Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Race in the Twenty-First Century

Don't worry, this isn't a 698 page treatise full of data and confusing charts.  Its just a series of posts related to the recent spate of racial news and controversy in America.   Most recently , we have Donald Sterling, but before that there was Cliven Bundy, the Supreme Court affirmative action and voting rights decisions, George Zimmerman's acquittal and various lesser controversies like Duck Dynasty and Paula Dean (whose name I had forgotten, but luckily if  you google "fat racist southern chef" she comes up #1 in the results...and 2-100 also).  All this against the backdrop of our first black president and all the backlash that's entailed.  So since I bitch about it all the time, I decided to type out some thoughts more formally than my standard IM or facebook rants.

Many people, often well meaning (though sometimes not and invariably white), cite Obama's election as proof of a post racial, post-racism america.   Or at the very least, proof that despite individual racists, there is no longer systemic racism that affects minorities.  I think there's a few indications in these high profile cases showing why that's not true.  But let's start with Sterling.  One of the things that struck me in his recorded conversation is his sense of entitlement and moreover of aristocratic nobility.
I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them?Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? 
What has been termed his "plantation mentality" is striking in this quote.  He feels he's giving his employees everything and they should all be grateful.  They don't work for him and make an equitable trade of their skills and effort for a fair wage. He's GIVING them something they really don't deserve and should be grateful for it.  Of course this attitude isn't limited to racists and I imagine many of the ultra-rich feel the same way about all us plebeian serfs, but I digress.   In this case, Sterling has made it clear he's talking about African Americans in particular.  The second thing, which is more significant to the idea of systemic American racism, is who exactly Sterling is talking about.  Not some poor, uneducated nobodies (which is just as bad, but carries different implications) but wealthy, famous athletes including Magic Johnson.  This American icon, entrepreneur and wealthy man isn't welcome to even attend Clippers game because he is black.  And in a sports league that leads the way in minority players, coaches and administrative staff, the NBA still has 98% white majority ownership of teams, with the only exception being Michael Jordan.  So when people point to Obama and other successful African Americans to argue racism is a thing of the past remember that the truly rich and powerful in the US (including every other past President) remain almost exclusively white men.  And at least one, and I expect many, are still racists who regard non-whites as inferior serfs.

to be continued....

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chris Christie: From GOP Presidential Favorite to Federal Corruption Indictment Favorite

The bigger the are, the harder they fall (pun most definitely intended).  The power, fame, corruption and just plain meanness Chris Christie used to advance his career and crush his enemies is exactly what makes so
many people eager to pounce now that he's weakened and exposed.  This isn't to say the multiple ongoing investigations are merely political witch hunts, merely that he's made himself very alluring target for very legitimate investigation.   I reserve judgement on his guilt (though if pressed I'd say the corruption runs deep and wide in his administration, with his full knowledge and endorsement), but there are several things that indicate Christie knows he's in huge trouble.

First off, there's the Christie million dollar "investigation" by his handpicked law firm.  The fact that he felt the need to do this means he was very worried about the real investigation by the US Attorney and to a lesser extent the NJ legislature.  Beyond that, the investigative report itself was so fawning that it read like Governor Christie erotic fan fiction, complete with its very own torrid affair and jilted lovers.  And within this legal fellating, by Randy maestro et al., they were still forced to admit Wildstein claims to have told Christie about the lane closings while the were ongoing in direct contradiction to Christie previous statements.  And they don't say Wildstein is lying, but just that Christie can't recall it happening.  Sure.  The whole million plus dollar, tax payer funded, report was nothing more that propaganda to discredit Christie's enemies and likely future prosecution witnesses; in particular David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly.

Which brings me to point two.  There seem to be at least two key players who can discredit the Governor's story and do so with both testimony and documents, Kelly and Wildstein.  This being the case, I fiound it immediately odd that Christie wasted no time in throwing them  under the bus in the most crass, dickish ways possible.  To paraphrase, Wildstein was a high school nerd who Christie barely knew because he was probably in math club or band while Christie was playing football and banging cheerleader or whatever.  In any case Christie certainly had no idea what Wildstein was doing and the Port Authority and whatever he did was extremely stupid and he's fired so lets move one!  This all despite the fact the Christie and Wildstein were long time allies and Christie created the the job specifically for Wildstein to be his political enforcer at the Port Authority.

Christie gave pretty much the same treatment to Bridget Kelly except he threw in a little "she's a nutty little slut who probably having her lady time and she cries a bunch".  Even Christie apologist Joe Scarborough was appalled by this point.  And now Wildstein in in talks with the US Attorney, and I can't imagine Kelly's far behind (you want to be the first to flip not the last to get any kind of bargaining power for immunity).  So the puzzling thing is why would Christie throw two of the people with the most power to hurt him under the bus almost immediately after things heated up.  I can only imagine its because he knew they'd talk and he knew he was going to be implicated by it.  For him to know they'd talk means he must have known they committed crimes and would be forced to make a deal or face criminal prosecution and likely prison.  That immediately means he's been lying and is culpable as well.   But furthermore, it likely means Christie believes their cooperation will be enough to get him prosecuted as well.  Hence his desperation to smear them both and undermine their credibility for a jury.

And just as a quick addendum, here's an excerpt from a DailyBeast article about Christie's legal problems:
Being targeted by the Feds, Smith recalled, is “the closest that a human being in modern times [is going] to get to feeling what it was like when man lived in the wild and was hunted.” There are probably, Smith said, “ten people who have spent the last three months doing nothing but focusing on any criminality that [Christie’s] engaged in, or that people close to him have engaged in. Ten people who wake up everyday and have a map in their office—a map of people—that all lead back to him. And their goals to figure out a way to connect those dots until it gets back to him.”