Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wallace's Foxy Moves

Fox's Chris Wallace Criticizes Own Network For "Two Hours Of Obama Bashing" - The Huffington Post

I don't normally pull items from the Huff as it's not one of the blogs I regularly read. But this morning's take on Chris Wallace's defense of objectivity in the media during an on-air broadcast deserves some attention. While Wallace isn't exactly a paragon of objectivity himself, he does at least believe in the idea of objective news. That much is obvious when, after those two hours of Obama bashing, Wallace felt compelled to call into the show and grill the hosts on their treatment of the subject. Not only did Wallace note the excessive length of focus on a single phrase in Obama's Tuesday speech on race, he argued that the quote was left without context the entire time. He goes on to point out that there are other important topics in the news in general and in the Obama campaign specifically.
After Wallace's call, Brian Kilmeade continued in the same vein as Wallace until he became so frustrated with his fellow commentators that he walked off the set on air. Later, Wallace called into Kilmeade's radio show and discussed the events, saying that such action was needed to call attention to the editorial decision that lead to those two Obama-bashing hours.
What moments like this show is that there are news networks out there that allow editorial fiat too great an influence on what news is presented and how it is presented. The same goes for a newspaper like the New York Times with their publication of a story on Sen. McCain alluding to corruption and an affair without actually bringing the goods in the story. That was an editorial decision and the editors, or producers in the case of Fox News, should have known better. Otherwise, the leanings and biases of the editors and producers overshadow the actual news.
Another point I want to make is that the phrase the Fox commentators were harping on--"typcial white people"--was quite ironic since they were acting like typical white people. There's this stance in white culture that white people aren't racist when, in fact, everyone is a racist in some form. Bigotry is the most vile form of it, but race and racism does define who we are in a lot of ways. It sets limits on what kind of cultural attitudes we take, the perspectives we use and the ways we treat those of other races. Race will no more disappear than gender will, but the way we talk about it and the way we treat it in our daily lives can change. Just as gender equality is a worthy cause so is race equality. But when the typical white person refuses to acknowledge that, yes indeed, they are racist in a way, the dialogue can go nowhere. Sen. Obama gave us as Americans an opening to talk about race, but so far all we have heard is the same old tropes coming from white mouths that are desperately seeking to shove race back in the box they thought was long forgotten. We need to not act like typical white people just as blacks need not to act like typical black people. The dialogue can change, we just have to make the next move ourselves.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Information Decat

Damnit, I've been going at it for an hour and so far nothing new on Sen. Obama's passport records breach. Chocolate, pills, and loud music aren't helping me either. Must have more information. I'm about to plug my cable wire into my head if things don't start moving faster.

The Baptism of America

Free Post - Loose Threads in My Head

Race is one of those weird constructions of the mind that we rarely discuss but is almost constantly on our minds. Third wave feminism has made it clear that what the women's rights movement stands for is not biological equality but simply gender equality. Gender is a social convention, a set of expectations we place upon a certain group of people. It's ideology or hegemony or what have you. Just as you act a certain way around a cop, a man acts a certain way around a woman and vice versa. So calling for gender equality is asking a male-driven society to accept and not malign women based solely on their gender. Biological equality isn't going to happen and we can live with that. What we can't live with is repressing women because they have periods, birth babies, have different emotional outlooks (partly due to our expectations of gender) and generally act differently than men. It's not an attack on masculinity (although many men have taken it as such). It is just asking for men not to denigrate women because they are women.
Race, on the other hand, has been handled in a far different way, even though it is, for the most part, a social construction as well. Race is more about culture than it is about skin color but it so happens that skin color plays a vital role in the social construct. Black culture is different than white culture and white culture is different than latino culture. To say so is completely obvious but misses the point, I think. White culture has this habit, just as white male culture does, of expecting different cultures to either act like them or act in a way that somehow threatens white male culture. The same goes for black culture as well.
The issue of race in America has often been packed away, hidden from public view, but arising in strange and sometimes destructive ways. The events of the 1950s and 60s are examples of how racial issues could find no other outlet other than protest, sometimes violent protest. And through speeches, through sit-ins, through water hoses and dogs and tear gas America moved beyond Jim Crow and his separate but equal ways. We were no longer separate but the equal part we're still having problems with. And it's a problem for both blacks and whites.
When white culture put away their debate on race before they got to the equal part America was left with an open wound, a wound that was previously scabbed over and unhealed. And we have let it scab over again. Black anger at whites isn't surprising in this light. Nor is the white anger at blacks who insist on continuing the debate. We must have this debate though. Sen. Obama has given America an opening, a chance to start this debate again on even ground. We cannot simply air our grievances and expect that to be enough. We must arrive at new solutions and a new dialogue, one that whites can't simply put away again. In this world of changing identities and centuries old questions of person, existence and consciousness, we must deal with the issues of race quickly.
One way to confront race in America is to treat it much like we have with gender constructions. If we accept that race is in part a social construct then we can deal with how race is something that is culturally ingrained. Once we accept that then we can begin the work of shifting the culture towards one of race equality in the same sense of gender equality. It's one path we can take to deal with the difficulties of race, of resentment and hatred. It's a way we can craft new identities that are beyond the simple white/black dichotomies of the past. What's more, it's a way that we can deal with even the issues of brown/black/white differences, religious differences and nationality differences. It's a new dialogue and its final shape is no where close to complete.

