Black Medals

Last week, 16-year-old Simone Biles won the women’s all-around gold medal at the gymnastic world championships.  This marked the second major victory for an American female gymnast on the world stage in as many years, following up on Gabby Douglas’s all-around gold at the London Olympics.  Both gymnasts are black and represent the first black women to accomplish either of their feats.

Obviously, this is emphasis of rampant institutional racism within the world of gymnastics.  The sort of racism that is going to discourage white girls and white women from pursuing their dreams of excellence and gymnastics.

Yes, you read that right: the success of these two black women demonstrate just how unfair gymnastics is for white folks.

Well, at least according to Italian gymnast Carlotta Ferlito.  She had this to say about Biles’s win: “I told [teammate Vanessa Ferrari] that next time we’ll have our skin black also so we can win, too.”

Ugh.

Believe it or not, I’m going to cut Ferlito some slack here.  She is rather young herself, having turned 18 earlier this year, and likely was in a highly emotionally charged state after competing at a high pressured event in a high pressured sport and failing to achieve her ultimate goal.  I also recognize that Italy has it’s own struggles with race and racism, particularly towards blacks.

But I’m not going to cut the mindset that likely motivated her comment any slack.  The mindset that leads white people to think that any success garnered by people of color is somehow unfair.  The mindset that tells them their rightful place is at the top of the podium, or top of the class, or head of the line, or where ever it is they want to be at that particular moment.  The mindset that leads them to a state of disbelief when they see successful people of color, because those two concepts — “success” and “people of color” — seem mutually exclusive.  The mindset that says these people are the ones who are supposed to win and those people are not.

If anyone pointed towards the lack of achievement of black women in gymnastics before the summer of 2012 as evidence of some sort of anti- black and/or pro-white racism, they most surely would have been rebuffed.  Yet because two — yes, two — black women achieve great heights through hard work, determination, perseverance, and remarkable talent… well, clearly something must be wrong.  Clearly these women were awarded victory because of something nefarious.  Clearly those gold medals were  supposed to go to white folks.

I’m sure Ferlito will receive much flack for her statements.  The president of the Italian federation has  denounced the comments and Ferlito has already issued a public apology via Twitter.  But what likely won’t receive much pushback are the broader societal messages that Ferlito received that led her to make her statement.  That led her to blame race.  That led her to feel the victim of racism.  Messages that she likely received in her home country but which are very much present in our own American society.  I doubt she will be criticized for playing the “race card”, a phrase I would be shocked to seen mentioned in any major discussions of this situation.  I doubt there will be conversations about white victimhood and the real source of white people’s recent struggles in gymnastics.  Instead, we’re likely to demonize a young white person, a young white person who said something demonstrably racist, instead of having a real conversation about race, racism, and how those feelings arise in people and groups that stretch well beyond Ferlito, Italians, or the gymnastics community.  And that is why it is so hard for us to truly move forward on race relations.

We should be celebrating Biles.  And Douglas.  We should celebrate their individual accomplishments, which cannot be understated.  We should also celebrate what they mean with regards to their race — what it means to succeed as a black woman in gymnastics.  Instead, we’ve got at least one competitor insinuating that their accomplishments are suspect, the result of racism, and are unworthy of celebrating.  Ugh.

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I should also note that any attempt to construe this as, “Well, you know how Italians can be… they’re just a bunch of backwards racists,” is little better than what Ferlito said.

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257 thoughts on “Black Medals

  1. I ask in the spirit of inquiry rather than accusation, but is “Italy has it’s own struggles with race and racism, particularly towards blacks” just a more polite way of saying “[Italians are] just a bunch of backwards racists”?

    It seems to me that the first statement can be proven. I can imagine someone could find a bunch of links that demonstrates the struggles. The latter, meanwhile, commits the sin of blaming the actor rather than the act. But is that a sin because it derails otherwise productive conversations or because it’s untrue?

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    • Vikram,

      I offered the first statement to make note of the fact that Italy’s history with race and racism is different than our own, so viewing her comments through a strictly American lens would be unfair. This is not to say that racism is somehow relative; only that context matters. Our views are very much influenced by the environment we grow up in. Italy’s history and current issues around race and racism likely impacted her comments.

      I made the note at the bottom because I remember during the Amanda Knox situation, there was a lot of analysis that amounted to little more than, “Well, what do you expect from the Italians?” with the final word always being dropped like a cinder block.

      So, to your final question, I think it is both/and. It is untrue that all Italians are backwards racists. As untrue as it is to say all Southerners or Americans or white folks are backwards racists. It also obscures the conversation. But perhaps worst of all, it does exactly what is being criticized, namely attributing somebody’s actions and behaviors to their race/ethnicity.

      If Italians ARE backwards racist, it is not because they happened to be born on that particular European peninsula which, thankfully, we were not born on and therefore are neither backwards nor racist. It would be because there is something present within Italian culture, Italian society that contributes to certain individuals holding those views. And even a cursory examination of that would demonstrate that the ingredients which allow that to happen are not uniquely Italian. Therefore, the focus on the Italian-ess of the people is a way to ignore the real issue.

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      • I made the note at the bottom because I remember during the Amanda Knox situation, there was a lot of analysis that amounted to little more than, “Well, what do you expect from the Italians?” with the final word always being dropped like a cinder block.

        Maybe they were already familiar with the Italian legal system and forensic science as it is practiced in Italy.

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      • How would you feel about people from Guinea, who in the aftermath of the Amadou Diallo shooting, shook their heads and said, “Well, what do you expect from Americans?” not because of some over simplified view of Americans, but because of what they knew about the racial statistics of stop-and-frisk and America’s record of treating people from West Africa?

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      • But I would venture to guess that would vociferously reject that response and insist that you and your people didn’t really know shit about America and that was just good police work and it had nothing to do with race.

        Yet, when it is a white American under the thumb of a foreign government, suddenly we all know enough to properly criticize it.

        And I doubt he sees the connection between these two things.

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    • Frankly, I think all of Europe is more racist than is usually assessed from our hemisphere (and more they’d like to admit). They just have fewer opportunities for wholesale racist policies or retail racist sentiments and actions.

      (almost?) Every European democracy has a nativist faction that are real players in their politics, (on the margin, but at the margin is where one makes a difference). Most have found significant parliamentary gains with the economic malaise of the last few years, some for the first time ever.

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      • Kolohe,

        It is possible that certain European nations or Europe as a whole is more racist than America, though of course how racist a place is is hard to measure. Still, I’m not sure just writing off Italy or Europe as racist is particularly productive.

        Nor, do I think, is writing off the American south as such.

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      • “It is possible that certain European nations or Europe as a whole is more racist than America”

        I might have not been clear. My opinion is not that Europeans are more racist than Americans, my opinion is that Europeans are more racist than Americans (or Europeans) think Europeans are.

        Regardless, I agree that writing off whole societies or sectors thereof as ‘racist’ is not productive. Though, I would contend that Europe does not have as deep or broad (though they may have had as long) experience in dealing with people of several different races (as is defined in the American context*) living more or less amongst each other. This makes things different. Not better or worse necessarily, but different.

        *Europe does possess of course a long history, particularly east of the Rhine, of enclaves and exclaves of several different ethnicities living interspersed amongst each other. Though a great deal of this feature was steamrolled in the two catalysmic wars of the 20th century (and their aftermath).

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      • that’s why I had the long caveat at the end, I was thinking about not only the alternating pockets of germanic and slavic ethnicities back in the day in the hundred league stretches on either side of the Oder, but also the Jewish and Roma communities, that integrated with the larger culture on a spectrum of not-at-all to rather darn integrated.

        But the historic European behavior towards Jewish people is in my mind a different thing than the *American* historical (and current) manifestation of racism. To oversimply and put it somewhat crassly, a European Jewish person could convert* and pass, the way a black person in America (past or present, North, South or West) cannot.

        *one should not of course forget that such conversion were often very much forced (e.g. Reconquista era Spain) and still left a negative generational legacy.

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      • I’d push back a little at the ability of a Jewish person to convert. At least in the 19th and 20th centuries. I’m far from an expert on the subject, but wasn’t Disreali derided as “a Jew” even though he had converted. And the Nazis, to my knowledge, didn’t care if a Jewish person converted. It was for them a racial category.

        I do agree that in the U.S., skin color predominates to a larger degree, and that makes “passing” less possible. Still, I imagine that a certain stripe of antisemite will even now claim he/she knows “a Jew when I see one.” The conditional whiteness that’s often assigned to Jewish people (and phenotypically white people of other ethnicities/religious identities) makes the situation likely more fluid in the U.S. for Jewish people (with the counterpoint of blacks being at the bottom of the racial hierarchy) than it might be in Europe.

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      • , even before the 19th century conversion simply did not work in many cases. After the Edict of Expulsion, the Jews who decided to become Christian rather than leave still faced a lot of what we would call racial prejudice. The Spanish had a concept that they called the Purity of the Blood. Being a New Christian wasn’t good in many cases, you needed to come from an old Christian background. Until the mid-19th century, most European Jews lived under laws that were similar to Jim Crow laws that controlled many aspects of Jewish lives, including how many could get married in a given year. Lets not even get into the policies of the Russian Empire.

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  2. It’s a ubiquitous attitude, the same way you hear people saying Obama won the presidency because he was black. The irony is not only that the claim is untrue, but that every single US president before him got the presidency because they were white (and male). This is not to say that each of them was unqualified (though some were), but that none of them would have gotten the presidency if they had been black. (In some cases the comparison can’t even be made in a relevant way. You can’t say “would a black person in a family with the same level of wealth and power as the Bushes possess have become president?”, because there are few if any black families in America with that level of wealth and power, and that fact is itself an artifact of centuries of racist policy and racist actions.)

    It shows how deep racist attitudes go. The most rudimentary knowledge of history is enough to show that black people have been at a disadvantage for all of American history. Yet when a white person succeeds – in any career – we don’t say “they got that because they were white”, however true that would be (in the sense that most black people in America have had far less of the resources that assist in gaining success than the typical successful white person has had). If a black person succeeds, though, people act like they cheated or like they’re an anomaly or abnormality.

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    • It’s a ubiquitous attitude, the same way you hear people saying Obama won the presidency because he was black. The irony is not only that the claim is untrue,

      More precisely, Obama won the Presidency because of a comprehensive breakdown of the peer review function within the Democratic Party conjoined to a perfect storm of historical events (a banking crisis erupting six weeks before the election, and the opposition campaign having a fifth column operating at its apex and center). The first was remarked upon by both Geraldine Ferraro and Bilge Clinton.

      The question would be why the peer review function broke down (or why he was given the Nobel Peace Prize). Among partisan Democrats, that sort of thing is part of the mix. And you can see the mentality in this Kazzy post. He’s the sort of person who notices and cares. He also works in the school apparat, who are commonly trained by the sort of people addled by this sort of thing. See here:

      http://www.nas.org/articles/Achievement_Gap_Politics

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      • Obama won the Presidency because of a comprehensive breakdown of the peer review function within the Democratic Party

        Well, he may have won the Democratic nomination for this reason, but that such a presumably lousy candidate won the Presidency suggests a much bigger breakdown in the peer review function of the Republican Party. Twice.

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      • No, there is not a problem with the peer review function in the Republican Party. There may be a marketing problem or there may be problems with external circumstances, but there is no problem with peer review. The preparation that both Republican candidates had had ‘ere running was adequate. It was not optimal, but it was adequate.

        The Obama campaign actually represents the triumph of marketing. You take someone who would have been a stretch for corporation counsel of Chicago and you put him in the White House. Quite a tour de force.

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      • You keep telling yourself that, Art. You and the rest of the Republicans. And this libertarian will keep wagering on the Democrats to win the White House. But thanks for the laugh–it’s been kind of a crappy day and I needed that!

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      • @art-deco one of the recent themes of talk radio and the internet right is that the GOP ‘peer review’, as it were, is indeed broken, and is exactly why the Republicans mistakenly nominated in turn McCain and Romney, vice a real conservative who knows how to fight and win (like, say, Ted Cruz) (or Sarah Palin).

        (for example)

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      • having spent my life female, I’ve grown adept at noticing the times people put others down when they themselves are feeling weak. Men often do this to other men with suggesting their womanly, for instance.

        All this going-on about how inept Obama is, really really reeks of this bad habit; but it’s not better to point a finger at him then to realistically evaluate your own candidates and policies. I’ve yet to see honest critiques of Republican candidates or any reflective grappling with the party and where it’s at, and yet to see any realistic policy other then ‘shrink government,’ with no thought to the consequences. The only thing I see of Republican these days is ‘Not Obama,” a party defining itself by the president’s negative space.

        And this saddens me. I grew up in a Republican household; my great-great uncle served in the Lincoln administration, helped found the party. And it holds nothing in common with its roots right any more. Nothing. My mother can’t even bring herself to vote for it anymore; and losing someone like her, with long family connection and a history of working to raise money and get local candidates elected, strikes me as losing strategy.

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      • But thanks for the laugh–it’s been kind of a crappy day and I needed that!

        No, you needed to say something snotty because that’s how you roll. Thanks, teach.

        Kohole, I think there is a difference between a ‘peer review’ problem, a ‘participation problem’ and a ‘deliberation problem’. There is a difference between supply side and demand side problems.

        I think the Republican Party is suffering a supply-side problem: what the applicant pool is and who among them are motivated is the problem. Aspects of the nomination contest produce feedback as well. It also has problems connecting with a decisive sliver of the electorate. That problem may prove intractable due to cultural factors.

        To the extent that there is a residual peer review function (and, IIRC, Nelson Polsby thought that deliberation and peer review functions in both parties were shot), I do not see it as operating all that badly. Nomination contests have been between manifest demonstration candidates (Buchanan, Forbes, Keyes, Paul) and pols who have had some baseline of preparation (Bush-pere, Dole, Bush-fils, McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Gingrich). Santorum was the only exception in this regard, neither fish nor fowl. I would prefer a mess of people who had been public executives and had worked in the federal government for a time and had had satisfying careers in the private sector. That would be optimally prepared, however, not adequately prepared. Truman and Eisenhower approached optimally prepared, as did Bush-pere. Of course, preparation is not enough.

        Now, look at the Democratic trio in 2008: three undistinguished members of Congress whose effective service had been between 2.5 years and 6.5 years. Two had been seedy lawyers before entering politics. The third had been a dilettente lawyer who had managed to gain election to Congress by standing on piles of his opponents’ confidential divorce papers. No real peer review there.

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      • You take someone who would have been a stretch for corporation counsel of Chicago and you put him in the White House.

        This will occasionally happen when the only requirement for office is a minimum age and native-born status. It’s not a guaranteed disaster or even much of a bug. Past performance is no guarantee of future success. Sometimes other factors overtake experience as the determining factor (sometimes it’s even, if you can believe it, policy positions!). The Dems made a call in 2008 as parties do in every presidential primary; I’m fairly sure they’re by and large pretty okay with the outcome. And I have zero confidence that if they’d selected Clinton you wouldn’t be having similar things to say about them and her right now as you do about Obama. (Perhaps that it was down to the two of them is part of your diagnosis that their peer review process was broken; if so, as James says, if I’m them I’m taking that brokenness over the reality of what you describe as the GOP’s well-functioning process every time).

