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February 21, 2007

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I'm going to have a hard time voting in the primary for anyone who doesn't come right out and renounce preventive war.

Obama sounds better every time i hear something new about him. it's almost too good to be true. whatever knocks him down is going to have to be pretty big.

and, according to the definitions you lay out, i guess i'm not really opposed to preventative war, either. but i just don't think Iraq in 2003 rose to the level of "preventative", as there simply was no threat to counter. (and i count myself among those who knew it at the time).

so, instead of being opposed to preventative war, i guess i'm opposed to preventative war when carried out by mendacious, deceitful incompetents.

cleek: I am almost always opposed to preventive war, myself. The Pakistan case stopped me short: that's a case in which you have a group with an actual track record of working with al Qaeda, a group that is itself at war with us, and nuclear weapons. Absent any one of those factors, I would not really think about supporting war.

The track record of preventive war is pretty bad: it includes not just us in Iraq, but e.g. Germany in WW1, etc. It's the part about thinking some country might be a threat, plus the knowledge of how many countries might legitimately think that some other country might be a threat, that makes me normally just oppose it.

"Moreover, we know that he opposed the Iraq war back in 2002"

More remarkably, Niall Ferguson reports that Obama voted against the war in the Senate.

Quite a scoop.

Hey, Gary, someone I know who made phone calls for Jim Webb reported that one person he reached was going to stick with George Allen because Webb had raised taxes.

Oops: one more thing I found while researching this. from May 2005:

"A few months ago, Salon had a report that was almost too ridiculous to believe. Many wounded U.S. soldiers, getting treatment at military hospitals, were getting forced to pay for their meals. (...)

I’m pleased to report that this outrageous policy, which literally adds insult to injury to wounded troops, is coming to an end. It’s obviously good news for men and women in uniform, some of whom were paying about $250 a month for food, but on a political note, it’s also a legislative victory for a senator named Barack Obama. (...)

Apparently, Obama came upon the Salon report while preparing for an April 5 trip to visit wounded soldiers at Walter Reed. He asked several injured soldiers about the policy, who explained that the report was accurate and that they were footing the bill for their hospital meals. He led an effort to reverse the policy and was successful."

Obama and Sen. McCaskill are going to introduce legislation about the latest Walter Reed mess next week. (Cite.)

I am almost always opposed to preventive war, myself. The Pakistan case stopped me short: that's a case in which you have a group with an actual track record of working with al Qaeda, a group that is itself at war with us, and nuclear weapons. Absent any one of those factors, I would not really think about supporting war.

of course. i feel exactly the same way: never - except when i don't. which seemed to me to be equivalent to: yes, as long as there's a damned good reason and reasonable chance it will succeed.

that's how i came to the conclusion that "i guess i'm not really opposed to preventative war".

i know it makes me a bad liberal. oh well. i'm bad at lots of things.

where "never - except when i don't" = "never [for it], except when i don't [oppose it]"

proofreading in these little boxes is another thing i'm bad at.

i know it makes me a bad liberal.

Isn't that redundant? ;-)

The thing is, preventative war is very tempting if you've correctly assessed the potential threat you face. But history teaches us that it's very easy to get those judgments wrong, even if you were pretty confident at the time. The safest answer is just to rule out the category altogether.

I see international consensus as the best solution - yes, I'm a "global test" guy when it comes to preventative war. If the world community is pretty much of one mind in regards to the potential threat, you can have a higher degree of confidence. On the other hand, if most of the world flatly rejects your proposed war, it should serve as a reality check.

Hil and cleek – that’s reading (to me) as preventative war is OK as long as I judge it to be.

When you make that judgment on Pakistan, the information is going to originate with the same intelligence agencies we have today, and its going to be spun by some administration.

I’m not disagreeing with your hypothetical at all; I would be in full agreement. But then, I was for it last time. BTW – it’s going to take nuclear bunker-busters to get those weapons.

(Please everyone, no long responses on why any idiot could see it wasn’t justified last time. I’ve seen all that, one hundred times this week alone. That’s not the point of my comment.)

I may write more about Pakistan later, as I have lived there and also studied the region in graduate school, but first I have two questions.

1) It seems as though you support the Bush Doctrine of preventive war, you just don't like that it's Bush making the decision. Is this correct?

2) Who is this nebulous " they" or "group" in Pakistan? The country and its government are actually far more complicated than you portray. In fact, Pakistan, like Afghanistan was directly after the US intervention, is, in my opinion, a prime example of a country in which we must engage the types of problems mentioned by Power and Susan Rice in that Rolling Stone article.

Thanks for the great post.