Watches of the Gods, pt. 2

Beautiful High-End Moonphase Watch - Cory Doctorow @ BoingBoing

It seems that the newly-minted father and I share the same love of watches. Time pieces like this one usually fetch a starting price of ten to fifteen grand, but with a moonphase I would expect a cost more of around thirty to forty grand. And if this watch went to auction it might top two hundred thousand dollars. People are naturally freaked out by these astronomical prices but what they fail to see is the artistry and craftsmanship that it takes to create a masterpiece like this. The maker of this watch probably took a year or more to create it and for most of the high-end watch manufacturers this is typically the case. They may produce thirty to forty watches a year, which makes the watches both very rare and very unique. Few, if any, of the parts are mass produced. The technical skills needed to create such a watch are also rare and growing so by the day as the old masters die off. Yet, strangely enough, mechanical and automatic watches are making great strides in places like Africa or Oceania as they require no battery to change and typically can run without malfunction for a decade or more.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Is This What I Received All Those Ass-Whoopings For?

A little something in honor of Sen. Obama's speech earlier this week.

Clinton Hate Future

Barak Obama - The Ali of Political Boxing

That's Why I Say Hey Man Nice Speech - publius @ Obsidian Wings

It's hard to call Sen. Clinton a fighter when she ducks most difficult questions. Sen. Obama on the other hand, he stood up and faced tribulation with grace and firmness.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back

Sen. Obama gave a speech today on race, faith and his own personal journey to figure out his identity. He did what I would have done if in the same position; he faced the issue directly. Race is something that white culture doesn't want to talk about. It is also something that black culture almost can't escape from. And there are reasons for this. The generation that pushed white culture to end segregation, to end Jim Crow and the repressive policies of the states and the federal government was only able to go so far. By the end of the 1960s King was dead, Malcolm was dead and the deaths of to Kennedy's bookended the decade. Government policy toward blacks had changed and blacks were finally able to taste some of the freedom they had so long been promised.
But something else happened. Government policy changed but people didn't. White culture, once the laws were rewritten, decided that the subject was closed to debate. We didn't need to talk about race any more; the institutional problems had been solved. Yet the real problems of race and racism had gone pretty much untouched. The New Left kept agitating but their attention went other ways as well. So black culture was left with some new laws, some new freedoms, but the same racism as before. The anger and resentment one finds in black churchs and communities is unsurprising then. Where was the promised land King spoke of? Where was the equality? Where were the leaders to take them there? White culture had turned the page on racism and wasn't going to turn back. What were blacks to do?
White culture continues to ignore race. When the subject is brought up whites quickly swing to the opinion that they aren't racists and thus the subject is moot. But the truth is different. The truth is racism still lingers in subtle ways that white culture hasn't dealt with. You see it when the self-appointed leaders of the black communities speak--the Sharptons, the Jacksons and now the Jeremiah Wrights of black culture. When they speak of race it is tinged with anger because whites have steadfastly refused to face the issue directly. So white react with their own anger, their own arguments that racism is now the product of black communities and not of their own refusal to deal with the racism that still exists in the way we cross the street when we see a black man, in the way we accept a prison population of mainly blacks, when we move away from the inner cities, the urban and 'crude' cultures of black communities who have no choice but to stay. White culture refuses to admit any fault in the continuing struggles of blacks to make a place in this nation.
So that attitude has festered. It has festered on both sides. Blacks become angry as they see their communities fail, but they forget to see the motes in their eyes. Their own refusal to admit that race keeps them locked in this cycle of death and decay is not something that white culture can fix. It is their own blindness to the hopes and inspirations, to the paths to the promise land King and Malcolm opened for them that have left the black communities in the clutches of those who recognize and revel in political power. And whites have yet to look past those leaders, those blowhards that rival the Pat Robertsons and James Dobsons of this nation. We have yet to realize the only way we can help the black communities is by refusing to give those leaders our attention and turn to new leaders like Sen. Obama who offer us a chance to further heal this imperfect union. Whites and blacks need the kick in the head Sen. Obama is giving us, to recognize where we have all failed and how we can correct that failure. But we need to pay attention, or else all we will have is a continuation of the black leaders that cry racism and the white culture that believes itself already purified.