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      • Ted Cruz the Fighter? Not Rafael Cruz the Winner of Fights. Big talker. Big loser. That man is as fake as a three dollar bill. Pantywaist Princeton and Harvard Law boy trying to pass himself off as some Texas man of the people.

        Ted Cruz is a Republican John Kerry — without the medals.

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      • A stay at home mom that got into politics late, and rose to power all the way to the Governor’s seat by taking on the corrupt establishment of her own party, is actually a pretty decent narrative, and as good of a resume as the top of Democratic ticket had in 2008. There is also a 60 minutes interview out there, somewhere, made well before she became, overnight, a national name, where she comes across rather well.

        But in hindsight, though, yeah, it kinda went off the rails.

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      • All this going-on about how inept Obama is, really really reeks of this bad habit; but it’s not better to point a finger at him then to realistically evaluate your own candidates and policies. I’ve yet to see honest critiques of Republican candidates or any reflective grappling with the party and where it’s at, and yet to see any realistic policy other then ‘shrink government,’ with no thought to the consequences. The only thing I see of Republican these days is ‘Not Obama,” a party defining itself by the president’s negative space.

        Well, these interminable tangles over small bits of fiscal territory are not the best matrix in which one might articulate alternatives. I think it is perfectly possible that Republican task forces in Congress have produced engaging proposals as perhaps have research and advocacy centers like AEI. You never hear about it though, and I have not waded through the documentation there might be.

        The trouble is, the institutional set up is such that it is likely that any future Republican administration will have to content it self with incremental adjustment. There are just too many avenues for veto groups to make their influence felt.

        Where I think you are right is in the realm of popular discussion. Chatter in fora like this tends to revolve around mocking some agency stepping in it (as large organization will do from time to time), complaining in a generic way about ‘government’, or promoting antiquarianism (“repeal the 17th Amendment”). The alt-right (The American Conservative) have nothing to offer but their conceits and bad attitudes. So, yes, real estate agents and cranks. You can see the trouble that causes.

        On the other end, as can be seen in these deliberations over immigration law, is that the federal officeholders are ‘tutsis’ while the rank and file are ‘hutu’. The aim of the tutsis is to put one over on their base (for which they have little regard). It is exasperating.

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      • Maybe he was just being held up as an example of the “good kind” of conservative/Republican, but you all do know that Cruz was born in Canada and therefore is ineligible for the Presidency, right? Good, bad, or otherwise, the man can’t be President.

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      • I think the Republican Party is suffering a supply-side problem: what the applicant pool is and who among them are motivated is the problem. Aspects of the nomination contest produce feedback as well. It also has problems connecting with a decisive sliver of the electorate. That problem may prove intractable due to cultural factors.

        Okay, I didn’t want to — but I’m compelled to break this down.

        I think the Republican Party is suffering a supply-side problem: what the applicant pool is and who among them are motivated is the problem
        “All the Republican candidates suck, and for some reason the ones that don’t suck don’t seem to want to run for President. Puzzling.”

        Aspects of the nomination contest produce feedback as well. It also has problems connecting with a decisive sliver of the electorate
        Crazy people keep voting in the primaries. Which makes the guys running have to act crazy to get the crazy vote. However, it appears moderates do not like voting for candidates who act crazy, and so we keep losing elections. Cost us the Senate, we weren’t even CLOSE on the White House, and while we held the House, the minority party actually got a million more votes!

        That problem may prove intractable due to cultural factors
        We sorta turned our base crazy, and now they won’t shut up and do what they’re told. I’m afraid we’re stuck with crazy people.

        So, to conclude: “Conservatism has not failed, it is only BEING failed because good conservatives are refusing to run for high office, because the GOP base is crazy. Which is not a problem of ideology. We just, you know, got a lot of crazy people. But at least they’re not teachers.”

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      • This will occasionally happen when the only requirement for office is a minimum age and native-born status. It’s not a guaranteed disaster or even much of a bug.

        No. It is quite unusual. Previous experience as a public executive has been standard for presidents. Most have been state governors, some cabinet secretaries, and some flag-rank military. Of those that had no such preparation, one was Speaker of the House, and two floor leaders in Congress. Of the remainder, one had been in Congress for 14 years and had navy service, and one had owned and operated his own business for 30 years. One of the exceptions was Abraham Lincoln, oddly enough. I think the characteristics of Lincoln’s upbringing (tough pioneer farming) and his education and professional practice (built from scratch) make him a very different sort of character. Another exception was Richard Nixon. Nixon had at least spent 20-odd years studying policy problems. Obama was singularly unprepared. You would be hard put even to find candidates so deficient.

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      • Deco, there’s no Presidential Training Academy. Nobody can possibly prepare for the office of POTUS. It’s a unique job. It ages the men who’ve held the office.

        Obama was prepared for the office of POTUS, certainly as well as his predecessor. And like his predecessor, his sins and shortcomings didn’t keep him from getting elected and re-elected. Shut up about Obama’s qualifications. You only need one: getting the Chief Justice to swear you in on the strength of the electoral college vote.

        You guys just can’t quite handle the fact that Obama won. The GOP simply cannot handle the fact that a black man won. It just continues to make them froth and gibber. How long did that Obama the Kenyan bullshit go on? Still going on.

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      • Obama was prepared for the office of POTUS, certainly as well as his predecessor.

        You’re lost buddy. His predecessor had 16 years running businesses and six years as Governor of Texas.

        One of the characters working on the Harvard Law Review during Obama’s tenure there supposedly told a reporter that the man always seemed more interesting in holding the title of President of the Review than doing anything while he held the title. (N.B. he was not the Editor). You see a recurring pattern. He apparently was not offered or elected to forego clerkships on completing law school. He obtained no work in the legal profession for a year after completing his program, and no associate’s position in any firm for two years. Pro-rating part time and seasonal labors, he spent about three years working in law offices, and was never offered a partnership. Again, pro-rating part time and seasonal labors, he spent the equivalent of five years as an instructor at the University of Chicago Law School. He taught boutique courses (“__ & the Law”) and published not one scholarly paper. By some accounts, he was hired from above, sat on no academic committees, and did not attend faculty meetings. He sat for ten years in various legislative bodies, but cannot be identified as a specialist in any realm of policy. The guy is spam in a can.

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      • AD,

        So when we don’t satisfy your requirements we get Obama and Lincoln; when we do we get everybody else. Hmm. I’ll take those averages. At least I’ll take them at least far enough that I don’t want to make absolute exclusions based on them. Those averages tell me to take the risk of that diversification because the upside is real.

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      • Art,
        Governorship of Texas is a notoriously weak political office. And being a business exec is not training for the presidency. Much better preparation fomes from sitting on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And quite seriously with McCain, we have a guy who by the books was damned qualified, but demonstrated exceptionally poor judfgment. I’m not defending Obama, whom I said from ’07 on was not prepared for the presidency, but McCain had my vote and lost it through a series of decisions that persuaded me he was not qualified, not to be trusted with the decisions a president has to make.

        Romney? Perhaps a good businessman, certainly a good head of the SLC Olympic Organizing Committee, but only a one-term governor, and he never demonstrated a serious grasp of foreign policy.

        I’ll skip ovet some of the others you mention, but I do have to pause to comment on Huckabee. The governorship of Arkansas as a training ground for the presidency? Really? I didn’t know you were a fan of Bill Clinton.

        As to the parties being able to vet their candidates, that’s from an era that no longer exists for either party, because the candidates are determined by the masses through primaries, not by the party leadership, whose ability to control the outcomes died in the ’70s.

        And as to snark, damn right that’s how I roll. Humor always has an element of truth. And the truth is you can’t accept that a majority of Americans found Obama to be a better candidate for president than either of the last two dogs your party has nominated, so you hide behind excuses about marketing (when those two guys were the ones responsible for marketing themselves!). Yeah, that’s funny, so I make fun of it. I mean, you weren’t under the illusion that a claim like that deserved to be taken seriously were you?

        No, I’ll tell you seriously, I’ve studied the preisdency quite seriously, and it’s a topic
        I teach. I’m no liberal partisan on the matter. I think the most effective president as president in the past 50 years is Reagan (although he should have been impeached for Iran-Contra), and I wish Bush 1 had won re-election over Clinton. Carter’s probably the best person we’ve had as president, but he was badly unprepared and not a good cognitive fit for the job. But the GOP’s last two candidates have just been dogs. McCain was so desperate to win the presidency it led him to reverse long-standing positions and join Bush II in being gung-ho about a war he knew was a foolish idea, then he offered us the least qualified candidate since at least Warren Harding to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Then they offer us, Romney, a narcissist who goes out of his way to insult our most important ally.

        Hey, the Democrats do it, too. They offered us Kerry, well qualified on paper, but a guy too pusillanimous to respond effectively to the swiftboatets or to remind the public that George W. Bush publicly admitted to not thinking about bin Laden much anymore. Campaigns have a lot of bullshit, but they’re long enough and offer enougj challenges that you can’t hide who you really are and what kind of decision-maker and strategist you are.

        So put that in your ideological pipe and smoke it!

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      • James, what do Kerry’s responses to those particular campaign vicissitudes (I’d add the For-it-before-I-was-against-it moment as another problematic one) tell us about his preparedness/fitness for office? What quality in a good president do they, in your opinion, speak to?

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      • Art Deco,

        I see a lot of discussion about what kind of experience presidents typically have before being elected but not a lot of data on how well those variables predict success in the office.

        Most of the people who are hired at competitive companies like Google had high GPAs in college. But it also appears that GPAs aren’t great predictors of actual job performance. And as much as I’m an arrogant bastard about how hard it is to be really good at what I do, I’m pretty certain that it’s easier to figure out whether somebody will be a good engineer than whether somebody will be a successful President.

        So are there really good concrete variables on paper that predict a successful presidency? Or, at least, variables that can predict a catastrophic one? Where’s the data?

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      • Exactly, Troublesome. The fact is that the only job that prepares you to be President is President. It’s true that Obama had a pretty short resume prior to his election, but it doesn’t appear to have been a major hindrance to his Presidency. While he’s made some unforced errors (nominations, for one) certainly he’s been more effective at the nuts and bolts of governance than George W. or Jimmy Carter, both of whom had that vaunted executive experience. And for the record, nobody “who would have been a stretch for corporation counsel of Chicago” wins a major party nomination, much less one against as formidable a candidate as Clinton in ’08. To be hanging on to this sort of silliness when you’ve got 5 years of his presidency to critique says a lot more about the speaker than it does about Obama.

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      • More precisely, Obama won the Presidency because of a comprehensive breakdown of the peer review function within the Democratic Party..

        Obama managed to win the election, win re-election, advance Democratic policies like health care, oppose Republican policies like nuking Iran from orbit, and got a liberal judge on the SCOTUS.

        I’d say that the peer review worked like a freaking charm.

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      • By some accounts, [Obama] was hired from above, sat on no academic committees, and did not attend faculty meetings.

        He was an adjunct professor/instructor (whatever term UC uses) of law. Adjuncts do not normally sit on committees or attend faculty meetings. You’re criticizing him for having done exactly what everyone in his position does.

        I’ve recruited and hired adjuncts (technically, I recommend them for hire, but I’ve never been turned down), and assigned them courses and schedules. They are not allowed to serve on committees and on the occasion they have asked me whether they shoukd attend faculty meetings I tell them they can, but there’s absolutely no reason for them to do so. And of course thry’d have no vote.

        This is a an argument born of ignorance.

        There’s also been criticism of him for callong himself faculty when he was just an adjunct. That’s trickier, but if a person is a more-or-less permanent adjunct, someone who’s offered a teaching load every term, it’s not really improper to say they’re facilty, as long as they don’t misrepresent whether they’re permant or adjunct.

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      • Michael,

        As W would say, strategery. An effective president has to be a good political strategist. They have to know how to be the agenda setter, getting people to focus on their issues and interpretations rather than others. When others manage to set the agenda they have to find strategies for retaking it. Ultimately, they can’t be too passive. John Kerry was much too passive in that campaign, passing on opportunities to try to take control.

        The swiftboating was bullshit, right? As one of my friends pointed out, they were questioning whether he earned one of his three purple hearts. Wouldn’t that have been a great line, uttered drolly? And with one of the main issues being who would be tougher in the war on terror, he failed to make ads using the video of W saying, “I don’t think about bin Laden much anymore.” I’ve heard it said that he wanted to stay above the fray, to not get down and dirty. If so, that may be a defense of his general character, but it’s no defense of his judgment about what the office at times demands. (A president doesn’t have to be a dirty scoundrel, but he had to know when it’s necessary to get tough–and using W’s own words would have been tough, not dirty.)

        I think Kerry would have been an improvement on W, but he managed to persuade me that he was likely to behave that way as president, particularly in foreign affairs. In my opinion, the fortuitous gaffe about Syria giving up chemical weapons is a case in point (although you should take that with a grain of salt, as it could be mere confirmation bias.)

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      • This from U of C

        From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School’s Senior Lecturers has high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.

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      • James,

        Fair enough. I’m not so convinced that the requirements of the campaign so nearly approximate the requirements of the office in terms of strategy that I’d want to judge strategic thinking on the basis of observing the campaign, except maybe in its broadest outlines. I.e. overall message-setting versus the kind of specific gaffes you’re focussing on for Kerry and Romney. Overall, I’d rather look at the broader record and career to judge that kind of stuff. I do, however, think that the close focus of the modern campaign gives, combined with biographical reporting, about as good an account of personal character and cast of mind as can be developed, which, for whatever reason, I actually place before evidence of the ability to strategize in leadership. (You can hire advisors to devise strategy, and the cast of available advisors is considerably different to a president than it is to even a party nominee, so I tend to doubt you can really judge what you;re going to get by way strategizing from a context as unique as presidential campaign; you can’t arrange for a transplant of values and basic judgement.)

        At a broader level, I do think that rank incompetence in running a campaign, or great competence, does give an overall sense of a person’s ability to get results, and that is a thing worth placing some value in in terms of judging a person’s overall capability as a leader. But overall competence in guiding an endeavor to successful results reflects a range of aptitudes beyond strategy. I have to say that, when I look at the particulars of a candidate’s performance in a campaign, I rarely think that a particular mistake reflects on the person’s overall strategic aptitude and foretells similar mistakes in strategizing for the country. I really don’t think it maps across that way; the contexts are too different.

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      • So when we don’t satisfy your requirements we get Obama and Lincoln; when we do we get everybody else. Hmm.

        Rather steals a base, Michael. You might at least wait until he shuffles out of office before you put him on the currency. (Of course, if we have Argentine style currency, his mug on it would be perfectly appropriate).

