Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Shed No Tears

The moment Ted Cruz announced he was suspending his campaign for President, one audience member yelled "You’re a great man, Ted!"

Across the country, many- even dozens of- people held that same sentiment. Perhaps.

Cruz continually cites Ronald Reagan but he lacks not only his hero's malleable commitment to principle but also the ex-President's personal touch, primarily an inability to fake authenticity. Salon's Gary Legum recognizes  

Cruz had the mechanics of running a presidential campaign down cold. But Republican voters didn’t want an “authentic” conservative who probably has well-worn flash cards he used to memorize every policy position that an intern pulled from the #tcot hashtag on Twitter. They want an authentic human being, and that is where Trump, with his improvised speeches, his insults, his rough outer-borough accent, his entire gestalt, had Cruz easily beaten. Even if Trump is just playing the part, he’s a hell of a better actor than the senator from Texas.

In other words, Ted Cruz could not out-bullshit a genuine bullshitter. That reality is finally breaking through to him this week. It would be sad to watch, if he hadn’t engendered enough disgust to make it enjoyable.

For those of us reluctant to see the nation lurch dramatically rightward, it could only have been enjoyable.  As Legum puts it, "With Cruz, no myth was too outlandish or ridiculous to be stated as fact to his audiences. (That he is losing to a conspiracy theorist like Trump only makes this more hilarious.)"  The country is much better off without him, even though as a U.S. Senator he will continue to try to wreak havoc.

"No myth was too outlandish," like the inference that he was following in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.   "Even from a Montgomery jail." the Texas Senator said last night, "our voice for justice and equality rings out for the ages. America is hopeful, optimistic."

Even from a Montgomery jail he pleads, in an outlandish case of chutzpah, or gall. Reverend King lost his life on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had traveled to join unionized sanitation workers on strike.  "Our needs are labor's needs," he declared in 1961. Both observant and prescient, he added "those who in the second half of the nineteenth century could not tolerate organized labor have had a rebirth of power and seek to regain the despotism of that era while retaining the wealth and privileges of the twentieth century."

It is now the twenty-first century and there still are individuals who seek to concentrate wealth and privileges in the hands of a few. Among them are Ted Cruz, who a mere five weeks ago praised Governor Scott Walker's union busting, including euphemistically, ridiculously named "right-to-work" laws, such as the one Walker is responsible for in Wisconsin. Such an approach, Cruz threatened, "is exactly what we need to do in Washington."

So we are done with carpet-bombing Ted in the Executive branch, at least for now, and for everyone not among the elite who rule society atop their perch of extreme wealth, that is an unmitigated blessing.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Distinction Without A Difference

Richard Pyor is dead- literally and figuratively, and it's unfortunate on both counts.

Salon's Chauncey DeVega, praising the "beautiful and wondrous" moment of Larry Wilmore's routine, believes "the last correspondents’ dinner of Obama’s two terms was a fitting end to a landmark presidency as a president of the United States who happens to be black was accompanied by a comedian who is unapologetically black and together they played with, subverted, and mocked the White Gaze."

He is referring especially to the end of the speech in which Wilmore commented

Thank you for being a good sport, Mr. President, but all jokes aside, let me just say how much it means for me to be here tonight. I’ve always joked that I voted for the president because he’s black. And people say, “Well, do you agree with his policies?” And I always said, “I agree with the policy that he’s black.” I said, “As long as he keeps being black, I’m good.” They’d say, “What about Iraq?” “Is he still black?”

Stop right there, Larry. That's reasonably funny and point well-made.  Don't do it, Larry- don't do it! No such luck.  He continued

But behind that joke is a humble appreciation for the historical implications for what your presidency means.

When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team — and now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world.

Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President, if i’m going to keep it 100: Yo, Barry, you did it, my n—-. You did it.

Thank you very much, good night!

On Monday's Nightly Show, Wilmore slammed Pierce Morgan because "he quoted me as saying 'yo, Barry,you did it my n***er!'"   Wilmore maintained "Piers, you did not properly conjugate that slur." He continued "'N***er' is what white people use to denigrate, demean, and dehumanize black people" (point deserved for alliteration). Rather, "'n***ah' is a term of endearment that some black people use between each other to take back that power."

