aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Kevin Drum’s Research on the Web tips
Wonderfully concise and right on the money! I wholeheartedly endorse them:
1. If you use Google (and who doesn’t?) don’t use the default page. Use the Advanced Search page instead:
Sure, the Advanced Search page is sort of a crutch for people who haven’t memorized Google’s set of Boolean operators. But that’s most of us, right? And since any advanced search you use is better than any advanced search you don’t, you’re better off with the crutch than with nothing. So bookmark the Advanced Search page and use it.
While you’re at it, you should also free yourself from the tyranny of getting only ten results per page. The best hits aren’t always in the top ten, and you’re more likely to see them if you just have to scroll down a single page rather than going back and forth between different result pages. So go to http://www.google.com/preferences and set your default to 50 results per page.
2. Whenever you read something by someone you don’t know, Google ‘em. Find out what axe they have to grind. Are they liberal or conservative? Do they work for a think tank? Do they have a history of being obsessed by weird stuff? What expertise do they have? The web allows you to root out this stuff in less than a minute or two for most people. Take advantage of it.
3. If you’re writing about a specific topic that you’re not that familiar with, take a minute and find an article that provides a quick outline of the general subject area. Even a modest 60-second familiarity with the lay of the land can save you a lot of grief and keep you from making an idiot of yourself.
4. Speaking of which, use Wikipedia. No, it’s not 100% reliable. And given the nature of the internet community, it’s better on some topics than others. You’re more likely to get a useful description of the binomial theorem than you are of the objective correlative in Heart of Darkness.
But all reference works have limitations, and virtually all popular references should be taken as starting points, not final authorities. And that’s how you should use Wikipedia: as a starting point. The scope of Wikipedia is vast; it’s extremely useful for recent events; it frequently does a decent job of summarizing a topic; and most articles come with a lot of highly useful links. Sure, you have to be careful with Wikipedia, but you should always be careful anyway.
5. And while we’re on the subject, always click the link. The web makes checking sources so easy that there’s no excuse for failing to at least skim the primary links in an article. Click, click, click!
I’m totally gay for the US of A!
It’s The Love Song for Uncle Sam. Sing it loud and proud…
RELATED: Indiana rejects gay marriage ban.
Why are so many African Americans in prison?
Among the points made by Richard Thompson Ford in today’s WaPo:
Many of our nation’s cities are as racially segregated as they were in the era of Jim Crow, many minority neighborhoods are crime-plagued and bereft of opportunities for gainful employment, and one in three black men between 20 and 29 is in prison, on parole or on probation.
I hasten to remind folks of the work of Thomas J. Sugrue, Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. From the podcast of his lecture, Jim Crow`s Last Stand: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Suburban North, I learned both that he has an important book book coming out in the fall, and that today 23 of the 25 most segregated metropolitan areas in the United States are in the Northeast. (And that the states with the highest degree of educational segregation by race are also disproportionately in the Northeast and the Midwest.)
But I live in the rural South and in my town we have six prisons. Six prisons. America has grown more and more retributive and punishing—more so even than anyplace else in the modern world—as the crime rate has fallen to historical lows.
Glenn C. Loury asked last summer in The Boston Review, Why Are We Locking Up So Many Americans:
[I]mprisonment rates have continued to rise while crime rates have fallen because we have become progressively more punitive: not because crime has continued to explode (it hasn’t), not because we made a smart policy choice, but because we have made a collective decision to increase the rate of punishment.
One simple measure of punitiveness is the likelihood that a person who is arrested will be subsequently incarcerated. Between 1980 and 2001, there was no real change in the chances of being arrested in response to a complaint: the rate was just under 50 percent. But the likelihood that an arrest would result in imprisonment more than doubled, from 13 to 28 percent. And because the amount of time served and the rate of prison admission both increased, the incarceration rate for violent crime almost tripled, despite the decline in the level of violence. The incarceration rate for nonviolent and drug offenses increased at an even faster pace: between 1980 and 1997 the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent offenses tripled, and the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses increased by a factor of 11. Indeed, the criminal-justice researcher Alfred Blumstein has argued that none of the growth in incarceration between 1980 and 1996 can be attributed to more crime.
But with those rates of black imprisonment, with the raw numbers of African American males who are jailed and broken and not trained and not schooled and not given a first much less a second chance, one really truly has to wonder if our prison system isn’t a descendant of slavery, if it isn’t its modern relative.
Slavery ended a long time ago, but the institution of chattel slavery and the ideology of racial subordination that accompanied it have cast a long shadow. I speak here of the history of lynching throughout the country; the racially biased policing and judging in the South under Jim Crow and in the cities of the Northeast, Midwest, and West to which blacks migrated after the First and Second World Wars; and the history of racial apartheid that ended only as a matter of law with the civil-rights movement. It should come as no surprise that in the postâ€“civil rights era, race, far from being peripheral, has been central to the evolution of American social policy.
The political scientist Vesla Mae Weaver, in a recently completed dissertation, examines policy history, public opinion, and media processes in an attempt to understand the role of race in this historic transformation of criminal justice. She argues-persuasively, I think-that the punitive turn represented a political response to the success of the civil-rights movement. Weaver describes a process of “frontlash” in which opponents of the civil-rights revolution sought to regain the upper hand by shifting to a new issue. Rather than reacting directly to civil-rights developments, and thus continuing to fight a battle they had lost, those opponents-consider George Wallace’s campaigns for the presidency, which drew so much support in states like Michigan and Wisconsin-shifted attention to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime:Once the clutch of Jim Crow had loosened, opponents of civil rights shifted the “locus of attack” by injecting crime onto the agenda. Through the process of frontlash, rivals of civil rights progress defined racial discord as criminal and argued that crime legislation would be a panacea to racial unrest. This strategy both imbued crime with race and depoliticized racial struggle, a formula which foreclosed earlier “root causes” alternatives. Fusing anxiety about crime to anxiety over racial change and riots, civil rights and racial disorder-initially defined as a problem of minority disenfranchisement-were defined as a crime problem, which helped shift debate from social reform to punishment.