        In all seriousness, see above. Obama spent about a third of his upbringing in the house of an engineer employed by the Indonesian state oil company. The rest was in a high rise condo where lived his grandparents – a salesman and a bank executive. Somehow, Honolulu’s agreeable haolie society ca. 1975 seems rather far afield from the Kentucky frontier, and a law practice built from scratch over 25 years rather far afield from three years shlepping about in other people’s offices.

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      • The swiftboating was bullshit, right? As one of my friends pointed out, they were questioning whether he earned one of his three purple hearts. Wouldn’t that have been a great line, uttered drolly?

        All three Purple Hearts were awarded for petty injuries. The worst injury was the 2d: it landed Kerry in the infirmary for 36 hours and required pieces of rice be removed from a wound on his ass. The first was trivial – like the episode of M*A*S*H where Frank Burns received a Purple Heart for getting a piece of eggshell in his eye – and may have been inadvertantly self-inflicted.

        Kerry’s actual service was more than adequate as it was; it was just embellished by medal-award inflation and his own campfire BS. However, most of his fellow Swift captains thought ill of him, as did those in his chain of command. He alienated a great many people by defaming the generic soldier after he left active duty. And, of course, he had been dining off it for the entirety of his public life, down to and including having a bunch of old Navy buddies on the podium with him 35 years after his discharge. Ultimately, that is why he was hoist on his petard.

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      • He was an adjunct professor/instructor (whatever term UC uses) of law. Adjuncts do not normally sit on committees or attend faculty meetings. You’re criticizing him for having done exactly what everyone in his position does.

        His title was ‘Lecturer’ (see William Dyer on the efforts of the Democratic noise machine to pass him off as a ‘law professor’). He had a (p/t) salaried position there for 12 years. Actually, Richard Epstein was offering a description of his activities, not me. I report, you decide. Presumably, Epstein knows the drill at the Law School there. (At the institution I know best, the position which maps most closely to Obama’s is called a ‘Category I’ faculty member, and they do attend faculty meetings and sit on committees).

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      • I’ve yet to see honest critiques of Republican candidates or any reflective grappling with the party and where it’s at, and yet to see any realistic policy other then ‘shrink government,’ with no thought to the consequences. The only thing I see of Republican these days is ‘Not Obama,” a party defining itself by the president’s negative space

        Where, zic, from me? Troll around on Republican websites. You will see boatloads of heartfelt dismay at what has happened in the realm of Presidential politics in the last 25 years. It is not typically detailed or reflective dismay, but it is forthright.

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      • what I’ve seen is honest and constructive criticism triggering ostracism. My favorite example is Bruce Bartlett. But there are so many others that there seem to be more bodies in the water than on the GOP swiftboat.

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      • All three Purple Hearts were awarded for petty injuries.

        Doesn’t matter. You’re trying to hold him to a different standard than other servicemen. Maybe the Pentagon shouldn’t have handed out Purple Hearts for anything less than serious injuries, but they did, and not just to Kerry. So to question whether he deserved them is to question whether thousands of other servicemen deserved them. But I’m willing to wager you won’t go down to the Vet’s Hall and make that argument.

        His title was ‘Lecturer’ (see William Dyer on the efforts of the Democratic noise machine to pass him off as a ‘law professor’). He had a (p/t) salaried position there for 12 years. Actually, Richard Epstein was offering a description of his activities, not me. I report, you decide. Presumably, Epstein knows the drill at the Law School there. (At the institution I know best, the position which maps most closely to Obama’s is called a ‘Category I’ faculty member, and they do attend faculty meetings and sit on committees).

        Thank you for making the argument for me. He was paid for 12 years to teach law at a top law school. He wasn’t paid to attend faculty meetings or sit on committees. So to criticize him for “not even” doing that is, again, to try to hold someone to a different standard than others are held.

        Rule number 1 in life: When you need to hold your opponents to a higher standard than you hold yourself or others, you’re already a loser.

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      • He alienated a great many people by defaming the generic soldier after he left active duty. And, of course, he had been dining off it for the entirety of his public life, down to and including having a bunch of old Navy buddies on the podium with him 35 years after his discharge.

        He obviously alienated the hell out of them, didn’t he!

        How funny is it that you try to make a vet look bad because his old service buddies are willing to stand up with him?

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      • No, there is not a problem with the peer review function in the Republican Party.

        This is true; McCain and Romney were both by far the best of the bunch. (Well, Huntsman, but he never stood a ghost of a chance.)

        That says a hell of a lot about the peer group they’re being selected from.

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      • “… the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”
        The Senate’s least consequential committee (or is it the Judiciary committee?). And you get paid for this.

        Wow. Judiciary Committee, of course, vets nominees for the federal judiciary, including Supreme Court nominees. It also is responsible for dealing with apportionment of Representatives after the decennial census, immigration and naturalization law, and a variety of other substantial matters.

        Foreign Relations vets nominees for Sec State and ambassadorial positions, foreign loans, international nuclear policy and information/materials transfer, the IMF, international law, etc.

        Compare these to the Select Committee on Aging, or Select Committee on Ethics (the hall monitor committee).

        Once again, Art, you’ve managed to persuade me that not only do you not actually know anything, but you’re one of those people who are proudly determined to remain ignorant.

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      • Bartlett may not be the best example. A lot of people – including myself – believe that he is an opportunist rather than an honest dealer. His career in GOP ranks having plateaued, and he’s entering a new niche. Of course, that’s a criticism that is going to be leveled at any would-be reformer of the GOP. The argument has more traction with some than with others, though. I think people like Chris Christie, David Frum*, Steve Schmidt and Ross Douthat are invaluable. Even John Weaver and Matthew Dowd. Less so for Bartlett**.

        * – I should confess to having previously put Frum in the same category as Bartlett. It has become apparent to me that I was wrong to do so. Cynically, it may be the case that I think he is still in the process of figuring out where he stands in the post-GWB era. I… can relate.

        ** – It should be pointed out that my inability to defend Bartlett as an honest dealer actually goes back to when we were both Republicans of better standing than we are now. He came across to me as a something of an opportunist back then and a bit of a hack. I was not at all surprised his career took the turn that it did.

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      • I think he is still in the process of figuring out where he stands in the post-GWB era. I… can relate.

        Heh, just this week I found out yet another one of my friends is a life-long Republican trying to figure out where her party went. She said, incredulous wonder still in my voice, “I was at the convention when they nominated Reagan…I just wrote my first ever check to a Democrat!”

        There’s enough of those folks among my friends that I’ve lost count. Certainly they can’t be added up on two hands anymore.

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      • Clancy isn’t a Republican, but voted GOP for president every turn from 1996 to 2008. In 2012, not only did she join me in voting for Johnson, but she was rooting for Obama over Romney. Some of that was just Romney himself, a person Clancy was really predisposed not to like. But there wasn’t any other candidate in the GOP field that I think she would have voted for, by the time all was said and done. Maybe Huntsman if his last name wasn’t Huntsman. Or Johnson, of course.

        On the other hand, we should be careful about extrapolating too much from our own experiences. I think you and I are of a particular demographic most susceptible to recent discontent towards the Republican Party.

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      • Once again, Art, you’ve managed to persuade me that not only do you not actually know anything, but you’re one of those people who are proudly determined to remain ignorant.

        Take it up with George Will, formerly on the staff of Sen. Gordon Allott, formerly of the Michigan State faculty. The first of those judgements are his. Concurred with by my old teacher Marcia Nye Wice (now Adler, I believe), formerly on the staff of Birch Bayh. Judiciary’s a hole. You want to be on the committees that distributes the bon bons.

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      • I think you and I are of a particular demographic most susceptible to recent discontent towards the Republican Party.

        How do you mean that? My list is pretty diverse, including people who’ve worked on Capital Hill, people from the business world, and blue-collar acquaintances.

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      • Judiciary’s a hole. You want to be on the committees that distributes the bon bons.

        Oh, so your idea of an important committee is one that distributes pork? Brilliant. Great training ground to be president and leader of the First World.

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      • Oh, so your idea of an important committee is one that distributes pork? Brilliant. Great training ground to be president and leader of the First World.

        Take it up with the people that worked there. That’s the way the business works: Appropriations, Education and Labor, &c. those be the sought after committees. I did not create the system.

        (Now that I think about it, she may have been referring to the House Judiciary Committee, which does not have a say over appointments).

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      • Where, zic, from me? Troll around on Republican websites. You will see boatloads of heartfelt dismay at what has happened in the realm of Presidential politics in the last 25 years.

        By idiots who think the current GOP is weak because Reagan would never have negotiated with enemies, foreign or Democratic.

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      • That’s the way the business works: Appropriations, Education and Labor, &c. those be the sought after committees.

        Back to these weird criteria again. Does “sought after” mean “good experience to prepare one for the Presidency?”

        I mean, my understanding is that Action Comics, No. 1 is a highly sought after comic book, but I don’t know that acquiring one is really a good way to prepare yourself to wield the Nuclear Football.

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      • Thank you for making the argument for me. He was paid for 12 years to teach law at a top law school. He wasn’t paid to attend faculty meetings or sit on committees. So to criticize him for “not even” doing that is, again, to try to hold someone to a different standard than others are held.

        Thank you for this. As an aside, I’d imagine not having to attend faculty meetings would be a perk of the position.

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      • Back to these weird criteria again. Does “sought after” mean “good experience to prepare one for the Presidency?”

        It’s worth noting that congressmembers have two competing criteria dictating their committee preferences–constituency interests and personal interests. Appropriations? Hell, yeah, lots of ability to send money back home. Education? Labor? Yeah, if those play well back home, or if you have a special interest in the particular issue. Armed Services? Awesome if you’re a vet and live in a district with a military base. Foreign Relations? Little constituent appeal, but where you deal with the big international issues and have some extra status. H. Clinton did a bangup job on that committee and earned the respect of her colleagues on both sides of the aisle, then parlayed that experience into a successful stint as SecState. No doubt in my mind she’d have been preferable as a Dem prez than Obama. Oh, well, campaign are about more than just qualifications.

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      • Because I put them both in the same sentence, I put them both in the same category of leader? Uh, no. There is a reason I said I’ll take the upside on the *average*. Lincoln is the greatest leader we ever had; Obama’s okay to good. Those averages work lead me to decidedly not want to put an exclusion on whom I want to be able to choose from for president based on your criteria. That’s what I said.

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      • The outward manifestation of the psychic threat posed to conservatives by the facts of Kerry’s (and for that matter a number of other Democrats’) service in Vietnam as it was juxtaposed with their Supreme War Leader’s lack of same in 2004 is maybe the single most memorable political display I have seen in my relatively short lifetime. Truly, abortion and Vietnam remain the cultural pole stars in our political night sky.

        I take Hanley’s point that it may have been a strategic error on Kerry’s part not to push harder on that part of his appeal and explicitly defend his record when attacked. But honestly, perhaps just a purely aesthetic part of my sensibility absolutely prefers that he restrained his own references to his record and let the panicked conservative attacks on it speak for themselves (perhaps effectively to their intended purpose for a segment of the electorate, though I remain unconvinced that that part of the campaign discussion had any significant effect on the outcome).

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    • He was paid for 12 years to teach law at a top law school. He wasn’t paid to attend faculty meetings or sit on committees.

      Again, Prof. Epstein’s complaints. University service apparently expected. Note also, Wm. Dyer’s assessment: would have been rather more impressive had Obama taught commercial or tax law; the trouble with ‘constitutional law’ is that you can fake it.

      All those years at a ‘top law school’ and publication = nil. And we know he does not lack for some talent in verbal expression.

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      • Jesus, dude, you are really thick, aren’t you?

        No, adjuncts are not expected to do faculty service. Why don’t you show me specifically where Epstein makes the claim that they are, instead of just implying it? Because you’ve referenced this twice and haven’t backed it up with any evidence. Because I can’t find any actual source for this. Listen here. Epstein is sharply critical of Obama, and says that “we’d always hoped that he would participate in the general intellectual discourse, but he was always so busy with collateral adventures that he essentially kept to himself.” That is not the same as saying he was expected to do faculty service.

        What’s your actual experience and knowledge of the administrative side of academia? Do you actually know, or are you just relying on a probable misinterpretation of what Epstein said? Because I do have actual experience here, having been an adjunct, a visiting assistant professor, and now a tenured associate professor, and I can tell you, probably nobody expects or wants adjuncts to engage in faculty service, because not being permanent faculty they have less knowledge of what is going on at the institution, less understanding of its needs, constraints, and strengths, and are less vested in the outcomes for the institution.

        It’s time you stopped premising your arguments just on your disdain for Obama, Art.. I don’t care how much you despise Obama. I am no supporter of his, nor have I ever been. But intelligent people limit their criticisms to positions that are factually correct and intellectually defensible. They don’t just glom onto any argument that makes the people they dislike look bad without trying to parse its truth value.

        Seriously, dude, in this page you’ve criticized Obama for doing just what adjuncts do, you’ve criticized Kerry for getting purple hearts under the same conditions that thousands of other vets got purple hearts, and you simultaneously complained that he’d alienated vets and that he had vets stand with him in his campaign. These arguments do not resonate with intelligent people as being intelligent arguments. They resonate as the arguments of people who refuse to think about what they’re hearing and saying, but accept any criticism as true so long as it’s targeting a political opponent.

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      • Again, I worked at an institution where instructors with contracts resembling Obama’s did in fact undertake service obligations. Your reading comprehension problem rears its head again.

        Richard Epstein works there. You do not. Take it up with him.

        You keep evading his indifference to publication. This position at the University of Chicago was his primary employment in the legal profession, the first post he had and the one to which he devoted the most time.

        Sorry you’re not familiar with the sifting done of John Kerry’s service record by William Dyer and others. Not my fault.

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      • Again, I worked at an institution where instructors with contracts resembling Obama’s did in fact undertake service obligations.

        Name, please. I’ll contact them to verify.

        Richard Epstein works there. You do not. Take it up with him.

        You have not given any evidence to indicate that Epstein even mentioned this, much less criticized it. And I can’t any such statement. So unless you can demonstrate that Epstein made any such criticism, I have no reason to believe you are right in saying he did.

        You keep evading his indifference to publication. This position at the University of Chicago was his primary employment in the legal profession, the first post he had and the one to which he devoted the most time.

        Why does this matter? Publication is for people who want tenure. According to Epstein, Obama did not seek a tenure track position, even though he was approached about one.

        “Tenure offers require votes from faculties approved by the provost, and need a scholarly output. He was approached with the possibility of an entry level position without tenure, but it never got to the faculty for want of interest on his side,” Epstein confirmed via email.

        So why would I care about his lack of publications? It doesn’t reflect on him as an adjunct, and it certainly isn’t relevant to his presudential bid.

        Now, I’ve linked to the actual words of Epstein twice. You’ve linked to his actual words zero times. Put up or shut up time.

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        • As in basically unheard of? And I mean it’s not like the guy had that much substantive experience either as a litigator or a legislator at that point, either, which suggests the quality of his teaching must’ve been some level of super outstanding to merit that sort of interest.

