Monday, April 30, 2007

Terror attacks up 25 percent in 2006?

Six years into the War on Terror and terror attacks are increasing. Should you be worried?

Short Answer:
Good thing we're winning the war on terror or this could be trouble.

Long Answer: Terrorist attacks worldwide shot up 25 percent last year, particularly in Iraq where extremists used chemical weapons and suicide bombers to target crowds, according to a new State Department report. Deaths were up 40 percent due to increasingly lethal means around the globe.

On the surface this may seem to undermine years of upbeat administration reports on the war. The first use of chemical weapons by terrorists in 2006 also seems ominous.

It's amazing to me that even though attacks are on the rise we are still finding a way to win this war on terror. This, in my humble opinion, is nothing less than a testament to the excellence of our brave war leaders and their omniscient advisers. Seriously, report after report, book after book, outlining in painstaking detail so many signs of failure, and still our leaders move from victory to victory? All hail our glorious leadership!

Remember, this is a war that will be won, primarily, by the belief of the American people. There will always be liberal reports, penned, no doubt, by cowardly pacifists; there will always be those Democrats who are now trying to strip the ball away as we are so close to victory; there will always be doubters. These are the fears you must slay if we are to win this war on terror. Be glad we are winning or this spike in terrorism could be the cause for some concern or even reflection.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Obama the 'Magic Negro'

Trying to one-up Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh played a song on his show called "Barack the Magic Negro." Limbaugh was inspired (and I use that term loosely) from an article in the L.A. Times which points out similarities between Obama and a type of film character known as a 'magic Negro' (see: any Morgan Freeman movie).

In movies and fiction a 'magic Negro' is:

  • An African American usually disabled by discrimination, disability, or social constraint.

  • He appears one day to help the white protagonist.

  • He is a black stereotype prone to criminality or laziness which is counterbalanced with some sort of magic power (Scatman Crothers in "The Shining") or exceptional ability.

  • He is patient, wise, and full of sage advice

  • He typically uses his power to help the white protagonist get out of trouble, usually by helping him recognize his own faults and overcome them

By now you probably have a good idea of what I'm talking about. According to
David Ehrenstein, the writer of the L.A. Times article, and an African American, Obama has arrived, seemingly out of nowhere, with his incredible political ability (or, magic) to "assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history." Ehrenstein points out that Obama's popularity has little to do with his political record, or his books, but has much more to do with his charisma and demeanor. It's a provocative article.

Limbaugh's take on the matter is entirely different. His song is sung by Paul Shanklin, a white, good ol' boy from Tennessee, who channels Buckwheat in order to sing the song like Al Sharpton. The's become da's, and grammar quickly goes out the window because, well, it's supposed to be a black man singing.

Listen to the song here.

The chorus goes like this (to the melody of "Puff the Magic Dragon"):

Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C.
The L.A. Times they call him that because he's black but not authentically

But the point of the L.A. Times article was not to question Obama's "authenticity" as an African American. The article questions Obama's experience. Is he ready to be President? Or is he simply well-liked because whites feel sorry for blacks? Is he, in effect, a "magic negro" to many whites? These are legitimate questions. But criticism of Obama's "authenticity" as a black man is something the author is all too familiar with.

"The only mud that momentarily stuck was criticism (white and black alike) concerning Obama's alleged 'inauthenticity,' as compared to such sterling examples of 'genuine' blackness as Al Sharpton and Snoop Dogg. Speaking as an African American whose last name has led to his racial 'credentials' being challenged — often several times a day — I know how pesky this sort of thing can be."

The author wants Obama to be addressed fairly, based on his merit, not as some 'magic' black character come to save the protagonist. Anyone who views Obama in this way is guilty of a sort of reverse racism. But Limbaugh,
Shanklin, and so many others are really only curious about Obama's race, the traditional kind of racism. Obama is so popular because of his charisma, and it seems to surprise some people, including perhaps David Ehrenstein, that charisma is not race based. If Obama were white would anyone question the legitimacy of his charisma?

Qualifications mean little when it comes to running for President. The modern day presidency is dominated by the more charismatic person, starting with the inexperienced John F. Kennedy who beat out political heavyweight Richard Nixon. I can't think of a President from the last 25 years who wasn't more charismatic than the person he beat (Carter over Ford, Reagan over Carter then Mondale, Bush Sr. over Dukakis, Clinton over Bush Sr. then Dole, Bush Jr. over Gore then Kerry).

Because of this Obama's charisma has many conservatives very worried, and they've been trying hard to discredit him, not by talking about lack of qualifications, which they know does not matter, but by talking about the more incidental and, ironically, provocative things: Obama's religion and skin-color. The election in 2008 will show how low we are willing to go, which base prejudices we will allow to rule us.

