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Category: General

The Meaningless of the Term “Latino”

[ 95 ] June 14, 2012 |

Jamelle Bouie has an excellent article arguing that progressives’ dreams of a demographic majority with the rise of the Latino population is a chimera. Progressives have a vision that endless Republican racism will combine with the growth of people from Latin America to propel a rejuvenated Democratic Party into a period of dominance. That’s pretty problematic, as Jamelle shows. There’s no question that the majority of peoples from Latin America will remain Democrats for the time being, but the future is murky. First, there are plenty of Latinos who are already Republican or who might be if the current iteration of the Republican Party wasn’t dominated by mouth-breathing white supremacists. Second, there’s no guarantee that Republicans will continue to be the white man’s party three and four decades down the line, although this is possible. The most likely possibility is that certain sections of the Latino population will simply become white and accepted into the a modified Republican narrative about race, class, and America.

This has profound implications. If whites are the “mainstream” of American life, with overwhelming representation in politics, business, and culture, then intermarriage with Latinos and Asians has the potential to bring those groups into the mainstream as well. Put another way, the wildly popular comedian Louis C.K. is understood to be white, even though his father and grandfather are Mexican and his first language is Spanish. More important, his children will be perceived as white, despite their Latino heritage. In effect, C.K. and others like him are expanding the definition of “white.”

To Pantoja, this bears a strong resemblance to the pattern of the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the U.S. saw massive immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. “Latinos seem to be on a similar trajectory as Italians,” he says. “At the turn of the century, the Italians were seen as a stigmatized minority group that could not be assimilated into the American mainstream.” It was common to describe Italians as “dark,” “swarthy,” and—in language that also has characterized African Americans—prone to crime and poverty. But as Italians rose out of working-class professions and joined a burgeoning middle class, they and other “nonwhite” immigrants assimilated. Eventually, the New Deal, along with unions, service in World War II, and the G.I. Bill, brought Italians fully into American life.

The politics of Italian Americans changed with their shifting status. As the party most identified with immigrants, Democrats gained an early lead with Italian Americans; they formed a key part in Franklin Roosevelt’s victorious coalition and proved crucial to Democratic successes through the 1960s. But as Italians became fully assimilated, and Democrats championed the rights of racial minorities and women’s rights, the balance shifted. By the 1980s, Italians would join most white Americans in voting Republican.

A similar path might emerge for Latinos. Initially outsiders, they form a bond with the political party that most identifies with their concerns. As they move into the mainstream, those concerns become less salient, and their political preferences become identical to those of whites’—less dependent on their racial or ethnic traits than on factors like education, wealth, and geography.

Yes indeed. Many ethnic groups have become “white” over the centuries–Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, etc. Each of these groups was seen as suspicious upon their arrival to the U.S. and found shelter within a more welcoming Democratic Party. Eventually, each became broadly seen as white and at that point, various other factors helped drive them to a greater or lesser extent into the two political parties. There is no reason this won’t happen for broad sections of the Latino population.

And that gets to another issue: that the term “Latino” has almost no value. What do Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans, and Mexicans have in common? For that matter, one can ask what Spanish-speaking Mexicans from Durango have in common with Mixtec or Zapotec-speaking Mexicans from Oaxacans, a group that makes a up a major chunk of Mexican migration in some areas of the United States? Not a whole lot, sometimes not even language. It’s really rather insulting; it’s like saying that all the immigrants from eastern and southern Europe in the 1910s were the same thing. And maybe a lot of Americans saw them that way, but we know now that was pretty racist.

Terminology around race is tricky. My understanding of Latino is that it came out of immigrant political activism in the 80s and 90s as a way to get around the more offensive “Hispanic,” although I could be wrong about some of the details. But as the Latin American population has grown, the term has served as an easy way for “whites” to talk about this growing group of immigrants without paying much attention to the particulars. It has covered up the incredible diversity of peoples entering the United States from the south and blocked understanding of how immigration is changing the United States. We’d be better off getting rid of it and instead start talking about Mexican voters and Guatemalan voters and Colombian voters. They aren’t the same now and they certainly won’t be the same when some of them start becoming white and others don’t.


Catfood For Everyone!

[ 53 ] June 14, 2012 |

Shorter Matt Miller: “Things are really bad for young people today. And yet our two-party duopoly resists the obvious solution: slashing Social Security and Medicare for current seniors as well as future ones. Because there’s nothing that would improve the prospects of a couple with 300K of student loan debt and bad, insecure jobs than having to financially support their parents after they move into their basement.”

