordination with her tormenters the way that someone really climbing to the top of the shit-heap does. But she does enjoy the freedom of taking in information from where ever it happens to come, including from nacos and street-trash and hookers and kids with giant sneakers playing X-box. My suggestion, as was probably not obvious in the previous post, remains, that a curious, even hungry, working class is a better partner for a working artist than is a class of art professionals, graduate students and pretensia-speaking cell-phone flippers.

The reason it would seem to be a one way conversation is that we learned not only to not ask questions, but also to not really listen. Those climbing have their blinders firmly stretching not only across their eyes, but also extending backwards to their ears and down over their mouths. This might seem amusing if your idea of social commentary is telling everyone how helpless we are... but really, we are all well aware of that. Is our point to climb or is it to listen? Is the point of an artist to talk or is it to see? Wouldn't orchestrating the lot of those activities at once make more sense than coordinating one with an organization that is one way or another, directly or indirectly, taking money from the murder machine?

Photo is from the collection at Sinvention, Fine Canadian Leathercraft

Republicans now devouring the corpse of american capitalism

How else is one to read a story like this ? $12.7 billion net loss. What's another 28 million?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

talking to a naco about great art

art with nacos
I had someone tell me the other day that this is a one way conversation. Incidentally, "naco" might translate from the mexican to something like "trash" as a noun, or "tacky" as an adjective. Tacky is a bit more fair. The concept really comes into play when someone from a humble background tries to assert themself, or drives a louder car badly. There are correspondences to the "red-neck" jokes of some years ago in the country to the north. Nacos are about 90% of the Mexican population and 90% of Mexicans will deny being naco. As that last link notes, the term can seem extremely offensive, with perhaps a racial overtone. I use it cause I think it is ridiculous.

Because of circumstances, history, strength of the cutlure, whatever, just about everyone in Mexico has a voice and can speak for themselves. Mexico is not twisted by mind-warping racism like up north, so you get to hear a lot of opinions. I heard a friend say not long ago that he can go to the most lamest, working-classest, country style drunken party, with utter naco riff-raff. But towards the end of the evening everyone is singing 200 year old songs. Some of them might be crying, but everyone knows this song was written for a soldier during one of the intervenciones, and they will probably even know which one. I think there were technically three and maybe four ?

The point is, in Mexico, Mexico is something that nearly everyone shares and loves and discusses. You have to move pretty far up the socio-economic scale before you meet people who will really condemn aspects of brash commercialism, too many billboards and what-not. Otherwise, it is just Mexico.

And that same attitude allows everyone to express what they like and don't like. There is very little of the utter dismissal, none of the fly-over states' macho art-less-ness. And there seems to be a general acceptance that art is something good to talk about, that it is involved with taste, which is for some reason desparately lacking, and for that same reason, it is ill-understood. And this same person, (it would be supremely rude to call anyone a naco here, but how many have i talked to?) will hope that we are agreement. We probably are. Surealism, for whatever reason, has still not released it's hold on the working class imagination.

Then I think of trying to talk to the internationalist set (all 14 of them) about what it is they're into... success, public relations, museum shows, gallery tours. They don't like anything and are enthusiastic only about lifestyle things... cocaine and going to europe. And it seems to me much easier to discuss hanging a painting so it looks good with the guy holding a hammer than the dumb bitch on the phone with her travel agent. I am largely convinced that the guy holding the hammer understands it far better too. It is just a freaking painting and if he likes it he will say.

I wonder, though, if my conversations are one-way. Actual art establishment people won't usually speak to me, unless we are introduced for personal reasons in personal circumstances. They don't seem at all interested in art or the experience of it. They seem to think it is some monolith that is beyond their control. Like, "The Public Finance Insurance Industry" or something. "How to solve it's problems" By Tracy Artsuckowsky. Yale, 2004, PhD. There is nothing like an informed, interested, curious working class up there, is there ?