To take back that power. How has that worked so far for black people, Larry? For any of us, a few random David Duke(s) aside?

President Obama clearly was not unhappy with Wilmore's remark, nor was it much out of the mainstream at an annual event characterized far more by great humor than for good taste or inoffensiveness.  Still, "it's an ugly thing and I hope someday they give it up," Richard Pryor once famously said.  Pryor considered the word- in DeVega's phrasing- "the ugliest word in the English language."

And so DeVega is wrong in labeling "n***ag" the "linguistic cousin of 'n***er'." It is not the linguistic cousin- it is the twin brother. Rationalizing its as one used by blacks "to take back that power" is unexplained, unhelpful, and unwise.  It is a stark, raving example of a double standard. Wilmore hasn't taken back the power (whatever that is supposed to mean) and instead, by refusing to own up to what he said, has done his little bit to legitimize use of the term he recognizes as ugly when used by whites.

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Monday, May 02, 2016

That Old Time Segregation

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the commencement speech on April 30 at the University of Michigan and

"The fact that some university boards and administrations now bow to pressure and shield students from these ideas through 'safe spaces,' 'code words' and 'trigger warnings' is, in my view, a terrible mistake," Bloomberg said, drawing a smattering of boos and some applause.

Bloomberg remarked that college's "whole purpose" is "to learn how to deal with difficult situations — not to run away from them."

"A microaggression is exactly that: micro," he said. "And one of the most dangerous places on a college campus is a safe space, because it creates the false impression that we can isolate ourselves from those who hold different views."

"We can't, and we shouldn't, try — not in politics and not in the workplace," he said.

Perhaps when a guy is extraordinarily wealthy he is free to say what ought to be said, immediate reaction be damned.

Hopefully, politicians and potential benefactors everywhere will heed his warning against isolating ourselves from those who hold different views- as we should avoid isolating ourselves from those who are different than we are.

Unfortunately- and probably unknowingly- Bloomberg was singing a different tune when four years ago he bragged at a meeting of the US Conference of Mayors

Over the past decade, thanks to leadership of so many of these mayors and others, the number of students enrolled in charter schools has more than tripled – and I’m proud to say a good portion of that growth has come in New York City.

We’ve opened 139 new charter schools in our city, and we’ve created more than 500 new small schools, non-charters, but ones that give parents of kids top-quality options.

Options they are, not unlike the private academies set up by white parents in the American south after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education outlawed public school segregation.  As a Prince Edward County, Virginia newspaper publisher put it in 1959, "We are working [on] a scheme in which we will abandon public schools, sell the buildings to our corporation, reopen as privately operated schools with tuition grants from [Virginia] and P.E. county as the basic financial program."

The spirit and the letter of  the law has evolved and today applies to the charter school movement. The ghost of Alabama governor George C. Wallace- "segregation today, segregation, tomorrow, and segregation forever"- lives on.  In a statement announcing its complaint filed with the US Department of Education, the Delaware branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Community Legal Aid Society in December, 2014 noted of charter schools' admission policies

These requirements include high examination scores, essays written by parents to explain why a school is a good choice for their child, access to gifted and talented elementary and middle school programs that help increase academic performance, annual activities fees, mandatory parent involvement and mandatory high-cost uniform purchases.  Such barriers prevent students from low-income African-American and Hispanic families from having the same access to high-quality charter schools that middle- and upper-class families have.

In its focus on the Constitution and the law, the ACLU misses one additional  facet of such schools. Many charter schools practice not only de facto racial segregation but de jure gender segregation. Separation by gender is more difficult to challenge legally but, in the end, is still segregation.

One must "learn how to deal with difficult situations- not to run away from them," Michael Bloomberg argues.  Sometimes that difficult situation is learning in an environment which- horror!- includes youngsters of the opposite sex. Word has it that boys and girls often inhabit the same workplace as young adults. They may as well get used to it.

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