Obama is starting to look like damaged goods here:

Nor do I mean that we round up the United Kingdom and Togo and then do what we please.

He forgot Poland!

spk: no, I didn't mean just the Bush doctrine but with me cast as Bush. (Yikes!) What I meant was: in this particular instance, you have: (a) a group, al Qaeda, who has already attacked us, and who would plainly, unambiguously, do it again; (b) people in Pakistan who support al Qaeda, and to whom AQ Khan is a hero, who I see every reason to think would be happy to sell him any sort of weapons at all. Suppose that this group took power in Pakistan. Make it unambiguous: suppose, somehow, that AQ Khan took over in Pakistan. I would not favor any kind of preemptive anything if what he had to sell was, I don;t know, box cutters, or shoulder-fired missiles, etc. With nuclear weapons, however, I might.

It really matters to me that most of the links here are unambiguous. Al Qaeda has already attacked us, and I don;t see any reason to think that it wouldn't attack us again. Islamist elements in Pakistan really do support al Qaeda. They really do have nuclear weapons -- no need for intelligence estimates to weigh the evidence pro and con in this case. I wouldn't even be thinking this thought otherwise.

I should say that I wasn't trying to make it sound as though Pakistan is homogenous. I do not in fact think that. I do think that there are people in Pakistan who would cooperate with al Qaeda, to the extent of selling nuclear weapons (again, no need for guesswork here), and if those people took over the country, I would be very, very concerned.

I think one thing that is being missed is that a take over of Pakistan by a AQ sympathetic Taliban like entity would not necessarily require preventative war in the sense of the US having to go it alone. If a true crisis like this arose, one would imagine that the UN or NATO would participate. One could argue that it would may be too late, because they would already have their finger on the button, but presumably, the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan is not targeted at Europe and the US, but at India, so retargeting or selling them and getting them into transit for an attack on the US would take some time. If Obama were running for president of India (joke), it might be a much more closely run question, but what needs to be done is not to take preventative war off the table, it is to take unilateral preventative war off the table (I personally think that the former would be better, but I am thinking that I would still support Obama if he had the latter position)

LJ touched on the point I was going to ask hilzoy about. Al-Qaeda is an enemy of many countries besides the US; in fact, just today, I read an Iranian official making the provocative claim that we should be allies with them because the "major threat" to both countries is the same: al-Qaeda.

Any situation in Pakistan which presented the real hypothetical that we might be attacked by a nuclear al-Qaeda should concern any number of other sane countries, it seems to me. If no one besides the UK and Togo shared our level of concern, to me that would be a serious reality check that we're evaluating the situation incorrectly.

that’s reading (to me) as preventative war is OK as long as I judge it to be.

yes, true. but don't you think that even the people at the top are making that same calculation?

and is there anything you're 100% for regardless of circumstances, no questions asked ? i hope not - cause it's not hard to break all the moral absolutes i can think of by shoving OBL and a nuke into the mix.

When you make that judgment on Pakistan, the information is going to originate with the same intelligence agencies we have today, and its going to be spun by some administration.

right, but like i said in my first post - i realllly don't trust the one we have now. and, they lost my trust in 2002/3 when they tried to justify the mess we're in now. so i'm trying to give future admin's the benefit of the doubt here - it's hard to believe the next one (no matter who it is, really) would be as horrible as BushCo.

Steve: true enough. Like Obama, I am really serious both about the need to construct international institutions to deal with situations like this, and also to bear in mind the possibility that if the rest of the world thinks you might be wrong, then you really might be wrong.

This makes me think that the idea that if I were President, and didn't resign instantly as a service to humanity, the number of times I would even be tempted by preventive war would be vanishingly small. (I mean, until today, I thought it wasn't just vanishingly small, but nonexistent.) All the conditions listed above would have to be in place, AND the rest of the world would have to somehow disagree, AND, even with my normal pretty serious tendency to think that under any such circumstances I might be wrong, I'd have to conclude that I wasn't. And since the original conditions all involve, essentially, the situation being quite clear -- no extended chains of inference, or anything, no relying on speculative intelligence -- I'm not sure I see how this could happen, absent some really massive fit of bizarreness on the part of the rest of the world.

So, on reflection, I probably don't believe in exceptions as a practical matter (meaning; the set of cases in which I would ever actually consider making one is likely to be zero, even if there's a theoretical possibility there.) Sort of like my views on assassination, in which the thought: what about Hitler in 1940? makes me unwilling to say I would never do it, but in practice it's not really on my radar as a permissible option.