Moderation in Everything, Including Moderation

Addiction to the InterWeb is a Mental Illness - L'Inq

Coming on the heels of my jumbled thoughts on the virtual/physical barriers of human identity is another study claiming that using the internet too much is classifiable as a mental illness. I think this is one illness we will simply have to deal with. The desire to stay connected, to stay online is a new one. In the short history of human civilization the time span for rapid communication is even shorter. Part of the reason I think the end of the 19th century was such a strange time for thought was the dramatic increase in communication and mass organization. The people of the West felt more connected than any previous time in the past. But their response to it was violent nationalism, violent socialism and ultimately fascism. No one knew quite how to deal with such connectedness. Mass mental illness perhaps, but the internet is bringing the same rapid increase of communication but in a different form. What that will entail is something I can't predict. Should be fun though.

Maddy Gaiman

Maddy is Back - Neil Gaiman

I had no idea that Gaiman let his daughter blog. That makes him an even cooler father than before, which is pretty hard to beat in the first place. A nice touch of sweetness for the morning.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hyperrealism after the Singularity

Humanity's Identity Crisis - Kevin Kelly @ Technium

Via Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing is this article that asks some of the basic questions of metaphysics and their relation to the world we are living and will live in. The salient point I pulled from the article was the issue of the supermodern/hyperreal in how we identify ourselves and the relation of that identity to the world. Whether that world is a physical one made up of atoms and cells or one made of images and mental spaces is the essence of such questions now. The divisions people place between the public and the private sphere are disintegrating while new divisions between who we are in the physical world and who we are online are growing rapidly. And yet those same divisions are becoming blurred as well as cosplay, Second Life, multi-communication devices and a myriad of other advances bring the virtual directly into the physical.
Identity plays a key role in the debate of the hyperreal versus the real. What is Reality, Person, Time, Place and Space when fakes, avatars and split timelines are here and ready for use? If the supermodern is more about the spaces we move through, the decontextualization of the physical world and hyperreality about the simulated lives we mentally create for ourselves, the bringing forth of a reality more real than Reality, then how does that change the sum in our lives (sum by the way is Latin for I am)? Memories become nothing but a matter of storage space, yet we have still to create the first truly artificial brain. We still haven't fully figured out the plasticity of a single neuron yet. But science cannot provide the entire answer to the questions of identity when identity can change with memories, place and time. How whole networks of neurons interact tell us only part of the story, the basic outlines of a narrative of humanity.
History is not a matter of science per se. History is the true story of human existence. It is a story with a narrative so even though we might get the outline we haven't understood the plot quite yet. The cogito ergo sum of Descartes was overturned by Wittgenstein when he explained how language was entirely a public act and thus the sum or the I we think ourselves of doesn't create identity. It is public and relies on the interactions of humans. We are not an I until there is Other. And when the barriers between what makes the I and the Other begins to dissolve as it has in the last two decades it become an urgency of philosophy to return to metaphysics and wrestle with those woolly questions.
Humanity is on the precipice of something entirely new, a cultural singularity of sorts, or mass psychological freak out. Where does the I go and what was it really in the first place? If we can fake reality, or make it more real than Real then can we fake identity or make an identity more real than Identity? Moreover, have we simply faked identity all along? Is that possible as well? When the God of the Universe said I am and became afraid because he recognized the Otherness of everything else, was that the birth of identity? Are we subsuming consciousness into subconsciousness/unconsciousness into a super-consciousness? How much understanding of reality do we really have and how much more can we bear? To me, these are the questions of the next decades. Whether we fall apart in that psychological freak out or finally move beyond the childhood of the mind depends on the answers we arrive at.