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  3. Like Spain, Italy is much like many New World countries in that it is a modern nation made up of peoples who perceive themselves as ethnically different from one another and who trace their ancestries back to many different ancient peoples. And for some folks, those differences matter a whole lot even today and there are those who have not reconstructed their attitudes. So of course it’s a different culture than our own, but similar enough that it offers a launching point for discussion.

    Gymnastics can have something of a subjective element to the judging. I don’t claim to be an expert but IIRC there are things like “artistry” and “expressive content” included in judging criteria for at least floor exercises, and not for nothing are they set to music and choreographed to incorporate elements of theatrical dance numbers. So any time there are subjective judgments to be made, people who didn’t prevail can and will complain that they should have won because, well, they should have won. In that sense, it may be like college admissions.

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  4. The mindset that leads white people to think that any success garnered by people of color is somehow unfair. The mindset that tells them their rightful place is at the top of the podium, or top of the class, or head of the line, or where ever it is they want to be at that particular moment. The mindset that leads them to a state of disbelief when they see successful people of color, because those two concepts — “success” and “people of color” — seem mutually exclusive.

    I’m going to offer about a half-Newton of pushback on this.

    Highly competitive people have a tendency to believe that their rightful place is at the top of the podium, or the head of the class, or the front of the line, or wherever they want to be at that particular moment. This mindset leads them into a state of disbelief when they see successful other people, because those two concepts, “success” and “not me” seem mutually exclusive.

    This cognitive dissonance often leaks out in rationalized and spurious excuse-making, because the alternative (I just wasn’t good enough this time) is often regarded as more implausible than any old random crap their brain pukes out in a moment of stress.

    When offered by a majority member, this can take the form of denigration of a minority member, if the minority member was the victor, but I expect in many cases this is just another rationalization that is regarded as less implausible than “I wasn’t good enough this time”.

    It’s still horrible for lots of reasons. But I’ve personally seen enough highly competitive people come up with the most ridiculous assertions in the moment of loss that I think the common failing is the tendency to bullshit yourself, not racism, although it certainly can be expressed that way.

    (to be clear, this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t deserve flak for what she said, or that people ought not to be offended by it)

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    • Two things: First I agree about highly competitive people but this same kind of “ohh blacks get everything for being so blackity black” comes from janitors and admin assistants also. It isn’t just highly competitive people who spout it so i think the point still stands. The refrain is common enough and leaves minorities in a no win position. Any gain is torn down and if they don’t advance its because they must be inferior.

      Second, mmmm Fig Newtons are tasty.

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    • Patrick,

      I think that is a reasonable alternative interpretation. Still, I think there has to be something there that makes the person jump to a racial excuse.

      “Blown calls!”
      “Home team favoritism!”
      “She cheated!”
      “I was robbed!”
      “He got lucky!”

      Those are the excuses you typically here. “I should put some black on my skin”? That is on another level. Even if she wouldn’t make such comments in calmer moments, there is clearly something uniquely bothersome to her about losing to a black girl. She couldn’t even actual Biles as an individual; she was simply another black gold medalist. Ya know, all two of them.

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      • Yeah. It’s the same with guys who get drunk and start spewing racial or ethnic slurs. (Like, oh, Mel Gibson).

        You don’t become a different person when you’re drunk. You just stop holding back opinions. You say what you think, without the bit of your brain that goes “This belief is socially frowned upon. Better keep it to myself.”

        Same with heightened emotions. “I spoke without thinking” — angry, bitter, sad — doesn’t mean you speak thoughts you’d ordinarily never have. It means you speak the thoughts you’d normally keep to yourself.

        So if you’re angry, or drunk, or bitter — and you jump to racism? Unless you’ve got Tourette’s, it’s because you’re kinda racist. Because you’ve already thought those things before. Because those are the excuses you give yourself.

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      • You don’t become a different person when you’re drunk.

        I’ll actually give a lot more than a half-Newton of pushback on that one. You *do* become a different person when you’re drunk. Your regulator is just as much a part of the normal you as the seething id that it keeps in place. Shutting your regulator down lets a lot of that id out.

        That shitbar that rages in your amygdalae isn’t the “real” you any more than any one of the other subprocesses of the brain is the real you. All of them together plus the soup of hormones that the rest of the body generates are the real you.

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      • I wrote a long comment about what I think people mean by “You’re still yourself when you’re drunk,” which is not what I think thinks they mean by that…

        And then I thought back a few years, pondering the last few times I was utterly shitfaced and … I don’t think my regulator ever turns all the way off? I can be too drunk to walk straight, or to talk at all, and I still have Strong Opinions about what things I’m not supposed to do. Effective ones.

        I’ve been blackout drunk maybe… twice in my life? and from trusted description of how I behaved, I’m pretty sure my regulator didn’t turn off then either. My moral code is *different* – sometimes to the point where I’m really not thrilled with the consequences – but I never stop having a moral code that I am regulated by. Can your unconscious have a moral code? [Trufax, alcohol also makes me more wakeful, rather than sleepy. My brain, it is weird.]

        So I’m probably not qualified to opine on the whole “no regulator” thing. Although I’m also not sure that’s a fair description – inhibiting inhibitors is one thing, erasing them is another. And honestly, I’m pretty sure I would consider any choice that removed my regulator to be an immoral choice.

        Immoral to the point where if, say, competing in a sport led to a situation where I would blurt a horrible overtly racist claim like that mentioned in the OP, and I couldn’t learn how to stop myself, I would *fishing quit competing*. Hope the young woman mentioned above gets past it soonest. I’d be more concerned on behalf of the two young ladies she verbally attacked, but I’m pretty sure to get where they are, they’ve had to get good at dealing with that kind of BS. Because society is still bloody great at “S/he didn’t mean it, s/he was…”

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      • Some people rely on their inhibitors *way* more than others, sure.

        I handle my liquor pretty well, still at my advanced age. I have a couple of stories, but they’re of the mildly embarrassing sort, not the “and to top it all off, I wasn’t wearing any pants!” sort.

        But I know people who I would trust to throw their bodies on a grenade when they’re sober to save somebody they don’t even like… who will say some pretty vile shit when they’ve had three too many.

        Chalk it up to “humans are weird”, if you prefer.

        I guess my point is that far too often I see “you’re still you when you’re drunk” used as shorthand for “this thing you said or did while you were drunk is a better exemplar of your humanity than the entire rest of your life”.

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      • Patrick and Bou,

        I think you’re both right. I’ve been black out and brown out drunk more times than I’d like to admit. I’ve done some ridonk ish. But there are still lines I haven’t crossed and have enough of a data set to say I probably won’t ever cross.

        “I guess my point is that far too often I see “you’re still you when you’re drunk” used as shorthand for “this thing you said or did while you were drunk is a better exemplar of your humanity than the entire rest of your life”.”

        This is a very good point. We should look at the sum of someone’s deeds and the context in which they were committed. Being drunk doesn’t make anything unhappen, but it should be weighted differently than sober acts.

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      • I always think of the drunken outbursts as, “That stuff in there, it just may not be the dominant stuff.” I mean, we all think things we know we shouldn’t now and then, it’s just that the part that knows we shouldn’t gets more weight in what we say and how we act. Sometimes, that dominant stuff goes nighty night when you’ve had more alcohol than you should have.

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      • Chris,

        Which of the following, or both, do you think is/are at play?

        It’ss in there because there’s a part of me that believes it, and it comes out when my judgment is impaired because a part of me believes it,

        or;

        It’s in there not because I believe it but because I hear it all the time, and it comes out when my judgment is impaired because I know it’s a way to hurt someone, and at that moment I’d say anything that would hurt them.

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    • This is a behavior that’s not uncommon among members of dominant groups, regardless of whether they’re competitors in a competitive situation. Look at some of the tweets after the Miss America pageant, for example, in which people were saying things like, “When is a white woman going to win Miss America?!” This, by the way, is Miss America 2013 (this year’s winner is Miss America 2014).

      It may be that the heat of the moment, with increased cognitive load, makes people more likely to go there, but that’s because it’s a pretty natural place for them to go in the first place.

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  5. It goes beyond the Italian gymnast. It’s reported that “an Italian spokesperson” said,

    Carlotta was referring to a trend in gymnastics at this moment, which is going towards a technique that opens up new chances to athletes of color (well-known for power) while penalizing the more artistic Eastern European style that allowed Russians and Romanians to dominate the sport for years…l Why are there no black swimmers? Because their physical features don’t suit the sport.

    This official also later apologized.

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    • I don’t know if the Italian spokesperson’s comment is necessarily wrong.* I am certainly no expert on swimming or gymnastics, and consequently can’t speak to what either sport require physically, or how gymnastics is judged. But the idea that different populations around the world have a genetic basis for the different physical features we see, and that these different physical features effect the aptitude of some of the members for certain sports seems true to me.

      If I remember correctly there was a study done which found that people with west African ancestry had a higher ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibers. And, with a minute of googling, there seemed to be a large number of studies looking at long distance runners, and, specifically, at the dominance of certain specific areas/tribes/ethnic groups. On an anecdotal level, I play an ordinate amount of basketball and soccer, and just made the transition from playing at home in Louisville (in a league comprised almost entirely of Hispanic players), to pick up in Minneapolis (where I live across from the Riverside Towers, in a neighborhood nicknamed Little Somalia). The difference in the style of play is remarkable, and it is perfectly believable to me that differences in the way in which soccer is officiated (an incredibly subjective enterprise) would change the relative effectiveness of certain styles of play, and consequently the success of those who are, at least in some sense, predisposed to play that type of soccer.

      Anyway, the claim that gymnastics judging criteria has started to place more emphasis on the athletes remarkable ability to throw themselves in the air, flipping and twisting madly, before landing flat footed and steady on the ground, and that athletes with west african ancestry are better at this, does not seem outlandish to me.

      * Except for her claim that this change in judging is what Carlotta was referring to in her comment. Carlotta was obviously implying, if not outright saying, that Simoen only won because of the color of her skin.

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      • Gaelen,

        Even if all that is true, two things…

        Putting some black on their skin won’t change any of that.

        And even if their is a shift in what the judges prefer, why are the previous standards any better? Favoring the styles preferred by Eastern Europeans is all fine and dandy, but favoring the styles preferred by others is racism? That’s… curious.

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      • I agree, as I wrote in the footnote, Carlotta’s claim is that Simone only won because of color of her skin, which is, as you note, one of those common ‘I’m being discriminated against because I’m white” excuses which blame racism for the athlete’s loss.

        On the second point. I agree that there is some implication of what your saying in the comment, though I don’t think the spokesperson explicitly says that the move from an artistic to a power based standard to judge gymnastics is because of racism (or trying to elevate AA athletes). With that said, I can understand how the defense of Carlotta’s comments, coupled with the spokesperson’s explanation, does leave one with that impression.

        Finally, and I hesitate to bring this up, but did you notice Art’s link above? I really wanted to write out a detailed explanation of why the thinking in the article is so wrong, before I finally deciding against it. I could just image that conversation quickly taking a turn for the worse, and it did seemed link just as flame bait.

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      • “I really wanted to write out a detailed explanation of why the thinking in the article is so wrong, before I finally deciding against it. I could just image that conversation quickly taking a turn for the worse, and it did seemed link just as flame bait.”

        God bless you.

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      • I agree that there is some implication of what your saying in the comment, though I don’t think the spokesperson explicitly says that the move from an artistic to a power based standard to judge gymnastics is because of racism (or trying to elevate AA athletes).

        Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that. Sorry if I was unclear. My point is that it’s racist to imply that black people can’t be graceful, only powerful.

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      • Sorry for the confusion, that point was directed at Kazzy’s second comment. Though, after re-reading the spokesperson’s comment, I also agree that AA’s lack of grace is both a unstated premise of the comment, and extremely off putting.

        Also, I need to proof read before I post.

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      • She stated very plainly and clearly why she was electing to resign. The video of her resignation speech may still be on Youtube.

        Anomalies in Alaska public officers law allowed for a raft of nuisance complaints to be filed against her by various parties. There were about 15 complaints in all including ones about the logos on Todd Palin’s clothing worn during sporting contests. One complaint was filed in the name of a character on EastEnders. There turned out to be large costs associated with responses to these ‘ethics’ complaints and by July of 2009 she and her husband were carrying $500,000 in mortgage and legal debts. Some of her supporters set up a legal defense fund to defray some of her costs and the result was…another ‘ethics’ complaint. It was at this point she figured she would have to leave office if she was ever going to clear the debt. None of this was the least bit concealed at the time, but it has pleased Palin-haters (Brendan Loy, weatherblogger comes to mind) to pretend it did not happen (or maybe they are just pig-ignorant).

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      • art, sarah was my mayor in scenic Wasilla, ak. It is a podunk suburb of anchorage with a few thousand people. mayor of wasilla is a classic small town deal without much big happening and when she left there was a major poop storm because the purchase of some property by the city had been badly botched. being mayor of wasilla is pretty much equivalent to be mayor of mayberry except with a big highway going through town.

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      • Raft of nuisance complaints, eh? All just frivolous firecrackers tossed by vicious little people who hated her.

        Now let’s talk about the reality of the charges and the statements of finding. Sarah Palin put together a slush fund and put her good buddy Kirsten Cole in charge of it, a woman she’d nominated to several important state positions. Andree Mcleod was not a frivolous firecracker thrower. He caught Sarah Palin forming a slush fund and putting her good buddy in charge of it. She was forced to disgorge the money and resigned to avoid prosecution.

        Sarah Palin is a two bit grifter and a thief and has been all her life.

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      • Eh. He’s a really smart guy and a really good, decent man. But he gets wonky when it comes to politics. He used to be uber liberal. Dodged the draft in Vietnam, worked on some sort of commune in Cuba, used to lead marches in town protesting Gulf Storm. Recently, he’s got hyper conservative. Despite being an environmental science professor and genuinely really good at that work, he is in doubt when it comes to climate change (less “It’s a hoax!” and more “We need more data”). Shit like that.

        I think if you really sat him down and talked to him honestly, you might find him reasonable. But when he has an opportunity to opine, he tends to take outlandish positions.

        Most importantly, in my lifetime I have seen him root for all of the following sports teams: Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs; Packers, Cowboys, Giants, Jets, Bears.

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    • But who is a two-term President (who is currently twice as popular as the GOP Congress) and who has — well, had a reality TV show and is now on political welfare?

      I gotta say, all the facts say the Democrats made a GOOD choice and the Republicans made, well, two bad choices in a row.

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    • Gov. Palin had 11 years under her belt as a public executive. The Democratic presidential candidate had zero.

      I’ll admit to being astonished that there are people who still believe–or at least claim to believe–that Sarah Palin was qualified to step up to the presidency.

      I mean, as far as the actual duties of the VP go, sure she was qualified, since there are almost none, and none that require independent judgment and intelligence. But that she was qualified, by virtue of being a small town mayor and a half-term governor, to take over the presidency?

