April 27, 2007
Speaking of Democrats...Setting Up the "Iraqi government" to take the blame.
As much as I like seeing the Bushies get kicked in teeth, the reigning rhetoric from the Democrats about the reasons for a withdrawal of troops is right in line with the idea that responsibility for fixing the mess has now been passed to a sovereign Iraqi government, and that a timetable is needed to pressure it into "stepping up" and those other ridiculous phrases. I happen to believe that the so-called Pottery Barn theory of you-broke-you-fix-it is essentially right and if the current strategy - even though it is the result of a totally illegal and immoral war for which our nation's leadership should be jailed - had a prayer of working, it should be continued until peace and stability are achieved. It's pretty obvious that the only route to this would be an internationally sanctioned and regionally comprised peace plan, with the US footing the bill. Since this is not happening, our presence is clearly only making things worse. I think the US rushed though Iraqi elections basically to have a fall guy for the inevitable failure, and I cannot forgive most mainstream Dems for falling right into this line of argument.
Cynical about the White House View of the Political Process
Yesterday's pronouncement from acting White House spokesperson Dana Perino was one of the more cynical things I've heard from this administration. The appropriate response should have been howls of derision, but so far the Democrats have been too polite for this kind of reaction. Perino suggested that since Congress knew Bush would veto a war spending bill with a timetable, they have an obligation to instead give him a bill he can sign. Say what? They have an obligation to vote their own consciences and the will of their constituents, in some ambiguous proportion. Letting Bush take the heat for a veto is not only permissible but exactly what I expect from my representatives.
April 23, 2007
Wikipedia & Virgina Tech
The New York Times today published the most positive piece on Wikipedia I think I've seen. It is impressive how a totally ad hoc community of editors and writers can come together to work so hard and quickly that they produce an article which becomes a main reference in climate of rapidly changing news. Looking through the last 500 changes, I saw a few cases of vandalism, but fewer than normal, it seemed to me.
Um, Dear Mr. President
George W. today said, "I strongly believe that politicians in Washington should not be telling generals how to do their jobs."
That would be civilian control of the military, and if you're strongly opposed to that, you should be impeached. Their words, anyway, suggest that if they knew then what they know now, Congress would never have voted to approve your illegal war in the first place, and this is as close as Congress can get to ending a war that was never officially declared. Besides, no one is telling generals how to do their job but rather whether to do their jobs. I.e., the power to declare war. Too bad you slept through your civics class.
April 13, 2007
This column in the L. A. Times this week was probably the best thing I read on the Don Imus "nappy-headed hos" incident. I don't share much of Constance Rice's admiration for him - I think he's an idiot - but she's right about the racist self-parody that is the hip-hop industry these days. This particular combination of "nappy" and "ho" is undeniably racist, out of anyone's mouth and in any context. Separately, however, they should make us think about the circulation of racial signifiers.
I could be off base here, but I know "nappy" almost exclusively through the literary and theatrical production of black women. I remember seeing on stage a warm, thoughtful monologue called "Nappy Edges" some years ago, for example. It is term of calm and grounded self-affirmation in the documentary A Question of Color. For me, at least, it has none of the historical racist effect of "woolly" or other such adjectives. As a white man, however, I often feel a sense that the highly visible and visually provocative performative genre that is contemporary black female hairstyle is off limits to me, as a white man, for comment or even notice. And it's difficult to imagine a context in which I would feel comfortable saying "nappy," outside of quotation marks, to describe anything but an old sweater!
"Ho," of course, is the stock-in-trade of rapper lyrics. Anyone who has seen the wonderful and disturbing history of images of blacks in American popular culture presented in Marlon Riggs' Ethnic Notions can't help but see the gangster rapper as just the latest awful stereotype linked to the deepest fears and anxieties in the American psyche.
It's conceivable that Imus was trying to pay a backhanded complement to an intimidating basketball team through an unfortunate amalgam of black feminist identity play and the images that black hip-hip artists sell to the public as a representation of African-American culture. Out of his mouth, probably not, and I'm not sorry to see him off the air, but analyzed as an intertextual moment in a complex web of racism, identity, and capitalism, Imus' sin is not so simple to understand and judge.