Of course, this argument (for which Weaver adduces considerable circumstantial evidence) is speculative. But something interesting seems to have been going on in the late 1960s regarding the relationship between attitudes on race and social policy.
We are, these days, swept up in the hope of a new generation of leadership. I hope, too, that a new day is dawning. But I fear that these are big powerful forces we are up against.
I believe that our two powerful Democratic candidates are going to reconcile their differences. Both will lead and we will win the presidential election this year. I only hope that united we can begin to chip away at these challenges.
From great challenges come great solutions. We sure need a great solution for this one.
Democracy is not mob rule
At its best, it’s the institutional means to find the most appropriate solutions to social problems, to mediate and reconcile differences, to settle disputes in ways that don’t inspire rancorous violence. It is inclusive; it is fair and equitable; it is just and open.
But that we have come to see democracy as nothing more than majority rule is a very bad thing. Majority rule is mob rule by a better name.
The founding fathers, too, have come to be cartoon characters we use to back-up whatever point we’re looking to make. That’s too bad. My point would be that the worry then was precisely that we would not be able to do it, we would not be able to achieve successful self-rule, so the founding fathers put in place all kinds of admittedly clumsy—some even embarrassing—safeguards to prevent mob rule.
As with the 2000 election, the problem is we don’t do well with breaking a tie. Right now we have a tie. An embarrassment of riches! Two gorgeous Democratic candidates! We should remember that. And going forward maybe we should try to address what to do in a tie.
So I have no problem with the whole super-delegate thing. And I expect the pompous rhetorical declarations of democratic discontent (I love you Chris but that was over the top—and will not happen!) will be forgotten when the deal is brokered, though my high regard for both Hillary & Barack suggests they may settle this on their own.
Pond Scum & The Flip Side of The Race Card
Richard Thompson Ford says in today’s WaPo that modern racism isn’t like the water in a well. It’s more like the scum in a pond:
It might settle to the bottom if left alone, but it can also be whipped up into a froth. And that’s what Bendixen was really doing.
The Bendixen he’s referring to is Hillary Clinton’s Hispanic pollster Sergio Bendixen. Thompson Ford says Bendixen was pond scum playing the race card when he told a reporter last month that Latino voters haven’t generally “shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.”
Thompson Ford continues:
...by insisting that Hispanics are anti-black bigots and insinuating that black politicians won’t serve the interests of Hispanic constituents, Bendixen may well have helped inspire the racial tensions he purported to describe. African Americans have had their worst fears of anti-black racism confirmed by a supposed expert on Latino opinion; Latinos, told that their community rejects black candidates, may well assume that this must be so for a good reason—such as African American prejudice against them.
He’s “insisting that Hispanics are anti-black bigots???” That is word-smithing worthy only of a master politician. Where is this insistence? Oh, it’s coded? Who’s doing the inflaming now?
I’m telling you, Richard, I agree with you and understand this concept is complex, but you are an academic and where is the academic rigor in that statement? There are all kinds of qualifiers in your argument—no one called Hispanics anti-black bigots! You are committing the same reductionist slight you’d like to stop!
A lot of contemporary racial antagonism isn’t based on hatred and animus, but rather on mutual suspicion and mistrust. Overt racism is rare, but racial inequalities remain widespread and subtle. As a result, we often have to guess whether or not our neighbors are secretly prejudiced. People of color wonder whether their white neighbors and co-workers secretly hold them in contempt because of their race; whites worry that people of color secretly resent them for the color of their skin. And the increasingly complex relationships among black, Latino and Asian groups present similar anxieties, as well as their own unique vexations. An insidious suggestion from an influential person can trigger these suspicions and set off a dismal spiral of mistrust, reaction and recrimination.
It’s ironic that, as politicians play the race card for personal advantage, pervasive racial injustices go unaddressed. None of the presidential candidates has proposed a policy response to the real racial problems facing our society: Many of our nation’s cities are as racially segregated as they were in the era of Jim Crow, many minority neighborhoods are crime-plagued and bereft of opportunities for gainful employment, and one in three black men between 20 and 29 is in prison, on parole or on probation.
Looking for coded racism is tricky business; kind of like Bush’s war on terrorism—once we start looking we can find it anywhere. We ought to be careful.
I need to read the book to learn the nuance of the argument. I’ve seen the interview, read the first chapter and reviews and easily agree with what I understand of its central thesis. But it occurs to me that the Race Card can be flipped. We might reasonably ask why is Obama not addressing these very same racial issues you describe in your piece.
Yes, I agree, no candidate “has proposed a policy response to the real racial problems facing our society.” By your very same logic, shouldn’t it be Obama? Not solely because he is the black candidate—though he is—but because he has that absolutely terrific record in Illinois.
Even better, we know from his writings where he stands on so much of this. If he won’t tackle these issues in the relative safety of a primary fight, can we expect him to do it in the general election? And after he is elected, will he do it when hope turns to gritty Washington reality?
Why, in this vitally important presidential primary race, are we talking about the race card and not about issues of racial justice?