      And let’s not forget to note that you carefully rigged the standards by selecting the term “executive.” The primary job of the president is not actually acting as an “executive” in the sense that’s usually understood. His primary tasks are getting legislation passed (a standard description by presidential scholars of the president’s primary roles includes “chief legislator”) and dealing with international affairs. A far better preparation than mayor and a few months as governor would be to sit for a number of years on a congressional committee such as Foreign Relations, Defense, or Intelligence.

      There are, of course, reasonable areas of disagreement. But claiming any sort of presidential competency for Palin is not within those boundaries. She is fundamentally not up to the task, by background experience or by temperament. A substantial majority of Americans recognized that. Even most of my friends who voted McCain were horrified by his selection of her. Even my friend who’s a former Republican Legislative Aide, campaign manager, and Republican state party operative wasn’t just displeased, but outraged that his party’s candidate had selected such a radically unqualified running mate. Of course he’s actually someone who understands politics and government, rather than someone who just looks at the world ideologically.

      And frankly, support for folks like her pisses me off, because as long as a sufficient number of conservatives think that’s what constitutes a qualified candidate, the GOP is going to be in the political wilderness. If you fuckers end up delivering a long period of one-party government by the Democrats, this libertarian’s going to be really fucking pissed off because while they have some ideas I agree with, they need a check to keep them from going off (what I think are) the rails.

      I mean, whether you like Palin personally or not, who cares–but Palin hurt McCain’s candidacy badly. A good candidate does not do that. You may think Obama was unqualified, and so do I, but nevertheless a majority of Americans decided he was at least good enough. Meanwhile, a large majority of Americans decided that Palin was not qualified.

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      • But again, that’s all in hindsight. The poll you cite is a result of almost three years of doubling down on mediocrity.

        when she was nominated she was viewed favorability enough. She had the opportunity to rise to the occasion – but, now we know, she did not, she literally failed the job interview.

        But she was no more damaging to McCain’s candidacy than Dan Quayle was to Papa Bush. The only people that doomed McCain’s candidacy are, in order, 1) George W Bush 2) John McCain 3) Steve Schmidt.

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      • Eh, nobody even knew of her before she was nominated. Assume McCain’s neither senile nor a complete idiot, and you’ve got a reason to initially view her favorably enough. But her favorability rating began to slide right away–immediately upon people getting to actually know something of her they rejected her.

        And she had three years to recover before the poll I cited, and instead just fell further.

        I do think it’s fair to say Palin hurt McCain.

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      • I’ll admit to being astonished that there are people who still believe–or at least claim to believe–that Sarah Palin was qualified to step up to the presidency.

        I am astonished that there are people who were vehement proponents of the Democratic presidential candidate who then had the audacity to make remarks such as you do. Not only are they out there, but among opinionated sorts, they are the mode. That’s the world we live in.

        As always, pity the paying customers that get stuck with certain academics.

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      • I was uncomfortable with the role that gender played with regards to Palin. That is a tricky knot to untangle because, at times, she sought to use her gender in a positive way. Which seemed to put it on the table. But male candidates also try to use their gender in a positive way and rarely get the same blowback.

        Perhaps because I was paying more attention at the time, but I thought Bachman’s treatment w/r/t gender was more irksome during the primaries.

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      • Palin’s treatment obliviously related to her gender since we all react to gender, there is no way we can’t react. As noted she tried to use her deliberately use her gender like in the moronic “mama grizzly” stuff. When you try to use traditional gender norms to support yourself it becomes easy to fall into traditional gender based criticisms. Along with her over-selling her history, gaffe prone nature, simplistic vision and strong ideological bent…well most of the criticisms wrote themselves.

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      • with you 100%.

        Being a migraine sufferer, I was particularly distraught with the reaction to Bachman’s migraine problems; often viewed as a woman’s illness because they’re more often identified in women who get them during their menses.

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      • Kazzy, I agree that it’s a tricky knot. There is enough room for people to deny it had anything to do with anything. And in specific cases, it didn’t. I know a number of people who would have hated Gov. Todd Palin just as much as they hated Sarah Palin. Even so, I think the nature of the criticisms would have been different and, to be honest, less ferocious. Though I would argue that they were ultimately vindicated, a whole lot of people were extreme in their criticisms way before the data was in.

        I do think that to some extent “she tried to use her gender” is a bit of a copout, if used as justification (which I don’t think you’re doing). Obama used his race, but that doesn’t leave a blank ticket to criticize Obama in racial ways. They are selling themselves, and their race and gender are a part of who they are. Which doesn’t make it untricky, of course. It just points to the trickiness.

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      • .

        I am astonished that there are people who were vehement proponents of the Democratic presidential candidate who then had the audacity to make remarks such as you do.

        Yeah, well, that’s no rebuttal of my argument, is it? I mean, that ideologue Democrats can be as foolish as ideologue Republicans doesn’t prove the Republicans right, does it? And it’s hardly a meaningful response to my remarks because I was never a proponent of Obama, much less a vehement one.

        You hang around with people who do not think straight. Why does this not surprise me?

        As I said above, humor always has an element of truth. You forgot that part.

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      • I think the “She tried to use her gender” thing is relevant because it draws attention to the difference between men and women when they use their gender. Men use their gender all the time. But we’re used to it. So we don’t see it as such. Rarely do we criticize a male pol for the canned shots of him with his family. But we do criticize a female pol for doing the same. And then use it to attack her for her gender. It does not serve as an excuse for any sexism or misogyny, which there was plenty of.

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      • I agree. I might point to a similarity to this and the criticism of Obama’s sometimes-black inflection when he talks, and the attention that received compared to Bush’s Texas accent. Neither were ignored, and both were criticized by their respective opponents, but… they still weren’t treated the same.

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      • Yeah, well, that’s no rebuttal of my argument, is it?

        The taste preferences in your circle of friends is an argument?

        What are their criteria of preparation? An unused juris doctor? Housing finance courtesy Tony Rezko?

        Why not review matters. Gov. Palin had 11 years as a governor, state bureau chief, and mayor. You look at the rest over the post war period, and about 10 had no executive experience of any kind; with regard to two, it was strictly in the private sector and did not implicate many people; with regard to a third, a prosecutors office of modest dimensions. Only five spent as many (or more) years in line administration. I am just not getting the ‘blatantly unqualified’ meme.

        1. Joseph Biden: 38 years in legislative postions; no history of line administration; stupid hair plugs; also tends to confound himself with Neil Kinnock. Sat on the foreign relations committee though, and the judiciary committee. Nice work for a suburban associate.

        2. John Edwards: 6 undistinguished years in the U.S. Senate. Lucrative trial practice. Denies nailing Erin Brockovich.

        3. Richard Cheney: fair enough. Long history on congressional and presidential staff, years in Congress, private and public executive.

        4. Joseph Lieberman: fair enough. Four years as state attorney-general and a dozen years in the Senate. Pity about the Lamont thing.

        5. Pat Choate: state cabinet officer. ok.

        6. Jack Kemp: fair enough. four years as a federal executive, 18 years in Congress, and some time before that on the Governor’s staff in California.

        7. Albert Gore, Jr.: Legacy pol. 15 years in Congress. No executive experience. Seven years as a reporter, same trade as Gov. Palin, but different media and different beat. History of academic failures.

        8. James Stockdale: flag rank Navy. Not versed in other issues.

        9. J. D. Quayle: 11 years in Congress, a couple years in the family newspaper business. A couple years practicing law.

        10. Lloyd Bentsen: fair enough. 23 years in Congress, 16 years in the banking and insurance business. Not actually a friend of JFK.

        11. Geraldine Ferraro: 6 years in Congress. Constituent service maven. Some years as a prosecutor working for cousin Dominick.

        12. George H.W. Bush: Fair enough. 1 year as a federal bureau chief, 4 years in diplomatic posts, 4 years in Congress, 15 years in the oil business, war hero.

        13. Patrick Lucey: fair enough. State governor, &c.

        14. Walter Mondale: fair enough. 12 years in Congress, 4 years as state attorney-general. Political career derivative (“He kept filling the bill – quoth Hubert Humphrey).

        15. Robert Dole: 17 years in Congress, 6 years as a county solicitor. No administrative experience. No career antecedent to political office bar military service and some time in the family business.

        16. Sargent Shriver: fair enough. Some years as a federal bureau chief. Ran family real estate business. No history in elected office.

        17. Thomas Eagleton: fair enough. Four years in Congress. Eight years as state attorney-general. Hooked up to jumper cables.

        18. Spiro Agnew: Fair enough. Two years as governor. Four years as county executive.

        19. Edmund Muskie: Fair enough. 9 years in Congress and 4 years as governor.

        20. Curtis Le May. Flag rank military. Did he know Stanley Kubrick?

        21. Hubert Humphrey. 15 years in Congress. Several years as Mayor of Minneapolis. Lapsed college teacher. Lapsed pharmacist.

        22. William Miller: 12 years in Congress, 8 years as a prosecutor in the Buffalo exurbs.

        23. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. 7 years in diplomatic posts, 14 years in Congress, military service. A dozen years in the newspaper business. No real executive experience.

        24. Richard Nixon. Six years in Congress, brief exurban law practice, military service, attempt in the food processing business.

        25. Estes Kefauver. 17 years in Congress, a dozen years in law practice. Lush.

        26. John Sparkman. 15 years in Congress, 11 years practicing law.

        27. Earl Warren. Fair enough. 6 years as governor, four years as state attorney-general, a dozen years as district attorney, about 11 years devoted to private practice, business, and military service.

        28. Alben Barkley. 35 years in Congress. A dozen years of law practice.

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      • Nailing Paylin was a porn film produced by larry flynt. Did anybody defend it on other then free speech grounds?

        Pardon me, Greg. My being aghast at the movie doesn’t have anything to do with “Larry Flynt doesn’t have the right to make this movie.”

        Believe it or not, it’s possible to be offended by something that someone else has the right to do. Though I’ve noticed non-Libertarians having trouble with that concept…

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      • I’d love to hear the full argument that executive experience is the best possible experience for presidents, and anyone who doesn’t have it is inherently less qualified than someone who does, even if that someone’s experience was primarily in the office of mayor of a town smaller than the crowd at a 6-man football game in BFE, Texas.

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      • Whoops, misread. “other than”.

        Sorry about that.

        In any case, I kind of expected more of “the usual suspects” to show up outraged at the very concept.

        Now, of course, saying “THERE WAS A SUSPICIOUS SILENCE!” is a silly argument in and of itself but it does seem to me that this was a particularly egregiously sexist attack that, as Greg points out, had very few defenders…

        But it seems strange that there weren’t more attackers.

        Perhaps that’s on me.

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      • I think that Palin’s received a lot of egregiously sexist treatment, including the film mentioned by Jaybird. That sexism is in no way justified by her being a terrible, terrible candidate and utter incurious ignoramus – really, her numerous actual deficiencies make the sexism worse, because there’s so many other, legitimate ways to criticize her. And it’s not only Palin who gets that kind of crap – my awareness of sexism in politics started back before the 2008 US election, when Belinda Stronach (a prominent Canadian Conservative, who had previously run for the party leadership, and was dating another prominent Conservative, Peter MacKay) left the party for the liberals, and the media made numerous sexual references of it as “cheating on” the Conservatives. When male MPs switch parties it isn’t described in sexual terms.

        Yes, Palin was attractive (by politician standards) and received some support for that reason. So did Obama. (Best-looking US president at the start of his term, incidentally, beating out Kennedy in my estimation.) I can’t think of anything Palin got that was quite at the level of “Obama Girl”. And he didn’t get near the amount of flak over attractiveness-based-appeal as Palin did.

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      • Nob,
        not surprised, thanks for the info (didn’t watch the flick).
        The wig did manage to appear in another production, however…

        Note: this is why it’s probably not the best idea to ask people
        you shouldn’t trust to find you props.

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      • : The whole Nailin’ Palin criticism thing seems a little soft on substance. A quick Google search shows that the porn-parody was made by Hustler, who has also made similar parodies of many, many real life public figures. This is by no means a complete list, but scrolling through just a wee, tiny bit on Hustlers parody page shows parodies of these public figures:

        ESPN Analyst Hannah Storm
        ABC SPorts Reporter Linda Cohn
        Lindsay Lohan
        Keith Oberman
        Charlie Sheen
        Lady Gaga
        Alex Trabek
        Vana White
        All the Kardashians
        Various “The Bachelor” Contestants
        All the Fox News Anchors

        And the list seems to go on an on. In fact, when I google “Hilary Clinton,” “Obama,”porn parody, I actually get links to real porn movies. And this page here shows the porn industry also makes porn parodies of JFK, W., FDR, and even Nixon.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Nailin’ Palin wasn’t offensive; I’m just saying that that hanging that on liberals because “stuff like that only happens to Sarah Palin” is clearly incorrect.

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      • “stuff like that only happens to Sarah Palin”

        I do wish that we had a third kind of quotation mark. One that communicated the idea that the person isn’t being directly quoted, but paraphrased.

        In any case, my argument wasn’t that stuff like that only happens to Palin.

        You point out that I could google and find any number of Obama/Hillary movies… but I didn’t have to google to find the Palin one. That story was covered by real news outlets at the time.

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      • Believe it or not, it’s possible to be offended by something that someone else has the right to do. Though I’ve noticed non-Libertarians having trouble with that concept…

        Nonsense. The godless Communist anti-American (in other words, liberal) ACLU supports the First Amendment rights of Nazis. Nor do I recall a single liberal saying that Limbaugh should be jailed or forced off the air for calling that woman a slut and a whore. Libertarians need to get over themselves.

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      • Mike,

        Of course there’s also this.

        And more than a few other examples I could dredge up; speech codes, shouting down speakers, etc. Y’all are better than conservatives, IMO, but not at the libertarians’ level.

        And of course the ACLU has traditionally been classically liberal on civil liberties issues, that nice area where most liberals and libertarians overlap. But a few years back it had to fight off an attempt by more left-liberal elements that wanted it to support speech codes.

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      • OK, the link confuses the hell out of me: what’s offensive about a book where the KKK loses?

        Speech codes are a specifically academic issue. I don’t in general approve of them, except at the far edge: e.g. there is no right for one student to call another the N-word without facing discipline, any more than I could call a co-worker that without being fired.

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      • what’s offensive about a book where the KKK loses?

        From the huffpo article on that page:

        “One coworker told Sampson that reading a book about the Klan was akin to ogling pornography at work. Another coworker sitting across from Sampson in the break room told him that she found the KKK offensive — a courageous stance, indeed, which also implies she thought Sampson must have considered the Klan the bee’s knees. Sampson tried to tell each what the book was actually about, but both refused to listen.”

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      • Speech codes are a specifically academic issue. I don’t in general approve of them, except at the far edge: e.g. there is no right for one student to call another the N-word without facing discipline, any more than I could call a co-worker that without being fired.

        I’m generally not a fan of speech codes, but I can understand the logic behind it. First off, you’re paying good money to go to college. Anyplace ELSE you pay money to go, getting harassed is generally gonna get the harasser warned or kicked out.

        Of course, many people actually live at their college, which gives it a confusing work/home relationship, and of course colleges in general prefer to err on the ‘more speech’ not ‘less’ side.