But, more to the point: Obama, as best I can tell, arrived at this position in TAoH, before me ;)

I live in one of the most conservative spots in Texas (Tom DeLay's old district), and I put my Obama in 08 sticker on the car yesterday. All day today I was getting thumbs up signs (at least I think that was what the signs were). He gives me more hope than anybody has since Wellborn died. I'm a total pacifist, but I know there's no chance a pacifist is going to become Pres of the USA. I'll stick with Obama and keep hoping he doesn't let us down. Thanks, hilzoy, for keeping us informed. One thing that encourages me is his sense of humor.

Wellborn = Wellstone?

One of the best things about Obama is his ability to attract support from unexpected people and thereby, by his very existence, create common ground.

AND the rest of the world would have to somehow disagree
Because it can't be the right thing to do if the rest of the world agrees??? Are you channeling Sebastian here [insert evil grin]?

How about preventing Afghanistan now? The Italian government just fell because their congress wants the troops out - the Brits are screaming for more troops and the Dutch are putting the rebuilding plans at a lower notch because they need more troops to fight (and the mission was only approved because it would focus mainly on improving economic circumstances).

BTW there is some very bizarre stuff coming out in the rightosphere concerning the church Obama attends. I think it’s a mistake to go there, but there is enough material on their website to make the case that they are extremely Afro-centric, even enough to start the meme that they are a separatist style church equivalent to some of the less savory churches that would be, uhm, white-centric. Anyone who has a problem with Bush’s religion should have a real problem with this, etc.

I’m not linking it because I think it is both disgusting and a mistake. Just a heads up that it may get some traction. Or not.

OCS: Yeah, I read that. I don't have the links handy, but I did read the statement that people seemed to be upset about, and I thought they were pretty seriously taking things out of context. For instance: one problem seemed to be that it said that blacks should not pursue "middle-classism", and people seemed to think: huh? wanting to do better and earn more is somehow not OK? Who are these people, Marxists? But in the actual statement of principles that the quote was from, it went on to say: look, success is fine, and -- I think this is right -- it's fine to pursue "middle-income-ism". Which made it clear that the problem wasn't with working, making money, and so forth, but with something else. As best I could tell, that something else was something like: thinking that it's OK, if you're black, to escape into the middle class, leaving everyone else behind. Just looking out for yourself, without recognizing any continuing responsibilities to people who have not yet made it into the middle class.

Personally, I can't imagine what's wrong with that, but maybe I'm missing something.

Do you think it's worth writing a post about this? I don't want to become all Obama all the time, or anything, but on the other hand I think that smears of anyone are sometimes worth responding to, when what's wrong with them isn't obvious.

Hilzoy: I think it’s worth a post. Frankly, it wouldn’t hurt to start proactively discrediting the meme before it gets any traction. (Not that I want him to win, I just think this type of gutter politics is disgusting and I’d be against it in most cases.)

On the “middle class” issue:
Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness”

Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that captors must keep the captive ignorant educationally, but trained sufficiently well to serve the system. Also, the captors must be able to identify the “talented tenth” of those subjugated, especially those who show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captor’s control.

Those so identified as separated from the rest of the people by:
Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another.

Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons.

Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of “we” and “they” instead of “us”.

So, while it is permissible to chase “middle-incomeness” with all our might, we must avoid the third separation method-the psychological entrapment of Black
“middleclassness”: If we avoid the snare, we will also diminish our “voluntary”
contributions to methods A and B. And more importantly, Black people no longer will be deprived of their birthright, the leadership, resourcefulness, and example of their own talented persons.

Another one that has them up in arms:
We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization.

Also: The Black Value System is a list of concepts that, if you replaced each occurrence of ‘black’ with ‘white’ would raise red flags everywhere.

So well worth a post – but it may get a little dicey.

I would prefer that you didn't post about it, for several reasons.

1) Responding to smears about Obama is best handled by blogs that are all Obama, all the time.

2) In the case of this particular smear, I agree utterly with OCSteve: even going there opens a huge can of worms. In my view, what goes on in the churches political candidates attend is the business of members of that congregation and/or denomination, and no one else's.

I dream, probably hopelessly, for a return in my lifetime to the concept of privacy for public officials -- religious and family/sexual. I'd really prefer not to see this site participate in expanding the sphere of what people feel entitled to pass judgment on.

I feel this way even though Obama, who is not my preferred Democratic nominee, has done as much as anyone in politics to recast the relationship between religion and politics in terms which which I strongly disagree. That very position leaves him far more open to the kinds of smears now being circulated. That's one of the reasons I disagree with him about the issue -- but I don't want to take a "see where this gets you" approach by giving attention to such garbage.

Steve: true enough. Like Obama, I am really serious both about the need to construct international institutions to deal with situations like this, and also to bear in mind the possibility that if the rest of the world thinks you might be wrong, then you really might be wrong.