Henry Hill, 1943-2012

[ 20 ] June 14, 2012 |

Enigmatic?  No:

He yearned, he sometimes said, to be other than what he was. “I wish I could be more like normal people — like these people here,” he told The Yakima Herald-Republic of Washington in 2003, indicating passers-by in Leavenworth, Wash., his hometown of the moment. “I don’t know how.”

Which perhaps explains why he was excellent material for an excellent film.  And the punchline:

But Mr. Hill did manage to find time for ordinary pleasures. As he often said, he never missed an episode of “The Sopranos.”


Bloomberg TV on law graduate debt and the broader economic crisis

[ 8 ] June 13, 2012 |

What did W. ever do to Joffrey?

[ 64 ] June 13, 2012 |

Apparently something:

As you well know, I’m opposed to violent rhetoric on principle and should be offended, but honestly? A second-long Easter egg that no one notices until the producers point it out in the DVD commentary doesn’t really qualify as a pointed rhetorical statement. Not that it won’t be spun into one as soon as someone emails that link to Jonah Goldberg or Jeff Goldstein—both of whom will point out that it’d be considered both violent and racist if it were Obama’s head—but it’s still an Easter egg, which by definition limits its appeal to the Bush-hating, Martin-loving, DVD-commentary-watching crowd, which likely numbers in the tens.

That said, I don’t buy the producers’ claim that it wasn’t “a choice [or] a political statement. We just had to use whatever head we had around.” The scenes in King’s Landing were filmed in Malta, so I find it difficult to believe they happened to have a plastic replica of W.’s head just lying around. Unless there’s a booming Maltese trade in eerily life-like effigies of which I’m unaware, that Easter egg was planted there purposely.

Rhetoric aside, there’s all sorts of fun to be had with this, including (but not limited to) questions such as “What’s the sigil of House Bush?” I contend it’d be this:

A root-rotten shrub surrounded by all the weapons of mass destruction W. found in Iraq. Feel free to offer your own suggestions in the comments.

Our Long National Setting of Money on Fire Is Over

[ 25 ] June 13, 2012 |

Fortunately, John Edwards will not be re-tried. It would be better had he not been tried at all, given the weakeness of the initial case, but better than nothing.

Now, if we could only have applied the same logic
to the Roger Clemens steroid witch hunt…

I Think Jamie Dimon Should Become Secretary of Education

[ 117 ] June 13, 2012 |

My good friend Michelle Rhee is at it again:

Rhee, the former Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools and Founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, told the capacity crowd that businesses evaluate their employees based on rigorous standards and public schools should too. Rhee was the keynote speaker at the Team Pennsylvania Foundation and Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored Education Summit.

“I guarantee you don’t run your businesses anything like the way our public schools run their organizations,” Rhee said. “So the question is, ‘do we have the wherewithal to make the incredibly difficult decisions on behalf of our children, and the answer is, ‘no, we have not been willing to make those decisions’.”

Rhee said changing the education system is not easy, adding a teachers union in another state recently called their new evaluation program “suspicious” and “punitive to all teachers.”

I think it’s an excellent idea to run our schools like we run our businesses. I very much support the people who created a half-decade and counting economic decline while nearly creating a second Great Depression being in charge of American education. I mean, when someone completely fails in business, they are always punished. Just ask Jamie Dimon!

And when business has gotten involved in higher education, nothing bad has ever happened. Not only is the for-profit college industry strictly honest but they graduate students at rates unheard of by traditional schools!

If only our teacher unions would get out of the way, we could let Bernie Madoff invest our education funding from prison. Stupid organized labor….

Wrap Yourself in the Flag, Because the GOP Always Puts the Soldiers First!

[ 9 ] June 13, 2012 |

Republicans truly do care about our troops…..

Republican Senators John McCain, Scott Brown, and Susan Collins all support an effort by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, to expand abortion access for military women who are raped. But despite bipartisan support in the Senate, Shaheen’s proposal may not make it into the final version of the 2013 defense authorization bill—because House Republicans oppose it.