        So there’s a tension there.

        And judging by some of the idiots I’ve worked with, getting slapped in college for being randomly racist, sexist, homophobic, or any other highly unprofessional ‘get you fired in the real world’ behavior could be seen as a learning experience. Better to get smacked by the college council and put on probation for dropping racial slurs than get fired on your first job.

        I’m still surprised at how much crap people will accept in a workplace. Listening to some morning radio show, they have a weekly little segment where callers will call in, discuss someone they dislike, and explain how they ‘even the score’, I recall one where the woman in question described a man who had harassed at least on coworker into leaving a job, was verbally abusive to virtually everyone, and sexually harassing at least one other person. Her ‘revenge’ was notifying HR.

        All i could think of was (1) That’s not revenge, that’s what you’re supposed to do when someone is that big of a dick and (2) Where the heck was the manager in all this? He should be getting reamed by HR too.

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      • Well, the co-workers filed a racial harassment claim against him. This went all the way to HR and HR found in favor of the co-workers.

        The topic of the book was “inflammatory and offensive”.

        I don’t know that there was an actual court case as much as a bunch of lawyers writing letters and a bunch of news stories being printed.

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      • Well, the co-workers filed a racial harassment claim against him. This went all the way to HR and HR found in favor of the co-workers.

        Hard to believe, but I guess there are stupid people everywhere. Good thing he wasn’t reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich!

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      • Waitaminute, Jaybird. Weren’t you doggin on liberals just the other day because you thought Nailin Pailin was “offensive”? While now you’re criticizing HR for enforcing the concept of “offensive”?

        Seems like a pretty small needle you’re trying to thread there.

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      • A book where the KKK are the bad guys and get their comeuppance is not actually offensive.

        A video that is a political parody, but includes conventional porn tropes about women, because it is porn and the satirized person is a woman, is a more debatably offensive.

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      • You point out that I could google and find any number of Obama/Hillary movies… but I didn’t have to google to find the Palin one. That story was covered by real news outlets at the time.

        According to Wiki (I haven’t seen it. Honestly!) it contains a scene that’s a threesome between performers playing Palin, Hillary, and Condi Rice. So you should be offended on behalf of all three of them.

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      • because it is porn and the satirized person is a woman, is a more debatably offensive.

        Well sure. But the reasons you mention above weren’t the reasons the earlier referenced commenter cited for finding the film offensive. It was something else. Something political.

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      • Weren’t you doggin on liberals just the other day because you thought Nailin Pailin was “offensive”? While now you’re criticizing HR for enforcing the concept of “offensive”?

        What would “enforcing” entail when it came to Nailin’ Paylin?

        At the very least, I’d think that it’d involve discussing the movie. We can discuss it, if you’d like. Drill, baby, drill!

        We can also discuss the book.

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      • What would “enforcing” entail when it came to Nailin’ Paylin?

        Oh, I get it. Is it this: because you’re a libertarian you get to call out offensive behavior without actually advocating for a new law, but liberals enjoy no such luxury?

        Good to know what the rules of the game are.

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      • It also seems worth noting that Sampson, the man reading the book, received no disciplinary action for his actions and, eventually, received an apology. It seems the worst that happened to him in any official capacity was being told he used “extremely poor judgement”.

        I don’t know exactly how much we should consider that “enforcement”.

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      • With regards to the pornographic movie itself, it struck me as a particularly egregious example of an attack that should have resulted in huge amounts of scorn, outrage, argle-bargle, and so on. Now, of course, perhaps I’m wrong about how much of a response the movie itself deserved… but, seriously, it strikes me as hitting quite a few dissonant notes. As Greg points out, the only defenses the movie received were of the right to free speech variant, but I suspect that there’s plenty to criticize about the movie without having to threaten censorship. There’s a lot of room for censure before you start banning movies. I’ve heard the argument that denouncing the film might have been interpreted by the usual suspects as bringing attention to the film but I’m not sure I buy that.

        (Aside: Interestingly, there was a movie about Hillary that came out that same year that *WAS* banned by the government.)

        When it comes to the racial harassment issue at the college, I think that while it might be possible to speak about reading a particular history book that would be harassment (and, in some cases, I could see flaunting that one is reading something like Mein Kampf as potentially harassing), the book in question for that particular case was not in the same category as Mein Kampf and merely reading it was not, obviously not, racial harassment and the college responding to complaints of racial harassment should have been handled differently… that said, thanks to all of the publicity, it looks like all’s well that ends well when it comes to the outcome of the racial harassment complaint. It’s merely a pity that it took that much publicity to get there.

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      • The difficulty with assessing the appropriateness of the level of outrage is all the variables in play.

        How many people knew about “Who’s Nailin’ Palin”? How many actually saw it? How many of these people were so positioned as to bring attention to it? How many were inclined to do so, knowing full well it would expose them as someone who watched the film (something that would surely be held against the individual, fair or not)?

        From there, you have all the other factors that would get in the way, including ideological/political crap, people (rightfully or not) pointing to other major public figures exposed to similar treatment, and the ol, “It’s just a joke” crowd. I don’t find any of those particularly persuasive in defending it, but surely some people would, thereby lowering the volume on the criticism.

        So, if you want to rail against liberals who weren’t Properly Outraged by the existence of the video, you’re going to have to do a bit of work to demonstrate that they opted not to be outraged because of their aforementioned liberalness.

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      • Kazzy,
        Sampson was initially disciplined. It was only after months of pressure that the university backed down and apologized. The stress of the situation was pretty punishing in itself, according to Sampson himself.

        Mike,
        Nothing is offensive about it. But this is the kind of thing the culture of offense breeds. The standard gets shifted from “would a reasonable person be offended” to “is someone, anyone, offended.” In their own ways, both conservatives and liberals have contributed to this. Not the reasonable ones, to be sure. Probably nothing like a majority, even. But it’s definitely not a libertarian thing. Our fault lies in the other direction–our unreasonable ones just don’t care about people’s feelings, no matter how offensive something might be.

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      • Thanks, .

        We are dealing with a similar “offense” situation at work. In a nutshell, someone has been positioned and charged with addressing student mental health. The approach she has undertaken is a mindfulness program. The program and its founder have roots in Buddhism. One teacher and a few students have expressed discomfort, claiming that engaging in the activities requires them to reject fundamental tenets of their faith.

        As the Director of Diversity, I am one of many people attempting to resolve the issue. A lot of airtime has been wasted about who should be offended, about what, and why. Many people have attempted to speak with the offended teacher and tell him why he shouldn’t be offended, how they share his faith and do not see a conflict, etc. Others have tried to talk with the person in charge of the program and see if there are other ways we can go about the goals. Ultimately, I think both of these strategies miss the point.

        The reality is, people are going to be offended at times. We can’t change that. Hell, often they can’t change it. They don’t choose to be offended, nor do most people typically choose to offend. It just happens. What matters is how we respond to it. We do that by first acknowledging that there is indeed a values conflict and both sides are equally entitled to possess and maintain their values for their individual selves. We then take the next step and determine what are the values of our institution and how do we want to promote them. These should be as clearly and explicitly articulated as possible. As a community which people opt into (often at great cost), we should be as transparent as possible about what we are all about. Having done that, we should then determine how we want to respond to people whose values conflict with our own but who are members of our community. Perhaps our divergent values can coexist. Perhaps they cannot and a separate subspace within the community need be carved out. Perhaps they cannot and those uncomfortable with our values should be supported in seeking a community that better aligns with their values.

        Unfortunately, none of that is (currently) happening. Instead, we are trying to tell people how right or wrong they are to hold the values they hold -OR- are trying to get them to hold different values. That is rarely productive.

        As the teacher (who is a fundamentalist Christian of one stripe or another) is in a small minority within the school, his offense has been dismissed by many, leading to get frustrating on his part. It has put me in the interesting position of disagreeing vehemently with many of his believes and values, but nonetheless advocating on his right to hold them and our duty to respect his holding on them, even if we opt to reject them. This, believe it or not, has led many people to look side-eyed at me.

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      • Kazzy, the problem is that there’s no apples-to-apples here. What could that possibly be compared to?

        I mean, 2008 *DID* give an interesting example insofar as the media covered John McCain’s “affair” with a staffer but did not cover John Edwards’ affair until it was broken by The Enquirer. You can do an apples to apples there.

        What would be the equivalent of making a pornographic movie starring a look-alike of a fairly attractive female Presidential/Vice-Presidential candidate and releasing it on the day of the election? There’s nothing to compare it to.

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  6. Kazzy:

    Is it racist to acknowledge that some black people have gotten where they did for no other reason that current law gives them preferences for both jobs and educational opportunities that they might not otherwise have earned on merit? If they don’t want folks assuming they might have gotten where they did bc of those preferences they should give them up and earn them on there own merit.

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    • City of Augusta Georgia. No black police officers. Went to court. Court said they should hire a few blacks. Got the court to consent to having them pass some tests and suchlike. Time went by. Not one black patrolman was hired. Went back to court. Court forced them to hire some black patrolmen. More time went by, no more were hired and none were promoted. Went back to court again. Got a black patrolman promoted to lieutenant.

      That sorta broke the back of the institutional racism. Doesn’t seem to be a problem now.

      Abso-fucking-lutely some black people were hired, just because they were black. Entirely justified, too. Would have been better if the institutional bias had been relaxed a bit, allowed a few qualified black people into positions of power. But that didn’t happen, did it? Not in Augusta it didn’t.

      So stop whining about it. Everything else being equal, a few black people here and there, hired just because they are black, in the face of qualified people not being hired, seems like justice to me, if not to you. I have heard all this shit before from hard-core segregationists. Hearing it from you in 2013 is just annoying me. You sound just like those old racist crackers back then. Not a bit of difference between you and them.

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    • Two things:

      To acknowledge it, we need evidence that it is true.

      Also, what about all white folks who get things for being white? Can we start acknowledging white privilege? Or are we going to be told we’re playing the race card?

      Oh, and one more thing… show me any laws or other policies that make it easier for black women to win in gymnastics.

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      • Kazzy:

        Are you really going to deny that that current law gives minorities preferences for both jobs and educational opportunities that they might not otherwise have earned on merit? Last time I checked there have been several court cases in the news about the practice.

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      • What laws are you referring to? Affirmative action policies in higher education? First off, those are policies, not laws. Second off, the idea that they offer undeserved opportunities to black people is a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of how they work both in theory and in practice.

        But, please, prove your case. Show me people, specific people, who you can point to as attaining a job or education opportunity that they did not deserve because of a law that entitled them to such.

        Meanwhile, I’ll compile a list of white people who attained a job or education opportunity that they did not deserve because of a law that entitled them to such.

        Actually, I’ll go first: Every white male before 1964.

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      • “Meanwhile, I’ll compile a list of white people who attained a job or education opportunity that they did not deserve because of a law that entitled them to such.

        Actually, I’ll go first: Every white male before 1964.”

        I’m sorry I was hoping we could have a real discussion but making such an absurd absolute claim makes it difficult.

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      • So you’re NOT going to substantiate your claim? And your justification for such is that I’m being unserious in pointing out that white folks unjustly benefited from laws offering them undeserved access to employment and education opportunities prior to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

        Please.

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      • NotMe,
        Over half of white people’s money comes from racist policies, from the past.
        Lay that against a few affirmative action cases, and the white folks come out ahead.

        I can run the numbers if you’d like. Can show you what a difference money makes.

        You assume because a black person gets a job, that he is as well off as a white person getting the same damn job. The numbers do NOT bear you out. The black person is STILL being systematically discriminated against BECAUSE of past racist policies.

        So, the next time your black friend gets laid off, and goes on welfare, you’ll know that would be you, if not for the color of your skin.

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      • Kazzy:

        How is someone supposed to rebut such an absurd absolute claim? You make a sweeping statement and declare that it is true without an evidence. Not to mention the fact that you demand that I prove that affirmative action exists and has hurt anyone. I can name one, Allan Bakke.

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      • NotMe,

        You just shifted the goalposts. You said that we have laws in this country that grant black people educational and employment opportunities they do not deserve.

        Saying, “Affirmative action exists” does not show that. You’ll need to show me some data… specific people who are in positions they ought not to be specifically because of our nation’s laws.

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      • Oh no you don’t, Kazzy. Jerone Mayes and his mother Cherrone. It’s a common scam, to take advantage of minority hiring, to put in some Minority Type Person as a straw boss. People are going to prison for it. White people.

        Don’t say that again. It’s bad enough that we need AA just to keep the worst of the racists at bay, that we can at least have some semblance of equality in the form of parity. Just don’t act like it isn’t a problem or that minority set-asides are being abused.

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      • Blaise,

        I won’t deny that such things happen. But to say that such practices are codified into law and are far reaching is wrong. The fact that people are being prosecuted shows they are acting in violation of the law.

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      • I have put into evidence specific people who are in positions they ought not to be specifically because of our nation’s laws. You simply won’t back down from these simplistic assertions about White Privilege. It’s far more complex than you’ve said. Insofar as Our Nation’s Laws create the means, opportunity and incentive for minority set-asides, it is de-facto racism, whether or not it fits into your worldview.

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      • Stepping where angels fear to tread:

        Shouldn’t the proper complaint on either side of this dispute be that an unqualified [minority/majority] person got a job?

        Take Blaise’s example of hiring police in Augusta, Georgia. Were any of the Black officers who were hired unqualified to be police officers? Were any of them who were promoted unqualified for the elevated positions? I rather think this is not the case.

        If not, then we must delve into the issue of whether Black Applicant was more or less qualified than White Applicant, and try as employers might to quantify various levels of qualification and aptitude, once we get beyond a threshold of acceptability for the position — qualified or not — then the gravity of the complaint about preference seems to diminish greatly in my mind. The public interest is not harmed by the police department hiring qualified officers. But the public interest is harmed by racial preferences within that universe.

        Simply saying “stop discriminating” will always elicit a response of “easy — we never were.” We may not be able to identify any individual decision that was the result of racial bias, either for or against minorities, but when you step back from an atomized view, the whole pattern strongly suggests preferential treatment. And so something needs to be done to break that pattern, because left on its own, the pattern will persist. Thus, affirmative action.

        Affirmative action ought not to be seen as a permanent state of affairs, nor as an unfair preference of one group over another. If you want to argue that a pattern of racial preference has been broken and now everybody is on a level playing field, that’s one argument. Arguing that intervention that breaks a prior unfair pattern is, itself, unfair is a different argument altogether. But in neither case is the proponent of affirmative action arguing for the hiring of unqualified applicants.

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      • Blaise,

        I haven’t really spoken about white privilege here. So if you want to beat the white privilege pinata, you will have to go elsewhere. I will fully concede that there are instances, likely numerous, of people of color receiving opportunities they perhaps shouldn’t because of a misapplication of laws or policies. But to argue that America has a systemic system of anti-white discrimination laws, which is what NotMe was arguing, is false.