Even if you ARE right in that situation, having the world against you makes it ten times harder to get what you want done; working without support is HARD. That's something the dingbat American uber Alles forget.

Pretty weird that some conservatives talk offensive against the Black Value Systm when it is really all about self-respect and self-help.

I'm not owrried about smears of his religion. To attack him on that basis makes him look better in the eyes of Africa Americans who think he was raised white and just makes the rightwing look bigoted to everyone else.

I’d say that right now it’s low level in the rightosphere, bubbling up a little. Bigger fish are probably sniffing at it, chewing on it a bit. The racial aspects are making them think twice. All it lacks right now is a link or two from the bigger fish and it will take off.

So if you don’t want to draw attention to it then stay away from it. But if it takes off you will be writing about it anyway.

Possibly my brethren on the right will be smart enough to let it drop. Yeah, OK, who am I kidding?

This might be one of those rare occasions when I disagree with Nell. I do tend to agree, to my dismay, in the notion that Christians should just shut up about their faith in the political arena. I didn't use to think this, but I've changed my mind. We Christians can argue amongst ourselves about what policies a Christian should support, but I'd like to see a moratorium on Christian politicians (or politicians of any other faith--I'm looking at Joe Lieberman here) blathering on about "people of faith" (can't stand that phrase) and their moral values. Just shut up and act out your values, if you have any.

Nell, I think, agrees with this. Where I disagree is that I think a politician's religious beliefs are fair game if he or she talks about them as having an effect on his political outlook or if it seems likely that they have such an effect. Some Christian evangelicals, for instance, are on the far right when it comes to Israeli/Palestinian issues and in general have a crusader mentality when it comes to Muslims. If a politician has these beliefs or worships at a church where such beliefs are expressed then it's something we should know.

As for Obama, if he brings up his faith then it's fair game for the press. Whether hilzoy should write about his church right now I don't know. If it becomes a major issue, then yes.

"Also: The Black Value System is a list of concepts that, if you replaced each occurrence of ‘black’ with ‘white’ would raise red flags everywhere."

I've been pointing out since I was approximately ten/eleven years old, literally, how utterly, ah, problematic it is to engage in what I've always idiosyncratically called the False Mirror Analogy.

That is to take two sets of people, one of whom has a lot more power over the other than vice versa (doesn't matter what the sets are: could be males and females in a society that still has a fair amount of sexism, or people of different ethnic groups, or religions, or whatever), and then attempt to argue that, in a given circumstance, if you rhetorically switch sets, the fact that the same descriptions won't accurately apply to the other party reveals some sort of hypocrisy or inconsistency.

This is an amazingly nonsensical and illogical argument, but it's always heard.

Yes, people with darker skins aren't in the same socio-political circumstances, as a class, as people with lighter skins. Treating them as if they are, by insisting that descriptions of one should apply equally to the other, makes no sense whatever.

Thus it's unsurprising that one can't, in fact, swap out one for the other, and get the same results.

Thus this:

"Also: The Black Value System is a list of concepts that, if you replaced each occurrence of ‘black’ with ‘white’ would raise red flags everywhere."
... is hardly remarkable; what would be remarkable would be if it were otherwise -- in which case racism would necessarily have to have disappeared entirely, otherwise the two sets of people can't be in the same circumstances.

I hope and expect we'll get there someday, and maybe even as soon as 50-100 years from now, but expecting it to be our reality now would be insane.

I also hope that someday most people will notice the flaw in False Mirror Analogies, and quit using them as if they demonstrated anything other than that analogies fail if the relevant circumstances aren't, in fact, the same.

Gary, y'see your problem is that you're not thinking broadly enough. When we switch black and white we have to do so everywhere: back some 10,000 years when our white ancestors first came out of Africa...

OCSteve: pending my decision on whether to write about this (which to some extent turns on my success in moving from procrastination mode, meaning lots of posts, to actual work on stuff I need to do mode, which means fewer:

When I read the statement of principles, the part you quoted -- at least, the part about 'classic methodology on the control of captives' -- read to me as though it had been pasted in from elsewhere, or (alternately) as though the statement was a group effort, and this was the sole contribution by its most radical member. Its entire style and emphasis is way different from the rest. Moreover, it's supporting stuff, not part of the actual principles themselves. The principles (working from memory here) are mostly: bear in mind your responsibilities to others; be a decent person; help yourself and others. Then suddenly this part comes zinging in from left field, and then just as suddenly it vanishes again.

