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Archive for October, 2011

The Ballad of Prick Erry

[ 31 ] October 25, 2011 |

Isn’t his clever, elaborate satire of George W. Bush beginning to lack subtlety?

See also this instance of him saying the quiet part loudly. Look, most of us understand that birtherism among Republican elites is about 1)demonstrating your asshole bona fides and 2)fleecing rubes, but you’re not supposed to say it.

Italy’s Northern League

[ 15 ] October 25, 2011 |

I know nothing about Italian politics, but this doesn’t look good:

lega nord

(This apparently translates as “Guess who’s last for housing, jobs, and health care?”)

The Northern League seems to waffle between advocating strong federalism and actual secession from Italy of the northern region it calls Padania, which is its name for what was once known as Cisalpine Gaul. It currently has 59 members (9.5% of the total membership) in the Chamber of Deputies.

Dayton!

[ 21 ] October 25, 2011 |

Matt Yglesias picks up the story about the ‘Welcome Dayton’ plan that’s been circulating since the AP picked up the story. A few comments:

1. The pictured establishment, Taqueria Mixteca, is an oasis in a vast taco wasteland. The quality of life here is substantially higher for it. (Similarly, Halal international foods in South Park, opened by an Iraqi immigrant, is a godsend in a part of town that doesn’t have a proper grocery store. I now have informed and strong views on the relative merits of Egyptian, Saudi, and Syrian-style fava beans.)

2. This sort of thing is, of course, the flipside to what’s going on in Alabama and other places. One of the many reasons immigration enforcement is likely to be ineffective is de facto immigration federalism.  Some cities choose the ‘sanctuary city’ route because that set of policies broadly reflects the political values of the majority of residents. That’s probably part of the story in Dayton, but the larger reason is that Dayton desperately needs people–to live in empty houses, open businesses in empty storefronts, shop at existing businesses, and so on. The world has plenty of people willing to give Dayton a shot, but nowhere near enough of them are currently authorized to do so. Declining revenues from property taxes contribute to inadequate public services, weak schools, and so on exert a continued downward pressure on the city. When restrictionists hold up the native low skill poor as those whose interests we’re protecting in our efforts to close borders, they’re ignoring those who still live in places like Dayton, and lack the resources to move to the suburbs, whose lives are made demonstrably worse by the downward trajectory of their city.

3. There are about 142K residents in this city, and it could easily accomodate twice that number. That’s a 14% decline since 2000. There are entire blocks in West Dayton being reclaimed by nature, Detroit style. But the economic situation in the Dayton Metro area is bad, but not uniquely so. The recent losses of the last GM plant and NCR were huge, but the presence of a fair number of colleges and universities, hospitals, and a huge Air Force Base that employs over 30 thousand people provide a buffer. The unemployment rate is only modestly worse than the national average. Like Detroit, however, the city has been almost entirely abandoned by anyone with options, many of whom are staggeringly indifferent to the fate of Dayton proper. Outside of a handful of small neighborhoods near the city center, beautiful historic homes in the city are basically free if they need any significant work. Part of this is poor governance on the part of the city (including a bafflingly and pointlessly hostile environment for small business, an issue that probably deserves its own post), weak schools, crime, and so on, part of it is about race, but a significant part of it the culture of suburban living in this region. At any rate, it’s pretty obviously good for the city and the region to have more immigrants move to this city, regardless of their official status.

Communication Breakdown?

[ 33 ] October 25, 2011 |

I’m not sure whether LaRussa’s explanation for why Motte wasn’t brought in is too implausible to be true or so implausible it has to be true. At any rate, even if the bad matchup against Napoli wasn’t his fault TonyLaRussaSuperGenius(TM) had an astoundingly bad game. Good for Verducci pointing out that the worst move of the inning was ordering Dotel (OBP v. RH: .198) to walk Cruz (OBP v. RH: .289) — maybe TLR saw Washington get away with so many irrational intentional walks that he wanted to up the ante. And even worse was the hit and run in the ninth, which probably resulted in not only one out and one lost baserunner but two outs — Pujols almost certainly doesn’t swing at a not-even-close 3-2 pitch without the need to protect the runner. Feliz had no command at all — but LaRussa parlayed what should have been bases loaded none out into a runner on first two out. Awful, awful work. Although in its own way it produced a terrific game.

Film Review: The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975

[ 4 ] October 25, 2011 |

Most of us have a strong impression of Black Power–dudes in sunglasses and afros holding big guns and talking about violence. That was the impression that a lot of left-leaning white people had at the time too. But Instead of something to disapprove of, it was admirable to a generation sick of Vietnam, colonialism, racism, and liberal promises.

The Black Power Mixtape is a Swedish film consisting of the massive footage shot by Swedish television crews of the American Black Power movement between 1967 and 1975. It does not attempt to tell a complete story of Black Power. The Swedish crews are openly a part of the film. And it tells a compelling story, not so much of the Black Power movement per se, but of both the white leftist fascination with radical anti-colonial movements during the period as well as of changes in urban black life during the period.