If Shaheen’s measure passes, military families will finally have the same access to abortion that other federal employees already receive. Unlike the rest of the federal government, the Department of Defense currently only provides abortion coverage if the life of the mother is at stake. Under current law, if a State Department employee is raped, her government health insurance plan will pay for an abortion if she wants one. But if an Army medic serving in Afghanistan is raped and becomes pregnant, she can’t use her military health plan to pay for an abortion. If she does decide to get an abortion, she will have to pay for it with her own money. And if she can’t prove she was raped—which is difficult before an investigation is completed—she may have to look for services off base, which can be dangerous or impossible in many parts of the world.

Of course, if we stop our male soldiers from raping the women they work with, how will they learn how to subdue foreign peoples!

They Make Their Entrance One By One, Defenders Of That Way of Life

[ 43 ] June 13, 2012 |

Is it possible to have a takedown of Bobo that rivals Pierce’s? Happily, yes:

DAVID BROOKS: Okay, so our act starts with us inflating a giant internet bubble. Then that collapses, taking the country’s economy with it, just as we massively cut taxes on millionaires because, we say, if we don’t the government will have too much money. Right after that we blow off warnings about terrorism and let 3,000 Americans get slaughtered. We use that as a chance to lie the U.S. into invading a country that had nothing to do with the attack, killing hundreds of thousands of people and turning millions into refugees. In the middle of all that we borrow torture techniques from the Inquisition and use them on people in secret sites around the planet. Then we make billions off another financial bubble, the biggest in human history, and do nothing as it collapses, plunging the world into the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression. To fix that we open up the national bank vault and shovel out money as fast as possible to all the criminals who made it happen in the first place. Then—as the amazing finale—we refuse to prosecute anyone for that, for the war, or for torture, and we start killing U.S. citizens with flying death robots.


AGENT: …That’s a hell of an act. What do you call it?

DAVID BROOKS: The Aristocrats!

I guess Schwarz has a followership problem.


It’s Like, How Much More Bai Could This Be?

[ 28 ] June 13, 2012 |

And the answer is…none. None more Bai.

The two key points in the takedown of Kerrey/Bai:

“Entitlement” or “entitlements” are mentioned four times in the piece. “Debt,” as in the federal government debt, not consumer debt, is mentioned four times. This is because Kerrey believes, and Bai clearly agrees, that America’s most pressing crisis is the federal deficit, and the way to fix it is “entitlement reform.” The word “job” shows up once, when Kerrey says the Obama administration “did a terrible job” selling healthcare reform. “Unemployment” is not mentioned.


We are supposed to find this anecdote charming, I think. The problem is that Bob Kerry is full of shit. The fact that he is full of shit — that he believes a popular fiction — is not deemed worthy of comment. But he’s spreading misinformation designed to scare people into supporting policies that aren’t necessary but that are popular among rich, moderate elite politicos like Bob Kerrey. This lady’s son isn’t screwed. If he reaches retirement age 40 years from now, and no one has done anything to fix Social Security because Bob Kerry lost his election in 2012, the program will be able to pay him 75 percent of scheduled benefits. Crisis! Unless we just raise the payroll tax cap and/or slightly raise the tax rate and/or adjust the inflation calculation and/or maybe raise the retirement age one year. Or some other combination of small, decidedly minor fixes that require a “grand bargain” only if the people in charge of the bargaining actually have, as their actual goal, the dismantling of Social Security as it currently exists.

I’m also amused by Kerrey’s suggestion that making political parties illegal would make Congress less dysfunctional.

How to be A Hack

[ 65 ] June 13, 2012 |

Breaking! Obama’s support among African-Americans cratering in North Carolina! It will be a Mittens landslide!

Jim Williams, a polling analyst at PPP, said it could be “statistical noise” that comes with a small sample (only about 200 African-Americans were surveyed).

It matters not, mon frere! Glenn Reynolds, Neo-neo Con (whose detailed explanations for why Romney’s nonexistent surge among African-Americans is happening are particularly priceless), and countless other hacks want to tell you what it means. I think this is the intellectual elite David Brooks believes we owe deference to. I look forward next to the series of posts explaining how the Minnesota Twins — 7-3 in their last 10 games! — became the best team in baseball.

To anybody who thinks that Obama will get less than 90% of the black vote in North Carolina, all I can say is: care to make it interesting?

Mr. Friedman, my olive tree grove was destroyed by settlers. How do I start a Lexus dealership?

[ 16 ] June 13, 2012 |

This is obviously the greatest Tumblr ever.

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