What it seems to boil down to is: if you think that blacks are nominally freed but still in some sense actually captives, then recognize that there are ways in which you can play into the captors' plans, and ways in which you can resist them. The ways of resisting turn out to be: don't be tempted to leave others behind; don't be tempted to do your captors' dirty work for them by hating or harming others, or by being tempted to think: oh, here's a way in which special me can make myself immune. Which is to say: what this analysis recommends is stuff people ought to do anyways.

If it was my church, a church which I already had real loyalty to, and someone handed me this statement of principles, when I got to that part I might roll my eyes a bit and think: no, we are not actually captives. It minimizes the awfulness of slavery to think so. But the take-home message is a good one.

Apologies for further threadjacking, but Donald has no email or blog where this note could be more discreetly directed:

@Donald: I've gone from regarding Jim Wallis as a disappointment to seeing him as an annoying pain in the rear to lately viewing him as a more serious menace. Have a look at these posts at Talk to Action and Street Prophets, and Wallis' disingenuous responses at the 'God's Politics' blog.

I don't think I managed in the links above to find the one that referened his late-1990s organizing in favor of 'Charitable Choice', which laid the groundwork for the Bush administration 'faith-based funding', i.e., the patronage program for right-wing Protestant organizations.

In response to your comment: you're spot on about where we agree, and our disagreement about pols' religiously influenced political views is purely tactical. That is, you have the right of the bigger strategic question -- I just shrink from addressing this current case, because it's manufactured hooey.

Whatever the merits of the false mirror analogy as a concept, some ideas don't look much better just because they are expressed by a group which aren't in the same socio-political circumstances as the 'dominant' group. The idea that there are fundamental differences about people based on their skin color that requires people of that skin color to owe people of similar skin colors special favor is one of them.

The idea that success is a racially coded ploy to hurt people of a certain race isn't one of them.

Obama doesn't seem to personally believe such things, so I'm not particularly concerned about him.

In theory the "False Mirror" fallacy is worth thinking about. In this case it doesn't seem to apply.

Seb: the thing is, though, that the thingo from Obama's church does not cast aspersions on success. Quoting from OCSteve's quote above, since I just got back and don't feel like tracking down the original pdf:

"while it is permissible to chase “middle-incomeness” with all our might, we must avoid the third separation method-the psychological entrapment of Black “middleclassness” ..."

That has to mean that it's fine to pursue a middle (or higher income, and presumably also the job that goes with it. What is to be avoided is something called "Black “middleclassness”", which in turn seems to mean this:

"Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of “we” and “they” instead of “us”."

In other words: what the statement seems to be objecting to is not success, it's taking that success as a reason to think that you are better than others, and that those who have not succeeded are "them", as opposed to some of "us".

I see nothing objectionable about this statement, though I would have phrased it differently.

I see nothing objectionable about this statement, though I would have phrased it differently.

I’ll put on the RW spin hat as I know it doesn’t fit you very well.

“we” and “they” instead of “us” – “us” in this case means your race. Commitment to your race is more important than you as an individual moving up in the world. Take the money but don’t be seduced by other middleclass entrapments that might split you from “us”.

The spin is going to be that this is a separatist style church.

To be extra clear – I am done condoning any of it. Just pointing out what the next attack on Obama from the right may look like.

I think lots of people belong to a religion without sharing every tenet of that religion, and lots of people belong to a church without sharing every tenet of that church. I don't want to see Mitt Romney quizzed about the Book of Mormon or Rudy Giuliani tied to every utterance of the Pope. We've already had to deal with ridiculous claims that Obama is secretly a radical Muslim; must we now force him to defend his home church from allegations of extremism as well?

I'd like to think the right wing won't be crass enough to go there, but when you're talking about the party of Purple Heart band-aids, I know I'm kidding myself.

must we now force him to defend his home church from allegations of extremism as well?

for the next 1.75 years, yes.

OCSteve: First, I'm not confusing you with your attempts to clarify things, which I really, really appreciate. I'm just asking this question of you-the-one-channelling-others.

That said: I thought the point was pretty clearly: you can make money, move up, and so forth, but don't think that those -- black or green or purple -- you left behind have become a 'them', so that you can think that you have managed to separate yourself from them once and for all; that you have done the psychological equivalent of moving to a nice upscale community where "they" never venture.

If "us" is blacks alone, then what it says is: don't take the fact of success to start thinking of other people as "them". If it's not blacks, but everyone, then similarly. But in either case, the whole point is: do not close yourself off from the people you leave behind. In neither case is there any recommendation that anyone not feel similarly towards poor whites, or poor Latinos, or poor Martians for that matter.

As I said: these are questions mostly directed at what you're channelling, and to you only since you are (at present) my sole access to these views. It's very interesting.