        Folks like him balk at the idea that a university uses race as a factor in its application process because a particular way of doing so may benefit black people but will reject any attempt to point out other ways that race acts as a factor in the application process that helps white people.

        For all the noise about AA, the reality on the ground still shows that white people, collectively, hold advantages over black people in school admission and hiring. I can speak to both of these first hand, as I’ve been involved in both school admissions and hiring. When a standout black candidate is on the table, people fawn over him. But when a good or merely adequate black candidate is being looked at… or a talented individual who perhaps dresses or speaks likely different than the majority… well, suddenly we have conversations about “fit” and “qualifications” and “culture”… conversations we never have about white people. And this is in places that have stated commitments to diversity. They still show a pro-white bias.

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      • Angels have trodden upon this ground before. MLK said he had a dream where people wouldn’t be judged by the colour of their skins. Haven’t quite gotten there yet, have we?

        And we won’t. Not while everyone still clings to these absurd notions about race. Oh, we can’t quite abandon the notion of race, not yet, there are so many eeen-justasays out there what need righting. And we’re going to use the racists’ definitions of race to correct ’em. Yeah. You betcha.

        It’s so stupid I can’t believe I’m still hearing it, all these years later, as if Dr. King hadn’t pointed out the way, all those years ago. It’s particularly annoying to hear it from Liberals, who should know better but just can’t quite let go of their Do Gooderist idiocy. Everyone deserves a prize, everyone’s self-esteem is important. Doesn’t matter if you’re actually good enough — hey, we’re gonna give you a slice of the pie and put you on the team, not because we think you deserve it, we’re too stupid and locked into our own racist constructs to see beyond the colour of your skin — it’s pernicious bullshit. And everyone’s doing it. America’s more racist now that ever.

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      • You know Dr. King supported programs like Affirmative Action, right?

        Dr. King didn’t advocate a colorblind society. He dreamt of a society where people were judged by the content of their character, not the color their skin. This doesn’t necessitate that we ignore race/skin color.

        When a three-year-old, largely unburdened from society’s racial baggage sees a dark skinned man and says, “His skin looks like chocolate!” should we react in mock horror and say, “No it doesn’t”?

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      • Burt –

        I have to say I agree with everything you say here 100%. That being said, I feel like letting loose my inner-Jaybird, and add that while affirmative action might have been necessary – (and I certainly agree that it was) – it has no quantifiable measurement for testing by which we can say “Mission Accomplished!” and dismantle it.

        I’ve been tinkering with a post on race and culture for a couple of weeks now (hopefully up next week?), and one of the things that occurs to me as I think about it is that the acknowledgement of the above mentioned point is especially difficult these days. We seem largely divided between those that either refuse to acknowledge the point (or perhaps they do in their own heads, but won’t speak it out loud), or those that tarnish this acknowledgement by promoting the preposterous notion that only white people are the victims of racism.

        All of which is to simply note that it seems like national discussions around the knotty question of what exactly is racism are largely ignored in favor of the easier question of who exactly is racist.

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      • I’m arguing to the contrary of “Doesn’t matter if you’re actually good enough.” We’re talking about competition amongst people who are already god enough.

        Let’s say you need to score 70 out of 100 possible points on an entrance exam to qualify for hiring by the Augusta PD. Let’s further unrealistically narrow the applicant pool down to two applicants, and even more unrealistically narrow the vacancies to be filled to one. Black Applicant scores 76. White Applicant scores 77. On the atomized level, and if the score on the test is the only factor to consider, then WA should get the job and BA is out of luck.

        But if it turns out only white applicants have gotten any jobs for the past 50 years that they’ve had testing at all, maybe there’s something not quite right with the test and that’s a factor to consider other than the test scores. And there’s nothing wrong with giving the job to the guy who scored 76, because it’s above the threshold of 70. The police department is still getting a qualified officer when it hires BA instead of WA. That’s all I’m saying.

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      • I think a bigger issue is that we don’t have a clearly defined purpose of AA. Is it to make up for past discrimination? Well, that is going to take one form and have a particular end point. Is it to account for ongoing discrimination? Well, that is another form and another end point. Is it to promote diversity for diversity’s sake? Well, yet another form and end point.

        If you ask most people, they have a loosely cobbled together idea that touches on all three but ultimately fails to be purpose driven. They support it because it feels right… because of somethingsomething racism… because it is what good people should support.

        I’ve got my own take on it. I’ve got a different response to each of those purposes and different ideas about what form a plan to address each should take. I don’t support all of them with equal fervor. As is my tendency, if someone says, “Should we do this?” I always ask, “What are we trying to accomplish? And should we be trying to accomplish it?” Those two questions are so rarely asked and answered.

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      • You don’t get a pass on that one, either, Kazzy. Actually, I’ll go first: Every white male before 1964.

        That’s white privilege. Trouble is, you weren’t around in the 1960s. Lots of white men didn’t get jobs because they weren’t the exact sort of white people. Catholics for example. JFK had to come out and specifically say he wouldn’t be guided by Catholic doctrine. KKK hates Catholics, too, and they were a lot more active back then. Italians came in for a good deal of slagging.

        The definition of White was different. Lots has changed. People who would never be considered White back then are White now.

        Race prejudice isn’t the only sort of prejudice but it conforms to all the others. It’s all based on stupid, unscientific prejudices. Every corrective measure which relies upon them only reinforces them.

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      • Blacks were denied access to the vast majority of jobs and educational opportunities. By eliminating such a large swath of the competition, all white folks benefited. Some more than others.

        Was George Washington the best candidate for President way back when? Was Lincoln? FDR? We can’t even begin to answer that question because so many people… blacks, women, Jews, etc… were eliminated from consideration at the moment of their birth. It is possible all those folks were unqualified if the qualifications were based on the entire pool of talent available at the time. But NotMe wants to focus on the black guy in 2013 who gets a job over a white guy with an equal resume. Please.

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      • Every corrective measure, ? Are you letting the perfect become the enemy of the good here? Above, you argued that successive applications of AA seemed to break the Augusta PD of institutionalized racism. And I hope we’d agree that engineering of the culture to render overt racism a social taboo has had some effect — it’s easy to forget that it took social engineering before overt racism was seen as taboo. Look at language that Abraham Lincoln used and attitudes he held — by the standard of the day, he was quite progressive, but put him in a time machine and drop him off in the United States of 2013 and we’d consider him retrograde.

        Methinks it’s more accurate to say that accusing people of doing something wrong (“You’re a racist!”) and even moreso attaching a penalty for violating a norm (“The Court enters judgment in favor of…”) will elicit some degree of defensiveness and self-righteousness, contrarian entrenchment of attitudes, and political blowback. But in at least some cases, we can achieve a net good.

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      • : Dr. King more favoured the use of trade unions for achieving political power. But MLK never denied the special problem posed by segregation, saying a special problem required a special solution. I’ve outlined the Augusta Georgia problem. Dr. King said the government has always been at the business of benefitting certain classes of people, such as with the GI Bill.

        Here’s the problem in a nutshell. Over the door of SCOTUS it reads “Equal Justice Under Law.” You’ve put your foot in it, asking for one instance where the law has put people in positions they should be in. When confronted by the artificially-created crime of contracts obtained by fraud by the abuse of minority set-asides, you now back down and posit some hypothetical about some child wondering about Chocolate Skin. I have been in that exact situation. Only it was black children rubbing my white skin. And it’s me, telling you, race is no viable basis for sorting people out.

        There really is no changing your mind on any of this. You’re going to cling to your litany of grievances. You’ll never put it down. You can’t see that you’re only perpetuating the race line. Fine. You win. Race matters. Never mind that it’s unscientific, that it doesn’t account for biracial kids or any biological consideration. As long as people like you go on thinking like that, we will need AA, because nobody can transcend this idiocy. If it has become a vicious cycle, America’s also gotten a whole lot more segregated. Only this time, it’s by choice.

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      • is correct to note that there is no quantifiable or objective way to say when AA stops being necessary. Which makes using it a tricky thing to do, and something that should be done only after careful consideration and in a careful way. And it hasn’t always been implemented thoughtfully in the past and critics of AA are right to point out that crude applications of it result in injustices like, inter alia, quotas. That doesn’t mean we don’t do it, though — the perfect can’t be allowed to become the enemy of the good, particularly when the problem we seek to solve is one to which we assign a high degree of moral urgency.

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      • : This isn’t the perfect becoming the enemy of the good. AA has only served to perpetuate the underlying fallacy of racism itself.

        As for the test, the city of Augusta is 54% black. In 1970, the population of Augusta was about 60,000. Thus 32,400 were black. For simplicity’s sake, let’s suppose one percent of the total black population applied. That’s 324 people. Let’s also put aside the prejudice against women being hired — there were no white women on the force then, either —

        Rule of thumb, for a city of 60,000 at two policemen per thousand citizens, Augusta would need 120 officers. Everything else being equal, in a perfect distribution, we’d have 65 black police officers.

        Simple application of statistics to the problem, even by the no-women standards of the time, says at least a few of those men are qualified to be police officers. If no blacks are on the force, we can examine the causes. Perhaps no black men applied, believing, quite correctly, that they wouldn’t be accepted and just didn’t want the humiliation. Perhaps none were as qualified as the White Guys by the test imposed by virtue of a substandard education. One thing is for sure, everything else being equal, if there was no racism, we’d see at least a few black police officers on the margins of a pool of 120 hires.

        Since Grutter v. Bollinger, we can’t just hire on the basis of race, though it might be included as some mitigating factor. Now, as @jm3z-aitch points out, everyone fawns over the Qualified Minority Applicant. This is no improvement. Perversely, we’ve only made the race distinction more powerful.

        The moral urgency, by my lights, is to observe Justice Thomas’ dissent in Grutter:

        For the immediate future, however, the majority has placed its imprimatur on a practice that can only weaken the principle of equality embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Equal Protection Clause. “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.” Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 527, 559, […] (1896) (Harlan, J., dissenting). It has been nearly 140 years since Frederick Douglass asked the intellectual ancestors of the Law School to “[d]o nothing with us!” and the Nation adopted the Fourteenth Amendment. Now we must wait another 25 years to see this principle of equality vindicated

        I don’t agree with Justice Thomas. He’s a horrible jurist. But he’s speaking from personal experience here. AA was always a “special” problem and we ignore him at our peril as a society. While we continue to walk around wearing the plaster cast of Affirmative Action, it’s starting to stink inside that cast. While we continue to believe Race matters as a social construct, we will only become more reliant upon it.

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      • – That was pretty awesome.

        The above comment is one of the best arguments against my own opinion – in as much as it makes me really want to go back and reassess what I believe about a foundational position – that I have read it a long time.

        It may not ultimately sway me, but it’s definitely going to rock my boat a bit.

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      • : There is no scientific basis for race as a qualifier for anything. It’s true, as Just Me jokes about Jordy Nelson, “Easy to spot him. He’s the only white wide receiver.” Jordy Nelson is a fine wide receiver. Packers also have Jones, Boykin and the tremenjus Randall Cobb. Who just happen to be black.

        I don’t think of them as black. I think of them as wide receivers, as Green Bay Packers. My situation is admittedly unique. As a child, literally everyone I saw except for my own family — was black. I don’t think of people as black. To me, it’s an idiotic conflation. Tribes, I understand tribes. But black? It’s insane.

        But that’s how Americans think, black and white. The French love American black people, think they’re all jazz or blues musicians. But if you’re black and speak French reasonably well, they think you’re an African and don’t like you so much. They lump you in with the Arabs. Lumped me in with them too, my French is African. Oh that was the funniest goddamn thing to those asshole French kids, an American white kid who sounds like an African.

        But Africans lump white people and Arabs together. That’s their grouping.

        To be an American, it seems to me, is to accept the American sorting-out of races. We might not think we’re racists but we are. We’re all quite indignant when someone says one race is better than another but we accept that the races are different. It’s always been this way, we can’t imagine a world where race doesn’t matter — right up to the point where you get a look the systematised insanity of how other people sort each other out.

        Give up on race as a construct and America would simply stop being America the way it is. The Fourteenth Amendment, read literally, has no tolerance for any such construct. Yet still folks, even well-meaning folks, both black and white, brown and every other asinine grouping we’ve constructed and put in those little EEOC forms — go on believing in this shit.

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      • How do you feel about diversity hiring programs?

        Specifically when used as a corrective to the subconscious prejudice that effects AA during the hiring process (setting aside the argument that these programs provide a benefit by bringing in voices that might not otherwise exist within the organization. Which may or may not be true, or even be a valid reason to bring the people in). So, if a business owner looks at the research saying that AA are much less likely to get a call back, and decides to institute a program to bring in the type of people affected by this prejudice, is that furthering race as a social construct? I can certainly see how it is. But it also seems to me that it is helping lay a foundation for the gradual end of the underlying subconscious prejudice, and, consequently, our presently harmful social construction of race.

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      • Diversity hiring: superior talent usually doesn’t apply for the job. You gotta go looking for it. Kinda like picking stocks. Buy low, sell high. If you’re in a majority black city, get out there into the educational establishments of that burg, look for local talent. Always better to put local plants in your garden and it’s always better to hire local.

        Stands to reason, in a majority black city, the students in the colleges will be, too. In this way, you can just cancel out terms. Forget about the principles of trying to correct every absurd Ceteris so we can get some ridiculous Paribus. Women, minorities, hey, the colleges have already done my work for me. All I have to do is look for likely lads and lasses capable of doing the job.

        Sure wish everyone’s firm could get a tax break for hiring out of the local colleges. In some instances, you might want to go farther afield for senior talent. But you can never go wrong hiring local. Keeps things in perspective.

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    • Is it racist to acknowledge that some black people have gotten where they did for no other reason that current law gives them preferences for both jobs and educational opportunities that they might not otherwise have earned on merit?

      Yes it is. It is racist.

      Because someone who’s gotten that opportunity because of affirmative action policy still has still had to prove themselves over and over; they often have to be better then the run-of-the mill white slacker working in the cubicle next the them.

      The institutional racism in this country is deep, profound, and negatively impacts millions of black citizens. They have less wealth, less educational opportunity, less employment opportunity, less housing opportunity, less borrowing opportunity. They are more likely to receive jail time for a crime, and less likely to receive a pardon for a crime.

      If you’re black, every step of your life is dodged by that racism. Every step. No matter how good you are, no matter how hard you work, there’s going to be some jackass who thinks you don’t deserve it, that you took the place of a more-deserving white person.

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      • Zic:

        So acknowledging a fact is now an act of racism? Just so I know, are there any other facts that are racist? I was friends with a bi-racial girl in law school and among other things she told me was that she worked hard in part to prove that she wasn’t an affirmative action twofer. We both thought that it was sad b/c if there was no affirm action no one would question that she earned everything on her on merit.

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      • NotMe,
        specifically, you’re treading close to the territory of being a “colorblind racist”.
        Yes, a few people who didn’t deserve it did get somewhere for being not-white.
        Many, many many more people did get somewhere for being white.

        Say, living in the fucking suburbs, due to racist FHA loans, that deliberately discriminated against black people.