The film begins with Stokley Carmichael speaking. I watched it with a friend who is a historian of civil rights and he stated that you can’t understand Carmichael and the rise of the Black Panther Party without an in depth understanding of how he reached that radical point in the brutality of organizing Lowndes County, Alabama. All true, but then the Swedes probably didn’t understand that at the time. They saw a powerful black man speaking truth to power without much clarity of the details on the ground. And thus, the film is as much a fascinating look at the white radical infatuation with movements of color as Black Power itself. In the U.S., white radicals looked at black activists as almost gods, a scenario that reflected a long-standing white liberal obsession with authenticity and the truly heroic struggles of the civil rights movement, as well as causing many younger black activists to look at white allies with a measure of contempt. The European variant of this was somewhat different, with a greater focus on the broader anti-colonial movement. But the Algerian struggle, the PLO, and the Vietnamese especially fascinated Europeans with groups like Baader Meinhof bringing revolution to the home front. With the United States the great enemy of leftists around the world during the Vietnam War, the fascination with the two Americas, one white, privileged and increasingly Republican, the other black, poor, and oppressed is quite clear in the Swedish television productions used for the film.

The real power of the film is in the second half, when it moves away from a sort of greatest hits of Black Power and focuses on the changes in African-American life taking place after 1970. While much of the film consists of short clips, they linger for several minutes on an interview Swedish TV did with Angela Davis while she was in prison, consisting of her getting pretty angry and frustrated having to defend the idea of violence to the reporter. It then goes to Harlem, interviewing everyday people about their life. Drugs are taking over the community, the revolutionary spirit of Black Power is fading, and people are trying to survive in the impoverished and increasingly violent cities. This footage is incredibly powerful–a prostitute talking about how she ended up a heroin addict selling her body, the owner of a black bookstore talking about its importance to the community, a drug dealer being interviewed about why he’s doing it–these stories elucidate why Black Power developed and the immense challenges it faced even before being declared an enemy of the American state. The new response was Louis Farrakhan and the rejuvenated Nation of Islam. The film includes a lengthy clip of a Farrakhan speech, with the historian Robin Kelley explaining how Farrakhan took over NOI and how its self-discipline was a response to the new realities of the declining 70s black city. This is one of the film’s strongest point, in no small part because Kelley provides a bit of context lacking in other parts of the film to help us understand Farrakhan’s importance.

The film provides little context for the footage, rather preferring to play it raw with voice-overs from present-day people discussing its meaning, usually what it means to them in the present, though Angela Davis and Robin Kelleyparticipate. This can be something of a problem. For example, it includes footage of Elaine Brown answering questions about the Black Panthers moving back to their roots, but provides no context of what is actually happening there–the Panthers had retrenched from their national and international focus in the face of police violence and were returning to organizing the Oakland community. It also doesn’t explain who Elaine Brown is and in fact, you really need to bring some basic knowledge of the Black Power movement to the film in order to have a clear sense of what’s going on. We can question the value of the Voice of God narrator, a style with many problems, but I couldn’t really show this film in a class on civil rights until the very end, when the students would have a semester to understand what is going on.

Overall, this is not a film without problems, particularly the lack of context and the requirement that the viewer bring some basic knowledge to the table. But the footage is incredible. It’s a thought-provoking film that will cause you to reconsider some of what you believe about Black Power and that will break your heart at the end as you see black urban life slide into the drug epidemic of the 70s and 80s.

For the Record

[ 69 ] October 24, 2011 |

Every time God Bless America is played during the seventh inning stretch the terrorists score a major victory.

Also, bases-empty intentional walks — even to hitters as great as Pujols and Cabrera — are nuts.

…I’m rooting for Cards, but it’s still gratifying to see a dumb IW blow up all over a manager. And Mike Scioscia edges closer to being MVP of the World Series…

…figures that the same week I post a vigorous defense of Tony LaRussa he screws up a World Series game 11 ways from Sunday. That ninth inning hit and run — without which the Cards very likely have bases loaded none out — was Don Zimmer caliber work. And poor Bobby Cox is still getting static for moves in the ’85 ALCS that were defensible and had no impact on the outcome of the game…

No Words…

[ 40 ] October 24, 2011 |

I post this only because it’s probably illegal not to:

But hey, Robert Stacy McCain remains confident.

No Pie-Eating People Can Ever Be Permanently Vanquished

[ 44 ] October 24, 2011 |

You’ve heard of racial determinism. But have you ever seen racial determinism combined with pie? I thought not. This 1902 New York Times article about the relationship between pie and national success will fill this gap in your knowledge. Among other things, it not only makes the statement used in the title of this post, but also asserts that the reason for the lack of British military success in South Africa comes from not supplying soldiers even with tart, not to mention full-fledged pie. It also seems that the decline of large slices of pie into the lame small tart originate with “the pernicious influence of the shopkeeping element,” and that our country is defined by its amazing pie, with each season bringing its own deliciousness.

Update: Unlike many readers, the link works for me, so I’m not sure what’s up. But I’ve included an image of the article itself:

Our aviator jackets for women and classic leather jacket provide a real star look to plus size trench coat. Beside this we carry a wide variety of best motorcycle jacket and motorcycle gear for women.