I'll have to think about it, though.

PS: OCSteve: we could always collaborate on some sort of liberal/conservative equivalent of the Rosetta Stone...

I want to reiterate that I'm not going after Obama for these particular beliefs of the church. I'm talking about the church, not him.

"In other words: what the statement seems to be objecting to is not success, it's taking that success as a reason to think that you are better than others, and that those who have not succeeded are "them", as opposed to some of "us". "

I'm not sure you are capturing what I am objecting to:

Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that captors must keep the captive ignorant educationally, but trained sufficiently well to serve the system. Also, the captors must be able to identify the “talented tenth” of those subjugated, especially those who show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captor’s control.

Those so identified as separated from the rest of the people by:
Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another.

Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons.

Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of “we” and “they” instead of “us”.

This analogy does a number of things that I find objectionable. First the idea that very much energy is spent in the government (or whomever is tracking to 'captors' in this analogy) in designing tricky programs to keep black people from succeeding is problematic.

But even partially giving that, the talented tenth part is really nasty. We have a nice victimology attack on responsibility with "Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another." Even if this were partially true, the magnitude of it isn't what is implied by the context. (Remember the context is of some very sneaky and powerful plan to keep blacks killing each other. The racist assumption that black people are so easily manipulated or that white people are so much more crafty isn't particularly noticed).

"Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons."

Concentration camps? Nice use of 'and/or' in rhetoric. Its functional equivalent is "Hilzoy is a Stalinist and/or someone who believes that sometimes markets have inefficiencies that might need to be corrected by government." Yikes. While I have lots of sympathy for the plight of people swept up in stupid drug laws, remember this is evidence of a racial attack on black people, not a stupid moralistic policy. (This would be like arguing that Prohibition was DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY to empower mob elements in Italian-American culture and seduce them into crime FOR THE PURPOSE OF putting Italian-American leaders in prison. Even if you accept that this was a major effect of the Prohibition, and even if you want to argue that this makes the Prohibition problematic, it is really ugly racist rhetoric to imply much less state that this was the purpose of Prohibition. I'm very open to changing policies because their actual effects don't match the aims, but I don't say that Democrats DESIRED that housing projects in the 1970s increased and concentrated crime elements.)

That is when we get to:

"Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of “we” and “they” instead of “us”."

This is a serious overinterpreation of the purpose of the capitalist system. It may very well be that the capitalist system helps people think even more of 'me' and less of 'us', but that isn't a racial thing at all. White church leaders complain about that all the time. It certainly isn't designed as a method to cull potential black leaders and trick them into abandoning their 'natural' place in lifting other black people (would they be 'sheep' in this analogy?) to different economic places.

It is a very racialist rant. And by 'racialist' I mean "putting undue emphasis on race".

“we” and “they” instead of “us” – “us” in this case means your race. Commitment to your race is more important than you as an individual moving up in the world. Take the money but don’t be seduced by other middleclass entrapments that might split you from “us”

Feh.

This mindset that's being referred to pretty much ignores the fact that blacks feel they are ALREADY been set apart from the rest of society from the get go. The countless examples of how they are treated differently makes this kind of criticism ring hollow, IMAO.

Moreover, it makes the assumption that racial and ethnic lines are hard-and-fast, immutable lines (with the rather mypic view that the lines refer to a BINARY situation). That's laughable and naive and clearly shows no familiarity with how people in the REAL world deal with their ethnicity. Just because THEY think racial lines are all-important or all-or-nothing doesn't mean they actually ARE that way in real life or all people think like that in real life.

Gwangung, I'm not clear on whether you're objecting to the views of the church document, or OCSteve's channeled right-winger, or both.

Sebastian:

This analogy does a number of things that I find objectionable.

[...]

But even partially giving that, the talented tenth part is really nasty.

Sebastian, might I ask if you're familiar with W.E.B. DuBois' “talented tenth” and its place in African-American history?

There's a long and elaborate dialogue, or discussion, that the African-American community has been having with itself about identity, and what is to be done, for hundreds of years, but you discuss this "analogy" without referring to that context at all.

My concern is that it's almost impossible to understand what's going on in this dialogue without any context. (Neither would I volunteer as expert to provide much of it.)

Hil:First, I'm not confusing you with your attempts to clarify things

I know you are not – just have to keep throwing that in there for anyone who hasn’t read the whole chain.

I’m probably keying in on this:
And more importantly, Black people no longer will be deprived of their birthright, the leadership, resourcefulness, and example of their own talented persons.

Which I think can be read (spun) as: if you do get entrapped by that middleclassness you will be depriving Black people of their birthright, the leadership, resourcefulness, and example of their own talented persons.