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      • Facts are funny things. They don’t always tell the whole tale, and they often conflict.

        Your facts let you distance yourself from the fact that institutional racism is so pervasive that it hold minorities back. Your bi-racial friend wouldn’t have had to worry about the perceptions of affirmative action if people like you didn’t use it as a cudgel to hold onto racism.

        Right now, conservatives seem to think that one of the biggest slurs against them is calling them racist. Which is a really a way of blaming whomever’s calling them racist instead of examining the underlying racism that their policies uphold.

        When you live in a society that condones behaviors that are wrong, and you embrace those policies, you hold responsibility for them, too. To whatever extent I embrace policies that perpetuate institutional racism, I am also guilty of that racism.

        At least I have the courage to admit it.

        I don’t see that courage in your comments.

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      • for no other reason that current law gives them preferences

        This is what makes it racist. While it’s true that for some people the preferences are one of the factors that got them where they are, it’s also true that actual intelligence and competency are still necessary if a person is going to be able to benefit from any preferences. To say “no other reason” implies that the person so aided has absolutely no other qualities that helped them get where they are. And while I don’t for a second think you actually meant it this way, the implication is that black people don’t have any competencies, skills, or intelligence, because if they do, those are also reasons they’ve gotten to where they are.

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      • J@m3z Aitch:

        If two person who want admission are equal on paper and one gets the spot because of their race then it accurate to say “for no other reason.” That statement says nothing about the quantity or quality of their other skills, however much liberals would like to read something racist into it.

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      • I disagree with Kazzy. I’ve said this before: White Privilege is a myth. This doesn’t mean racism isn’t an actual problem in the USA, it is. So given that America really does sort people out by race, won’t see reason, won’t see my view of things — not one goddamn person around here has agreed with me that race is nothing but a horrible idea we’ve been stuck with — now we’re told Affirmative Action is racist.

        Well, excuse me. America is racist. Even the people who say they aren’t, still sort people out by race. Just won’t let go of the idea, even the best of them, who want equality for everyone, noble sentiment, except they don’t really want Equal to mean Equal. They want Parity, a very different animal, not Equality.

        That being the case, Affirmative Action is not only entirely necessary, it will be necessary until Equal really does mean Equal.

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      • If two person who want admission are equal on paper and one gets the spot because of their race then it accurate to say “for no other reason.”

        No, because the person would not be in the position of being equal on paper and in a position for the extra advantage to even come into play if they did not have other reasons that put them there.

        Imagine a football game that is closely contested. At the end the Packers are tied with the Bears, and on a 4th down play, with the clock hitting 0:00, Aaron Rodgers throws an incomplete pass, but the referee incorrectly calls pass interference on the Bears. This gives the Pack one more play and moves them close enough to kick a game-winning field goal. Would you say the “only” reason the Cheddar Heads won is because of the referee’s call?

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      • NotMe,
        and you aren’t howling bloody murder taht GWB got into Yale?

        Forgive me, but the Small Help we give people with Affirmative Action
        (again, even with this help, blacks are still a TENTH as wealthy as whites, on average),
        doesn’t hold a CANDLE to what we give folks with unearned money (ya know, like Romney. His dad was a standup dude who earned every dime he ever made).

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      • If two person who want admission are equal on paper and one gets the spot because of their race then it accurate to say “for no other reason.”

        The problem here is that the one who gets the job because of their race is typically the white person, and you don’t question that at all. Even worse, often the white person gets the job with inferior skills. And you don’t question that, either.

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      • The problem here is that the one who gets the job because of their race is typically the white person, and you don’t question that at all.

        Well said.

        The studies on resumes and housing applications have been repeated and are consistent.

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      • Boom goes the dynamite, .

        NotMe is also ignoring the other reasons that AA exists. Some schools prefer a diverse student body because they recognize the value of having a variety of experiences, opinions, and perspectives. To that end, they make a strategic decision to factor in the experiences, opinions, and perspectives of others, which are informed by race (among other things).

        If I look at two candidates and say, “That guy is all the same as everyone else I have. He is unlikely to add unique value. But this guy has a wealth of divergent experiences. He can bring those to the table. That is really valuable!” Well, now you’ve identified those people as not equal-on-paper, because of the value that comes with the unique experiences of the individuals in question.

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      • I recently heard a story that reflects this.

        This was a while ago now, but: there’s a board meeting of a major oil company. All the board members were male; the secretary taking notes female.

        Prepay credit-card slots on gas pumps was on the agenda. These men hashed this over, and decided it was not worth the investment, it was so easy to go inside and pay.

        After the meeting, the secretary told the CEO that she’d rather like the ability to pay at the pump. He asked why. She said it was a real burden to get kids out of the car and corral them inside and then get them back out and into their car seats and seat belts. Because of her perspective, one which the board did not have, we now have this extremely convenient technology at the majority of pumps.

        Without that perspective, this board of directors would never have opted for it; they’d never even realized the opportunity.

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      • Well said, Kazzy.

        The advent of AA has inadvertently created a belief that colleges traditionally did, and “still” should, look strictly at past academic credentials in admissions. That’s hardly ever been the case, at least in the U.S., so it’s actually a proposition for a new standard. All that’s really changed is the particular set of factors other than past academic credentials that get put into the admissions calculation.

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      • After the meeting, the secretary told the CEO that she’d rather like the ability to pay at the pump. He asked why. She said it was a real burden to get kids out of the car and corral them inside and then get them back out and into their car seats and seat belts. Because of her perspective,

        Because none of the men working as oil executives ever ferry their children around in a motor vehicle.

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      • I figured that the main reason there was so much investment in pay-at-the-pump was because of crime. I was going to college in a bad part of the city, and spent a number of weekends driving home to the suburbs to visit the folks. The former almost universally had pay-at-the-pump by 1998 or so. The suburbs didn’t get it until some time later.

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      • Would you say the “only” reason the Cheddar Heads won is because of the referee’s call?

        Ask a Cubs fan about Steve Bartman sometime, or a Red Sox fan about Bill Buckner (about 1% of them realize that Boston had already lost the lead before the ball went between his legs.) When it comes to looking for something to resent, logic has nothing to do with it.

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    • , I very much agree with the things you’ve said in this subthread. You have laid out the goals of where, I hope, we want to be. And we are on that path, in fits and starts.

      My, “ya, but” comes from the discrimination that actually happens; you’re talking the post-racial world, and the numbers show we’re very far from the world; and this is also something you’ve repeatedly pointed out. I’m honored to be reading your thoughts here, they’re nuanced and insightful.

      Race is an artificial construct; a meaningless measure. Yet that construct also restrains and harms people. Recognizing the construct creates problems too, it reinforces them. Yet without recognizing them, we cannot move beyond them.

      There are no points of ‘start’ and ‘stop’ here, there are, instead, history, goals, and what the choices we make this moment. Affirmative action does raise the question if that person is only there, in that job or that school, because of an artificial construct. But the only way to reveal how fake the construct really is is to demonstrate it; and something like affirmative action seems to have been required, to still be required, to demonstrate that we’re all just people. Integrating the armed services is one of our greatest successes here, so I offer it as an example that trying things is how we make progress.

      I’m very aware that I have basic rights my great-grandmother did not have. I have aspirations my grandmother never dreamed of. I have right to control my own body my mother was denied. I have a vision of my personal freedom my older sister was restrained from having. And my sons hold a vision of women as equal and valued people that I could not imagine being common in young men just a few years ago.

      It is a process; any point in that process seems fixed, a different perspective that creates freedom and opportunity a wisp of dream. Yet those changes happened, too. We are, during my life time, perfecting our treatment of the humans who happen to be women.

      In his speech on race, Obama talked about perfecting. I very much like this as a way to think of race, racism, rights, tolerance, and opportunity. Humanity’s job, if it has one, might be to keep perfecting these human constructs.

      Kudos, Blaise. Often difficult, but when you’re on fire, worth the reading.

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  7. Kazzy, upon reading this thread it’s fascinating how even posting something like this – which is incredibly mild – brings people out of the woodwork whose behaviour immediately proves your point. There’s something about black people succeeding that induces madness in a certain segment of the population.

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      • Well, you know, for some people like me, who don’t even believe in the concept of race, that’s the exact distinction. Obama can’t be President. He’s not qualified. And why not? Because he’s black.

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      • Blaise: Come on, you know the real reason he can’t be President is because hes’ a Democrat. Ronald Reagan won the White House for Republicans for all time.

        He didn’t just win two terms of President. He won America. Forever, for the GOP.

        The fact that Obama’s black is just a gratuitous insult, because his skin color makes people say things that OTHER people claim is racist.

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      • When you’ve had little kids in remote villages in Niger Republic rub your skin to see if the white comes off, as has happened to me, and seen ambitious people wear white man’s clothes because it makes them look successful, maybe the problem is just a little larger than the mutual exclusivity of “black people” and “success”. It’s the appearance of success which matters, not actual success, not character, not qualifications.

        Skin colour is very important. For Liberals, it’s ultra-important. They run around and shout about White Privilege, demanding equal rights for other people. When you confront them about the meaning of equality, in my line of work, there are two sorts of copies and comparisons, Deep and Shallow. They don’t see the absurdity of what they’re saying. If White People are privileged because they’re white, isn’t that just as ignorant as saying someone’s stupid because he’s black?

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      • Nothing like yet another verse of 99 Bottles of White Privilege on the Wall to bring in the trolls like those Swiss Charolais cattle coming in from their meadows in the Alps, bells a-clanking.

        Moo.

        Every time. It’s as regular as Immanuel Kant’s bowels. Say “White Privilege” and — seconds out! —

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  8. This post is Whiter than Wonder Bread.

    Instead of “Black Medals” you should call it “The Ward Cleaver Had a Dream Speech”, as one cannot help but to feel like Little Wally Beaver Cleaver listening to Daddy Cleaver teach him how “We” should all treat people of color.

    Seriously, as I read this, I went out-of-body…back to a better time and a better place. DAA-DA-DAA-DA (my time portal sound effects)

    And there I am….just sittin’ there at the kitchen table with my tousled hair and my cute little freckles. I’m polishing off some cookies with a BIG glass of cold milk, courtesy of Momma Cleaver. I’m a Beaver Cleaver Sponge soaking up the wisdom as Daddy Cleaver holds court:

    We should be celebrating Biles. And Douglas. We should celebrate their individual accomplishments, which cannot be understated. We should also celebrate what they mean with regards to their race — what it means to succeed as a black woman in gymnastics.

    “Oh boy. That sure is swell!”

    Yeah, it’d be a great post, but for the fact that plenty of black b-ballers resent white b-ballers who achieve any level of success.

    Of course, it’s not just blacks resenting whites. You got white QBs lamenting the rise of black QBs…all the way down to the grade school level. And Tennis, Hockey, etc., etc., etc

    Oh, but wait, it’s not just one race resenting an upstart in a particular sport (or position). How about blacks who are “keeping it real” and therefore resent other blacks because they act too white

    Hey, what about Team Chivas, LA’s MLS team that don’t want no gringos?

    Now don’t get me wrong: My anecdotes don’t mean a thing with regards to racism; and I’m sure as hell not saying, “Oh, blacks do it too, so there’s no racism”.

    No, I’m saying that in the world of narrow-minded entitled athletes petulance, ignorance, jealousy and immaturity abound. While it may be rank racism, other factors might be at play as well, so it’s hard to draw any useful conclusions from the single act of a childish 18 year-old Italian gymnast whose life experience has involved little more than balance-beams and floor exercises.

    If you want to write about race, then show some guts. Write about something a little edgier…or a little more complicated perhaps.

    How about blacks resenting blacks for acting white for starters? Or, for something a little less in-your-face how about “Is it OK to Root for a Player because he’s black (or white)?” Even that would be more interesting than what you’ve written about this Italian girl.

    But here you are, with what is frankly a sanctimonious piece that tells “Us” what “We” should do, while you do nothing more than spew forth about things every person on this blog already knows.

    “Gosh Kazzy. So you mean we should root for sporting participants NOT by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character? Wow, I never thought of that. Thanks Kazzy!”

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    • Okay, , let’s stipulate that Kazzy’s post points to a single star in the sky. Is that star not part of a constellation? And sure, another star in that constellation is there are lots of blacks out there who experience anxiety and therefore say really dumb and objectionable things because they look at the off-field life of a guy like Robert Griffin III and see he likes NASCAR and sure looks like he’s a Republican and that just doesn’t fit in to their notion of what it is to be a black man in America in 2013, so the constellation is complex and there’s lots of unreasonable behavior going on in every quarter.

      You can look at this constellation and shrug it off, or you can do something about it. And doing something about it means doing something about individual attitudes, because only by shifting individual attitudes does the aggregate anxiety get shifted. And it’s a slow, creaking, and incremental process. Stars do move about in the sky, but only very slowly, over time.

      Sorry that ‘s post didn’t seem to break new ground for you. Or that it was written from the perspective of a white guy in the USA. Seems to me that it’s a net contribution towards seeing those stars in a better way, despite sour comments that he hasn’t offered a silver bullet to resolve the problem of racially biased attitudes in 1,500 words.

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  9. Had I know “Nailin Palin” was a real thing, I would have objected. My “silence” on matters tends to be borne out of ignorance, not an unwillingness to confront my own.

    Take this piece here. I have no idea what the young woman’s politics are. She could be as liberal as the day is long. Doesn’t matter to me… what she said is wrong. I got into it on Facebook with Tim Wise, noted white anti-racist, when he linked to The Daily Show’s skit that portrayed Michael Steele as a muppet, which I found to be ridiculously racist. He said it didn’t matter… Steele was one of the bad guys so being racist towards him was a-okay. I was appalled.

    “Nailin’ Palin” is egregiously sexist. Regardless of the intent of the “art”, that does not happen with male pols. Hell, I bet no one has made a Weiner porn parody yet, despite him making his own pornography and having a name just ripe for a terribly punny title.

    When liberals remain silent and/or endorse acts of sexism, racism, or other forms of ugliness, hatred, and bigotry because the targets are on the other side, they should be ashamed.

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    • That seems like a strange position for Wise to take. I’ve read* one of his books, and it seems like the type of attitude he would be against.

      *As a former graduate student, I’m required to admit that when I say I’ve “read”something, I’ve probably only skimmed it. Nevertheless, I’m going to act as if I had read it.

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      • I was very surprised by it. However, having seen more of his online exchanges with people, I think his “angry white guy” thing was more a reflection of who he was and therefore less focused and under control. I thought it was a “shtick” for a while, but seeing him fly of the handle a few times and take really unseemly positions because they were expedient in the moment led me to think otherwise.

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    • To your main point, I hadn’t heard of that movie, either, until this thread. I’ve said in the past, both at my blog and in some of the threads at OT, that I was very bothered by what I thought was the sexist treatment of Palin. So I would have been inclined to be outraged by it, contra to what suggested above in his “usual suspects” comment. In a sense, the existence of the movie does more to prove my point than the isolated anecdotes I can find from my circle of friends.

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