In this post-Imus era some, like Limbaugh, probably feel compelled to talk about race. Unfortunately when Limbaugh tries it you wonder if he hasn't suffered some sort of brain damage from all the pills he took. Or, more likely, he's just an ignorant fool. But what he shows us is that, maybe, the only thing more important than charisma is the color of your skin.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"The Truth Needed to be Supressed"

I haven't offered any comments on Alberto "Henceforth to be known as Gonzo" Gonzalez, and the debacle formerly known as the Department of Justice. The politically motivated firings of eight key Justice Department attorneys, Gonzo's dismal showing at a Senate hearing last week, and Bush's reaction of "increased" confidence in the attorney general, failed to register any surprise with me.

Today, however, I read something that sparked a little fire. Pat Tillman's brother accused the military of "intentional falsehoods" and "deliberate and careful misrepresentations" in portraying the football star's death as heroic, rather than what it was: a tragic accident by friendly fire.

"We believe this narrative was intended to deceive the family but more importantly the American public," Kevin Tillman told a House Government Reform and Oversight Committee hearing. "Pat's death was clearly the result of fratricide," he said.

This registers with me because here is a family personally affected by the war on terror. The Tillman family, like a small number of other military families, has had to carry the burden of the President's crusade, while the rest of us have been instructed to "go shopping."

Pat Tillman's death is also a microcosm of the administration's handling of the war in general: covering up the truth and painting a rosy picture for the American public. Jessica Lynch was also on-hand today to hammer away at the ruse the administration has perpetrated on the American people. You remember Jessica Lynch, right? The Army private famously rescued from Iraqis then turned into a poster-girl for the war on terror. Today, four years later, she had this to say, "The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes and they don't need to be told elaborate tales."

Much of the War on Terror has been nothing more than an elaborate work of fiction by a handful of neoconservatives and their recently baptized President. Brave Americans have died for this fiction. Careers have been ruined for trying to reveal this fiction. Billions of dollars have been lost for this fiction.

Marry Tillman, Pat Tillman's mother, said today she was "appalled" when she realized how much the military had mislead her about her son's death. The sad truth is that her son did an honorable thing by leaving his football career to join the Army. He trusted the military with his life. And when that life was gone they couldn't even honor his death with the truth.

The president and those who put personal loyalty above the good of the country do not deserve your sympathy. They do not deserve your trust. They deserve your good judgment which is based on the truth

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

President Bush Meet Sanjaya Malakar

My anxiety over President Bush falls in correlation to how low his popularity ratings go. The more people disgusted with him the less I feel I have to vent on my blog. I've now come to regard him as a Sanjaya: an unforeseen anomaly of the system. One who fooled us, slipped in under the radar, and wrecked the place before we ever knew what hit us.

But, after six weary years, it looks like Bush has finally jumped the shark. Oh sure, we still have the war in Iraq, which may now be responsible for over 600,000 deaths and a mass exodus of over a million Iraqis. Sure, he is still in power for another 18 months and he still shows an unwillingness to make any prudent command decisions but I think America has finally seen the light.

When both the House and Senate pass a bill calling for a timetable for withdrawal and the President threatens a veto I don't even feel a twinge of excitement anymore. Scoffing at the electorate's wishes is just his way.

When Alberto Gonzalez is revealed to be a liar and the President refuses to hold him accountable I am not even surprised. Rewarding loyalty over competence is the first priority of the Bush White House.

When Dick Cheney lurks behind a hedge during a Bush press conference I don't even find it interesting. Cheney is just a creepy guy.

What is worse than negative press? No press. And I think that's the realm that Bush and the neoconservatives have fallen into. It's not that they're not bungling the war, ruining the future stability of the Middle East, and in-debiting the country for future generations, it's that the on-going bungling is hardly newsworthy anymore.

The neoconservative thought that enthralled so many Americans after 9/11 was this: That America should be filling the cold-war vacuum with it's power, setting the peoples of the world on a natural course towards Democracy. Iraq, for it's continued insolence, became the unwitting subject of such ambitions. It was believed that freedom would sprout where a dictator was removed. High thinkers like Richard Perle thus claimed Iraq a suitable candidate for Democratic reform.

Six years later I think we can rule the test a failure, the policies not just inept but unjust. To invade a country and remove its ruling powers with no plan for rebuilding is not just lazy, it is criminal.

My hope is that we have learned there are limits to our power. It's not how we can wield such power, but when, and why. These, and other unasked questions fall into the realm of judgment which someone like the President has never had any need for. Even now, after crashing the nation on some ill-advised joyride his father brings his lawyers in to help.

No one wants to view their president as a bungling fool. I certainly don't. But let's face it, anyone who demands to be recognized as "the decider" and then rattles off one mistake after another deserves a little chiding. When put to the test he has become a running gag in the daily news and is now held in contempt now even among his own party.

It's hard to imagine what could happen in 18 months that would surprise me. If tomorrow I were to pick up the paper and read we have invaded Iran I wouldn't be too stunned. That is where we have sunk to and why no one really cares anymore: the more insane the less surprising. What would be a real shock is to hear some true wisdom and leadership come out of the White House. Until then I am going to try to think about better things. In 18 months it will all be over, and Bush's place in history will be secure. Then, like the Romans, we will work on blotting it from our memories, like sewing salt over the ruins of Carthage.