Making it very much about Black people rather than just “them”.

In any case, what I have seen so far is the usual – take the juiciest stuff and highlight anything that can be spun as separatist rhetoric.

we could always collaborate on some sort of liberal/conservative equivalent of the Rosetta Stone

On a different topic? Anyday. I don’t think I’d want to be associated with ‘translating’ this into right-speak…

Seb: I'm confident you and I could never be made to accept the notion that the current system was intentionally designed to keep the black man down. However, I'm not sure it has to be intentional for the point to be valid. One way or the other, the point is to illustrate how current features of our society resemble features of a system deliberately designed to keep prisoners subjugated.

The point is simply to persuade people: here's the trap you're falling into, don't get caught. It really doesn't matter whether someone intentionally set the trap.

What's at issue here is really nothing different from a conventional notion of community. If a small town teaches its children, "If you get successful and move away, don't forget about the folks back home," few of us would find that objectionable. If Russian immigrants get a leg up from the established Russian community, few people would have a problem with it. But somehow, the black community gets perceived as uniquely threatening in this regard.

If your community has serious problems, the solution is to persuade people to seek success as a community. I don't see it as an unhealthy notion.

What's at issue here is really nothing different from a conventional notion of community. If a small town teaches its children, "If you get successful and move away, don't forget about the folks back home," few of us would find that objectionable. If Russian immigrants get a leg up from the established Russian community, few people would have a problem with it.

Heh. The Asian community has been pointed to, and the question asked, "Why aren't you [meaning the black community] being more like them?" And when they DO try to take lessons to heart from other communities, they get flak. Mixed message they're getting, wouldn't you say?

Sebastian, might I ask if you're familiar with W.E.B. DuBois' “talented tenth” and its place in African-American history?

Missing context, I'd say. And that contributes to the polarization, when outsiders dismiss or trivializes the shared cultural context....

"If a small town teaches its children, "If you get successful and move away, don't forget about the folks back home," few of us would find that objectionable."

It depends on what is "don't forget". I've seen smaller communities seem to try to make more successful members feel guilty about their success, and I do in fact think that is objectionable in most of its manifestations.

I was aware of the talented tenth from DuBois, though I'll admit I hadn't connected it to this particular doctrine. The analogy from the church doesn't seem to fit neatly in the DuBois tradition. DuBois wants to train the talented tenth, he wants to initially focus on their success. The church position actually seems like a muddled middle of the Washington DuBois debate if you are going to cast it there. The quoted text seems to suggest that "training them to earn more dollars" is part of a white plan to keep black people down.

"Missing context, I'd say. And that contributes to the polarization, when outsiders dismiss or trivializes the shared cultural context...."

I look forward to reminding people of that next time I hear quotes culled by Neiwert or snips from fundamentalist leaders.

"Missing context, I'd say. And that contributes to the polarization, when outsiders dismiss or trivializes the shared cultural context...."

I look forward to reminding people of that next time I hear quotes culled by Neiwert or snips from fundamentalist leaders.

Quite. I was thinking quite along those lines when I was writing that.

On the other hand, when you're dealing with the people directly, sometimes it's apparent the words are context independent....

It depends on what is "don't forget". I've seen smaller communities seem to try to make more successful members feel guilty about their success, and I do in fact think that is objectionable in most of its manifestations.

From what I can tell of the context, this sentiment is almost antithetical to Obama's church.

Nell--I think Wallis is a well-intentioned guy spoiled by success--he keeps putting his foot into his mouth. His most recent reply to Kos (which I just read) didn't seem so bad--he finally clarified that he meant that there are some lefties who despise religion and are rude about it. Well, that's true. I've encountered it myself. It's irritating to me as a Christian, but perhaps not terribly high on my list of problems that have to be solved. Having watched Wallis's attempts at "solving" it makes me think his contribution may be to make the problem bigger.

Which is a shame--I've been a fan of his and a subscriber to Sojourners, but he needs someone to take him aside and gently suggest that he stop regarding himself as a political guru, because political gurus shouldn't be wedging their feet down their throats so often. (If that's a qualification then I'm in the wrong line of work.)

This analogy does a number of things that I find objectionable. First the idea that very much energy is spent in the government (or whomever is tracking to 'captors' in this analogy) in designing tricky programs to keep black people from succeeding is problematic.

Not that I'm blaming you for this, Sebastian, but this is pretty rich considering that your political party has spent about half a century trying to gain traction among American blacks by convincing them of precisely this notion: That liberals have designed government programs to trap them in a cycle of government dependency and welfare. Now that some small subset appears to have been adequately convinced, it's problematic?