Attacking the Mirror Does No Good

Chutzpah - Ezra Klein

So Harold Ickes of the Clinton campaign is bitching about the potential fate of the Michigan recount, calling out Sen. Obama and all that to meet him on the blacktop at 3:00. All well and good. Except Ickes was one of the people on the DNC panel that not only warned Michigan not to move it's primary date up but voted for the punishment they received. And who says you can't have it all?

Why We Need Hope

The Feminist Case for Obama - Adele Stan @ WaPo

Coming from a male perspective it's a bit of mental gymnastics to understand the loyalty many women feel towards Sen. Clinton, however misplaced I think that loyalty is. I can understand the humiliated wife who stood by President Clinton as he took the nation through his affair (albeit, one that hardly comes close to an Eliot Spitzer type of affair). I can understand the women who have waited for generations for a woman to come this close to the presidency. And I can understand the argument that a woman like Sen. Clinton is representative of second-wave feminism as well as a woman of the baby boomers. Adele Stan, writing for the Washington Post puts all of this forward in writing about her decision on who to vote for in the Democratic primaries. And she has one of the most compelling reasons for why she put her mark next to Sen. Obama's name.
At this juncture in history we need an individual like Sen. Obama who can lift our spirits and help us believe again in the American dream. For all of Sen. Clinton's intelligence and grasp of policy details, she does not inspire the people. After the Bush presidency we need a new kind of politics and a renewed vision of America as that shining city on the hill. Yes, electing the first woman president would stand as a testament to how far we have come as a nation but electing the first black would do far more.
I had a conversation with a close female friend last night about this divided loyalty. But when it came down to taking a side, my friend believed more in Sen. Obama's ability to lead this nation. Looking at the way Sen. Clinton has acted and presented herself throughout this primary season, my friend could not help herself from being angry. How can a woman who has acted in the way Sen. Clinton has deserve her vote? And how can that same woman walk into the White House and expect to achieve anything significant?
Both my friend and Adele Stan have recognized what this election means to the nation. The inspiration Sen. Obama would bring as president and his abilities to unite and do the work of a president far outweigh the moral victory of electing the first woman president. There are future elections and future presidents. We will have a woman as president, that much is true. But the woman running for president at this moment in our nation's history is not the person we need as president. It comes down to what kind of America we want and the candidates we have at hand who will bring such an America about. That feminists can see past gender loyalty to vote for a man tells me that yes we can have that America and perhaps an even better one for a woman president to inherit.

What Do You Mean By Conservative?

The Essence of Conservativism - Andrew Sullivan

"Conservatism doesn't mean the abandonment of imagination or change. It means an understanding of the impossibility of all ultimate fixes, and an ease in the current imperfection: a preference for current laughter over future bliss."

I don't use the word conservative for an attitude such as this. Sullivan might, simply because he has considered himself one for about as long as I've been alive. What I see instead is a rejection of utopianism and that affirmation of existence Joseph Campbell lauded, that eternal 'Yes' to life. Perhaps there isn't a word for it, or at least not a single word. Discontent and hope are two words that spring to mind. And a desire to do what one can to make this world better. I don't think there's a political affiliation for such beliefs. It is simply life and the want to have a full, rich life.

Your Morning Zen

Classic Pigeon Boy - the FAIL blog

Nothing quite cheers up the soul like the FAIL blog.