Radiation is Our Friend

[ 21 ] October 24, 2011 |

The latest in Ethan Persoff’s fantastic series of social issue related comic books is out, this time a piece of propaganda from the Canadian nuclear power industry. I don’t know that it’s as awesome as the comic celebrating George Wallace as a segregationist hero, but it’s still worth a read.

Also, I don’t know why the first words of this post are up near the image. I can’t seem to fix it, even if I put more spaces between the image and the text. Sorry for being such a technological moron.

Holy Terror, Frank Miller!

[ 58 ] October 24, 2011 |

In 2006, Frank Miller announced a forthcoming publication called Holy Terror, Batman! in which the Dark Knight would go to Afghanistan and get in a fistfight with Osama bin Laden. He claimed it would hark back to an earlier era in comics history when, for example, Superman would marshal his many powers to annoy Hitler:

Superman vs Nazi

All well and good, except DC didn’t think the Batman brand would be enhanced by being aggressively associated with the worst elements of the Bush administration, and so the world was spared Holy Terror, Batman! Until a few weeks ago, that is, when Miller published Holy Terror, a book about a Batman-type vigilante who teams with a Catwoman-type theif and a Commissioner Gordon-type chief to defeat a series of terrorist attacks against a Gotham-type Empire City. (Miller’s roman à clef is so obvious I believe DC might be able to sue for copyright infringement.) Let me begin by warning you:

This book is more terrible than I’m leading you to believe it is. It’s Batman as written by Pam Geller after she and Glenn Reynolds split a box of wine. Only worse. Where the art isn’t muddled it’s obscured by a dense bank of unnecessary Eisner spritz. Human proportions—especially female proportions—remind anyone who may’ve forgotten of his directions to Jim Lee on All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder:

Read more…

Less human than human.

[ 26 ] October 24, 2011 |

Alyssa’s post on the sentimental core of Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman is spot on:

I was surprised by how incredibly sweet the comic is. I wasn’t really expecting that. The basic premise, for those not in the know, is Lex Luthor finds a way to essentially give Superman fast-developing cancer, leaving Superman to do a lot of bucket-list things: give Lois Lane the chance to experience his powers for the day; nail one last scoop for the Daily Planet; go back and visit the grave of Jonathan Kent, his adopted father; save the world one last time.

However, the hallmarks of Morrison’s work, according to renowned comic scholar (and Alyssa’s occasional interlocutor) Douglas Wolk, are:

reality-bending metaphysical freakouts dressed up in action-adventure drag; metaphors that make visible the process by which language creates an image that in turn becomes narrative; a touch of feel-good self-improvement rhetoric; faith in the the power of pop and popularity to do magic; and skinny bald men who are stand-ins for Morrison himself, heroically conquering sadness and making the world evolve. (Reading Comics 258)

If those two descriptions seem at odds, that’s because they are. Morrison is a talented but unintegrated artist. What do I mean? He can be as aggressively annoying as Wolk’s flattering account of him suggests. Incorporating proxies of himself into narratives about the nature of narratives and claiming that magic makes these metaphorical selves visible? That is, to quote my advisor, pure “postmodern gee-whiz wankery.” It’s cleverness for the sake of being hailed as King Clever, and it grates on my every last nerve because it’s so clinical and intellectualized.

AND YET.

I came to graduate school to study the works of James Joyce, whose complex wankery far outstrips anything Morrison’s attempted, much less accomplished. So why does Morrison bother me in a manner Joyce doesn’t? The short answer is that, at his best, Morrison doesn’t bother me at all. When is he at his best? As Alyssa notes, it’s when he’s stripped a story to its emotional core and presented its complexities not as worthy subjects in and of themselves, but as natural consequences of a human narrative. Of course, the protagonists of these “human” narratives are rarely human: in All-Star Superman, it’s Superman; in We3, it’s a trio of weaponized house-pets.

That is to say: Morrison seems to have a problem elevating actual humans to a position worthy of simple human sympathy. A kidnapped pet or an orphaned alien are worthy of sympathy because they aspire to be more than their outsider status allows them to be. But an average human being? He or she is what he or she is—short of a magical authorial intervention that’s as likely to land him or her in Sade’s castle as provide anything resembling hope or help. The only transcendence average people can acquire is by proxy, e.g. Lois’s “acquisition” of Superman’s powers on her birthday.

In short, I don’t find in Morrison much in the way of human sympathy for ordinary humans. This is where—their shared love of verbal and narrative pyrotechnics aside—I find Morrison lacking what Joyce possessed in abundance: because behind the modernist wankery that is Ulysses is a simple story about a man dealing (poorly) with a crisis he knew was coming but couldn’t avert. It’s a powerful story because of its fundamental humanity, not, as would be the case with Morrison, despite it.

 

Worst. Ombudsman. Ever.

[ 59 ] October 24, 2011 |

Shorter Patrick Pexton: “Our perfectly accurate story about the Koch Brothers did not include enough Koch press releases recycled by conservative hacks.”

More here.

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