"Not that I'm blaming you for this, Sebastian, but this is pretty rich considering that your political party has spent about half a century trying to gain traction among American blacks by convincing them of precisely this notion: That liberals have designed government programs to trap them in a cycle of government dependency and welfare. Now that some small subset appears to have been adequately convinced, it's problematic?"

Do conservatives believe that welfare programs were designed to keep black people down? Do they say that? My experience has been that they say welfare programs are intended to help, but in practice provide incentives that hurt. Also it is fairly clear that the church isn't talking about welfare. They are talking about successful people.

Seb: here's a snippet from Dreams From My Father ((the one published in 1995). Obama says that he has heard the pastor's name; a lot of younger ministers admire him, but some of the older pastors are "somewhat scornful of its popularity among young black professionals. ('A buppie church, one pastor would tell me'.)" (p. 280) So he finally visits, and talks to the pastor:

"Some people say," I interrupted, "that the church is too upwardly mobile."

The reverend's smile faded. "That's a lot of bull", he said sharply. "People who talk that mess reflect their own confusion. They've bought into the whole business of class that keeps us from working together. Half of 'em think that the former gang-banger or the former Muslim got no business in a Christian church. Other half think any black man with an education or a job, or any church that respects scholarship, is somehow suspect.

We don't buy into those false divisions here. It's not about income, Barack."

And so on.

I went and looked this up because I had forgotten what Obama said about why he joined the church, other than that the pastor impressed him a lot, and he liked the spirit of community, but I thought it might be interesting. Now that I've reread it, I think:

That whole passage about middle-class v. middle-income reads very, very differently depending on your assumptions about who the audience is. Suppose you imagine an audience entirely composed of people who are unemployed: telling them not to be tempted to go chasing middle-classness would most charitably be described as: not addressed to their condition. (Similarly if you had a congregation entirely composed of millionaires.) But it might also be a license to criticize people who work, at least if not countered by the part about middle incomes being fine.

But it reads very differently if you imagine that the congregation is known for being disproportionately popular among professionals. In that case, 'don't buy into middle-classness, though it's fine to seek a good income' has another ring entirely

I can buy that it could sound different to a middle class audience, though the racialized intentionality is still very startling rhetoric.

As someone strictly channeling, leaning towards Sebastian here…

"I can buy that it could sound different to a middle class audience, though the racialized intentionality is still very startling rhetoric."

I don't think that's particularly true for most people who identify as black, though, which was part of my previous point. On the other hand, I'm pretty unqualified to comment.

Radicalized?

Hrm. I know my revolutionist credentials lapsed quite some time ago, but this screed didn't strike me as particularly radical.

Picking nits, but I think you read 'racialized' as 'radicalized'. It's a pretty interesting word, judging from Google, and I was fascinated to find that the American Heritage dictionary cites Cornell West for an example sentence.

“It is impossible to be an American and not racialize how you feel” (Cornell West, quoted in Oberlin College online newspaper Around the Square (ATS) January 1997).

"Cornel West," actually. He is not the university in Ithaca, New York.

But "Cornell West" wouldn't be the one in Ithaca either, would it?

"I don't think that's particularly true for most people who identify as black, though, which was part of my previous point. On the other hand, I'm pretty unqualified to comment."

That may very well be true, but like many true things in the world that doesn't make it encouraging.

I thought it was Cornel, but all of the online dictionaries had Cornell, so I went with that. The italics indicate it is quoted text, and I'm not much one for inserting 'sic'.

Picking nits, but I think you read 'racialized' as 'radicalized'.

Erm, yes. That'd change the meaning a bit.

Then again, it feeds back into a point made earlier, that this attitudeis understandable as a reaction to an everyday existence that is already highly racialized (racialized. racialized. racialized) for black Americans. It's depressing in that it's an ongoing condition that few non-blacks realize the extend of.

realize the extend of

I'm guessing D is your letter of the day.8^)

But talking about this, it fascinates me that words for minority members who act too much like the majority are all foods. Oreo is well known, but asians have bananas, Native Americans use the term apple, and Anglo-South Asians (what would the proper term be?) and apparently some Hispanics (see below) use 'coconut'. These words are highly offensive when used by outsiders, but can be humorous jibes or self directed deprecation when used by the minorities themselves. Couple of interesting links
Adventures of the Coconut Caucus
Banana, A Chinese American experience

Can't find any good links to apple=Native American cause of Apple, but this looks like an interesting article

I think the parallels were conscious (not that I admit to being that old....), as there was a confluence of Third World students working together in San Francisco, LA, NY, etc.

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